My friend Mary Jane arrived at Tombstone Territories RV Resort midday today. After our Pink FlaminGoes Rolling Rally officially ended last week, she headed up to Mesa to participate in the RV Women Rally. It was a huge rally with chapters from all over the country attending. Several other members of our small group also attended. Different groups, different kind of rally, one big thing in common.....women RVing together and having fun. What could be better?
The RV park provided information on area places of interest in the package they gave me when I arrived. Fairbank Historic Townsite was just down the road from the park. Fairbank used to be a very important transportation hub with three railroad lines including the New Mexico and Arizona which connected Fairbank to Benson and the Mexican port of Guaymas. In the 1880s, at the peak of the silver boom in and around Tombstone, Fairbank was a central point of entry and exit for miners, prospectors, materials, and ore. Tombstone was not connected to the railway until 1903 so passengers had to take a stage from Fairbank.
In the 1880s, Fairbank had an elegant hotel and restaurant, a post office, railroad depots, a schoolhouse, a merchantile building, and several other businesses.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1884.....it burned down in 1920 and was replaced by the current building. It had one room that could be divided by a partition....a side room was added in the 1930's. Up to 45 children attended in grades 1 through 8. There were one or two teachers. The school was a community center hosting dances and events. Students from the 1930's and 1940's return for annual Fairbank reunions. The school closed in 1944 and students were bused to Tombstone. In 2007, the school was restored as a visitor center and museum.
The Fairbank Mercantile building dates to 1882 and was open for business until 1973. Over the years, it housed stores, restaurants, a post office, saloon, gas station, and jail. The Mercantile was primarily a railroad freight office where customers ordered goods for delivery via train. It was originally three separate bays that were combined under a single roof sometime before 1913. As railroad traffic decreased, the Mercantile evolved to fit the times and by the 1950's it functioned as a post office, country store, and gas station.
There are numerous hiking trails leading out from the historic site.
This is the outside of the schoolhouse now a visitor's center and museum.
The "teacher's house" across the street from the school was used by teachers until the school closed in 1944. After that it was used as a residence, probably by employees of the Little Boquillas Ranch. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed the garage, stable and outhouses in 1941.
No other event in the colorful history of Fairbank gained as much attention as the robbery of 15 February 1900. The year before, an outlaw gang......secretly led by Wilcox Constable Bert Alvord and his deputy Billy Stiles.....robbed the Wells-Fargo Express car of a Southern Pacific train and got away clean. They next thought to rob the Express car of the NM&AZ train as it stopped in Fairbank. A gang of 5 thugs, led by "Three Finger Jack" Dunlap waited at the station. When Jeff Milton, the Express Car guard, opened the car's doors to unload packages, the robbers used the crowd on the platform as a shield and told Milton to leave the car and give them the keys to the safe. He refused and gunfire began. Milton was finally able to fire his shotgun hitting Dunlap and wounding another. He was also wounded with a broken and bleeding arm. He threw the safe keys into a pile of boxes. The outlaws couldn't find them and fled as a crowd of citizens gathered. After a posse found Dunlap on the trail after the gang abandoned him, he named Alvord and Stiles as head of the gang. Over the next few months, most of the gang were arrested and jailed although Alvord escaped from jail twice before he ended up in Yuma Territorial Prison. Jeff Milton eventually recovered and had a distinguished career as a lawman, Texas Ranger, El Paso Chief of Police, and Wells-Fargo guard. Later, he became the first Customs Agent patrolling the U.S. - Mexico border.
You will have to use your imagination to see Fairbank as a bustling community but there is a lot of history here. Get the Walking Tour brochure and check it out. Keep in mind that Fairbank is now a portal into the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and is open every day for public visitation. Just in case you were wondering, a riparian area is the area of land along a river. I had to look it up myself. I know that this area is very popular for birding.