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Congress, Arizona first began with the discovery of gold in 1884 by Dennis May. The mine was sold in 1887 to “Diamond” Jim Reynolds. Reynolds was a Mississippi Riverboat gambler and built a twenty stamp mill at the mine. In 1891 when he died, over $600,000 worth of gold had been extracted from the mine. The mine was again sold in 1894, right as the boom began.
In 1893, the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix railroad passed through Congress Junction, just 3 miles from the mine. This brought business to the small town as well as a post office. By 1899, the crews had completed the Congress Consolidated Railroad, which ran between the main line in Congress Junction to the mine. During its peak time, the Congress mine had 425 men employed. President William McKinley even visited Congress in 1900 to see what all the ‘buzz’ was about.
What’s interesting about Congress was that it was like two towns. It was divided into Mill Town and Lower Town. Mill town held the mill, a hospital, homes for employees, bunkhouses, and company offices. Lower Town was farther away from the mine and held saloons, churches, boardinghouses, restaurants, stores, and other entrepreneurs. Lower Town had no water so a fifty gallon barrel was rolled uphill to Mill Town’s company store (the only water source in Congress) and then rolled back down into Lower Town. Two fires, one in 1898 and one in 1900, destroyed some of the buildings in Lower Town. Since they had hardly any water, there was not much they could do. Some was rebuilt, but by the 1930’s, the post office closed and moved to Congress Junction (November 1938) and the boom times were over.
Congress Junction is along Highway 89 which has only a few buildings left standing. For more things to see, turn left off of the 89 onto State Route 71, and then turn right onto Ghost Town Road (just after the tracks). Follow this for a couple of miles north and you will get to the Congress Mine. You will also pass the turnoff for two cemeteries, the Pioneer Cemetery and the Congress Cemetery.
The Congress Mine at the end of Ghost Town Road
Varney, Philip. Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps. 10th printing. Phoenix, AZ: Department of Transportaion, State of Arizona, 1994. 31-34. Print.
Trimble, Marshall. Roadside History of Arizona. 2nd edition. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2004. 254-255. Print.