Tip Top, AZ
This silver mine produced over $4,000,000 and housed 1200 people during its heyday
Tip Top Mine west of Black Canyon City, sits in the southern foothills of the Bradshaw’s Mountains. It is accessible via the Tip Top Mine Trail (click here to view it). Tip Top dates back to the 1870’s and has an interesting history and still has many old structures to look at.
In 1875, prospectors Jack Moore and Bill Corning set out from Prescott. They were looking to get near the Castle Hot Springs area and decided to follow Black Canyon Road to the Agua Fria River, and then take that over to the Castle Creek area. However, when they arrived at the old Jack Swilling ranch (on the Agua Fria), they learned that there was shortcut; an old Indian trail. They followed that and kept their eyes out for any rocks that looked interesting. They found nothing until they descend from a ridge into Cottonwood Creek. They found some rock that looked profitable and chipped away at it. Sure enough, it was rich in silver. “She’s a tip top silver mine” cried Jack.
The two men camped there chipping around in different places and discovered that this location was a good one. Lots of silver, good shade, and water in Cottonwood Creek made this a suitable location for mining. Bill headed to Prescott a few days later, with Jack staying behind to guard their new found treasure. A week later, Bill returned to Tip Top with a few beers and a huge smile. They had struck it rich; every single one of their workings was valued at 500 ounces/ton at the minimum.
Between 1876 and 1884, Tip Top, Tombstone and Wickenburg were the most active mining towns in Arizona. Ore was shipped down the Colorado River to San Francisco or to El Paso, Texas for smelting. The good quality ore interested businessmen in San Francisco and they purchased the mine for $60,000 in cash. The men picked up a few partners and the workings continued at Tip Top, varying from 500 to 1,000 ounces of silver per ton. Workings included mines down to the 500’ level.
A mill was built at Gillette to process ore from Tip Top in the late 1870’s. Ore was hauled usually halfway by mules, then by wagon. The 6 mile journey was also done by all wagon or all mules as it was very rough. When the mine was sold in 1884, an estimated $3,000,000 had been mined. The property was again sold in 1886 to the St. Louis – Yavapai Mining Company for $16,000. The St. Luis – Yavapai Company moved the mill from Gillette to Tip Top in the late 1880’s. The mine was worked and the main shaft was dug to about the 800’ level. Mining slowly played out and most of the profitable mining had ended by 1895.
At Tip Top, a 50 ton flotation mill had been built. The flotation mill consisted of a combination of tubes and pipes and ore bins, as well as a conveyor built. This mill replaced the mill at Gillette.
Tip Top Mine became the center of its district and had at one time 600 people living in it. About 300 were employed by the Tip Top Consolidated Mine Company and the other half were free-lance miners who leased out property. In 1878, a post office was established in Gillette. Gillette, in addition to being a milling town, was also a stage coach stop on the Prescott-Phoenix route. Gillette claimed 3 saloons, the Burfind Hotel (which still sits today), a store, blacksmith shop and a feed stable. Gillette lost a lot when in 1886 the mill was moved to Tip Top and the post office shut down.
Tip Top was founded in 1875 and in 1880, a post office was established there. The post office was discontinued in 1895. At its height, Tip Top had a population of 1,200 people! It had six saloons, three stores, four restaurants, laundries, a school, a brothel, shoe store and many other businesses. Tip Top is home to the first brewery in Arizona which was run by the German Peter Arnold.
Tip Top is home to numerous mines some of the more prominent being located on the Tip Top Claim. Other claims in the area include the Joke and Very Top to name a few. On the north side of Cottonwood Creek sits the 800’ mine shaft. This shaft has a head frame and goes down at a 68 degree angle. It hits water at 200’ and has many side shoots. It also connects with the horizontal adit which happens to be nearly 800’ long too. On the south side of Cottonwood Creek is the original workings.
The mines at Tip Top reopened in 1910 after an abundance of the mineral tungsten was found. This played out quickly and the once largest town in Arizona began to shut down. It is estimated that $4,000,000 was mined from Tip Top. Tip Top was home to soldiers from the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. They never fought with each other but carried guns to fend off Indian attacks. It is said that Doc Holliday and Big Nose Kate stayed the night in Tip Top on the stage from Crown King to Phoenix.
Tip Top is a truly neat place to see. Ruins span the beautiful canyon for nearly 2 miles. You can easily spend a good portion of time exploring this old ghost town. Tip Top had it all and some of those foundations still sit today such as the brewery, beer hall, mill, and others. In the process of researching Tip Top, we found a great website we highly recommend for a very detailed history: http://www.apcrp.org/Tip%20Top/TipTop%20Master%20Text%20II.htm. From this neat site, we also found a few maps and diagrams that are helpful (see below for those). To find out how to get to Tip Top, Arizona, view our trail description, located here.
Du Shane, Neal. “Tip Top, Arizona.” Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project. N.p., 2007. Web. 17 Apr 2011. <http://www.apcrp.org/Tip%20Top/TipTop%20Master%20Text%2011.htm>.