AZentertain: Arizona Gold Rush: Camp Bonito
Mining for gold at Campo Bonito with Buffalo Bill
By Robert Zucker
Photo: The Camp Bonito remains of the
fireplace at the mess hall, near the old Cody-Dwyer mine south of Oracle
in the Catalina Mountains. Photo by Robert Zucker. © BZB 2010.
free sample of "Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains" and purchase the full print or Kindle version
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Buffalo Bill stakes a claim in Arizona
The discovery of precious minerals near
Tucson attracted the famous Western entertainer William "Buffalo Bill"
Cody to Oracle in the early 1900s to invest in several mines in the Camp
Bonito District (also called Campo Bonito).
Cody and Colonel Daniel Burns Dyer created
the Cody-Dyer Arizona Mining and Milling Co. on March 13, 1903 with
hopes of discovering gold. Both were friends just socially until they
invested in the Campo Bonito mining venture.÷
"As early as 1902, Colonel D. B. Dyer, a
former Indian agent, interested Cody in a mine prospect containing
tungsten, gold and lead. The Cody-Dyer Mining and Milling Company was
formed, and Cody wrote to Julia on March 13, 1903, that the long-sought
vein of ore had been struck after seven months of night-and-day
drilling, and predicted that the mine would begin to pay off within four
months. As soon as the roads were passable, wagons would haul ore to
the Grand Encampment smelter, and their own mill would be built during
the summer. In June the roads were not yet passable because of late
heavy snows, and two months' work had been lost. Despite setbacks, Cody
never lost faith in Dyer, although it is probable that Cody never saw
the mine until he went there at the close of the show season in 1910
with Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Baker." 2
In a January 1909 article titled, "Buffalo Bill Enjoys Life Near Tucson,"
"Buffalo Bill (W. F. Cody) returned from Oracle yesterday
afternoon, where he has been inspecting several mining properties with
Captain John D. Burgess. He was very much Impressed with the mineral
section of the country, and believes Tucson has a great future as a
He leaves this morning for New York to round up capital
with which to purchase some of the property which he visited. He said
when interviewed, "I am very impressed with the mineral lay of the
country, but of course, like all mining properties, it take capital to
produce the wealth.
No doubt, there is a great future for Arizona, and I
believe it is on the eve of a boom. I think all the great wealth of
Nevada will drift this way the coming year, and with it Arizona will
make a big mining country. It is my candid opinion that you have got the
"During the last four days I have walked 150 miles and
examined a good many properties in that length of time. The Old Hat
district, 'Camp Bonita,' strikes me most favorably. I am going east now
to see my partner, and I think I will get a batch of them out here
within the next sixty days. Two weeks ago I was in northern Wyoming and
it snowed two feet and was 22 degrees below zero while we were packing
goods to our mines. It is quite a change to come from there to this warm
climate, and it made me perspire to prospect this weather. I don't know
which is worse, heat or snow, but I am acquainted with both. I am a
born prospector. I don't do it because I have to, but because I like it.
I would rather be out her prospecting than live in New York all the
time with all the money in the world. A few winters ago I rode a
thousand miles through northern Wyoming, Utah and all up and down the
Grand Canyon prospecting. I have a suggestion to make to the people of
Tucson, and that is that they should have a railroad from here to
Mammoth to tap the mining country up there if they want to get that
trade. I am a pretty good judge of railroads- where they ought to go.
"I was surprised to find a beautiful little winter resort
up in the mountains called Oracle, and about twenty as pretty women as I
ever saw. They rounded me up and I was photographed with th whole
bunch. They wanted me to stop over and get up a dance or a shooting
match, but I couldn't do it." 3
J. Frank Cody,
Wait till I come, wonderful report from mines. Mill
running on forty follar ore. Tucson Banl buying our consentrates as come
from mill, get busy. Waldorf Hotel forst November, telegraph there.
High Jinks' will be a winner too.
Love, W. F. Cody
From "The business of being Buffalo Bill: selected letters
of William F. Cody, 1879-1917," page 59. Note: High Jinks was a new
tunnel in the Arizona Mine. Night Letter, Columbia SC 30-12
By 1910, Buffalo Bill was fully involved in his mining venture near Tucson. In an article in the Los Angeles Times,
BUFFALO BILL BEGINS MINING IN ARIZONA Veteran Scout and Showman Takes Up New Life with Old Comrades
In partnership with his old cronies, John
Burgess, scout and prospector, and Colonel L. W. Getchell, mining
engineer, Colonel W. F. Cody has started to develop 100 claims in
southeastern Arizona (2000 acres) about 40 miles north of Tucson. These
claims were taken up and acquired years ago by Captain Burgess, who put
In enough work on them to satlisfy him that they contained several
fabulously rich veins besides immensely valuable placer deposits. He
plugged along and hung on, and one day it occurred to him he had just
the sort of thing that would interest his old friend and comrade of
pioneer days, Buffalo Bill.
Colonel Cody had wime casual experience in
mining ventures, few of which had turned out profitably. So at first he
turned a frowning front upon Captain Burgess and his overtures.
Ultimately, however, he thought better of It, adl after a series of
interviews with the veteran scout and prospector he made up his mind to
go Into the deal and furnish the necessary capital, provided It met the
approval of Colonel Getchell. who has mined and prospected from Mexico,
to the uttermost ends of Alaska, across the continent to Nova Scotia and
who had his entire confidence.
Getchell was the most trusted expert of the
Old Comstock bonanza crowd, and it was upon his judgment that Senator
John P. Jones, John W. Mackay and associates Invested many millions in
the acquisition and development of mines in the mountain country.
Colonel Getchell has made and lost many fortunes— made them in mines and
lost them In a variety of miscellaneous enterprises and speculations.
He is now a moderately rich man and has for years lived quietly in New
York, with headquarters at the Hoffman House, where he occupies the same
room he took sixteen years ago. He had
decided never again to engage In active mining, being content with a
reasonably large Income from his investments in that industry.
A $600,00 Corporation
The Cody-Getchell-Burges syndicate has
turned six claims at Campo Bonito Into a $600,000 corporation under the
style and title of the Campo Bonlto Mining and Milling company, and the
first development work will be made there.
The mines at Campo Bonito contain gold,
silver and tungsten and surface workings yield about $30 a ton. The ore
runs nearly 3 per cent tungsten, a mineral which has come Into large use
In the hardening of steel and in the manufacture of lamps. The supply
has thus far been short of the demand, which is constantly Increasing.
The plant which is now being installed has a capacity of about 100 tons a
day, on which there will be apparently a profit of not less than $2000 a
day net, according to expert estimates. The workings thus far have been
on surface ledges and at only moderate depths. Whenever shafts have
been sunk on the claims the ore has Increased in value with depth, in
one part of the estate the ores run to gold copper and silver, in
another to lead, silver and gold, and in another section to gold, lead
and tungsten. Picked samples on the Bonita claims have carried as high as $600 In values.
On a dozen or more testa an average of
$70.80 was reached. Making all discounts that seemed right, it was
decided that $30 a ton would be a safe base line. Colonel Cody carries
in his pocket a nugget of pure gold taken from one of the Campo Bonito
claims that is worth about $60, and he shows it with great pride, says a
New York exchange.
CONTAINS RICH PLACERS
Several of the 100 claims In the group
contain dry placer deposits, running from $2 to $5 a yard. This part of
Arizona is famed for its dry placers, which have been worked in
primitive style by native Mexicans and Indians for hundreds of years. It
is no trick at all for Mexicans and Indians to pan out from $2 to $5 a
day by shaking the gravel and sand in blankets. Enthusiasts who have
gone somewhat into this subject of dry placers say that there is enough
gold in the desert sands of Arizona and Sonora to give every man, woman
and child in the habitable globe $1000 apiece.
Colonel Cody is now making his grand
farewell tour of the provinces with his wild west aggregation, but after
this year he will be out of it. It is his intention to turn over the
majority ownership in the big show to his partner, Major G. W. Little,
"Pawnee Bill" and Jack Baker, who is one of its leading features,
although he will retain a financial interest In the enterprise, and will
overlook it In a fatherly way. He Intends to devote the larger part of
his time In the future to his Arizona mines and to his great property up
In Wyoming. 12
Over the next few years, Cody often stayed
in Oracle, with his wife, at the Mountain View Inn so he could see how
his investments in his mining ventures progressed.
Cody would often camp out at Campo Bonito
with the miners among his claims for weeks at a time as they dug for
various minerals including tungsten, used by Thomas Edison in his light
One newspaper account of Col. Cody's visit is reported in a February 10, 1911 article:
"Col. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) passed
through here Sunday, in an automobile owned and driven by Shad Bowyer,
of Tucson. John Taite, of Cody, Wyoming, accompanied Col. Cody. They
were headed for Eagle Tail Mountain, Yuma county, to investigate some
mining property in which they are interested. Col. Cody had been
sojourning for several weeks past at Camp Bonito
which is situated about five miles north, east of Oracle, this county,
where he has a five-stamp Merrill's mill operating on Scheelite ore and
turning out high grade tungsten concentrates." - Florence Blade-
Cody made several trips over the years and
stayed for months at a time in Oracle and Camp Bonito. The Cody-Dyer
company had control of 45 claims and had driven dozens of tunnels into
the ground. They sold Scheelite to a steel manufacturer in Pittsburgh.
High-grade tungsten ore from the mines replaced the carbon filament in
electric lighting. A quartz mill was set up in October 1911.
"Buffalo Bill" Cody also played Santa Claus on Christmas Day in 1911 to 200 of the mine workers' children. 5
Cody investigates his mining venture
The nearby Southern Belle mine and Maudina
mines also became part of the property of the Cody-Dyer M & M
operations. By 1912, the company had 36 locations and had installed a
40-ton mill. "The ore is a scheelite gold ore that yields to the milling
and concentrating process." 7
By 1912, some sources say Cody might have
spent at least a half a million dollars on his Arizona mines. Cody tried
to sell his interest to investors, including Thomas A. Edison who had
been working on a patent that would reduce low-grade ores using the
scheelite mined from the area. 6
According to notes by E. J. Ewing, a
relative of Dyer, in 1912, the company spent $70,000 but did not receive
much value in return. Dyer turned to Ewing for advice on his
investment. Ewing believed the investment was more of a scheme. He wrote
how the Bonito mill was in good operating shape, but suspected
Cody decided that him and his wife Louisa
pay a visit to the mine in Oracle in Febraury 1912. Cody was accompanied
by L. W. Getchell, the Camp Bonito consulting manager, and Mike
Russell, one of Cody's enterprise managers. 8
In his report, Ewing described large
outcrops of quartz he saw on the Morning Star claim of the Southern
Belle mine group which "rose some 25' or so above the surrounding
limestone. But, Ewing also discovered that Cody was deceived in a sale
transaction over the Bonito interests, but Cody was hesitant to
When the value to tungsten increased in the
fall of 1915, Ewing said he advised Cody and Dyer to advance some
operating funds. Neither were able to make a move. Cody "was bled about
white" and Dyer died shortly after a long sickness. Ewing later
discovered a hand-size chunk of Wolframite in the area.
Ewing continued to work the area from the
Madina and Morning Star but felt the profits were too small, so he shut
down the mine and let the option to the Southern Belle lapse. 9
Cody's impact on Oracle still remains with the Cody Trail and Cody Loop, both near the Campo Bonito properties.
Cody's mines supply tungsten for Edison's bulbs
When inventor Thomas Edison needed tungsten
to build his light bulbs, he turned to William Cody and Cody-Dyer Mine
in Oracle, Arizona for the metal. By February 1911, Cody had a
five-stamp Merrill's Mill operating on schelite ore and turning out high
grade tungsten concentrates. 10
TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 17 Tucson is now one of
the greatest shipping points for tungsten, one of the rarest and most
valuable metals in the mechanic arts in the world. This is the first
announcement of the fact ever made in print. A carload of tungsten ore,
taken from the mine of the Cody-Dyer Arizona Mining and Milling company,
near Tucson, now lies in the warehouse of the Southern Pacific
railroad, sacked ready for shipment. It will be loaded today for
shipment to Hamburg, Germany, where it will be acidized and rendered
ready for use in commerce and the arts.
Colorado is the greatest producing point of
tungsten in the world but, if the physical promises of the Cody Dyer
Arizona mine and the commercial promises of the company hold out, it is
likely that Arizona and Tucson will lead within a year. The fact that
Tucson is the buying and shipping point for supplies not only for the
tungsten but the gold mines of the Cody-Dyer Arizona company, the mines
of both metals laying within a mile, of one another, makes this one of
the most important industrial development announcements ever made in
connection with the Old Pueblo.
What makes the announcement of still more
importance is the fact that the company is a bona fide development
company headed for big business and not for the stock jobbing arena. As
every man in it is already a millionaire in his own right, with an
abundance of producing investments, and both the gold and tungsten
properties have been developed to a surety and the owners are disposed
to push development to the limit, there is little doubt as to that
The mines are situated 45 miles north of
Tucson and six miles from Oracle. The owners expect to develop a small
town of their own for the convenience of their miners and mill
operatives. There are now two 40-ton mills there, and another 100-ton
mill will be put in immediately. The immediate expenditure for
machinery, etc., will total nearly $100,000. The roads from the mines to
Tucson are good, and the ores are now being teamed to this shipping
point. It is the calculation to soon put out five and seven-ton traction
engines to do the hauling.
Colonel Cody, in his three years'
experience in mining in Arizona, has always contended that in the
general mineral formation of Arizona the, has always contended that in
the general mineral formation of Artizona, the best values lay deepest
and in his judgment has been confirmed by development work.
It is only a few years since Edison
startled the world by his discovery of the X-Ray, by his application of a
form of tungsten - Tungstate of calcium and made it possible to look
into a man's body and at his bones. Today the X-Ray is in daily use in
most of the hospitals, where its help to the surgeon is of inestimable
value. Again, Edison startled the world, when he produced the tungsten
lamp, the most brilliant electric light ever invented. 11
Related links to Campo Bonito and Bufflalo Bill Cody
Read the original newspaper articles digitized by the Chronicaling America
Newspaper Project, a National Endowment for the Humanities project of
the Library of Congress. Select a link to open the newspaper page in a
new window. Choose from several viewing formats from PDF to JPG.
1. Mindat.org Database: Pure Gold Mine, Campo Bonito Mines, Apache Peak area. http://www.mindat.org/loc-130446.html
2. "The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill" By Don Russell, p. 434.
3. "Buffalo Bill Enjoys Life Near
Tucson, Likes to prospect - climate commented on - predicts great
Arizona future- was rounded up by pretty girls," January 23, 1909, page 3
4. The Coconino Sun, February 10, 1911. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87062055/1911-02-10/ed-1/seq-3/
5. See photo reproduced in the Archeology in Tucson, Newsletter
for the Center for Desert Archeology, Fall 1977. Vol. 11, No. 4. http://www.cdarc.org/pdf/ait/arch-tuc-v11-no4.pdf
6. The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill" By Don Russell, 435-436.
7. Bisbee Daily Review, Bisbee, Arizona, page 5 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024827/1912-05-14/ed-1/seq-5/
8. Tombstone Epitaph, February 25, 1912, image 2 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/beta/lccn/sn95060905/1912-02-25/ed-1/seq-2/
9. "The business of being Buffalo Bill: selected letters of
William F. Cody, 1879-1917" By Buffalo Bill, Sarah J. Blackstone.
Notes: Campo Bonito M. & M. Co. Reorganized, 1911, as
Cody-Dwyer M. & M. Co. Mines register; successor to the Mines
handbook and the Copper handbook ... describing the non-ferrous metal
mining companies in the western hemisphere http://www.archive.org/details/minesregistersuc13newyuoft
The Maudina Mine, part of the Campo Bonito Group was operated
1908-1912 and 1915-1916. Owned in part, or at times, by the Cody-Dyer
Arizona Mining and Milling Co. (1908 thru 1916); and, Campo Bonito
Tungsten Mines. Also known as/designated: Williams Tunsten; Cody tunnel;
Campo Bonito Tungsten propert. Mineralization is quartz veins in
granite with tungsten minerals. http://www.mindat.org/loc-51771.html.
10. The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, Arizona. February 10, 1911.
11. "Ships Tungsten from Mines at Tucson," Weekly Journal Miner, Prescott, Arizona, November 22, 1911. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85032923/1911-11-22/ed-1/seq-2/
12. Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, June 26, 1910 http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042462/1910-06-26/ed-1/seq-39/
Robert Zucker, a Tucson, Arizona native, author, former journalism instructor and newspaper pubisher, is the CEO of Entertainment Magazine network, publisher of AZentertain.com. Zucker has researched and explored the Santa Catalina mountains.
William "Flint" Carter
is a local miner who has been prospecting the Santa Catalinas and
surrounding areas for decades. Carter has held dozens of mining claims
and has been in persuit of the lure of the legends.
free sample of "Treasures of the Santa Catlina Mountains" and purchase the full print or Kindle version
on amazon.com. Read samples chapters from the book below.
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