Cochise County was once the stomping grounds of lawman Wyatt Earp, Sheriff John Slaughter, Conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, Mexican Revolucionario Pancho Villa, and Chiricahua Apache leaders Geronimo and Cochise. Learn about their remarkable legacies as you explore the Land of Legends, located in the southeastern corner of Arizona. Ranchers, miners, outlaws and the women who loved them forged the American West in Cochise County.
Cochise County tells a compelling story about the settling of the West. The Old West’s defining themes weave a brilliant tapestry still visible in Cochise County.
Find out about indigenous peoples and the evolution of tribal entities at the Amerind Museum in Texas Canyon. The museum houses superb American Indian arts and artifacts.
You can also visit the Chiricahua National Monument, where the Chiricahua Apaches held sway until 1872 when peace was negotiated between the U.S. government and Apache leader Cochise. After the death of Cochise, hostilities flared and continued until Geronimo’s surrender in 1886. Imagine the Apache stronghold as you view the monument’s amazing balancing rocks, stone columns and rock spires.
Mexican and Hispanic Influences
Coronado National Memorial commemorates the first exploration of the American Southwest by Europeans in 1540. From Montezuma Pass inside the memorial, one has a sweeping view into Mexico and both the San Pedro and San Rafael valleys.
In the city of Douglas, where Hispanic, Anglo and American Indian cultures have mixed for hundreds of years, one will find great Mexican food as well as a slice of Arizona history. Be sure to visit the Gadsden Hotel, where Pancho Villa is reported to have ridden his horse up the marble staircase.
A visit to the museums of Fort Huachuca – a National Historic Landmark, as well as an active military installation – will give you an excellent overview of the history of the U.S. Army in the Southwest, from the Buffalo Soldiers to World War II and the important role the Army played in the ongoing settlements in the west. Fort Huachuca is also home to the B-Troop, the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial). B-Troop, attired in historically correct uniforms and equipment, practices weekly and the practice sessions are open to the public.
Old West and Ranching
Tombstone, “The Town Too Tough to Die”: just the name conjures up vivid images of the Old West, but a visit to Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park will tell you the real story about Tombstone’s colorful past. Originally constructed in 1882 as the newly formed Cochise County Courthouse, the building contains fascinating exhibits and artifacts about ranching, mining, gambling and some notable residents. Between 1884 and 1900, seven people met their maker on the gallows out back.
If you want to see life as it was on a 19th century cattle ranch, take a trip to Slaughter Ranch Museum. John Slaughter, former Texas Ranger and Cochise County sheriff, bought the property in 1884 and spent the remainder of his life developing it into a thriving southwestern cattle ranch, despite the harassment from Geronimo and his band as they crossed into Mexico.
Geology and Mining
The region’s geology and subsequent mining were of utmost importance in the development of the Southwest. Kartchner Caverns State Park, near Benson, is a living cave and a testament to the area’s geology. The park offers interpretive exhibits and a film about the caverns’ remarkable discovery, as well as hiking trails and a campground.
The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, a Smithsonian Institute Rural Affiliate, relives mining’s dynamic past. You can go underground for a firsthand look at how copper mining was done with Bisbee’s Queen Mine Tour and learn about silver mining’s history in Tombstone’s Good Enough Mine Tour.
Every community in Cochise County has something more to tell you about the settling of the Old West. For instance, Benson was originally a stopping point on the Butterfield Overland Stage route, a vital conduit for the U.S. Postal Service to bring news from the East Coast. When the Southern Pacific railroad came to town, Benson became a transportation and business hub.
Willcox, originally a construction camp established by the Southern Pacific Railroad, became a major railroad artery. From 1800 to 1930, Willcox was a nationwide ranching and cattle-shipping area. Today, Willcox is making history as a winegrowing area and is home to vineyards and a variety of tasting rooms.
History comes alive in Cochise County’s Land of Legends. Here is where you will find the authentic experiences, the original characters and the real stories. Visit www.explorecochise.com to lean more.
(Brought to you by the Cochise County Tourism Council, (520) 432-9215, www.explorecochise.com.)