Exploring Ruby: A True Arizona Gem

By: Mindi Feldstein

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Read about this family’s adventure to see one of Arizona’s former mining towns

About the author

Mindi Feldstein

Mindi Feldstein is a Pittsburgh native with new Arizona family roots. She has been traveling to the Grand Canyon state over the past ten years, spending about a month each year actively exploring new places with her young family. She is a part time computer educator and enjoys writing, traveling and discovering all things unique and unusual.

When folks back home hear we are heading to Arizona, they often make a Wild West reference creating visions of gunslingers on dirt roads saddling up to the saloon. It is this vision that has made the ghost towns of Arizona so appealing to my family and me.

While recently visiting relatives in Tucson, we decided to venture through the Coronado National Forest to find such a town. After a beautiful ride on I-10, a stop off in Tubac and a delicious lunch at Wisdom's Café in Tumacacori, we arrived at the forest's entrance. A quick look at the GPS said another 14 miles and an hour of driving. “Darn GPS is off again” was certainly a thought. However, after nearly an hour of driving through the mountains, up and down dirt roads, through the most beautiful landscape, we came upon the entry to Ruby, AZ.

History tells us that this was a mining town founded in the late 19th century and was active until about 1940. It mined everything from gold and silver to lead and zinc, the latter two being the most abundant ore mined. As we entered the town, it was obvious that we were in store for a remarkable day.

First stop was the caretaker's home. A really kind gentleman met us and was as courteous as could be. It cost us $12 each to tour the site; money that is put toward making sure the town is properly preserved for historic measures. I have to be honest, we didn't have enough cash, so he was kind enough to give us an IOU, a map, some history and off we went. There was so much to see, all in various states of decay. The school, which is a building that is being brought back to life, displayed a piano and original chalkboards. The jail's door offered a very Hannibal Lecter feel. There were homes, mercantile buildings and a fabulous primitive water system. Everywhere you turned, you saw Arizona's history.  

The houses that were on the hill were very interesting to walk through. It was quite obvious who had wealth in the town and who did not just by looking at the interior of the homes. Kitchens, sinks, shelving and home size defined status among the residents of this town.

The piece de la resistance was the mine shaft and mill area. The wood, metal and rock were a window into the hard work and labor the men of this town endured each day. And, like the men that worked this area, our day ended at the billiards hall, which happened to be the only spot that was marked off limits. A peek through the windows offered a view of pool tables, much bigger than I thought the ones of today looked and what must have been a wild and woolly atmosphere. I could only imagine the life that bustled in these walls. We left Ruby tired and dusty, but full of wonder and a ton of new memories.

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