top of page

Holbrook Mine

Holbrook Shaft / "Brook "

Holbrook # 1 Shaft / Old Holbrook Shaft

Holbrook #2 Shaft / New Holbrook Shaft




The Holbrook #1 and #2 Shafts around 1906 Bisbee, Arizona

 The Holbrook #1 and #2 Shafts around 1906

 The Holbrook mine is one of the best known of Bisbee’s mines It is famous for producing  light blue and green, zincian azurite and malachite specimens. This mine’s recorded history begins on March 6th 1881 when F.M. Adams and J.W. Harter of Visalia, California purchased both the Holbrook and Cave Claims. These claims had three shafts of 45ft., 20ft. and 12ft. depths at this time. A year later, Joe Russell was developing the property. In 1883, Walker Williams and Russell struck a large oxidation cave filled with while working 30ft. down on the Cave Claim. After enlarging the hole a man was lowered down 50ft. and explored the cave by candle light. He discovered a classic Bisbee oxidation cave with stalactites and stalagmites stained green by copper. And the walls were covered by velvety “copper carbonate” The cave was about two acres in size and about 50ft. tall.


The Holbrook Claim was patented in 1884 by Alphonse Larzard and Horace Jones. Before the end of the year J.W. Goddard of New York had purchased the property and began developing the property and had exposed 200 tons of ore. It is undetermined how much development occurred on the property under the ownership of Goddard, before William E. Dodge and D. Willis James of Phelps, Dodge and Company purchased the property in 1888. The work must have been considerable, as the new company known as the Holbrook & Cave Mining Company was able to produce 3,060,000lbs of copper that year. The production was sold to the French Copper Syndicate, which was controlling the world copper market. Early documents state that the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company was paid to hoist ore mined from the Holbrook and Cave workings.

The Holbrook #1 Shaft around 1903 Bisbee, Arizona

The Holbrook #1 Shaft around 1903

During November 1902, the first mine fire broke out in a stope in the Neptune Country. It was extinguished by pouring in water.  Sulfide mine fires were to continue to plague this mine. The mine began to develop into the main hoisting shaft for the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company and the Holbrook became interconnected with the Spray, Gardner , Czar, Hayes and Copper Queen(incline)  mines In August of 1904 plans were announced, to enlarge the Holbrook Shaft from four compartments to six.  A new towering enclosed headframe, was built next to and attached to the short original enclosed headframe giving it an unusual shape. Expansion continued during the first half of 1906, a massive two story change house was constructed It had a total of 450 lockers each with a key on both floors.  Sinks and showers were on the bottom floor was built. Difficulties began around July 10th. The Holbrook Shaft had been heavily mined around and the shaft began to collapse.  Soon the shaft could no longer hoist double deck cages. On July 16th the shaft caved-in from the 200 level to the surface. Engineers felt that the moisture from the monsoon rains had caused the collapse and planned to reopen the shaft after the end of the rainy season. A hoist was installed on the 200 level to service the lower levels of the shaft and the Czar and Gardner Mines handle all ore being mined as well as men and materials. The shaft was bulkheaded at 200 level to keep debris falling from the caving section out of the shaft. Stopes around the shaft were backfilled. On August 3 it was announced that a new shaft would be raised 150ft. away, rather than repair the Holbrook Shaft. Raising the new Holbrook shaft took only 75 days. The stations were heavily timbered and 18ft. X 24ft. in size. Each had a floor of steel turnsheets and was electrically lit. This crisis was partially the reason for developing the Sacramento Shaft as the main hoisting shaft and introducing electric haulage.


In 1907 a massive stope 600ft. wide and 800ft. long was developed from this steady producer.   Around this time the headframe from the Holbrook #1 shaft was dismantled and the shaft was hidden under the floor of a new blacksmith shop. The new change house and  mine shops remained in use for the #2 shaft.

Holbrook #1 Shaft after it had been expanded to six compartments

The Holbrook #1 Shaft after it had been expanded to six compartments. Note that a new taller headframe has been attached to the original. Circa 1905

In preparation for the Sacramento Shaft becoming the main hoisting shaft, crosscuts were widened and chutes  raised to accept the new trolley locomotives and new larger Koppel and later rocker mine cars. Connections were made to the distant Uncle Sam Mine and the 600 level Spray was driven under the Holbrook #2 shaft. Once under the #2 shaft was deepened by raising from the 600 level to the bottom of the shaft on the 500 level On May 15, 1910 the connection was completed to the 500 level and impressively the engineers surveys were off only 1 3/16 inches off in length and 3/8 inches of on width. A pump station had been cut on the 600 level and the 500 level pumps were installed. A fire broke out in the abandoned 300-55 stopes and was contained, but a fire that started in July 1913 between the 400-500 levels was more problematic. Gas from the fire flooded the 600 level. The mine was temporarily shut down until the 17th when, only two stopes remained closed. Eventually, a churn drill hole was drilled from the surface between the machine shop and the Holbrook#2 shaft. After the fire was intercepted the poisonous gasses came hissing out of the drill hole releasing thousands of feet of fire gasses per hour.


After the Spray Mine was shut down in 1914, it was mined from both the Holbrook #2 and the Gardner Mine. Another fire broke out in 3-8-5 raise, during 1915. Fire zones in the Holbrook were leached by draining water above the stopes and then collecting the copper rich acid water after it drained the burned ore. These waters were piped to the surface and pumped into vats filled with scrap iron, where it chemically replaced the iron with copper. In other words the copper was deposited from the solution and the iron was dissolved. By 1917 the ore reserves in the Holbrook were badly depleted and little new ore was discovered. During 1919, The Holbrook #2 shaft was sharing the same fate of the #1. The shaft was several feet out of alignment from caving ground. In 1920, the Holbrook Mine was closed temporarily, but reopened the next year. The mine continued to operate until around 1926, when the headframe and hoist house for the Holbrook #2 shaft were torn down and the shaft was covered with a small shed. The other buildings at the site remained intact. Confusingly, the mine continued to operate without a distinctive hoisting shaft and continued to be an important producer. It is likely that the Charon, the Young and possibly the Czar Shaft served to mine the Holbrook ground. The mine workings in the Holbrook were notoriously hot and were badly caving. Particularly, those areas near the Dividend Fault. Small shafts and raises like the Young were driven to bypass dangerous or caved ground and provide much needed ventilation. Mining continued and in 1930 the Holbrook change house was enlarged. Mining, which was at least partially done be by lease continued until 1942, when Phelps Dodge drove 1,829ft. of crosscuts on the 300, 400 and 600 levels. This was the last major development project. In January1944, the Holbrook mine was closed with the cancellation of all leases.


In 1948, few signs of the Holbrook mine existed on the surface other than a few concrete foundations. All the headframes, including those on the Young and Charon Shaft were gone except for a single wooden headframe on an undetermined shaft located between the Charon and the Czar Shafts.


              During the 1950’s-60s, Holbrook mine workings could be accessed from the Czar Mine. A point of interest was a 20-25ft. thick, massive, block of native copper. Too difficult to cost effectively mine, metal was abandoned and the crosscut was diverted around one side. A few fine azurites were recovered from a crushing pillar. In late 1943, when Phelps Dodge decided to cancel all leases, the company prohibited the recovery of mining equipment and purchased all of the equipment belonging to the lessees “as is –where is” This included explosives. On the 400 level there was a cap magazine that contained large numbers of blasting caps  Empty Red and Gold Western no.6 cap tins were scattered along with the cardboard boxes that held 1,000 caps (ten ,cap tins holding 100 caps) a few of the tins were full, including one cardboard box that held six full tins. The empty cap cans provided handy boxes for removing mineral specimens. Phelps Dodge abandoned all of the equipment and much still remains in areas that were mined in 1943. Although, expensive tools such as rock drills generally disappeared over time.


The site remained abandoned until 1960, when plans developed for the Holbrook Extension of the Lavender Pit. An air shaft located at the mouth of Dubacher Canyon was reopened to access Holbrook Mine workings and a diamond drill was set up to explore the area.. In 1969, both Holbrook shafts were mined out by the extension of the pit. Thousands of fine mineral specimens were recovered as the pit mined through old workings. Numerous stopes and crosscuts were mined into. These investigated as these were discovered, but typically were caved-in after short distance. A number of these stopes and crosscuts from the Holbrook mine can be seen in the walls of the Holbrook Extension. During the early 1990’s mineral collectors accessed a section of the 100 level by entering a large stope struck by the pit. This stope was one a few openings that were open at the end of pit mining in 1974. They located interesting malachite psuedomorphs after azurite and a small cave filled with copper stained calcite in the stope open to the pit. A crosscut off this stope went a considerable distance back with a powder magazine, an area of small azurite crystals on calcite. At the end of the crosscut was a unusual small stope. It had no raises in the bottom and had an incline for hoisting set up. This indicates there were no workings underneath this area. Near the top of this stope was a hole that opened into a large oxidation cave filled with calcite. In the lower section iron-stained crystals up to six inches were found. The higher portions of the cave were stained green by copper. Weathering of the pit walls erodes away the muck that was pushed into the openings, by the electric shovels revealing more Holbrook workings. These are often difficult to detect by the untrained eye.


*It is likely, the shaft was originally called the Goddard Shaft, but this cannot be proven.

Holbrook shaft diagram showing levels Bisbee, Az
bottom of page