Uncle Sam Mine



Dumps of the Uncle Sam Mine


 The Neptune Mining Company was already working the Uncle Sam property by March 1881, but by 1885 the operations had shut down. In 1889 the property was foreclosed and was sold to Willis James & William Dodge of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company. What little is known about the early workings at the Uncle Sam Mine largely comes from the inquest of Andrew Johnson. On February 1, 1895 Pat Devens and Dominick Munio were working and Devens became overcome with powder (blasting) smoke. Munio called for Andrew Johnson to help him get Devens out. After Johnson arrived, Munio was also overcome by the gasses. Andrew Johnson was trapped in the Uncle Sam shaft by powder smoke.  Max Goodenstein a miner from the Holbrook mine was sent in to attempt to rescue him. Max described being lowered in a sinking bucket to the 150ft. level onto a trap door. Below this trap door the shaft became inclined for another 165-170ft. As he descended the incline his candle went out. Finally, He found Andrew lying on his back groaning. Almost overcome with powders gasses himself he called for help and placed him into the sinking bucket and was hoisted. Andrew Johnson did not recover. In 1903 noted geologist, Fredrick Ransome noted that there was an inaccessible shaft and a tunnel on the property, but the waste dumps looked promising. At the same time the newspaper reported that the Uncle Sam was being considered for a new shaft. During 1905 a “chlorider” (lessee) mined the waste dumps and shipping them to a smelter.


Inspired by developments at the nearby Shattuck mine the Copper Queen started a new double compartment shaft in November 1907. At this time it was already decided that the Uncle Sam Shaft would provide ventilation and handle men and materials only, not ore. The necessary long haulage drifts on the 200, 400 and later 3rd level Southwest were foreseen by the engineers. By January 26, 1908 a hoist had been installed and the shaft was 115ft. deep. Later that year a drift was driven from the “A” level of the Cuprite Shaft to the Uncle Sam Shaft.  The first significant ore was discovered on “B” level in 1910. At this the company began considering building an ore pass to the 200 level.  A small trolley locomotive was placed on the 200 level at this time to replace the “spike “team, a pair of mules that worked the long haul from the Uncle Sam to the ore pass at the Holbrook Shaft. This mine was chosen to test the first battery locomotives used in Bisbee. Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t ready and the locomotives lack the necessary power to continuously pull ore trains. It would be another 12 years before battery locomotives would be adopted. A major sulphide orebody was developed on the 200 level.


 The Reed brothers made a fortune on their lease in the Uncle Sam in 1911. They fortuitously struck a gold-silver-lead orebody in the term of the lease they made $300,000. This is the second most profitable lease given in Bisbee. The most profitable was the Leedy, Stole and Berquist, Higgins Mine lease. Sinking of the shaft continued in 1912 and by 1913 the shaft was 822ft.deep. In 1912, Gerald Sherman the mine superintendent decided to build a new style of change house based on the designs he had seen during his recent travels in Europe. Up to this time the miners at the Uncle Sam had been provided lockers and showers at the Czar Mine change house. The new change house was built in European style with abundant windows and a cement floor. No lockers were provided only benches. The miners were to hang their clothes on a hook and lift towards the ceiling on pulley to dry. This is common even now, but was new at the time. During the following years, all change houses in Bisbee were built on this style, except, lockers were added. During 1914 a new steel headframe and hoist were installed at the shaft. Both the headframe and hoist were identical to set ordered for the Czar shaft, which were also installed that year. Unfortunately, erecting the headframe and hoisting facilities was largely the only work done that year. Low copper prices forced the Copper Queen to shut down both the Uncle Sam and Spray mines, due to their high mining costs. Little work occurred in the mine over the next few years. A connection from the 400 level to the Uncle Sam was started in 1915, but was not completed until 1917. This expensively driven haulage crosscut was developed to haul ore for stopes that would eventually be mined below the 200 level. In 1916 it was decided to extended the Queen Tunnel of the 3rd level Southwest Mine from the Southwest #3 Shaft to the Cuprite, Uncle Sam and Shattuck  mines (later the Sunrise Shaft was included) The Queen Tunnel intercepted the Uncle Sam Shaft 35ft. below “A” level.  A short transfer raise close to the Uncle Sam Shaft delivered ore from the stopes on “A” level to the Queen Tunnel for haulage to the surface. In 1918 the shaft was retimbered and the mine was intensely mined until 1929.  Heavy mining continued from the 3rd Southwest level *down to the 300 level. Serbian miners leased the upper level for mining in the1930s. During 1934, the shaft was repaired and mining by leases continued until 1942. In 1958 the headframe was dismantled and shipped to Tyrone, New Mexico. A few years later in 1966 the shaft was temporarily filled with waste and covered by a road continuing up to the Shattuck mine. The shaft caved open again in the 1980s, but probably did not open any levels.  During the 1980s parts of the Uncle Sam were accessible. The “A” level shaft station could be reached as well as workings of the 4th Southwest level. On the3rd level Southwest the concrete frames of the fire doors could be seen, but the shaft station had been flooded by broken rock that had been dumped down the shaft as fill.  Most significant was a colorful copper –zinc oxide stope that was open from “A” level to “N” level. On the 200 level the remains of an underground precipitation plant could be visited.  In 1988 a crosscut caved and blocked access to these areas.  At the junction between the 6th level Southwest, 200 level Shattuck Mine and the “M” level Uncle Sam, a short section of crosscut could be examined, but it was caved after about 50ft. On the surface well hidden by brush is a short adit that had been converted into a powder (dynamite) magazine. The magazine is relatively well preserved. The sections of the Uncle Sam dumps are covered with cupels and broken crucibles indicating there was an assay office on the mine site.


*The Uncle Sam used two Southwest levels, the 4th and the 3rd levels.


                 A powder magazine at the Uncle Sam Mine

 Inside the powder magazine

Dumps of the Uncle Sam mine looking towards the Lavender Pit

Crucibles and cupels on the Uncle Sam dump


© 2013 by Doug Graeme