Strangest Ghost Town

Jackman, Arizona....Where Are You?

All of us have heard tales of old, falling down ghost towns before. And we know about the likelihood of the strange spooky noises, that can only be "ghostly" inhabitants. This is the account of a very different ghost where the town itself is the ghost.

Back in 1867, the small silver mining town of Jackman emerges out of the Arizona desert west of Tombstone and just north of the busy stage coach trail to Green Valley. There is a general mercantile store, a land office, five room-and-board houses, a mining office, a blacksmith shop, a church (no preacher), assorted other buildings, and of course three saloons. For about seven years, over 400 people, many of them miners, call Jackman home. Nightly brawls and shootings left more than a few seeking the pearly gates....or elsewhere.

By late 1873, the once modest silver deposits are no longer found in the nearby mines. Jackman is dying a fast death with the mass exodus of disappointed, weary inhabitants. In 1878, the stage coaches no longer stop on the trail outside town, and in August, 1879, the town is completely deserted. On occasion some drifter or even a group of settlers will shelter in Jackman for a few days, but they eventually move on to some other Arizona Territory destination. Except for jackrabbits, coyotes, snakes and other desert critters, Jackman is forgotten and becomes just another Arizona ghost town.

In 1882, Daniel Lucas, a former five-year resident of Jackman, now living in Tombstone, is remembering the rumors he heard a few years before. It seems there was one miner - "Old J.W.", as the story goes, who had hidden his silver in Jackman. Supposedly, he had buried his treasure one night somewhere behind the Red Pepper Saloon. He never returned to dig up the silver, on account of being the loser in a "hostile disagreement" arising from a rather intensely disputed poker game two days later. Of course, the rumor of him burying his silver in the first place was dubious gossip from the unsavory mouth of Jackman's disgusting town drunk. Any evidence of a loot burial vanished the same night it was to have taken place by a rare desert rainstorm. Though no one had really believed the old drunk, Daniel decides to check it out for himself.

A few days later, Daniel and his friend Ned Hicks, travel to Jackman to look for the silver. They have nothing better to do since returning from a cattle drive to Santa Fe. As they ride the trail into town, Daniel gets a uneasy feeling something isn't quite right....Jackman is not there! Not a building. Not one old wagon wheel. Not a broken fragment of glass. Not a small piece of lumber. Nothing! Just some prickly pear cacti growing in the street. As they search the ground around where the Red Pepper Saloon had been, they talk about the probability that someone surely has dismantled the entire town of Jackman simply for the building materials. Soon, they agree that finding any buried silver seems about as remote a possibility as finding the town. They mount their horses and journey back to Tombstone.

Daniel, a few weeks later, mentions his excursion to recover the silver to some friends over a round of drinks at Dirty Marie's Saloon in Bisbee. He tells them the whole dang town has vanished. One of the boys drawls, "Ya musta been a drinkin', Dan'l! I wuz in Jackman jest two days ago, and it's thar alright."

One of the other cowpokes spoke up, "No, Daniel ain't no drunk. Somebody has done tore down Jackman and done builded it back like it wuz a little ways south of Bisbee. I seen it myself a week or so ago."

"Has all you boys been eatin' loco weed?", another friend joins in. "Somebody built Jackman up thar east of Tucson near Wilcox. I rode by thar about a month ago and seed it wid my own eyes."

Several men joined the discussion, all excitedly describing the various locations around Arizona where they personally had seen the ghost town. North, south, east and west...Jackman has been observed. Ironically, all of them are former residents of Jackman. The "location" debate endures until the money for good sipping whiskey runs out and they turn their attention to talking about horses and women.

In april of 1932, James Spinks, the last remaining former citizen of Jackman, passes away and the ghost town soon returns to its original location, where it remains for many years. However, recently it is frequently evaporating as it once did. Up until last year, Jackman continues to be identified around the state, and at least once in New Mexico. Sometimes the old ghost town just can't be encountered anywhere. Sadly, the numerous photos of its many locations mysteriously disappeared in 1998. In fact, no one really knows where Jackman is right now. One can only hope this beloved state treasure has not vanished forever. Maybe the old town drunk has it stashed away somewhere.

Copyright 1999 Dwain Lamon

Comments 2 comments

black-eyed susan profile image

black-eyed susan 6 years ago

What a fantastic imagination and concept. A fun story!

Lexe Charleston profile image

Lexe Charleston 5 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

Awesome concept! Looking forward to reading more.

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