I took the opportunity this morning to tour the Vulture Mine, which is about 10 or 12 miles south of Wickenburg AZ. I've always liked old mines because old mines are a way to touch the history of the old West. A lot of the old mines have been kind of left alone and not completely ransacked by souvenir hunters. Usually this is because their on private property, and are fenced off because of the danger old mines present. So sometimes an old mine can look pretty similar to the way it was when it was closed, and that's about as close as you can get to the way the West really was.
Another reason is that mines have almost always had an accurate paperwork trail. Meaning that, you can find out who owned that mine from the day it was discovered till the present, usually by going to the courthouse and looking it up. I happen to own an old silver mine in Tombstone Arizona that was being worked back in 1880 when Wyatt Earp and his brothers were running around town. and when looking up the papers at the courthouse on my mine I found references to the Earp's being partners in mines right near me.
I enjoyed the Vulture mine tour and learned a lot. The weather was perfect, and our tour guide knew her stuff. The Vulture is still a working mine, and since miners tend to tear things up following ore veins, I'm not sure how long the old buildings will be there. But even without the miners tearing them up unfortunately most of them are falling down on their own. Repairing them would be incredibly expensive and there is simply no financial reason for doing so.
Every time I visit a historic place from the old West I am always struck by how incredibly harsh and difficult life was in those days and in that place. The Vulture Mine was discovered in 1863, and in 1863 life was pretty harsh for the average person no matter where you were. But living out in the Arizona desert, in the summer, in the kind of heat that this place is capable of must have tested men's souls to the limit.
About 5000 people lived in the little town that sprung up right next to the vulture mine. It was a large mine and employed a lot of people, but most of the town was comprised of family members of the miners, store owners, shopkeepers, and people whose sole purpose in life was to separate a miner from his money as quickly as possible
We were told that there were hardly any houses left when the mine closed in 1942, because in the desert wood to build houses with was expensive and hard to come by. So when the people left they simply took their home with them.
If you enjoy being able to look at and touch old West history the Vulture Mine is a good place to do that, but no one knows for how long. The buildings that have a lot of wood in them are mostly collapsed. The big important buildings were made out of stone and adobe and now the adobe is starting to dissolve and parts of those building are collapsing. So now there are only a couple of buildings that are safe for people to go into.
I would suggest that if you're ever in the Wickenburg area stop by and visit the Vulture, the Vulture was a huge deal in her day but her day is just about over so you should visit her while you still can.