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It's Christmas Mine!

Merry Christmas to all! The mineral baubles decorating the above tree are all from the same unusual American mine. The Christmas of 1902 was a corker for George B. Chittenden of Gila County, below (that's a contented smirk he's got) -

But not so, the indigenous population of Gila County. The Apache Indians had been largely subdued, and were interred in the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. At Xmas 1902, their designated "homelands," known as "Hell's Forty Acres," became substantially smaller. This was because George B. Chittenden had been lobbying President Theodore Roosevelt to get mining rights.

Substantial copper and gold deposits, in the eastern foothills of the Dripping Springs Mountains, had been discovered by prospectors Dennis O’Brien and William Tweed in 1880. They very wisely sold their claims to the Phelps Dodge Mining Company.

Unfortunately Phelps Dodge couldn't exploit the ore, as it was on an Indian reservation. Hoping such untapped wealth would not long be ignored by politicians (those able to redraw boundaries), they employed Irishman Michael O’Brien to squat on the property. His job was to be the man on the spot, ready to peg out and file the claims legally, the moment the area was removed from the reservation boundaries.

Michael O’Brien camped at the ore deposit for twenty years. He didn't have a good Xmas 1902. Michael had gone 20 miles north to Globe, for a bit of a Xmas knees-up. So he missed the boat - this from Wikipedia...

George B. Chittenden began petitioning the U.S. Congress to modify the reservation's boundaries. An executive order establishing new boundaries for the reservation, and removing the old mining claims from the reservation, was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt on December 22, 1902.

Chittenden arranged for a series of relay riders between the telegraph office in Casa Grande and his camp site just outside the reservation. News of the boundary change arrived late on Christmas Eve prompting Chittenden and his partner, N. H. Mellor, to immediately set out for the old claim sites. The pair staked their claim during the early morning hours and later stated, "We filled our stockings and named the place Christmas in honor of the day."

The Phelps Dodge Mining Company had completely lost out on the copper bonanza they'd waited 20 years for. It is not known whether they retained the services of poor Michael O’Brien.


Although the beginning of mining would have a devastating effect on Heloderma suspectum and the Indians, at least the Christmas mine uncovered previously unknown minerals, two of which are named accordingly -

The Christmas Mine, home to 80 minerals, has four type-locality minerals in its suite of unusual silicates -

  • Gilalite Cu5Si6O17 · 7H2O
  • Apachite Cu9Si10O29 · 11H2O
  • Ruizite Ca2Mn3+2[Si4O11(OH)2](OH)2·2H2O
  • Junitoite CaZn2Si2O7 · H2O

Very unlike any other mining towns of the era, the settlement of Christmas was the exception to the wild-west image of a mining boom town. There were no houses of ill-repute (I don't mean banks), no saloons, no gambling houses. Some $10 million in copper was taken from the Christmas Mine, yet in its 30 year existence the town only had one shooting -

The Washington Reporter - Dec 24, 1931

Lastly, here's some Xmas Eye-Candy Silicates from Christmas Mine -


References -

Apachite and gilalite, two new copper silicates from Christmas, Arizona. Cesbron & Williams, 1980


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