Fairbank, Arizona

I thought the only Fairbank was in Alaska. I was wrong. . .

Fairbank is located in the San Pedro Riparian Conservation area.

It sits by the San Pedro River, first called Junction City when it began as a simple stagecoach stop on the way to Tombstone.  Later it was called Kendall, and finally became known as Fairbank in May 1883.

When the railroad was completed in 1882, it quickly became an important railroad station. From Fairbank, trains brought supplies and cattle to Tombstone and took silver and other valuable ore from the Tombstone mines.

Plus, anyone needing long distance travel out of Tombstone usually went to Fairbank. Once built, it was the closest train depot. The route would be the stagecoach from Tombstone to Fairbank Arizona. Then catch the train there at Fairbank to Benson, where one could get to the train to Tucson. From there travelers could continue to many other cities. Fairbank was where it was at.

This is an adobe building which held a general store, post office, and a saloon.

In 1886 Fairbank had about 100 residents. Back then this little town had a steam quartz mill, a general store, a butcher shop, a restaurant, a saloon, a Wells Fargo office, the railroad depot, a stage coach station and a post office. By the 1900 Census Fairbank’s count neared 500 and as time went on a school was built.

The town has a cemetery, which we tried to get to but couldn’t. As you can see it was way to overgrown, which was to bad because after seeing pictures, it looks like a small Boothill Graveyard.

Old train tracks

Old railroad bridge.

Fairbank’s Train Depot.

A train robbery on February 21, 1900, took place in Fairbank, Yes a train robbery!

An express car of a Benson to Nogales train was held up by six gunmen when it arrived at the Fairbank railroad station. Two of the robbers, named Billy Stiles and Burt Alvord, had been deputy sheriffs but joined four outlaws. They blended in with the crowd acting like drunk cowboys in the station. Suddenly they attacked the baggage car.  A brave lawman, named Jeff D. Milton, “who was given the highest praise for his defense of his trust”, was inside the express car guarding the Wells Fargo box and its payroll. As he was hit by gunfire, he threw the key to the box away into a corner, so the gang couldn’t open it.  He fought the men with a shotgun even though his left arm was shattered by shots from lever-action Winchesters. Milton slammed the door shut, and collapsed unconscious between two large boxes. This saved his life when the outlaws riddled the car with bullets. The robbers opened the door of the baggage car and were unable to find the keys, so they mounted their horses and rode away.

One who was left behind, Jeff Dunlap, alias Three-fingered Jack, was a well-known horse thief. He died a day later of buckshot wounds to the chest from Milton’s shotgun. Before he died on February 22, 1900, he confessed who the gang members were, with Alvord named as the leader. He was buried in Tombstone. The robbers were eventually hunted down and imprisoned. One had fled to Mexico. The penalty for train robbery was hanging. Leniency was exercised for the attempted robbery, and all the outlaws ended up with lesser sentences. I wonder if the Fairbank train robbery was it was ever made into a movie?

Fairbank train robbery – painted by Carl Oeters
Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone.

Jeff Milton

Milton was sent for treatment to San Francisco, as medical care in Fairbank was very limited. When told his arm would have to be amputated, he reportedly went into a rage, vowing he would kill any doctor who amputated his arm! His arm wasn’t amputated, but was permanently disabled. Jeff D. Milton’s DC shows he died May 7, 1947, at age 85 and 6 months.

Fairbank began its decline when drought ruined farmers who traded there. The Tombstone mines closed in 1900 from flooding and with no gold or silver left, this forced the mills to shut down. And in 1901 when the Boquillas Land and Cattle Co. purchased the land the town was built on and exiled most of the residents, keeping just a few business going until the early 1970s. In 1970s any remaining residents left the town, when the buildings were declared unsafe. The former land grant was acquired by the Bureau of Land Management in 1986, and the town site and cemetery were incorporated into the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Fairbank was occupied from 1881 to 1973.

Fairbanks 1890

The hotel in Fairbank and the adobe building that housed the post office in 1960.

It was fun looking at the old buildings and walking around. A  great little spot that will remind you to remember the past and look ahead to the future.

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