The Eerie Bell of the Bonanza Mineby Cherlyn Gardner Strong on Oct. 14, 2009, under General Paranormal, Ghosts and Hauntings, Life, Paranormal
Nothing is better than a day trip to Patagonia, starting with breakfast at The Home Plate, then followed by a nice “loop” drive through the Patagonia Mountains. This beautiful and scenic loop drive through five ghost towns encompasses the former mining camps of Harshaw, Mowry, Washington Camp, Lochiel and Duquesne. Of course, with the rich history of the area, there are many ghost stories of the area to tell.
Part of the rich history involves the Bonanza Mine. In the late 1800’s, the Bonanza Mine was a major employer, owned by the Duquesne Mining and Reduction Company of Pittsburgh. The butcher shop, general store, school, and residences for the miners were located in Washington Camp. Mine officials lived in Duquesne. Duquesne and Washington Camp peaked in population to about 1000 at one time.
My family was always involved in mining in the area, starting with my great great grandfather, Thomas Gardner, for whom Gardner Canyon in Sonoita was named. As one of the earliest pioneers in Southern Arizona, he quickly became a jack of all trades to survive. He grew apples and potatoes to sell in Tucson, carrying a rifle with him in the fields to guard against frequent attacks by the Apache indians. He raised cattle to supply beef to the miners at Mowry. He eventually held stake in various mining operations in the area. Mining became a way of life for his descendants, which was also a dangerous occupation.
Thomas Gardner’s grandson (and my grandfather), William, worked at the Bonanza Mine in Duquesne in the 1950’s. My dad, his siblings and my grandmother, would occasionally camp outside the mine while my grandfather worked. My dad was born in nearby Washington Camp, and eventually lived in many locations along that particular loop in the Patagonia Mountains, before his family moved to Nogales for work. My dad eventually joined the army, and then settled in Tucson in the early 70’s. Camping, or simply driving through that loop, to my dad, is a cherished visit home.
This haunted chapter of the Bonanza mine story begins in the mid-1900′s, when the Bonanza mine was still productive and the busiest mine in the area. Miners worked in shifts, with a shift change at midnight. At the end of a shift, a miner would signal his intent to be lifted out of the vertical shaft. The signal was made via a bell, powered by a generator. The lift, called a “malacate”, would carry the workers in and out of the mine. The worker at the mine entrance who operated the lift was called a “malacatero”, and the malacatero at the time, was named Leora.
One night, a miner signaled his intent to be lifted out of the mine. The generator powered bell rang, as usual. Leora, pulled up the malacate, but it was empty. The miner fell off, or was crushed by the lift. My dad doesn’t remember the manner of death. Either way, the miner died at midnight, shortly after he rang the bell for Leora to lift him out of the mine.
After that night, the bell would ring at midnight, even if no workers were in the mine. Leora the malacatero would pull up the malacate, empty. The bell was disconnected to prevent the ringing, but it kept ringing at midnight, even without the electricity to power it.
The bell continued to ring, even after the mine closed in 1957.
With less work available, more and more families left the area for work elsewhere. Harshaw, Mowry, Washington Camp, Lochiel and Duquesne saw dwindling populations ever since. With less people around to hear the bell, there are just a handful of people who know when, and if, the ringing of the bell has ceased.
Lochiel and Duquesne were purchased by private individuals in recent years. Due to illegal border crossers and vandals, “No Trespassing” signs are peppered throughout the loop.The drive through the loop itself is simply gorgeous, even if stopping at Lochiel and Duquesne is no longer possible.
The Bonanza Mine is still there, deteriorating with the rest of the remnants of what was once a booming mining area.
Only the owner of the town of Duquesne knows if a ghostly miner still signals to Leora, by ringing a bell that is no longer there. If the bell still rings, the owner would know the reason by now. The ghostly bell signifies the never-to-be-fulfilled intent of a ghostly miner, who wants to be lifted out of that dark and deteriorating Bonanza Mine.