Dos Cabezas, or “two heads” in Spanish, is a mountain range with two distinctive bald knolls. It’s also a town, founded in 1879, 14 miles southeast of Willcox on Arizona Highway 186.
Since the 1860s, gold in quartz veins along with placer gold were mined near the stage station at Ewell Springs (the original name of the Dos Cabezas settlement) on the south side of the Dos Cabezas Mountains. The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad at Willcox in August 1880 opened the area to further mining, resulting in three stamp mills, saloons, blacksmith shop, hotels, general store and 50 adobe buildings serving a population of 300 people.
By the early 1900s, the Emersley claims instigated a copper boom in the district, establishing the Dos Cabezas Consolidated Mines Co. The short-lived town of Laub at the mouth of Mascot Canyon two miles north of Dos Cabezas, served miners, though lack of financing and low copper prices caused its demise.
Promoter Thomas N. McCauley successfully enticed stockholders to invest in his fledgling Mascot Copper Co., created in 1907. McCauley’s sensationalized copper claims would soon galvanize the Dos Cabezas Mining district. On February 11, 1914, the Mascot Townsite was located in Mascot Canyon at the base of the Dos Cabezas Peaks. The Mascot Copper Co. built the Consolidated Mine tunnel, which served as one of the entrances to the Mascot mine.
Pneumatic drills effectively carved out drifts at the Dos Cabezas Mines. Having replaced the time-consuming process of hand drilling, they became known as the “widow makers” because of the amount of dust produced in the air. Inhaling the dust caused silicosis, a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs that led to eventual death. Water was later applied to keep the dust level down, an innovation that added years to the life of the miner.
Shipments — including 763 tons of ore from Dos Cabezas to Willcox using a Pierce-Arrow truck (No. 435) in 1913 — proved inefficient because of high transportation costs (17 ½ cents per ton-mile), inadequate space and rugged road conditions. That changed in 1915 when the Mascot and Western Railroad Co. built a standard gauge railroad with 41,000 ties between the two places.
The Elma Mine, on the north side of Dos Cabezas, included 5,000 feet of workings and at least four levels. From 1910 to 1960, the mine produced 8,000 tons of copper, molybdenum, gold and silver ore. The ore was trammed to the Mascot Mine by 10,600 feet of aerial tramway last operated by Tout, Arivaca Mining Co. The beneficiation of low-grade ores was handled by four Wilfley tables at 150 tons over 24 hours. At Mascot, the ore was processed by a crusher and 500-ton flotation mill using a 360-foot conveyor. The product was then shipped by gondola cars to the smelters at Douglas, Arizona and El Paso, Texas.
The output of the mines at Dos Cabezas proved marginal. Sometimes, but rarely, a decent pocket of ore was extracted. Undaunted, McCauley formed the Central Copper Co. of Arizona, Inc., in February 1919. The company leased the properties of both the Mascot Copper Co. and the Mascot & Western Railroad. McCauley raised several millions through direct-mail solicitation, reaching out to investors across the country hoping to obtain additional funds from investors and bide time until a larger pocket of ore could be found.
By 1928, mining operations declined due to lack of profitable ore. The local population dwindled and railroad operations suspended and dismantled. With only a sparse population of residents, today Dos Cabezas is considered a ghost town, its cemetery its main attraction.