Early prospecting in the Patagonia mining district during the 1860s and ’70s was hindered by the threat of Apache raids. After the Apache were forcibly removed, the mining communities of Washington Camp and Duquesne were established a mile apart in the Patagonia Mountains.
More than 80 mining claims covering 1,600 acres existed in the area around Washington Camp and Duquesne. George Westinghouse, the renowned electrical engineer, inventor and founder of Westinghouse Electric Co., owned many of these claims by 1889. It was with Westinghouse investment that the Duquesne Mining & Reduction Co. was established that same year, providing the funding for equipment to expand mining operations.
It’s said that Westinghouse once lived in Duquesne in a house that included amenities such as hot and cold running water.
The district saw its most prosperous times in the 1890s with the high market price of copper and a peak population of 2,000. Washington Camp included a reduction plant, miners’ quarters, a butcher shop and general store. A school was established between both towns. A post office was established at Washington Camp in 1880 and the following decade moved to Duquesne. It closed in 1920.
The Pride of the West was the chief copper-producing mine in Washington Camp. Its owners included Westinghouse and Sen. W.A. Clark of Montana, who was well-known for his mining investments, including in Butte, Mont., and Jerome.
Between 1899 and 1907, the Pride of the West produced $1.4 million in copper, lead and silver. Other producing mines in the area included the Duquesne, which produced $4 million from 1899 to 1925, along with Mowry, which produced $1 million between 1858 and 1930, and smaller mines such as Santo Niño, Humboldt, Jarilla and Morning Glory.
Another well-known mine in the area was the Bonanza, located north of Duquesne and developed to a depth of 650 feet. It included a 3,000-foot aerial tramway that transported ore to a mill at Washington Camp.
During the 1890s an average of three rail-car loads of ore per day were shipped to smelters including Rosemont, Tucson and Nogales. Ore was also processed onsite; such was the case at the Pride of the West mine, which included a 50-ton smelter and a 100-ton electric mill.
A declining market value in the ore and its quality led to a slowdown of mining in the district by the 1920s. As a result, Washington Camp and Duquesne became ghost towns with just a few dozen inhabitants.
Despite brief resurgences in mining into the 1950s and mineral exploration conducted by the Simplot and Rosario companies in the late 1960s and ’70s, the area never regained its mining prominence.
Today it is a destination for ghost-town aficionados, birders, mineral collectors and real estate developers. The Holland Mine, two-thirds of a mile west of Duquesne and worked before 1881, is renowned for yielding double-twinned quartz crystals. The district has also yielded specimens of andradite garnet with quartz.
Duquesne includes structures that remain standing despite years of neglect and wear from the elements. Some of them are being restored, though Duquesne and Washington Camp are both closed to visitors.