That mining towns in the western United States often led a rapid boom to bust existence is not remarkable. After ore was discovered and a mining claim filed, a camp appeared almost immediately. If the mine’s production was good, the camp quickly grew into a small town and, if the mine kept producing, the small town boomed. But when the price of ore fell, the veins ran out or something else closed the mine, the towns often disappeared as fast as they came into existence.
In the early 20th century, the towns of Gleeson, Courtland and Pearce, AZ, were booming with the discovery of gold, silver and copper. At the height of the boom the three communities had an estimated population of almost 4000. But then, for each community, came the bust...
Pearce was the only one of the three to survive almost becoming a ghost town.
Pearce came into existence after prospector James Pearce discovered gold and silver in 1894 in Sulphur Springs Valley. The Commonwealth Mine was established and the boom was on. Two years later the general store opened and a U.S. Post Office was established. A railway station and rail service followed in 1903. Pearce became a fairly large town for the area, attracting families and businesses from as far as Tombstone.
One major difference between Pearce and other mining communities was the location of the mine. Often the mine and town were integrated on one site but the mine at Pearce was actually located about a mile to the east in an area that came to be known as Fittsburg. The distance may have helped it survive the coming bust.
A 1904 cave-in closed the mine but it seemed that Pearce had become self-sustaining. By 1919, Pearce had a population of approximately 1,500 and boasted a school, restaurants and bars, boarding houses and hotels, and a motion picture theater among other businesses. Pearce proved to be the town of hotels. James Pearce’s wife cornered the market on the hotel and boarding house business early by convincing the local Chamber of Commerce to give her the exclusive right to open and operate all of the town’s hotels and boarding houses which she did with abandon.
Pearce went into decline and in the mid 1930’s as the Great Depression ravaged the nation. The railroads pulled up their tracks and the exodus was underway. The population dwindled to under 120. Today, Pearce, and three surrounding communities have rebounded with a combined population of almost 2,000 and are promoting the area as a retirement destination.