Courtland and Gleeson weren’t as lucky as Pearce.
When copper was discovered in the Dragoon Mountains, it seemed to be the find of the century. The strike was thought to be so big that in 1908 and 1909, four companies began mining the area. All the mining activity attracted hundreds of settlers and Courtland was established as a large tent city within a few months.
The growth was so explosive that two railroads provided service to the town almost immediately. In 1909, not a year after the discovery, the Courtland Post Office opened and the Courtland Arizonian newspaper printed its first edition.
The tent city quickly gave way to houses, churches and businesses. At its height, Courtland had a population of approximately 2,000. A Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1911. One of the chamber’s first concerns was the availability of water to the community. Generally speaking, what has come to be known as ‘public works’ wasn’t a major concern in mining towns. Not so in Courtland. Within months, the Courtland Water and Ice Company was formed and laid five miles of water service lines making the modern convenience of running water available to most of the town.
Courtland boasted a small hospital, a car dealership, numerous restaurants and bars, an ice cream parlor, a motion picture theater, a full sized baseball field, a horse racing track and, at its peak, two newspapers. Courtland also boasted an impressive nightlife, making it the place ‘where the action was’.
Then there was the Courtland Jail. Popularly called the Brite Hotel after Sheriff Tom Brite, it was considered by many the best place in town to spend the night. The jail was built of steel and reinforced concrete. It had two large cells, each complete with toilet and sink. It also had a small office for the sheriff’s deputy.
Because of the spacious conditions and running water (most miners lived in small shacks or tents on the outskirts of town), many found the thought of spending a night or two in jail appealing and it was almost immediately overcrowded. The town court created a work credit program that allowed prisoners to reduce their sentence in exchange for road work but a number of prisoners chose to stay in jail rather than work. This left the town short of road workers and the county with a huge food bill for the prisoners.