Written by btwood2 on 02 Mar, 2004
The Tohono O’odham Indians had several names for this area. One was Mu’i Wawhia or Moivavi, meaning "many wells" for the natural potholes that often contained water. The other name, Au-auho, meant "red paint", and referred to the red pigment they used from…Read More
The Tohono O’odham Indians had several names for this area. One was Mu’i Wawhia or Moivavi, meaning "many wells" for the natural potholes that often contained water. The other name, Au-auho, meant "red paint", and referred to the red pigment they used from the rocks here. This second name is most likely how Ajo got its name, although coincidentally, in Spanish ajo means "garlic", and another theory of naming is that Mexican settlers named the town after the wild garlic that grew in profusion.
The lust for mining was what drew more settlers to Ajo. In 1847, Tom Childs and his party stumbled on the ore-rich mountains of Ajo on their way to mine silver in Mexico. The Arizona Mining and Trading Company was soon mining the surface ores in this area and shipping it around Cape Horn to be smelted in Wales. But due to the scarcity of water, mining was not done on a large scale until John Greenway arrived.
Hailing from Alabama, he graduated from Yale after studying engineering. While working for U.S. Steel in Minnesota, Greenway was instrumental in helping to develop the techniques to transform raw iron ore into steel. After moving to Arizona in 1910, he was challenged by the situation in Ajo. He bought the New Cornelia Copper Company in Ajo in 1911. Greenway had mule teams haul a large oilrig through the desert to tap an ancient lava flow north of Ajo, which supplied water for the mine via a system of pumps and pipelines – at a cost of over one million dollars. He developed several new methods of processing copper more efficiently. He continued to manage the New Cornelia Copper Company until 1925. Eventually it was taken over by Phelps Dodge.
As mentioned before, mining activity ceased in the mid 1980’s, throwing Ajo into a bit of a crisis. Many of the mining families were transferred to Morenci, leaving tracts of vacant housing. City fathers began advertising Ajo as a great place to retire in the Sunbelt, and Snowbirds and retired people moved in.
We got a taste of what the future of Ajo might hold when we drove into Curley School. We were attracted to the elegant Spanish style of the building, similar to the plaza. Since there were no signs identifying the buildings, at first we thought it might be an old hospital. But a man we found on the grounds told us the buildings only recently functioned as the junior high school for Ajo; earlier it had been grades K though 12. The latest plans for the 114,000 square foot complex are developing it into an art and living space for low income artisans and their families. International Sonoran Desert Alliance of Ajo, in conjunction with ArtSpace Projects, received $400,000 of a total of $24.6 million in grants for rural communities to develop housing and economic development. They are still in the planning stages of this ambitious restoration and conversion. We’ll be interested to see how it develops as we return to Ajo.
Written by emmy123 on 02 Apr, 2003
If you have some time in the winter months and want to see a truly isolated place, this would be a park for you. I was able to get a weekend away and get a great bike ride in. The road is manageable…Read More
If you have some time in the winter months and want to see a truly isolated place, this would be a park for you. I was able to get a weekend away and get a great bike ride in. The road is manageable for a regular car, so the mountain biking was not tough at all. If we would have had more time, I would have liked to explore some of the trails. It is a dramatic area with sharp craggy mountains and lots of desert cactus types. I was a bit nervous as we rode the 20 or so miles along the border, but I only saw signs left of immigrants, no actual people. It was amazing to be that close to the border with just a barbed wire fense seperating you from Mexico. I felt very secure the entire time I was in the park. I met many interesting people who were looking to get away from it all and this is a perfect place. Close