Charleston, Arizona
"The town that was tougher than Tombstone"

Brief history of the town

"If a corpse had a gun on him and the fatal shot came from the front, you didn't look for the killer"

Charleston Arizona was founded in 1879 as a milling site for ore from Tombstone's silver mines. In 1880, the U.S. Census gives it a population of 350, but I feel this might be a little deceiving because during it's busiest period, Charleston had four general stores, meat market, drug store, two restaurants and two laundries operated by Chinese, Mrs. Hughe's Boarding House, Eagle and Royal Hotels, and between thirteen and fifteen saloons.

The photo (at left) is the old section is of Jacob W. Swart's Saloon which he bought from Frank Stilwell in early 1881. This is probably the only photo of what Frank's bar looked like in Charleston.

Charleston "the town of the cowboys" was a short lived town that spawned with Tombstone and died with Tombstone. When the silver mines in Tombstone began to flood in the late 1880's, ore production slowed and so did the town of Charleston. But it was mother nature that really took down Charleston when a major earthquake hit on May 3, 1887. Thirty minutes of continued shocks reduced most of the adobe buildings to rubble and the town was never rebuilt. Although some people stuck around for a few years after the earthquake, the post office closed in 1888 and people started finding other places to work and live.


The town of Charleston as it looked in it's heyday. The photo (at left) is looking down 2nd street (north). The large 2 story frame building in the center of the photo is the Eagle Hotel. In the right center background is the Corbin Mill, Dick Gird's "big house" is at the left background as is "Millville".

TM&M Mill is at the extreme left background. There is a dust cloud in the center background from one of the wagons hauling ore to the Corbin Mill. In the original photo you can see someone looking out one of the windows in the Eagle Hotel (left top window I believe).

The Clantons have the honor of being the first boarding house in Charleston as Ike Clanton erected a canvas "hotel" building that was used until more substantial buildings were built.


Sometime after world war two, the adobe ruins of the town were used by the men at nearby Fort Huachuca for war games. Sadly enough, these war games, time and the elements have erased almost every trace of the town Charleston. Charleston is part of the San Pedro Riperian National Conservation Area, now protected by the BLM.

If you would like to see photo's of whats left, or you would like to visit the ghost town of Charleston, See Charleston Today

PLEASE NOTE: Information will be continuously added to this Charleston history page. Special Thanks to Scott Nelson for his help with this Charleston history.

More Charleston pages...

Charleston Arizona Today (photos & directions)

Map of Charleston Arizona

Charleston Menu Page

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