Commonwealth Mine records 1895-1938

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Commonwealth Mine records 1895-1938

MS 270

Collection Summary

Creator: Commonwealth Mine
Collection Name:Commonwealth Mine, Cochise County, Arizona records,
Inclusive Dates: 1895-1938
Physical Decsription:4.2 linear feet
Abstract:The bulk of the Commonwealth Mine records document its activities from 1910 until 1930. Many of its earlier and later records were lost or destroyed between the closing of the mine in the 1940s and the salvaging of the records in 1960. Many of the remaining records are fragile and fragmentary; several important series, such as Board of Directors minutes, contain only scarred and scattered remnants of their original contents.
Collection Number:MS 270
Repository: University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collection
University of Arizona
PO Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
Phone: 520-621-6423
Fax: 520-621-9733

Historical Note

Located in the Pearce Mining District, Cochise County, Arizona, the Commonwealth Mine was discovered by John Pearce in 1895. Later that year he formed a partnership with John Brockman, R.A.F. Penrose, and D.M. Barringer and organized Commonwealth Mining and Milling Company. Stock was issued and sold in America and Europe. A 60 stamp mill was built in 1898; it burned down in June 1900 and was replaced by a 80 stamp mill by January 1901. By 1905, the high-grade ore had played out and the shaft collapsed. The company leased the tailings to D.T. Swatling (-1910) and A.Y. Smith (-1931). They constructed a cyanide leaching plant and worked the tailings for several years.

The mine was purchased by Montana Tonopah Mines Company in 1910. The new officers of the Commonwealth were Charles E. Know, A.Y. Smith, and Frank L. Bryant. A new mill was constructed in 1913 and operated until 1917 when the ore was again too poor to support a profitable operation. A.Y. Smith then leased the mine under the name of Commonwealth Development Company which had been operating earlier as the Worlds Fair Mine Development Company with properties in Patagonia, Arizona.

The later records seem to indicate that the mine was controlled by the Commonwealth Owners, Fred and Thomas F. Cole (-1939), during the 1930s and early 1940s. The Pearce Mining Company leased the operations from them during those years.

During its forty year existence, the mine produced $8 million worth of silver and $2.5 million in gold at a time when silver was priced around 50 cents an ounce, and gold was $20 an ounce. The state statistics relating to the production of the mine were often included with those for the Turquoise Mining District.

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Commonwealth Mine records document its activities from 1910 until 1930. Many of its earlier and later records were lost or destroyed between the closing of the mine in the 1940s and the salvaging of the records in 1960. Many of the remaining records are fragile and fragmentary; several important series, such as Board of Directors minutes, contain only scarred and scattered remnants of their original contents. When the records finally arrived for processing, they were totally disorganized and housed in forty-one cardboard cartons of sundry sizes. The present arrangement is by record types, and some overlap is evident in the manager's and supplies correspondence.

These remaining records best characterize the daily operations of the mine and its managers between 1910 and 1930 as they leased the tailings and attempted to develop additional shafts. Unfortunately, the period during which the richest veins were worked, 1896 to 1905, is not represented in these records. Documentation of the last decade of the operation of the mine is also poor. The broad themes of this collection outline the managerial and financial skills which kept the mine operating. Balancing the shifting market prices of silver, gold, and oil, of railroad fright charges, and of smelting costs, the operators strove to pay interest charges on bond indebtedness while assuring that the leasing activities and milling equipment functioned smoothly.

The managers correspondence highlights the business acumen of Charles Knox, A.Y. Smith, Frank Bryant and others. The interplay between Knox, as an executive of the parent Montana Tonopah organization, and the executives of the Commonwealth is rich with decisive memos and directives aimed at continuing operations. Knox was in constant contact with Smith and Bryant. Topics of ongoing concern were discovery of new veins, richness of ore beds, development of the physical plant, payment of bond interest, equipment problems and purchases, discussions of monthly reports, market conditions, labor problems and the reorganization of the Montana Tonopah Company in 1929. Legal and tax matters between Commonwealth and Montana Tonopah are discussed in the correspondence with Montana Tonopah's lawyer, Hugh Brown. Other correspondence reflects business communications with smelters and refining companies in Douglas, Arizona; bankers, lawyers, state and county officials, and nearby mining company officials. Later correspondence between T.B. Smith, mine operator, and Fred Cole, mine owner, pertains to the operations, leasing, and financial condition of the mine.

There are also several subject files, titled Automobiles, Cyanide, and Insurance which may represent the original filing systems used in the office. A sample of correspondence with suppliers from 1906 to 1935 was retained. These routine letters delineate shipments, prices, and purveyors of equipment and goods to the mine, its leaching operation, and its power plant and mill. Of interest are a file of equipment and supplies advertisements and brochures, ca. 1905-1936, and equipment inventories, ca. 1908 to 1912, of machinery used in the mine and mill.

The financial files are mainly monthly account statements designating debits and credits for the company which outline the cash flow of the mine and its operational status. A small sample of the insurance paperwork for employee accidents was retained. Included are correspondence and reports between the mine and its insurance companies outlining the nature of the accident, and prognostications for recovery. There are also copies of various insurance policies, some containing itemized lists of buildings and structures covered by the policy.

The legal files consist largely of contracts, agreements, and deeds relating to structural improvements at the mine, railroad right-of ways, leasing operations, smelting arrangements, equipment purchases, and mining claims.

The tax files consist of annual and monthly reporting forms from the mine to the federal, state, and county offices. There is correspondence relating to audits by the Treasury Department on allowances and depletions claimed by the mine and the mine operators defense of those claims. The 1926 audit provides some information on the relationships and activities of the Worlds Fair Mine and the Commonwealth. Correspondence relating to the filing of the new tax forms is found in the manager's correspondence files.

The directors of the Commonwealth Mine ventured into several other businesses in Pearce and the nearby communities. Fragments of records pertaining to the B.S.B. Egg Farm, Coronado Cattle Company, Glenn Land and Cattle Company, Midwest Sugar Company, and Worlds Fair Mine are present. Most of the records for each company occupy one folder and consist of correspondence, financial, and legal records. Although the Commonwealth provided water for the town of Pearce, there are little evidence of that activity in the records.

A.Y. Smith was active on the Cochise County Highway Commission in 1919. The files contain minutes, reports, and correspondence of the Commission relating to a $1 million bond issue to construct and repair various roads in Cochise County.

Additional files document the activities of the Sulfur Springs branch of the American National Red Cross, 1923-1927, and a Pearce social and recreational association, the Town and Country Club, 1914 to 1922.


This collection is organized into two subgroups:





It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents for the University of Arizona, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Related Material

Other materials on mining in Cochise County, Arizona are located in the Papers of the Monmonier family, call number AZ 371.

Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Cole, Thomas F., d. 1939
Knox, Charles E.
Pearce, John
Smith, Andrew Y., d. 1931
Swatling, D. T., d. 1910

Corporate Name(s)
Cochise County (Ariz.) -- Highway Commission
Commonwealth Development Co. (Ariz.)
Commonwealth Mine (Pearce, Ariz.)
Montana Tonopah Mines Co.
Worlds Fair Mine Development Co.

Geographic Name(s)
Pearce (Ariz.) -- History

Cattle trade -- Arizona
Mines and mineral resources - Arizona -- Cochise County
Roads -- Arizona -- Cochise County

Genre Form(s)

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Commonwealth Mine records(MS 270).Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

Container List

Subgroup I: Commonwealth Mine
Series I: Board of Director's Minutes, 1912-1913, 1927
Contains minutes from a few of the board meetings.
11 Minutes. , 1912-1913, 1927
Series II: Stockholders lists and correspondence, 1909-1932
Contains names of investors in the mine and correspondence relating to meetings, payments of obligations, and dividends.
12 Lists. , No Date
13-6 Correspondence. , No Date
Series III: Correspondence, 1907-1934
Contains incoming and outgoing letters documenting daily activities of the mine, its physical plant, and its administration and management.
Manager's Correspondence
17 Unidentified. , No Date
18 A. , No Date
19 Anglo and London Paris National Bank (Calif.). , 1914-1920
110 Arizona Eastern Railroad. , 1919-1921
111 Arizona state agencies. , 1910-1931
112 Ashurst, Henry F. , 1922
113 B. , No Date
114 C. , No Date
115 Calumet and Arizona Mining Co. , 1909-1930
116 Chautauqua. , 1920-1924
117 Cole, Fred L. and Thomas. , 1922-1936
21 Commonwealth Development Co. , 1918-1934
22-4 Commonwealth Mining and Milling Co. , 1910-1931
25 D, E, F. , No Date
26 Employment inquiries. , No Date
27 G, H. , No Date
28 I, J, K. , No Date
29 Insurance. , 1910-1932
210-12 Knox, Charles E. , 1910-1925
213 L, M. , No Date
214 Montana Tonopah Mines Co. , 1912-1919
31 Montana Tonopah Mines Co. , 1920-1929
32 Montana Tonopah Mines Co. Lawyer. , 1920-1929
33 N, O. , No Date
34 P. , No Date
35 R. , No Date
36 S. , No Date
37 T, U, V. , No Date
38 W, Y, Z. , No Date
Supplies Correspondence
39 Supplies/equipment advertisements. , 1905-1936
310 Equipment/inventories/drawings. , 1908-1918
311 Automobiles. , 1906-1910
312 Cyanide. , 1908-1917
313-29 Supplies. , 1906-1935
Series IV: Financial files, 1911-1935
Bulk are monthly trial balances and operating statements for the mine, some are annual statements or summary statements of receipts and disbursements. There are many gaps in all types of documents, and there are no summary ledgers available for operations.
41-4 Statements. , 1911-35
Series V: Legal files, 1895-1938
Contains insurance files relating to employee accidents and policies on the mine and its physical plant with listings of existing buildings and their valuations; legal documents including contracts, agreements, and deeds; and tax statements required by federal and state agencies.
45 Employee accidents. , 1913-1935
46 Insurance policies. , 1913, 1925-1930
47-10 Legal documents. , 1895-1938
411-12 Tax statements. , 1909-1937
Series VI: Operations reports, 1906-1937
Contains selected samples of assay reports, bullion reports, churn drill reports, cyanide reports, mine inspector's report, mill report, smelter reports, payroll ledgers, and time books; and larger samples of weekly mine operating reports, and ore settlements.
413-14 Reports, sampled. , 1906-1935
415 Mine operating reports, weekly. , 1912-1916
416 Ore settlements. , 1914-1931
417 Ore settlements, Black Diamond. , 1929-1930
418 Payroll ledgers. , 1915-1916
419 Smelting department. , 1912-1921
420 Time books. , 1914, 1916
Series VII: Vouchers, 1905-1926
Contains selected samples of vouchers for purchases over $100, the bulk of which pertain to storehouse acquisitions, fuels, payroll, equipment and construction.
51 Commonwealth Development Co., 1918-25 , 1918-1925
52-5 Commonwealth Mining and Milling Co. , 1905-1926
56 Swatling and Smith. , 1905-1908
Subgroup II: Supplemental Companies and Activities
Contains board of directors minutes and meetings, correspondence, legal, and financial documents relating to the businesses, several of which were operated by the directors of the Commonwealth Mine.
Series I: American National Red Cross. Sulphur Springs Valley Branch, 1923-1927
61 American National Red Cross. Sulphur Springs Valley Branch. , 1923-1927
Series II: B.S.B. Egg Farm, 1924-1927
62 B.S.B. Egg Farm. , 1924-1927
Series III: Cochise County Highway Commission, 1919
63 Cochise Highway Commission. , 1919
Series IV: Coronado Cattle Company, 1909-1922
64 Coronado Cattle Company. , 1909-1922
Series V: Glenn Land and Cattle Company, 1914-1930
65-7 Glenn Land and Cattle Company. , 1914-1930
Series VI: Midwest Sugar Company, 1917-1924
68 Midwest Sugar Company. , 1917-1924
Series VII: Town and Country Club (Pearce, Ariz.), 1914-1922
69 Town and Country Club (Pearce, Ariz.). , 1914-1922
Series VIII: Worlds Fair Mine Development Company, 1914-1920
610 Worlds Fair Mine Development Company. , 1914-1920