Fairbank is a ghost town located along the San Pedro River in southern Arizona. The town came into being in 1881 with the construction of the Arizona and New Mexico Railroad.
It's initial success as a town was a direct result of being the nearest train depot to the boom town of Tombstone. It received its name from Nathanial Kellog Fairbank, a grain broker from Chicago who helped finance the railroad.
At its peak, Fairbank had an elegant hotel, restaurant, bar, post office, schoolhouse, three train depots, stage coaches and a bunch of other small businesses.
Fairbank had a short and rough existence. In 1887, an earthquake rocked the town, knocked railroad tracks off their foundations, destroyed buildings and altered the course of the San Pedro River.
This alteration of the river led to two devastating floods in 1890 and 1894, which once again destroyed large portions of the town.
Not only did the town have Mother Nature wrecking havoc on it, but also people. In 1900, a group of lawmen-gone-bad (known as the Stiles-Alvord gang) attempted to rob the Wells Fargo boxcar when it stopped at Fairbank. The robbery went bad due to Jeff Milton, an ex-Texas ranger and Arizona lawman who was guarding the safe.
Milton killed one would-be robber, three others were captured, while only one escaped to Mexico. Milton's arm was shattered in the gunfight and he had to be rushed by train to San Francisco for surgery.
Milton threatened to kill any surgeon who tried to amputate his arm. None dared attempt it and the arm was saved. He eventually regained partial use of it.
The school house, which has been fully restored by the BLM, was originally built out of gypsum block in the 1920's (after the original school house burned down). It was closed in 1944. The train depot eventually moved directly to Tombstone.
The town had residents living there until the 1950's, but the the 1970's all that remained was a store and gas pump. It became a ghost town in the mid 1970's.
What remains today is a large adobe mercantile store, a board and batten-style store, school, garage, one frame house and an old outhouse.
The schoolhouse has a replica classroom, with displays and small gift store. I found it very well done and interesting.
You can also walk to the old Fairbank cemetery (which is about a mile roundtrip easy hike). If you want to do a little more of a hike, you can walk to some old mill ruins, but we didn't have time to do this.
I really enjoyed my visit to Fairbank. Next time, I want to take the time to walk (or mountain bike) north to the mill ruins. There are also some nice picnic tables there and large trees that make a nice place for lunch.
Click here for direction to Fairbank from Tucson. Click on any of the pictures on this page to see a larger image.