View Full Version : Twin Buttes, AZ

12-27-2006, 07:06 PM
I recently aquired a GT book published in 1971 with an interesting picture of a rail car rotting away on the tracks.

On Christmas, I tried in vain to get close enough to the tracks to see if the car was still there (among other things), but the property seemed fenced off for miles due to modern mining operations.

Has anyone seen the ruins of Twin Buttes, or has it been completely destroyed by :mad: :mad: :mad: GRRRR! modern mining operations?

I was surely tempted to trespass and find out. Where the road intersected the old tracks, a gate was secured by four padlocks-but the last of which was looped around a wee little section of chain link. I could hear my wire cutters quivering in my tool box, but realized, even on Christmas day, there must be an evil ogre on guard willing to throw me in jail for my curiosity.

Alas, no pictures, no sucess at all.(sigh)

12-28-2006, 05:58 PM
It's probably a good thing you decided not to trespass, if I'm not mistaken, that property, at least the mining operation, is owned by BHP Billiton, they're a HUGE outfit with lots of legal resources.
My cakes with files in them aren't too good....sorta lumpy. ;) :D

12-29-2006, 06:40 AM
Laura, you'r a "HOOT"....Speedy

12-29-2006, 12:04 PM
Hooooo moi? ;)


01-05-2007, 06:36 AM
I am pretty sure the GT of Twin Buttes has been consumed by the open pit mine. Copper Co's don't care about history or GT's. This I know from working at the Ray mine.

Rocks With Salt
04-29-2010, 09:31 PM
Sorry to bump this thread, but this ghost town is just a short drive away from me, and I'm trying to pull some strings to know more about it. I was introduced to the graveyard, which is all that remains, by a friend in summer 2009, and it was in a state of disrepair. Since I was in Boy Scouts, I figured that I could renovate the graveyard as my Eagle Scout Project! Boy, I learned so much about that place it would make your collective heads explode!

For starters, the graveyard is smack-dab in the middle of current mining operations, but was spared the fate of the rest of the town when it was decided that the graveyard is technically still an operating one (There are headstones as recent as 2002). However, at some point, the first mine (Anaconda? AMAX? Banner? I'm not sure.) rolled over a portion of the area, forever destroying what might of been there. I'm still not sure why that is, I've heard many different reasons why. Anyway, within the last 15 years, the second-to-last company that owned it, Twin Buttes Mining Corp., decided to try to patch things up by placing a fence around the site. However, there was a gap leading into the cemetery itself.

The condition of the graveyard in summer was what you would expect: Decrepit, isolated, and full of buffel grass. All four sides around it are piles of rock that keep it out of view from the roads, which, of course, is a blessing and a curse. About 1/2 of the total area was barren; this was the area the company mysteriously destroyed. Most graves had a ring of rocks around them, some had black iron crosses that somebody else had placed in the past. There was even a grave for a deceased WWI Navy veteran, surprisingly.

After consulting with the cemetery keeper, a wonderful lady who actually lived in the town with her sister before the mines came in, I decided to:

Erect an arch and metal sign that read 'Twin Buttes Cemetery' in the gap in the fence
Place black crosses similar to the ones there on unmarked graves
Mound graves that had simply a ring of rocks with a pile of rocks, similar to Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone
Get rid of as much buffel grass as I could

No small feat, let me tell you. I was extremely lucky to find an iron working shop nearby that said they would do both the sign and the archway for free, and I am forever indebted to them for doing so. I found scrap metal at a friend's house that would suffice for crosses, as well. It took the entire autumn season, but it was beginning to come together.

Interestingly, when I spoke with the Twin Buttes Mining Corp., I was amazed to learn about what goes on and who some of the current people were. When they purchased the property back in the 80's or 90's, they did little to no mining and instead leased the area to Komatsu to test their giant mining trucks in. They were even thinking of installing a solar plant in the area! I also learned that the owner, Mr. Hershel McGriff, led an incredible life, including racing professionally in the early days of NASCAR! He still races in NASCAR sponsored events to this day, well into his eighties, if I had to guess. He himself said that he was disappointed that the earlier mining companies destroyed the town, so he felt it was his right to protect the cemetery. Also amazingly, the two-floor building that is the center for their operations was, and almost always was, empty, except for one or two people to take calls and maintain the facility, including McGriff's son, whom I worked out the deal to be on his property for the project. Oh, and those padlocks on the fence? He gave me a key to one of the padlocks, which are daisy-chained together so that one unlocked one will open the gate.

Now, onto the project itself. The first night, my troop caravaned to the site, armed with gardening tools and much more. We parked outside the cemetery (Mr. McGriff even provided a Porta-Potty) and camped overnight, some inside the cemetery, some outside (It's easy to get a kid excited when you tell him he could be sleeping on an unmarked grave!). My friend's mother, who introduced me to the cemetery, brought along these devices called dousing rods, which are supposedly used to find graves and talk to ghosts. At first, I figured it was just for fun and games, but by the end of the night, I was spooked. The rods supposedly can talk to spirits by crossing or uncrossing the rods when you ask it a question. We picked up a quite talkative ghost who we deduced his name to be Ignacio Borquez (I had a roster of those buried in the cemetery). Every time we asked him a question related to him, I would look at my roster and see if it would match up. We asked if he had a wife. He said he did. According the roster, he did. We asked if her name was Susana, which it was. He said yes. We then asked questions about his age, which we unfortunately couldn't confirm on the roster, and we narrowed it down to around age 23 when he died. We then asked him why he died. We wondered if it had to do with the mines itself. He said no. We asked if it was a disease. He said yes. From there, we were unable to get a conclusive answer, but I believe it was something like Tuberculosis. For whatever reason, when a certain kid walked by, the rods would always point at him, no matter what. We checked and made sure he wasn't carrying any metals or electronics. He didn't. We questioned him on why he pointed, and all we could figure out was that he simply didn't like him. Weird. After talking to him, I was able to talk to certain people, some who wanted to talk, and some that did not, such as Francis Sanders and Guadalupe Cardenas, who was run over and killed by Sanders' father's truck. Sanders herself was killed in a car accident years later. I 'asked' Cardenas if she forgave the Sanders family for what had happened. She responded that she hadn't. I tried to get Francis' opinion on the matter, but something inexplicable came over our group, a cold chill (I still say it was just paranoia and hysteria), and that was the end of that.

Finally, on the day of the project, my team worked over six hours to renovate the cemetery, including erecting the sign and arch. The cemetery keeper and her sister came down to see the progress, and, in turn, she told me stories and general locations of places in Twin Buttes that were destroyed by the mines. If there is one thing I regret, it is not getting the time to interview her.

So how has the cemetery changed? Well, I was at least able to get rid of the buffel grass in the main part of the cemetery; that stuff is everywhere. See for yourself:


Well, that's my story. I have more pictures if you want to see them, and I'm still trying to learn all that I can about the ghost town. Are your heads exploded yet or what?

P.S. That train car, I found out, was part of the Twin Buttes Railroad Comp., and that was it's only passenger car. Here's a 1962 Milwaukee Journal article featuring it. (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=vEwaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3iYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4889,4681885&dq=twin+buttes&hl=en) If I had to guess, it doesn't exist anymore. The mines probably destroyed it in the 1960's, or it was vandalized into oblivion over time. But who knows? I bet if I ask around, I'll find something...

04-30-2010, 04:19 AM
HATS OFF TO YOU ROCKS WITH SALT AND YOU TROOP!!!!!!! and your sign maker!!!!!!!! http://www.moparnuts.com/forums/images/smilies/eusa_clap.gif http://www.moparnuts.com/forums/images/smilies/eusa_clap.gif http://www.moparnuts.com/forums/images/smilies/eusa_clap.gif

04-30-2010, 04:37 AM
Nice project! Can the average Joe get easy permission to visit this place, or is it behind the fences?

04-30-2010, 06:41 AM
Great to see some of Arizona history being appreciated & cared for. Thanks RWS for the post & pic's. I've wondered about Twin Butes & an glad to get the low down. Scouts is one of the charities I support.

Nothing like a ghost story in a long neglected ghost town cemetery.


04-30-2010, 07:40 AM
That is really cool! And a good deed for AZ history!

04-30-2010, 11:15 AM
Thanks for the photos, stories, and work RWS! :cool:

Rocks With Salt
04-30-2010, 04:08 PM
Nice project! Can the average Joe get easy permission to visit this place, or is it behind the fences?
Yes, the site is behind the fences, for better of for worse. When I was doing the project, all I had to do was gain permission from the cemetery caretaker and Mr. McGriff, but nowadays I'm not sure. In January, two months after I did the project, the mine was bought out by mining conglomerate Freeport-McMoran, who has plans of mining there again. So now I'm not sure if it is still easy to gain access to the cemetery or not. I really want to track down Mr. McGriff and get his opinion on the whole thing, and see if they threaten the cemetery; I'd rather ask him than a representative from Freeport. Nonetheless, I'm sure that if they try anything, I wouldn't be the only one crying foul over it; the Arizona Pioneer Cemetery Association looks pretty determined about keeping it.

The thing I find most ironic about the whole project is that the current mine feels as decrepit and run-down as the town of yesteryear. The buildings looks worn and unused, and the mixing tanks on the site are now filled in with dirt and grass, possibly to never run again. At night, all you can hear is the sounds of the operations from other mines. It's lonely in the same way that a ghost town is; secluded and forgotten.

At least the area was bought out by Freeport and not ASARCO, whom we're still very suspicious about their business practices and violations, among which include a huge dust storm coming from their mine tailings that engulfed Tucson last December...

Dave A
04-30-2010, 07:03 PM
Great post and thank you for the effort you put in to restore this old cemetary to some semblance of what it should be.

How interesting that you met Herschel McGriff, who as you mentioned is very well known in NASCAR circles. He is from the Portland, OR area and I had no idea he was involved in mining in AZ. McGriff could probably have been a big name in NASCAR, because he got the attention of Big Bill France who founded NASCAR and was asked to come back to the SE and run races, which he did for a short time. However, making a living for his family came first and he did his racing in the NW where he won a lot of races over many years. Recently there was a big article on him on NASCAR Online that went over his history in racing. He was winning races long after most of his competitors had retired, well into his sixties as I recall.