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Total Wreck, Arizona

Total Wreck, Arizona
Ghost town
Total Wreck, c.1885.
Total Wreck, c.1885.
Total Wreck, Arizona is located in Arizona
Total Wreck, Arizona
Location in the state of Arizona
Country United States
State Arizona
County Pima
Founded 1879
Abandoned 1890
Elevation[1] 4,629 ft (1,411 m)
Population (2009)
 • Total 0
Time zone MST (no DST) (UTC-7)
Post Office opened August 12, 1881
Post Office closed November 1, 1890

Total Wreck is a ghost town in Pima County, Arizona. The town was built 7 miles (11 km) from Pantano, Arizona, whence "an excellent road" led from the Southern Pacific Railroad line and on to the Empire Ranch. It lay on the mail route to and from Harshaw.[2]


  • Mining 1
  • Naming 2
  • Business and population 3
  • Legends 4
  • Gallery 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Silver was discovered in the Richmond lode of the Empire mining district in the eastern Empire Mountains in 1879.[3][4] By 1884 mines of the area had produced some $500,000 in silver bullion. Mining declined through the 1890s and early 1900s.[3]


There are two stories about the naming of the town.

  • John L. Dillon, the owner of the claims, named the townsite Total Wreck because he thought that the mine was on a ledge that looked like "a Total Wreck" because it was below a quartzite ledge with large boulders of quartzite strewn all over.[3]
  • The Los Angeles Times reported in 1882 that the "strange appellation" of Total Wreck came about when "After a laborious search for minerals in the vicinity of the mine, one day previous to its discovery, Mr. Dillon replied to a friend's inquiry of 'What luck?' by saying: 'Oh, it's a total wreck!' "[2]

Business and population

A post office was established on August 12, 1881, and was discontinued on November 1, 1890.[4] The population was around 200 residents in 1883, at which time its structures included five saloons, three general stores, a butcher shop, a shoemaker shop and a half dozen Chinese laundries.[3]

A Los Angeles Times reporter wrote in 1882:

The town of Total Wreck has no appearance of a wreck. It is a thrifty, neat-looking village, the streets laid out at right angles. The main street is named Dillon street in honor of the discoverer of the mine, and the first to discover minerals in this district.... The town has two stores, two hotels, a restaurant, five saloons, a carpenter, blacksmith, butcher and shoe-shop; also a dressmaker's store, a brewery and about thirty-five houses.... It has a residential magistrate and a deputy sheriff, and I was informed that in case of trouble with the Indians or roughs ninety men could be mustered within sixty minutes.[2]

Business owners in that year were "N.R. Vail, Salsig & Ballou, Chas. Altschul, A.J.Bobo, Snyder & Co., Nelson & George, P.J. Delahanty, John Vaughn, Alex. Chisholm, S.S. Danner, McClellan & Williams and Mr. Ballou."[2]


A popular legend of Total Wreck was the story of E. B. Salsig who was involved in a shootout. He was struck in the chest by a bullet from the other assailant, but he didn't die because he was saved by a large pack of love letters he had in his vest pocket. The letters supposedly absorbed the bullet, saving the man's life. Legend says he married the woman who had written the letters.[4]


See also


Access to the Los Angeles Times link may require the use of a library card.

  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Total Wreck Mine
  2. ^ a b c d November 3, 1882, page 1Los Angeles Times," 'It's a Total Wreck,': An Arizona Mine That Completely Belies Its Name,"
  3. ^ a b c d Houser, B. B., et al., Historic Mining Camps of Southeastern Arizona: a Road Log with Geologic and Historic Highlights, in USGS Researches on Mineral Resources–1994 Part B Guidebook for Field Trips, U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1103–B p. 26(map) and p. 27
  4. ^ a b c Sherman, James E.; Barbara H. Sherman (1969). "Total Wreck". Ghost Towns of Arizona (First ed.). University of Oklahoma Press. p. 158.  

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • The History of Total Wreck, Arizona.
  • David Leighton, "Street Smarts: A total wreck of a hillside became a silver mine that became a road," Arizona Daily Star, Oct. 2, 2013
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