Cochise County in Southeast Arizona is home to a diverse geography that includes mountain ranges grass lands and high-desert terrain and two major rivers the Santa Cruz and the San Pedro. The county helped contribute to the area’s development as a cattle and agriculture region. The history of Cochise County dates back to archeological finds along the San Pedro River. The county was named after the renowned Apache chief in 1881. Cochise County towns began as mining towns during the area’s mining boom settling in along the Santa Cruz and San Pedro rivers. Forty percent of the county land is owned by individual and corporations. The State of Arizona owns 35 percent of the area and the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management accounts for 32 percent with the remaining three percent owned by public land entities.
Sierra Vista is the largest city in the county and maintains a close relationship with Huachuca City. Fort Huachuca is the largest civilian employer in southern Arizona and is noted for its major economic impact on the southern cities and towns of Arizona. Douglas the second largest city in Cochise County is located 118 miles southeast of Tucson at the U.S.-Mexico border. International commerce is crucial to the area’s economy. Bisbee located close to the Mexican border in the southeastern corner of the state is 205 miles southeast of Phoenix and 94 miles southeast of Tucson. The weather is moderate and at an altitude at 5300 feet above sea level the air quality is always clear and clean.
Benson located 45 miles southeast of Tucson was founded in the late 1880’s. The town became the transportation hub between California and Mexico. Benson shipped copper and silver from Tombstone and Bisbee via its Southern Pacific station. Willcox was important cattle shipping and supply point for the military forts and miners in the late 1880’s.
Today, Wilcox is a large cattle and agricultural community. Tombstone known as “the town too tough to die “served as the area’s county seat until 1929. Both communities were mining towns and enjoyed their heyday during the early 20th Century.
Population: 43000 (est.)
School District: Sierra Vista Unified School District #38
City of Sierra Vista: 520-458-3315; www.sierravistaaz.gov
Sierra Vista means “Mountain View” in Spanish and is aptly named for the breathtaking background of mountain ranges surrounding the area. At an elevation of 4523 feet Sierra Vista has outstanding views of the Mule Huachuca and Whetstone mountains. Located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, the Sierra Vista is noted for its natural beauty and wild life. Additionally, bird watching is a popular past time. With hundreds of species of birds flying to or through the Sierra Vista area during their seasonal migration.
One of the fastest growing cities in Arizona is Sierra Vista. Located 190 miles southeast of Phoenix, Sierra Vista is the largest city in Cochise County. Fort Huachuca was established in 1877 when the 6th United States Cavalry established a camp along the mouth of Huachuca Canyon in order to protect settlers from Apache raiding parties. Initially the areas around the fort were sparsely populated with a few small ranches along the San Pedro River. Between World War II and 1954 the fort was inactive and then was reopened for testing electronic and communications equipment becoming an active army post and a vital contributor to national defense.
A small community began to grow east of the fort named Sierra Vista and was incorporated in 1956. With the annexation of Fort Huachuca, Sierra Vista’s area now covers more than 130 square miles. Fort Huachuca’s 11000 military and civilian employees make a major contribution to Sierra Vista’s economy. Other major employers here include Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, Aegis Communications, KE&G Construction, Ilex systems and Wal-Mart. Major public employers include the City of Sierra Vista Cochise County, Sierra Vista Unified School District, the U.S. Army Fort Huachuca and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The weather in Sierra Vista is moderate with winter temperatures ranging from the mid 30’s to the 50’s in the winter with a small amount of snow. Summer temperatures range from the 60’s to the mid 90’s with an average rainfall of about 15.00 inches per year. The area’s great weather booming economy and good schools offer opportunities for a high quality of life. The Sierra Vista Unified School District #38 has six elementary schools two middle schools one high school and a community college. Add to this the rich historical background an abundance of recreational and cultural activities amid beautiful scenery and newcomers to this area find Southern Arizona is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. In the 1999 the first major mall in southeastern Arizona was built in Sierra Vista. Dillard’s and Sears are the two anchor stores with more shopping and dining facilities around the perimeter of the mall including Best Buy and Home Depot.
School District: Douglas Unified # 27
City of Douglas:
520-364-75 01; www.douglasaz.gov
Nestled along the U.S.-Mexico border Douglas is a captivating cultural crossroads where Hispanic Anglo and Native American cultures have mixed for hundreds of years. Dubbed the “Premier Southwestern Border Community” of the Southwest Douglas has been named one of the “Top 100 Places to Live in America” by Bizjournals.com. Originally named “Black Water” (a name that lives on in Agua Prieta its sister city across the border in Mexico) Douglas was founded in 1901 and was incorporated in 1905. In the early 1900’s the smelter in the town of Bisbee could not handle the large amounts of ore coming from Mexico. To handle the overflow the Phelps Dodge Company opened a new smelter site in Sulphur Springs Valley which eventually became the town of Douglas named after the president of the company. In 1987 the Phelps Dodge smelter was closed however and Douglas diversified into other industries that still make a large economic impact on both sides of the border. Cattle ranches and agriculture are still major contributors to the Douglas area economy. Economic diversity has been increased with shopping sightseeing tourism retirement and the ease of crossing the U.S. -Mexico border.
The city has been named as one of the nation’s best “micropolitan areas” with its growing economics and moderate costs of living. Construction has been completed on a new Advance Call Center Technologies (ACT) call center which has brought new jobs and economic opportunities to the city. New home developments in the area include Rancho Perilla Estates a 500-acre gated community featuring more than 1000 homes a gas station and retail stores. Another area home development is the Coronado Hills currently with about 60 houses.
Major private employers in the area include Safeway W al- Mart and the Southeastern Arizona Medical Clinic. Major public employers are Arizona State Prison the City of Douglas Cochise College the U. S. Border Patrol and the Douglas Unified School District.
The Douglas Unified School District #27 is one of the larger school districts in Southern Arizona. The district is comprised of five elementary one pre-kindergarten two middle schools and one high school. Other educational facilities include a community college and a number of private schools. Douglas boasts several nationally registered historic landmarks including the Southern Pacific Depot the opulent Gadsden Hotel and the Downtown historical District. Nearby attractions include the town of Tombstone historic Old Fort Bowie and Texas Canyon.
School District: Bisbee Unified #2
City of Bisbee: 520-432-3554 or 866-2BISBEE; www.cityofbisbee.com
Founded in 1880 Bisbee was once known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps” in tribute to its rich mineral deposits. At its peak Bisbee was producing nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper not to mention the silver lead and zinc that came from the Mule Mountains. By the early 1900s the Bisbee community was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco and in 1929 the county seat was relocated from Tombstone to Bisbee. In the mid-1970’s the mines had been depleted of ore and were deemed unprofitable officially putting an end to a once thriving area industry. However beginning in 2007 with the purchase of Phelps Dodge by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold preliminary steps have been made to bring mining back to the area.
Today Bisbee is known for its artist colony retirement community and many attractions. The city has maintained its architectural and historic heritage and has become one of Arizona’s most visited cities. Many of the old office buildings saloons and landmarks still stand and most of the town is a registered National Historic District. The visit or as well as residents can enjoy art galleries antique stores museums the Queen Mine tours and the Bisbee Mining & Historical museum. In addition to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold major employers include Arizona Southern Distributors Copper Queen Community Hospital Copper Queen Hotel (which was featured on an episode of the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters”) Safeway Bisbee Unified School District City of Bisbee and Cochise County.
School District: Benson Unified #9
City of Benson: 520-586-4293; www.cityofbenson.com
Known as the “Home of the Kartchner Caverns State Park” the city of Benson was founded in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad opened lines into the area for the transportation of copper and silver from the areas mining towns. The use of railroads to the West Coast port cities allowed shipment of goods via the Pacific Ocean rather than overland. When mining declined and the railroading hub was moved to Tucson cattle ranching and the opening of the Apache Powder Company became the community’s major economic boosters. With its close proximity to Interstate 10 Benson benefits from the services and amenities it provides travelers as well as the large winter population of retired people who enjoy the rural atmosphere and the moderate temperatures. Nearby is the world famous “
Kartchner Caverns State Park ”Tombstone and other attractions that bring tourists as well as residents to this beautiful area of southeastern Arizona. Residents of Benson regularly commute to both Tucson and Sierra Vista for shopping and for work. Benson enjoys a relatively stable economy thanks in part to its retirement community the steady tourist and winter visitor trade and steady employment opportunities in the greater Southern Arizona area. Benson major private employers include AEPCO Benson Hospital SEABHS Apache Nitrogen and Gas City the Benson Unified School District and the City of Benson.
Population: 1600 (est.)
School District: Tombstone Unified #1
City of Tombstone: 520-457-3929; www.cityoftombstone.com
The most renowned of Arizona’s old mining camps “The Town Too Tough To Die” got its name from a prospector who was told by his comrades that he’d find his tombstone rather than silver. He named his first claim the Tombstone the rush of prospectors arrived and the boomtown named the settlement Tombstone. The infamous Earp-Clanton gunfight known in popular culture as “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” was fought in 1881.
For the next seven years the mines produced millions of dollars in silver and gold. In 1888 rising underground water forced the suspension of all mining activity. During World Wars I and II Tombstone produced manganese and lead for the government. As time went by the town’s dependence on mining faded and it was decided the town would invest in restoration and tourism efforts. Tombstone today is known as a Historical American Landmark and America’s best example of the country’s western heritage.
Many of the 1880’s original buildings have been preserved and old artifacts can be seen in a number of museums. Tombstone is open year round and is probably one of the most visited attractions in all of Arizona. Tombstone’s residents are primarily employed in support of its tourist industry and a small retirement community.
School District: Willcox Unified #13
City of Willcox: 520-384-4271; www.cityofwillcox.org
In 1854 railroad surveyors trying to find the easiest rail route to the West discovered the road could be routed around the Dos Cabezas Mountains near the present location of Willcox. In 1880 the railroad arrived and became an important cattle shipping and supply point for the military forts and miners in the area and 1915 Willcox became an incorporated city. By 1936 Willcox shipped more cattle by railroad than any other shipping point in the nation.
Today with the abundance of grazing land and water Willcox remains one of the largest ranching and agricultural towns in southeastern Arizona while still retaining and preserving its railroad heritage. The 1881 Southern Pacific Depot is now the Willcox City Hall and houses a railroad exhibit in the lobby. The renovated downtown area and the Chiricahua Regional Museum with its many artifacts and exhibits from the era of the great Apache Chief Cochise attract many visitors and tourists to Willcox. Willcox was a major player in the cotton and grain industry of Arizona. In recent years the area’s agriculture has undergone a diversification with crops such as apples pistachios pecans and grape vineyards. Other public sector employers include Eurofresh Farms Simflow Manufacturing the Rip Griffin Trucking Center and normal retail and services businesses