The Silver Bell Historical Society

Upcoming Events

Saturday 12/7/2019

The Great Pelton Adventure

9 am - 3 pm

Silver Bell

Event Details

Saturday 12/7/2019

The Great Pelton Adventure

Pelton was a small mining camp situated a couple miles from our own Silver Bell along the old County Road. Folks lived there in the late 1890s. In 1900, there were 80 people with a general store. Let's meet at the corner of Avra Valley Road and Silverbell Road (just below the old entrance to our town of Silver Bell) at 9 am. Wear clothes for exploring the desert. We just might explore other areas out there.

9 am - 3 pm

Silver Bell

History & Mission

  • The Silver Bell Mountains are located in Pima County, about 40 miles northwest of Tucson, Arizona, or 25 miles west of Interstate 10 by way of Avra Valley Road. 

  • Spanish explorers arrived in this area in the 1530s. They found the Tohono O'odham people living here who had dug shallow trenches and pits mining for turquoise, hematite, and clay for pottery, paint, etc.

  • At about 1865, the Old Boot Mine, on the southwestern flank of the Silver Bell Mountains, was being worked. There was found high-grade silver minerals. 

  •  Eugene O. Shaw, who arrived in Tucson in 1875, took possession of the Old Boot Mine (He became sheriff of Pima County in 1885 and is known as the last of the frontier sheriffs.)  At the same time, Charles O. Brown of Tucson filed a claim for the Young America Mine. A small blast furnace was erected here. High-grade ores were shipped by wagon to Yuma to be transported to San Francisco.

  • In 1881, after construction of the Southern Pacific Railway through Tucson, the Huachuca Mining & Smelting Company began mining rich oxidized copper ore from the Mammoth, Old Boot, and Blue Coat claims. In 1882, four different companies operated in the district but were soon discouraged by transportation problems and low metal prices. 

  • The Old Boot was sold in 1881 to a New York group which included a Judge Pelton. The new company was called the Pelton Mining and Smelting Company. 

  • The town of Pelton supported the mining operations of the several mines from 1881 to about 1900.  The town had a boarding house and general store. In 1882, its population was 276. The 1900 federal census shows Pelton with a population of 80.

  • William Zeckendorf purchased the Old Boot and most of the Silver Bell mining claims. His nephew, Albert Steinfeld then purchased the mines, which were known as the Silver Bell Copper Company and the Mammoth Copper Company.  In 1891, Silver Bell Mining Company built a smelter in Tucson, and it operated intermittently.

  • In  1901, The Development Company of America (DCA), owned by Frank Murphy, This company incorporated the Congress Consolidated Mining Company (Prescott), the Poland Mining Company, The Imperial Copper Company, Southern Arizona Smelting Company, and the Tombstone Consolidated Mines, Ltd. 

  • The Imperial Copper Company was incorporated on May 15, 1903. Its president was Eliphthlet B Gage and the general manager was William F. Staunton. DCA then created the Arizona Southern Railroad Company which built a 21 mile railroad from Red Rock to Silver Bell. This was completed in 1904.

  •  In 1903, the Imperial Copper Company obtained the Old Boot, Mammoth, and other claims, developed a sizable ore body and built a railroad from Red Rock to Silver Bell, which was completed in 1904. During this period, several companies were organized, including Oxide Copper Company to develop the Young America Group and the Cleveland-Arizona Copper Company (later El Tiro Copper Company) to develop claims adjoining the Imperial and Indiana-Arizona Company.

  • The first town of Silver Bell was born about 1901. This town was built on the site of a previous mining camp, which may also have been known as Silver Bell.   Consisting of shacks, tents and lean-tos, this community rapidly grew to 1,000 by 1905. It included a post office, mine offices, railroad, a Wells Fargo station, company store, hotel, general merchandise store, a school, several saloons, billiard parlor, two bakeries, a dairy, two firehouses, theater and an auto stage.

  • Silver Bell Public School District #19 was created in 1901 by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to serve 75 students at the time. This was the northernmost school district in Pima County, predating the Marana school district. This school district ceased to exist after the town of Silver Bell closed in the 1930s.

  • In 1915, American Smelting & Refining Company (ASARCO) purchased the holdings of Imperial Copper Company and operated underground mines until 1919. In 1934, all machinery, equipment, and buildings were moved out, and the Arizona Southern Railroad from Red Rock to Silver Bell was dismantled. In 1940, ASARCO acquired the property of the Oxide Copper Company.  In 1948, a camp was established to accommodate crews for check drilling and additional exploration work. This work further increased the reserves and made it possible to enter into an agreement in November 1951 with the Defense Material Procurement Agency. This agreement provided for complete financing by ASARCO.

  • Both the Oxide and El Tiro pit areas were recognized and extensively drilled some 40 years before ASARCO's operations in the late 20th century and early 21st century. 

  • In 1951, the third town of Silver Bell was established and existed through 1984, after which all buildings were removed -- many homes moved into the Avra Valley. Today, all three instances of Silver Bell and Pelton are gone. The old railroad is gone. 

  • The Silver Bell Historical Society seeks to discover the rich history of this area and to maintain a sense of community for its residents. This is, indeed, our mission.

  • You're invited to join us in these endeavors!

Our Mission


 The Silver Bell Historical Society offers unique resources to researchers, scholars, and the public. History records two communities: Silverbell, which existed in the early 20th century, and Silver Bell, which existed during the last half of the 20th century. Both towns have been deserted, although many who lived here share fond memories of a unique and fraternal place -- in the middle of nowhere in Pima County, Arizona. Located near Marana and Tucson.

You Can Help Preserve Our History.


A society can be defined as  
the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community, and as  an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity. You are invited to share in the development of the Silver Bell Historical Society.

How You Can Help


We invite you to use the "Contact Us" form below to share your story of Silver Bell. Some of you lived in Silver Bell and have first-hand knowledge. Others of you have parents or grandparents who have shared their stories with you. We want to include those stories within this website. You may also help with generous contributions to defray the costs involved with operating the Silver Bell Historical Society, an Arizona non-profit corporation.

Society Members and Officers

The Silver Bell Historical Society is a non-profit organization; however, it can only function with people and funding. Check out our members and how you, too, can become a Society Member!


Whether you lived in Silver Bell or not, and whether you attend our functions or not, you may wish to help us keep Silver Bell alive. We appreciate your generous contributions!

You can make donations in our Online Store.

Contact Us

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Contact Information

Email us at

Our phone contact person is Carol Hunter: (520) 403-7555

The town site of Silver Bell is located at

25000 West Avra Valley Road, Marana, Arizona 85653, United States