By Al Bates

Arizona pioneer Richard Gird is a tough man to pigeonhole.  Although his formal schooling ended at age 16, his considerable practical skills included: prospector, mining and mechanical engineer, surveyor, geologist, assayer of mineral wealth, and cartographer.  To top it off, he was a man of his word.

By the time he reached Arizona Territory in 1863 his youthful experiences included mining and surveying in California and railroad building in South America.  By early 1864 he was in the Prescott area, listed in the special census as a 27-year-old, single man, born in New York State, resident in Arizona for 12 months, occupation surveyor.  He also is listed as a resident of Olive City (La Paz Mining District) with the same biographical information but as one year older.  Apparently he shared this time between multiple mining districts.

Relatively little is known about his days in early Prescott, but he obviously made a strong impression on some important men for he was directly affected by three acts of the first territorial legislature.

Early on, he was a member of both the second and third King S. Woolsey expeditions against the Tonto Apaches, a useful opportunity to gain more knowledge of the territory’s landforms.

When the territorial legislature created the Arizona Historical Society in 1864, his name was on the list of original members and he served that organization as a director for Yuma County in 1866.  Also, Gird and others were authorized by the legislature to operate a never-built railroad in Yuma County.

Then, when the legislature authorized preparation of an official topographical map of Arizona Territory, Governor Goodwin selected Gird to prepare it.  The map was completed in 1865 and, when lithographed and hand tinted copies of it became available, it was widely praised for its accuracy and detail.

Gird left Arizona for a time, but by the winter of 1877-1878 he was back as mining and mechanical engineer and assayer for Signal Mining and Milling Company in Mojave County.  There, as he later wrote in Out West Magazine, Gird was approached by one of the miners with a piece of ore that he wished to have evaluated. Gird examined the sample and found it to be very rich in silver.

The miner, Al Schieffelin, told Gird that his brother, Ed, had discovered the ore in southeast Arizona in an area long dominated by the Chihuahua Apaches, and was looking for help in developing a mine.  The three men made a “handshake” partnership where Gird would provide the grubstake to get things moving.  Ed Schieffelin and Gird each had a mule, and with Gird’s purchase of a wagon and double harness, they could haul essential gear, including Gird’s assay-outfit, surveyors’ transit and level, to their destination.

Thus, in the spring of 1878 the trio was at the site of Ed Schieffelin’s discovery only to find that it was not worth developing.  They named the claim Graveyard—for it seemed to be the graveyard of their hopes—and abandoned it.  Gird’s study of the local geology and Ed’s optimism made them sure that what they were seeking was nearby, and they continued prospecting northeast of the initial find.  They were right. Soon they discovered what became the Lucky Cuss mine, followed by the Good Enough, Contention and Tough Nut mines, and thus the famed Tombstone mining camp began.

Later, as a director of the Tombstone Mining and Milling Co., and superintendent of the whole operation, Gird was one of the most prominent men of the area.  He was the town of Tombstone’s first postmaster and mayor.  He also dabbled in lot sales in the new town.

The brothers sold their share in the partnership early despite Gird’s urging to wait until their mines were in full production.  When Gird later sold his share from the partnership he received as much for his third as did the brothers for their two-thirds.  Honoring the handshake agreement, Gird famously divided the money with the brothers so that each partner profited equally.

Just how much profit was made is speculation, but Gird cleared enough to buy and run a 47,000-acre horse and cattle ranch east of Los Angeles where he also experimented with raising of sugar beets.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.