George Warren (prospector)

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For other people named George Warren, see George Warren (disambiguation).
George Warren; photograph by C.S. Fly

George Warren (unknown - 1893) worked as a prospector in the Tombstone and Bisbee, Arizona region during the late 19th century. He is credited with having located the body of copper ore, which later became known as the Copper Queen Mine, one of Arizona's most productive copper mines. Warren never enjoyed the potential riches from his prospecting work and he died in obscurity. He was the victim of his bad judgement and a drinking problem, and wealth passed him up in favor of other men who developed the Warren mining district. In 1880 when pioneer photographer C. S. Fly visited Bisbee during its boom, he took a photo of Warren posing as a miner. This image was used as a model for the miner posing with long-handled spade in the Seal of Arizona.[1] His pauper's grave, originally only marked by a wooden plank saying "G.W. 24" in the Evergreen Cemetery in Bisbee was later commemorated by a large monument erected in his honor.[2]


George lost his mother as a young boy, and at the age of 10, joined his father who was a government herder in New Mexico. While herding horses, the Warrens were attacked by Apaches; George was wounded and his father was killed. George was held captive for 18 months, and traded to prospectors for 15-20 pounds of sugar.[3] Warren remained with these men for some time learning their prospecting trade.

Copper mineralized rocks may have been noted in the Mule Mountains in Southern Arizona as early as 1876. The confirmed discovery of copper in these mountains, however, came in 1877 when a scouting party from Fort Bowie made its way through the mountains on the lookout for the local Apache Indians and for water. John Dunn, a member of the party, found a spring along a massive cliff of limestone, as well as an outcrop containing lead carbonate (cerussite). Dunn, along with two other men, later staked the first claims in the Bisbee area. Dunn later offered to grubstake George Warren, who agreed in late summer of 1877, but did not honor his commitment. George and several friends from Tombstone located a number of claims in the Mule Mountains, which established the Warren Mining District. George had one-ninth interest in the Copper Queen mine, which according to legend, he lost in a race in 1879.[4] While drinking with his acquaintances in Charleston, the milling town for Tombstone, he bet George Atkins he could run a distance of 50 yards, turn around a stake driven into the ground, and return faster than a man on horseback. Lack of success in this imprudent bet caused him to lose his share in the Copper Queen.[5]

In May 1891, he was judged insane after review by Cochise County Court Probate Judge J.H. Lucas.[6] Guardian George Onciham was appointed, and George's remaining property including real estate and interests in mining claims were sold at public auction. He was released after his property was sold; he then went into Mexico where he sold himself into peonage for money to work his latest discovery. Judge G.H. Berry, hearing of this rescued George, and pay off his debt so he could return to Bisbee. He thereafter spent much of his times doing occasional work for the Copper Queen Mining Company, and odd jobs around saloons for a drink of whiskey.[4]

The details of his birth and death dates are subject to a variety of opinions. The plaque on the monument at the Bisbee-Lowell Evergreen Cemetery lists the date of death as 1892.[2] A death certificate most likely for the same person, indicates he died of pneumonia and heart failure in Cochise County on February 13, 1893.[7] An Arizona Republic article on September 15, 1897 stated Warren had died "three years ago."[8]


  1. ^ History of the Great Seal of the State of Arizona
  2. ^ a b Hoag, maintained by Cori; George Warren (  —1893) Memorial #17470348; Find A Grave. Accessed 29 January 2014
  3. ^ Hart, J.H. (1926) History of George Warren: unpublished manuscript, Arizona Historical Society files, 17 p
  4. ^ a b Graeme, R.W. (1987) Bisbee, Arizona's Dowager Queen of Mining Camps - A Look at Her First 50 years in History of Mining in Arizona, eds. J. Michael Canty and Michael N. Greeley, published by the Mining Club of the Southwest Foundation
  5. ^ Duncan, J.F. (1911) "The Very Beginning of Bisbee", Bisbee Daily Review 14 November 3, 1911
  6. ^ Cochise County Territorial Court Documents. (1881) Probate Minutes, Vol. 1, page 19: May 17, 1881, Hearing of the George Warren insanity case and his estate: Estate known as "Mammoth" and located in Warren Mining District #2 of George Warren is not of worthy value and giving George Onciham the Guardian to George Warren authority to sell his estate published by the Arizona Memory Project
  7. ^ "Standard Certificate of Death" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Arizona Republic (1897). "The Camp of Bisbee - The Big Copper Mining Camp Visited by the Republican Traveler"; p. 4