Coke Ovens in Arizona

January 8, 2014

Our adventure today starts south of Superior, AZ and ends along the Gila River near Florence.  There are well preserved coke ovens across the river from the ghost town of Cochran (no buildings are left), the post office was established in 1905 and discontinued in 1915.  Coke ovens usually refer to making coke from coal to be used in present day steel mills.  These coke ovens, about 25 ft in diameter and 30 ft high, used mesquite wood from the Gila river bottoms.  The wood was turned into a type of charcoal by burning very slowly in the absence of oxygen for several days.  The resulting coke was then used as a much hotter burning fuel in the copper, gold and silver smelters.  There is some dispute about when and for what purpose the ovens were built. One source says they were built around 1850 by Scottish miners and were used to smelt and process ore directly on site.  Another source says they were built around 1882 to provide the coke for smelters in Cochran.  There is the original railroad still used by Union Pacific, occasionally, as the tracks are shiny.  The bridge is still solid and leads through a tunnel to cross the Gila river at a sharp bend.  The road to Box canyon and eventually out to Florence was very rough in places as can be seen by two photos of the vehicles climbing very steep rocks.

One thought on “Coke Ovens in Arizona

  1. Very interesting historical findings. And, as always, beautiful photos of your findings. There sure are some interesting places in Arizona. Most people will never hear of them, but thanks to you I have not only heard of them, but saw photos of them as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Sue

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