by Bill Thayer
Edited by J.J. Lamb

Vail Preservation Society

“The first that I remember is when I came back from almost dying from the Spanish Flu, La Enfluenza Espanol. It came from Spain. I remember, when I came back, my mother said that they almost gave me up for lost when I was so far gone from that fever. I remember when I came back, that I was very weak. I must have been four-and-a-half or five. World War I hadn’t ended, it may have been 1918. I remember a lot of people with masks and respirators. When going to the store, or where other people were, they would wear masks. They were desperate! That flu killed a lot of people. Mister Hilton said that, south of the PH (Perry Hilton Ranch), there was a little camp. It wiped them out, a dozen or fifteen of them! They all went (died). My dad was working to the South, over there, for Mister Hilton, and some people who were running the Red Cloud Mine. I think he was taking care of those people at the camp. He took them to Pantano (the town).”

“The typhoid killed my little sister, Adela. We called her Lila. When she died, it was in 1926, my father went a little crazy. She died in the County clinic, and the County had to help with her burial. My dad couldn’t stand it! He was ashamed for the County to have to pay. He just started walking around. He walked to the PH (Perry Hilton Ranch in the Empire Mountains) from Tucson. That’s when he found “The Long Mountain.” He was walking around when he found the mine, and all of that lead.”

“Mrs. Hilton had had a dream that they had found a mine. She wanted it named “The Long Mountain.” The new owners that own “The Long Mountain” now (1990s), they had a big sign there: “Hilton Mine.” But, that’s not the name of the mine! It’s “The Long Mountain”! The high-graders had been working there, looking for silver, and they threw a lot of that good ore… sixty percent and more! They threw it in the dump. Lead, they didn’t want it either! It was worth, maybe, two-and-a-half cents a pound. They were looking for silver, I guess. Then when lead went up…I think it was eleven cents, when they made all of that money. They had just left those piles there. Almost eighty percent lead! That’s how they made all of that money. They threw away the zinc too.”

“It was when the depression came on, that’s when lead went down. All the lead at the mines, they wouldn’t ship it, because it didn’t pay. It laid there until 1937, when Mister Hilton (Eddie) bought me the International truck to haul it out. 1937, in the spring, that was when lead went up again, enough for him to make a little money. I hauled it to Vail, and we shipped it from Vail.”

“I did the hauling in my International. It was brand new then. It was a ton and a half, but it would carry three, easy! I carried three, four tons, sometimes, on the (Sonoita) highway. It was supposed to have dual tires, but Mister Hilton said that it would catch too many rocks in between, so we only put big tires on it, not duals. That was the way I used it. “

“I loaded the lead from a chute, by hand. The chute had a gate, with a handle, to open and shut it. The ore came straight down and into the truck. We dumped the lead at the railhead (at Vail). There was a big ramp there, and you backed up to the ore car. We could put fifty tons in the car, but most of the time we put forty or forty-five. We shipped all the ore that was there, maybe six-hundred tons. When I wasn’t hauling ore, I used to cowboy for Mister Hilton for two dollars a day. It wasn’t much, but it was money! Later on, a little after World War II had started, they picked up the zinc. I hauled a lot of zinc ore (to Vail), before I left (to fight in WWII). It was in 1941 and 1942.”


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Lucretia Free