What’s the Story of Christmas, AZ?
While its name is festive, Christmas, AZ is far from it these days. Now a ghost town with just a few residents, the small community was established on Christmas Day in 1902, when the nearby mine was staked.
Previous attempts to stake mines in the area failed because the land was part of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. However, an executive order signed by President Roosevelt on Dec. 22, 1902, reshaped the boundaries of the reservation and removed prior mining claims. Prospectors George B. Chittenden and N.H. Mellor got word of the order on Christmas Eve and headed to the former claim sites, where they were able to stake their claim the following morning.
The town, located off of State Route 77 and eight miles north of the smelter town of Hayden, near Winkleman, was a bustling mining community for about 30 years, boasting 1,000 residents at its height. The Christmas mine produced more than 50 million pounds of copper and small amounts of other minerals before its closure. Miners discovered the minerals apachite, junitoite and ruizite here as well.
Unlike other mining towns, Christmas didn’t have a brothel, a saloon or a gambling hall. It could be that the town’s name seemed to deter any unsavory behavior, but we can’t know for certain.
Many people would route their holiday mail through the town’s post office to get the unique Christmas postmark. The influx of mail became so overwhelming that the post office was closed in the 1930s.
Unfortunately, you can’t visit Christmas anymore. After closing in the 1930s, the mine traded hands a few times, and was converted to an open pit which resulted in the destruction of several of the town’s buildings. The mine is still operational and is owned by Freeport McMoran.
Christmas, AZ is established on what once was San Carlos Indian Reservation. Roosevelt’s Executive Order signed on December 22, 1902 allowed for the establishment of Christmas, AZ by reducing the size of the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Three days after Roosevelt’s Executive Order, Christmas was established and this started the exploitation of Apache land, minerals and water by Non-Indians, which continues today.
Hi Tyson. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We’ve updated the post to better reflect the history behind Christmas, AZ.
Hi my name is Margaret Rangel and my grand mother Maria Asuncion Ybarra was born in Christmas Arizona. March 15 not sure on the yr though .I think she was an Apache now do I have Indian blood in me i mean i do look loke an indian
Hi my Grammy was Ybarra as well, and walked to Christmas az with her mom from sonora Mex. When she was 12
I lived in Christmas for a while in the 60’s with my family, twice actually. It was a shaft mine then. In my opinion, the best place in the whole world. I still call it home. My brother and I crawled all over that mountain. We saw hawks, owls, fox, Gila Monsters, etc. Cows roaming all over the mountain. A great place to live until the company store closed. They didn’t have any candy anyway. You couldn’t get a TV signal there, so the family played games together for entertainment. We went to school in Hayden and I can still hear that old Blue Bird School Bus using all of it’s lower gears to get up that old mountain. Great memories.
Great story! Thanks for sharing.
Rick, when was the last time you were there? I just tried to go there and there was no road that was open to go there
Looking for information on a man of the name Henry Foor, ” Hank”. I know he worked @ the mine in the 70’s
I worked at the Christmas mine for eight months in 1975. I was just 19 years old and fresh out of welding school, I worked as a welder in the maintenance shops that were just on the edge of the open pit. What I remember most vividly is how dangerous of a place it was to work. There were several men killed or maimed during my short time there. Mining truck accidents, blasting rig accidents, chemical gas poisoning at the crusher facility are just a few of the things I recall. Every day at 4:00 pm they blasted in the pit, between the day shift and the swing shift. I can recall our maintenance buildings having rocks as big as two feet across come through the roof and crushing equipment. A small boulder , flung from a blast, once fell on a work truck and crushed it. I felt lucky to get out uninjured.