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Historical places: Patagonia

Patagonia Arizona is a town of huge cattle ranches silver mines and the Arizona-New Mexico railroad.
Patagonia Arizona is a town of huge cattle ranches silver mines and the Arizona-New Mexico railroad.
Joanne Burch copyright

Patagonia, Arizona is a small historical town set in the mountains south of Tucson. It is famous for its former silver mining operations and huge ranches. Each July 4, they have a parade of people, old cars and emergency vehicles.

The fire engine happily sprays the crowd with water, and the crowd happily blasts back with multiple styles of powerful water guns. One antique car carried a sign, “I am very old. Please do not shoot water on me.” Everyone complied.

A big fiesta, with booths and music follows. It is fun for the whole family. The pine trees add cooling shade as you wander among the booths, collecting information or buying food, art works, crafts, and toys. Families place their folding chairs in groups under the trees and watch the tourists go by, or supervise the children at play within sight. A choo choo train, fashioned from barrels, drives around the park, filled with children.

Wandering among the booths are historical reenactors correctly dressed for the 1800s. These men and women are visiting from Tombstone, another historical town. Mixed among them are cowboy hats and boots, as well as summer shorts and tattooed youths.

Parents with small children have an excellent source for building vocabulary:

Booth, mural painting, carved toy turtles and dragons, pine trees, church, veteran, train depot, museum, chimichanga.

Within the park is the historical railroad depot, which was used in the classic movie Red River, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Evidence indicates that the railroad went through Patagonia on its way from Benson to Nogales. However, area pioneer, Olive Douglas Stoddard recalls when kids helped turn the train around. Much like the cable cars of San Francisco, the engine rode on a circular, movable platform. These memories stem from the 1920s. The train pulled in. The cars were loaded, the engine was turned around. And the train pushed the cars back to Benson.

Along the streets, the art shops and cafes are open for anyone’s enjoyment. These include a small museum and gift shop, the historical Wagon Wheel Saloon, and newer shops along the south side. Historical mining equipment, train memorabilia, and cowboy collections can be found among the artists shops.