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Murder at the old Ray Mine

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A horrible crime was committed in June 1906 near the mining camp of Kelvin, Arizona (Pinal County) at the old Ray Mine’s company’s concentrating mill. On that night, Max Ebert, one of the watchmen, went to the Mill with a wheelbarrow to get a load of wood. H. H. Courtney, a night watchman, stated that an argument began between the two men when he told Ebert he would report him to the company if he took the wood. He claimed Ebert started toward him with a stick of the wood. Max Ebert was shot and instantly killed. There were no witnesses.

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Courtney claimed that he acted in self-defense which was not believed for the reason that Max Ebert was not known to be quarrelsome. No firearms were found on his body, and to further make the story of Courtney unbelievable, Ebert had been shot four times. The coroner’s jury found that Ebert had come to his death in the hands of Courtney, and that the killing was an unjustifiable homicide.

There was heavy talk of lynching Courtney so after the inquest he was rushed to Florence for safe-keeping.
Max Ebert, about 40 years old, married Lizzie Bristow of Mesa in December of 1903. Their baby girl was born in early June in Mesa at the home of Lizzie’s parents. Lizzie Ebert had just returned to Kelvin to be with her husband two days prior to the shooting.

H. H. Courtney was found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced to ten years at the Yuma Territorial Prison. The 82 year old inmate was the oldest prisoner ever received at the Yuma penitentiary and probably one of the oldest men in the country to be convicted of such a crime of its day. Do to his advanced age; his sentence was equivalent to life imprisonment.

Later, in January 1908, Courtney was moved to the territorial asylum for the insane in Phoenix, Arizona. It was apparent that Courtney was crazy, and at times violent. The other prisoners were very glad to see him removed for they were afraid of the man under the crowded conditions of the prison where so many were housed together.

Courtney died from heat exhaustion at age 92 at the Arizona State Hospital in June 1917. He was buried in the Asylum Cemetery on the hospital grounds.

The town of Kelvin and the old Ray mine no longer exist. Kelvin did not become as profitable as hoped by its investors. One of the interesting remains of their enterprise is some fascinating ovens built to produce coke. These large beehive-shaped ovens are located at a spot now called Cochran, west of Kelvin. They have become a destination for curiosity-seekers, but are currently on private land. The owners wish to discourage visits. By the late 1940s it was decided that the underground mining should be replaced by open-pit mining. The open pit was started in 1947. By the late 1950s the open-pit mine grew larger, and also a new leach-precipitation-flotation facility was constructed. In order to accommodate the new enterprises, it was decided that the town of Ray itself (and the nearby small communities of Sonora and Barcelona) should be moved.

One has to wonder if the energies of Max Ebert and other miners killed in mining accidents still exist in the open pit mine. Yuma Territory Prison is known to have a spirit or two lurking within its walls, and one can only imagine the disturbing ghostly phenomena that wander in the hallways on the old Arizona State Hospital/Asylum.

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