Mining in southwest New Mexico finds it’s roots with Native Americans mining turquoise. Workings discovered in the 1870’s suggest they had done so for several hundred years. This same area would later become the mining towns Grant County history would know as Leopold and Tyrone.
In 1904, the Leopold brothers of Chicago, bought the property of Southwestern Copper Co. and organized Burro Mountain Copper Co. They built a small concentrator and named their town site –Leopold. Gold, silver, copper and turquoise were mined underground here. In 1908 Leopold boasted a population of 1200.
Phelps Dodge Mining Company began works in the county in 1909 with the purchase of Burro Mountain Copper from the Leopold’s. These works encompassed about 40 mining claims including the Sampson, St. Louis, and Boston Mines. They built a new concentrator, two-story frame hotel and more residences. In 1912, Phelps Dodge purchased additional claims, and they erected a powerhouse, machine shop, assay office, hospital, stores, homes, and mine offices. This property was in Niagra Canyon and the original site of Tyrone. It is here that Phelps Dodge moved their headquarters to, abandoning Leopold.
Major development began in 1913, with a new concentrator, which could handle 1,400 tons of copper per day, and a new town site- the second Tyrone.
Mrs. William Dodge had a vision for “the most perfect company town”. She enlisted the services of Bertram Goodhue, a well known architect from New York. The town was laid out and built between 1914 and 1918, the main buildings having a Mediterranean style motif-white stucco walls and red tile roofs. It was designed around a central plaza, which measured 1500 ft. long by 300 ft. wide. Surrounding the plaza were a bank, mercantile, passenger depot, administration office, and shop building. Homes for over 200 families were build on the surrounding hillsides. The rest of the town encompassed a school, chapel, garage, restaurant, justice court, T. S. Parker Hospital, morgue, and recreation halls. This was all accomplished for the mere sum of about one million dollars.
In 1914 the Burro Mountain Railroad was completed to run from the Burro Mountain Junction near Whitewater to Tyrone, about 10 miles of track. The main line ended in the mine yard with spur lines serving the concentrator and new town. The railroad was later sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad and ceased use in 1921 and in 1935 dismantled. The passenger depot in the main plaza stood until 1967.
Low copper prices and poor ore quality suspended operations in the underground copper mines between 1920 and 1921. Within a few weeks the population of Tyrone fell from nearly 7,000 to a few hundred. The town was then turned into a summer colony and operated as Rancho Los Pinos Guest Ranch. Here guest enjoyed tennis, the swimming pool, and wildlife watching. With WWII and rationing, colony life faded. Homes in Tyrone were rented to local residents until 1966. As the smaller buildings disintegrated, they were sold as salvage and removed. The first large scale salvage was the high school in 1958, and by 1967 the remaining homes and buildings were being removed to make way for mine operations buildings. The only buildings that remain today are the Union Chapel and the Justice Court.
In 1966 Tyrone mine was reopened as an open pit operation, and a new concentrator, shop buildings, and the third Tyrone town were built, which stand today.
This cemetery located about 10 miles south of Silver City on Phelps Dodge Mining Co. property. The cemetery also includes the burials from the ghost town of Leopold, which were reburied here in the early 1970's. The graves from Leopold were largely unmarked or had unreadable wooden markers etc. These graves are presently marked with steel plates with numbers assigned. There is a memorial "dedicated to the unknown residents of Leopold" in the cemetery as well.