"A similarity between the sound of the Papago word for this locality and the Spanish word ajo for many years led to misapprehension concerning the origin of the name of present day Ajo. The Papago Indians used au'auho ("paint") in connection with mines at Ajo because the ores were a source of red paint which the Papagos used to decorate themselves. This was so noted by one of the earliest American travelers in the region. Nevertheless, the fact that the Mexican miners pronounced the word without the double pronunciation of the au of the Papago resulted in a word that sounded much like ajo. This, added to the fact that the Ajo lily (the root of which looks and tastes much like a spring onion) grows abundantly in this area, led to the belief that the locality was named Ajo because of the wild lilies.
The first American citizen to notice the mining possibilities in the region was Captain Peter R. Brady, who was with the surveying party or the Thirty-Second Parallel railroad in 1853. When the party broke up in San Francisco, Brady was influential in organizing a group of men to explore mining possibilites at Ajo. This group soon had shipped out all the rich, there was no satisfactory way to reduce them economically, and for many years the treasure in copper at the Ajo mines remained relatively untouched. The hills with their rich exposed ores were a speculators' paradise.
In 1910 the population-including Mexicans, Indians and American Citizens- was fifty people. The main business among these people was grazing cattle. Lack of water was a serious problem and poverty rampant. In February 1911, there were only four Americans at what later came to be known as Old Ajo. However, Ajo was on the verge of becoming a boom town. With the discovery of a leaching process which made it possible to work the ores efficiently and inexpensively, Ajo entered into a prosperous period. The New Cornelia Copper Company was organized, a smelter built, and wells dug. From three to five thousand people were employed by the mines.
The battle between the few old timers in Old Ajo and the powerful mining company was soon joined. The old town of Ajo was far to close to huge deposits of low grade ore which the copper company wanted to develop. The company located its own town a mile to the north, which it proposed to call Cornelia. However, nearly all of Old Ajo burned down, and the name Ajo became attached to the new town."
Post Office Established August 29, 1900.
Barnes, Will C.; Granger, Byrd (ed.) Arizona
Place Names University of Arizona Press. 1960. P. 258
City Profile-Arizona Department of Commerce
Local Government Website
Ajo, Arizona's Hometown: Ajo Chamber of Commerce
Map of Area
Ajo Copper News
Sites to see
Salazar-Ajo Public Library
33 Plaza, Ajo, AZ, 85321
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Ajo Historical Museum
161 Mission St. Ajo, Arizona 85321-2601
Open Winter Season Only 1-4, Summer by Appointment
Books/Manuscripts found in the ASU Library Catalog
Ajo : early history of Ajo, home of New Cornelia Branch, Phelps Dodge
Corporation / from the manuscript of Arthur Train, Jr.
F819.A37 T7x 1941
Ajo : the desert speaks / by Anna M. Reynolds; illustrations by Kenneth
A. Reynolds; edited by James F. Reynolds.
F819.A37 R49x 1996
Exploring, mining, leaching, and concentrating of copper ores as related
to the development of Ajo, Arizona (to mid-year 1942) / compiled by Forrest
F819.A37 R53x 1996
New Cornelia Copper Company, Ajo, Arizona : property, plant and process.
Items on the Arizona and Southwest Index
Ajo Copper-District, Arizona, 1914
CE EPH MCPM-7
Ajo Mine and Mowry Mine
FE EPH MCSC-1
Ajo, Arizona: Informational Brochures
FE EPH DTO-AJO
Highlights of Ajo History
CE EPH DTO-AJO.8
People & Legends of Ajo, Arizona
CE EPH DTO-AJO.7
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Last Updated July 2, 2002
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