At the base of craggy, red colored and towering Apache Leap Mountain is the Town of Superior, the home of the historic Magma Copper Mine. Superior is situated precisely where Queen Creek first exits a rocky, winding canyon and starts the descent to the desert area know as the Valley of the Sun. The scope of this cookbook also covers the surrounding areas such as the Silver Queen Mine, the Belmont Mine, the Reymert Mine, the JF Ranch, the Herron Ranch, the TU Ranch, the Gronlund (Smith) Ranch and the infamous Town of Pinal, known for the site of the death of Mattie Blaylock Earp.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were most likely Native Indians. Prospectors soon followed and the cavalry that came to protect them along with the homesteaders, miners, ranchers and then the various merchants who came to serve the bustling mining towns. This area, as you will note from the recipes, has been one of ethnic diversity, from the Scotch investors of the Belmont, including the Hispanic, Slavic and Anglo laborers and settlers, to the Oriental and Lebanese merchants that comprised and stabilized this area of the western frontier.
Superior, formerly named Hastings, was founded in 1882, by prospectors. In Superior's early days, its primary structures were tents and wooden buildings scattered along Queen Creek on various mining claims. The abundant large trees on the continuously running creek, at one time shelter for wildlife, became either timber for the new mines or firewood for heat and cooking for the comfort of the new inhabitants. Anyone looking at maps of Old Town Superior, the layout of narrow lots stacked one upon another in rows and streets wandering in undulating
curves, almost appearing to double back, must seem like a developer trying to maximize profit. In reality, this occurred because these lots were mining claims that followed the lay of the land. The streets were placed where they were easily traversed in a landscape of former creek bed, liberally strewn with boulders and rocks the size of current-day cars. The Main Street (formerly part of US Highway 60) paralleled the upper creek bed, first dirt, lined with wood sidewalks, tents and wood buildings, later paved and lined with concrete sidewalks, adobe, two-story brick and concrete buildings, including hotels, grocery and department stores, and like any frontier town of the old west, a fair share of bars and brothels.
Superior survived the early prospectors, boom-town mining days of the early 20th Century by growing, while Copper Queen and the Town of Pinal did not. The Town prospered through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It became home to a dozen grocery stores, eight department stores, six lumber/hardware stores, ten churches, thirteen bars, a movie theatre, a drive-in theatre, a hospital and yes, not one, but three new car dealerships. The population at its peak was well over 8,000 residents.
However, Superior did not flourish during the early 1980's when Arizona, once known for the four C's -- cattle, cotton, copper and citrus, nearly lost all copper production in the state. Now a shadow of its former self, Superior is home to fewer than 3,500 full-time residents. The once bustling Main Street, with its one stop light, where parking spaces were rare, is now back to one stop sign at Magma and Main, and parking spaces are available day and night.
The diversity of the population remains; descendants of former settlers are proud of their ancestors and heritage. This is the mission of the Superior Historical Society, to preserve the rich history of this beautiful area, to remember those that came before us, who forged on through adversity and, many times, hostile conditions to create this place known as Home.