Before the arrival of European-Americans, Native Americans lived in this area and collected turquoise. A period of hostility began around 1860 in response to European-American encroachment on Apache territory; prior to this peaceful relations existed between the Chiricahua Apache and the settlers. After the Chiricahua and their leader Cochise were driven into the Dragoon Mountains, a peace treaty was successfully negotiated in 1872.

Around this time, stories of the rich turquoise in addition to copper, gold, silver, and lead here caught the attention of prospectors. A small camp, aptly called Turquoise, was established. Development of Turquoise was boosted when it attracted the attention of Tiffany & Co. of New York, who proposed large-scale mining of the blue-green stone. When the mines failed to yield any valuable deposits, development ceased and Turquoise faded by the mid-1890s.

Meanwhile, in 1887 Kit Charleston staked mineral claims about three miles south of Turquoise, but failed to development them. In 1896, the claims were purchased by John Gleeson, an Irishman from nearby Pearce, who opened the Copper Queen mine. Soon other mines also opened, including the Silver Bill, Pejon and Defiance, and the new townsite of Gleeson was laid out.

In 1909, a railroad spur was completed connecting Gleeson to the Arizona & Colorado Railroad's main line (and by extension the Southern Pacific). Gleeson grew and prospered for a number of years, reaching a population of 500. A fire destroyed twenty-eight buildings on June 8, 1912, but the town rebuilt. During World War I, demand for copper brought Gleeson to its peak.

After the war, production slowed and demand decreased. Nevertheless, Gleeson held on until the Great Depression. By the 1930s, ore diminished and Gleeson began its decline. In 1932, the railroad spur was abandoned and by 1940 the mines had closed and Gleeson was nearly a ghost. Today, only a few people remain. Several buildings, many in ruin, remain from the boom days - most notably the 1910 Jail which was restored to serve as a small museum in recent years.

Ghost Town Trail