Cochran Coke Ovens, 20 Dec 2008
I was so impressed with the Cochran Coke Ovens that this is my second trip this year. I used “showing them to C-dub,” as an excuse to get out there again. This time we came up from the south through Box Canyon.
The Coke Ovens (actually charcoal kilns) are located across the Gila River from the ghost town of Cochran. I’ve read that nothing much is left of the old ghost town and we didn’t search out any remains (maybe next time). Cochran, named for John S. Cochran, the first post master, was a mining town and stop for the Sante Fe, Prescott, Phoenix railroad. Cochran’s post office was established January 3, 1905 and discontinued January 15, 1915. It boasted a population of around 100.
As stated earlier the coke ovens are really charcoal kilns and were built around 1883 by the Pinal Consolidated Mining Company. This location was selected for it’s abundance of mesquite trees which were baked at high temperatures for long periods of time (about a week) in the beehive ovens to reduce them to charcoal. The charcoal was then used across the river in Cochran for smelting ore from the surrounding mines. True coke ovens reduce coal, not wood, to coke.
So how was the charcoal actually made? I found nothing specifically for these kilns but reading up on other types it seems fairly straight forward. Wood was dropped through the top “window” then lit but not allowed to fully burn, just smolder. Smoldering was controlled by opening or closing air vents near the base of the kilns. It’s said experienced operators, called colliers, could look at the smoke from the kiln and tell whether the charcoal was done. When the processing was complete the charcoal was removed via the lower door.
The five beehives stand about 35 feet tall and about 22 feet across at the base. They were added to the National Registry of Historic Places 30 May 1971 ([url]http://www.nr.nps.gov/iwisapi/explorer.dll?IWS_SCHEMA=NRIS1&IWS_LOGIN=1&IWS_REPORT=100000044[/url] or their new as yet incomplete data base [url]http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natregsearchresult.do?fullresult=true&recordid=0[/url]). In the 1980’s someone tried to make the kilns into a kind of motel, which looks to have failed before they were even completed. All of the kilns have had cement floors added and the remnants of doorframes are evident in some.
So let’s go already…
Owner: Gallery Administrator
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