10. Mule Train Bringing Copper from Bisbee Mines to Benson Smelter c. 1880
Mule Team hauling copper ore
Mural Depiction

In the 1880's hauls were made to Arizona's depot at Fairbank using 18 to 20 mule teams pulling two or three high-sided wagons hitched together.  These teams carried ore at a rate of $6.00 to $7.25 per ton. The total weight of a mule train including mules, wagons, water, and ore could average between 25 and 30 tons.

Pulling wagons on flat terrain, mules could cover 30 miles a day in contrast to horses and oxen that could average only five miles a day. But that method had its limits because of the low tonnage that it could haul over long distances.

Background Information

The 20 Mule Train, made famous in the long running "Death Valley Days" western series with its 20 mule team Borax sponsor often comes to mind when a mule team is mentioned. A large team of mules hauling cargo was an efficient means of transporting ore from mining operations when other transportation was cost prohibitive.

Mining played an integral part in Arizona's development and still does today. The ore that was extracted from the mines had to be hauled to a smelter to process the raw ore into its usable product, i.e. copper, silver, gold or other metals. To get the raw ore to the smelter was a difficult and time-consuming process in itself.  The answer to that was the mule team as depicted in our mural.

Whether carrying raw ore, borax or other material the mule teams were an indispensable means of hauling large, heavy loads across difficult terrain. Mules are more patient, hardy, and long-lived than horses, and are less obstinate and more intelligent than donkeys. Working a team of 20 mules required that they could not only work efficiently, but could also be easy to manage. This is one reason that mule teams were used for these difficult tasks.

Mural Information

Artist:  Doug Quarles

Size:     5' x 8'

Completed: November 2013


   City of Benson

   Arizona G & T Cooperatives

   Benson Beautification

   Benson Jr. Women