January 20, 2013
Our first jeep expedition to the Florence coke ovens was quite the adventure. I have attached a story to explain the history of the coke ovens.
“THE FLORENCE COKE OVENS”
Text by Gordon Burhop
Florence was no lady. Rather, she was a community in south central Arizona Territory, home to a rough breed of frontiersmen who produced coke not the beverage or the illicit drug, but a charcoal product from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She was a rough and tumble western town, with robberies and murders occurring on a regular basis.
The surrounding mountains still harbor evidence of by-gone days. The coke ovens are among the historical remnants. They are located on a site which overlooks the Gila River, approximately 15 miles east of Florence.
There are five ovens, wonderfully preserved, surviving in an area so remote and so nearly inaccessible that the lack of disturbance is easily understood. The ovens were used to reduce mesquite wood to coke, a hotter burning fuel, for use in smelting gold and silver ore taken from surrounding mines. The beehive-shaped stone coke ovens are each about 25 feet in diameter and 30 feet in height. Each has a ground level entry and a few upper level vents. The mesquite wood, burned slowly in the ovens for days, yielded the coke. The new fuel was then transported directly across the Gila River to the community of Cochran (now a ghost town) and the smelters.
a view from the ridge as we approach the coke ovens.
Crossing the Gila River on the return trip.