It was a Sunday in mid-September when Ms. Karen and I left our home in the Tucson Mountains to travel to the Cochise Hotel to visit with the proprietor, Phil Gessert. We arrived at noon and Phil was sitting on the front porch waiting for us. The Cochise Hotel is the oldest hotel in Arizona and, I must say, it looks the part. It sits across the tracks from the active railroad midway between Benson and Willcox. The Cochise hotel is more than a Hotel, it is a Bed & Breakfast, a museum and a historical landmark.
In the mid-1890's, John Rath, a telegraph operator at Fort Bowie, founded the little town of Cochise and dug a well, whereupon he encouraged the Southern Pacific Railroad to build a proper depot there. He also built and managed the Rath Hotel, which became the Cochise Hotel. Most of the men who worked in Cochise were Irish and Chinese at that time. Cochise became a shipping port for ore from the mine at Pearce and also for cattle raised in the Sulfur Springs Valley.
In 1897, the Southern Pacific started a regularly routed Sunset Limited train that stopped at Cochise. By then, Mr. Rath was railroad agent and Wells Fargo agent, Cochise Justice of the Peace and Postmaster. As Postmaster, he was paid $58 per year.
Phil Gessert purchased the hotel seven years ago from a member of the Fulton family, founders of the Amerind Museum in Dragoon. It needed some loving care and restoration. Phil is a historian and a collector of western memorabilia. HIs is a labor of love. He gave us a tour, the photographs and story you can see in the following slideshow.
Visit the Cochise Hotel website for more information and history, and there is a lot of history. Make a reservation to stay in the oldest hotel in Arizona. There is a lot of history here and possibly learn to play Pharro. Some say the Hotel is haunted. We will let Phil tell the rest of the story.