Orr Woodburn was young and inexperienced when he came to the Old Dominion Mine as its safety engineer in the mid-1910s. He learned fast. He heard about the fires, cave-ins, asphyxiations, injuries and fatalities that had occurred and he felt that improvements in mine safety were necessary. In 1917., he suggested that the local mining companies combine their resources in order to be more efficient and capable in the management of disasters in the mines.
The next year the area’s three major mines, Miami Copper Company, Inspiration Consolidated Copper Company and the Old Dominion Mining and Smelting Company formed the Globe-Miami Mine Rescue and First Aid Association. Its stated purpose was to provide uniform training and facilities, to render prompt and efficient service at the time of an injury and to aid in fire prevention.
Plans for a Mine Rescue Station were drawn and a building site was located opposite the Old Dominion Mine. Construction of the $12,500 Mission style building started in 1919. An array of safety and rescue equipment including a new Ford truck were on hand when the building was dedicated the next year.
Training classes and mock disaster drills were held on a regular basis. Rescue and fire assistance were provided to mines at Copper Hill, Superior and Jerome as well as to the local mines. Mr. Woodburn and his family lived in the station, so he was always ready for action.
As underground mining was gradually replaced by open pit and leaching operations, the association’s rescue services became less important and the role of the station became that of first aid and safety training. Tom Drake assumed the directorship of the association in 1960. About ten years later the mines opted to operate their own training programs and the station closed at the end of 1971.
In the summer of 1972, the Mine Rescue Station was made available to the Gila County Archeological and Historical Society for use as a museum. Members of the society cleaned, repaired and painted, preparing the building for the thousands of artifacts that had been collected over the previous seventeen years. The museum was dedicated in December 1972.
In September 1988, Triple S Investment, based on an agreement with Magma Copper Company, transferred title of the building and grounds to the Gila County Historical Society. Two years later the National Park Service approved the nomination of the historic building to the National Register of Historic Places.