Morenci is the site of what was one of the world's largest copper mining operations. This area of the Southwest had been surveyed by General Carelton of the US Army New Mexico Department and the presence of various ores had been reported to Lincoln's Secretary of The Treasury, Salmon Chase. Little interest was paid to metals other than gold and silver. The copper ores in Morenci were rediscovered in 1870 by Robert Baylor Metcalf, a Confederate veteran and nephew of the man who endowed Baylor College. Robert Metcalf had gone to Silver City, New Mexico because of the gold and silver there, but set out on a brief prospecting trip to the Morenci area. He saw the potential of the large copper deposits, and staked out a number of claims in 1872. Limited mining and smelting operations were begun. In 1882, Metcalf sold out to the Scottish-owned Arizona Copper Company and returned to his home state of Kentucky.

This first period of the history of Morenci was a difficult one. There were frequent raids from Apaches, led by Cochise, and by bands of robbers, such as Kid Louis.

Source: Cogut and Conger, History of Arizona's Clifton_Morenci Mining District