The Mountain Empire got a big boost when the New Mexico & Arizona Railroad connected the area to Mexico in 1882. The villages of Sonoita (known then as the Sonoita Settlement) and Elgin came into being with the arrival of the Benson-to-Nogales Railway, which at one point had three daily stops in Patagonia. Despite serious conflicts with Apaches, prospectors headed west to mine silver, gold, lead, copper, and other minerals. Ranchers thrived in Sonoita’s rich grasslands and the railroads allowed as many as 3,000 head of cattle a day to be shipped to the East. The Sonoita area continues to be a verdant grassland ranching area with many active cattle ranches, including what was once the huge Empire Ranch. The elevation in Sonoita is about 5,000′ msl providing for a near perfect year round climate.
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