Oracle is a small, unincorporated, Arizona mountain town dating from 1880. According to the 2010 census, the population was 3686, excluding cattle, horses, llamas, and other wildlife. The town is located in Pinal County, 30 miles north of Tucson city limits, and situated on the northeastern slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Oracle sits at an elevation of 4500 feet.
Buffalo Bill Cody owned the High Jinks Gold Mine in Oracle briefly and, in 1911, appeared as "Santa" for a group of local children. The community is the location of the Biosphere 2 experiment. Oracle was also the postal address for environmentalist author Edward Abbey, who never lived in the town but visited often.
The name "Oracle" comes from early prospecting adventures. Albert Weldon came to the area looking for gold and silver. He and some other companions named their first mine, The Oracle after the ship Weldon had traveled on. The community was later named after its first mine, and thus, indirectly, after a ship.
The community began to grow in the late 1870s, as gold and silver were discovered, and the Christmas and New Year mines opened. By 1880, a post office had been established.
The community also became a retreat for people suffering from tuberculosis. The Acadia Ranch – built-in Oracle in 1882 by Edwin S. and Lillian Dodge – was, during this time, a sanitorium.
On January 1, 2017, in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, historian David Leighton challenged the accepted history of the town of Oracle:
He wrote that Albert Weldon who was born about 1840 in New Brunswick, Canada, traveled on his uncle Capt. A.D. Wood's ship Oracle around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and arrived in California between 1857 and 1860. Weldon enlisted as a private in Company E, 5th California Infantry, of the Union Army, in 1861. This unit was attached to the California Column and soon marched to Tucson where Weldon was posted at a nearby stage station before moving east and eventually being honorably discharged in Mesilla New Mexico in 1864.
After his military service, he returned to California and was involved in mining and also lumber. In 1876 he returned to Arizona. Within a couple of years, he found a partner in Irishman Jimmie Lee and both men traveled northeast of Tucson into the Santa Catalina Mountains in search of precious metal. Soon he found a mining claim and named it Oracle in honor of his uncle's ship.
The ship Oracle was built under the supervision of Captain Charles E. Ranlett and was constructed for the shipbuilding firm Chapman & Flint of Maine. It was launched in 1853 and was a temperance ship (one that didn't allow alcohol aboard) and sailed to ports across the globe including Melbourne, Australia, and Shanghai, China. It was captained by Weldon's uncle for several years.
Weldon was soon joined by Alexander McKay, an immigrant from Scotland who located two mining claims named Christmas and New Years because of the days they were discovered. McKay also built a one-room house, the first in the area, and from it, the village grew. When it was time for a post office to be named, Oracle was the name eventually chosen.
Mr. Leighton stated that the town of Oracle takes its name from the Oracle Mine which took its name from the ship Oracle and that he believes the ship took its name from an oracle—a shrine dedicated to a particular god where people went to consult a priest or priestess in times of trouble or uncertainty—called the Temple of Apollo at Didyma in present-day Aydin Province, Turkey, not the oracle at Delphi, Greece believed by some to be the origin of the name. He also explained that there were two ships named Oracle made by the same shipbuilder, the second one being launched in 1876 but that this later ship wasn't the boat that Weldon traveled on, as some sources have said.