Towns Are Living Museums
A Tour into
Verde Valley Mining Histories Past
Story & Photos
by Pamela Williams
A moderate climate
and rural lifestyle are the keystones to todays Verde
Valley growth. But this wasnt always the case. Before
the luxury of choosing ones quality of life, was the necessity
of finding a place with work. And for the Verde Valley, that
work was typically in mining.
get a better grasp on our hometowns rich mining history,
tours through Jerome, the Mine Museum, Gold King Mine, Douglas
Mansion, Clarkdale, Clemenceau and a train ride on the Verde
Canyon Railroad are in order.
But first, for a
little background, lets start at the beginning of the mining
era with the Yavapai Indians.
Before white man
had discovered the riches of copper, gold and silver within
the hills of Jerome, the Yavapai had discovered there the beauty
of Malachite and Azurite - green and blue stones used for dyes
and trade. In 1583, upon visitation by Antonio de Espejo, the
Yavapai showed the Spanish explorer where their riches lay.
Interested only in the gold, Espejo felt the large amount of
copper served as a nuisance in obtaining the good stuff. Modern
smelting didnt come into play until much later in time
and the idea of extraction seemed an impossibility.
Later, during the
gold rush period, other curious miners began to stop in to see
what the Verde Valley had to offer. Ranchers followed as the
area provided plenty of water and a fertile land for cattle.
Riches were again discovered in the mountains and many began
to lay claims. But due to the difficulty of freighting ore out
of the Verde Valley to a smelter, the claims proved to be unprofitable
and many were put up for sale.
Mining experts got
wind of the sale and came out to investigate the property. Dr.
James Douglas, co-inventor of the Hunt and Douglas process for
refining low-grade copper and subsequent president for Phelps
Dodge Corporation, was the first to show up in Jerome. The year
was 1880. But he too felt that due to the lack of modern transportation
methods in central Arizona, the mines would not be profitable.
keep Douglas friend Charles Lennigs curiosity at
Lennig bought the
Morris Ruffner Eureka Claim. Arizona Territorial Governor Frederick
Tritle and mining expert Frederick Thomas of California wanted
to get in on the mining business, too. Tritle was short on cash
and asked Prescott friend William Murray to come in on the deal.
The three took a $500 option on the Wade Hampton claim and agreed
to pay $45,000 on expiration.
Tritle wanted to
bring in more capital, so Murray and Thomas went back east in
1882. Murray approached his uncle Eugene Jerome, a wealthy man,
for backing. Eugene liked gambling but didnt like the
idea of throwing money into a big hole in the ground. But Eugenes
wife Jenny, also a wealthy woman in her own right, conspired
with her sister and raised $200,000 for the mine investment.
With this financial help, Thomas later designated the camp near
the Cleopatra mine as Jerome. Neither Eugene or Jenny visited
the small camp, despite their namesake.
also came on board, and by 1883 it was decided by the owners
to incorporate under the name United Verde Copper Company. James
A. MacDonald was named president.
In this time period,
the Atlantic and Pacific Railway had reached Ash Fork and a
60-mile wagon road from the mine to the railhead was built.
The extraction of silver and gold from the ore paid for the
transportation. But by 1884, the gold and silver were becoming
depleted, and to boot, copper prices were crashing. The mines
were shut down and put up for sale.
Douglas once again
visited the area and once again refused to buy. But William
A. Clark, a copper king and industrial giant along with Joseph
Giroux, a superintendent of one of Clarks mines, spent
three weeks in Jerome collecting ore samples at 12-inch intervals.
Previous experts took samples in only five-foot intervals and
missed rich veins. With Clarks discovery, he immediately
took a $30,000/3-year option on the mine.
The mines first
90-day run of ore yielded $180,000 profit, and with this portion
he bought 160,000 shares of UVCC stock at $1 per share. He soon
owned 95 percent of the stock with MacDonald holding the other
5 percent. In total, the mine netted $50 million in profits.
The smelter that
once existed in Jerome was moved down the hill in 1911 into
what is now Clarkdale. Clark purchased numerous small ranches
and their water rights and named the area after his namesake.
Historically, the town was founded in 1914 and the smelter was
completed in 1915.
Clark wanted his
town to be a model town with all the most modern facilities
to be found. This was his way of showing appreciation for his
workers and making a mark on the world for himself. The town
boasted a library, clubhouse, town square, and beautifully built
brick homes laid out in an almost Del Webb type fashion.
In 1913, construction
on the Verde Valley Railroad from Drake to Clarkdale began.
This same track is used today by the Verde Canyon Railroad tour
company, whose excursion stops short of Drake in Perkinsville,
before returning to Clarkdale. Originally the railroad helped
provide supplies for the building of the new Clarkdale smelter.
of other tracks followed and included; Clarkdale to Hopewell,
Hopewell Tunnel to Jerome, Jerome to Clemenceau.
The Hopewell Tunnel
was a 7,200 foot underground haulage system that transported
ore from the UVX Mine in Jerome to Clarkdale, where it was met
up with another track leading to the smelter. The remnants of
the Hopewell are difficult to access because of private property.
The Clemenceau smelter
of Cottonwood was completed in 1918, and in 1922 the Arizona-Extension
Railway was constructed from Jerome to it. In this period James
Douglas finally bought a claim and built the Little Daisy Hotel
and the Douglas Mansion. The railroad to Clemenceau begins near
the Douglas Mansion or Jerome State Park, where it runs beneath
the ground through the Josephine Tunnel, approximately 2.5 miles,
before surfacing one mile west of Clarkdale. From there, it
paralleled todays 89A bypass. Remnants of slag from the
smelter can still be seen along this bypass.
By 1929, Jerome was
at its peak population of 15,000, making it the third largest
town in Arizona. Due to underground fires, open pit mining came
into play. The use of power shovels, trains and trucks helped
bring four million yards of ore out of the ground. And in 1935,
United Verde sold most of its holdings to the Phelps Dodge Corporation.
At this time, the
Town of Jerome began to slip downhill. Some believe it stemmed
from the discharge of 100,000 pounds of blasting powder in the
Black Pit. Whatever the cause, many commercial buildings had
to be demolished because of the instability. The local jail
moved at the fastest rate of all - eight feet a month. The town
stopped slipping by 1964.
In 1953, the last
mine closed and Jeromes population began to decline. The
Douglas family deeded the Douglas Mansion to the state parks
and the Mine Museum was opened by the Historical Society in
efforts to preserve a time now gone, and promote tourism.
In 1980, the Gold
King Mine tourist center also opened to help promote mining
history and the history of Jerome.
Although the faces
on many Verde Valley historic mining sites have changed, enough
remain the same to allow visitors the privilege of insight to
the areas past. A past that was not only rich in copper
but in event as well.