Davey Gowan And The Gowan Mine

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Photo from Tim Ehrhardt by Chas. F. Willis

Old stope at the Gowan Mine. These juniper stulls had been standing for more than 40 years when the photo was taken in the late 1930s.

Tonto Natural Bridge has been in the news quite a bit lately. Davey Gowan is closely associated with the bridge, but the bridge and surrounding area was not the only thing that Gowan worked on in Rim Country. He also discovered a mine that he named for himself.

According to “Rim Country History,” Gowan was born in Scotland and spent time in the British Navy. He came to Arizona in 1874 and bounced to California for a little bit before returning to Arizona. He spent some time in the Gisela area, helping build the first irrigation ditch in that area.

Gowan, along with I.M. House, William Nelson, Joe Lawler and L.W. Snow, worked around what would become known as the Tonto Natural Bridge before Gowan settled there. Gowan also discovered numerous mines including one that most famously became known as the Gowan Mine.

The Arizona Department of Minerals and Mines has an extensive file on the Gowan Mine — a mine that was primarily worked for gold. According to an August 1925 report on the Payson Mining District, the Gowan Mine is “the most extensively worked property in the district.” An extensive report from 1931 seems to share this sentiment, while also making an interesting observation about the earlier pioneers like Gowan.

“Just below the mine opening, and in the bank of the river, is located the old ten stamp mill, built by Pacific Iron Works in 1878. The frame work is in excellent condition with the rock breaker, as well as the battery with its cam and drive shafts and pulleys in as good condition as when they were set up. In this mill was treated all of the ore mined in the Gowan, together with a large amount of ore from various others claims belonging to the company.

“In considering these facts, it must be remembered that when this work was done — forty years ago — those interested were gold miners from California, who were only interested in free gold available by the simplest milling processes; and that they were not only unprepared to recover such gold as might be locked up in iron sulphides and therefore used no concentrators of any sort. Today conditions are vastly different, and I unhesitatingly advise the further development of this property. Incidentally, the old stopes are timbered with peeled cypress from local supply, and these timbers are as solid and sound as the day they were put in — forty years ago.”

Mining continued throughout the 1930s and a June 29, 1939 Field Engineers Report states that three to five men were employed at the mine, with 15 tons daily being produced when operating. It also states that there was 800 feet of tunnels, 250 feet of shafts, and a number of stopes and raises. The geology is described as follows:

“Large quartz vein in altered diorite and granite-porphyry. Vein lies roughly parallel with and in close proximity to contact with overlying sandstone. Well defined walls with fault gouge on both sides. Gold occurs free, usually associated with limonite or hematite in the quartz. Practically no sulphides are present, even in the ore from the bottom levels.”

Remnants of the Gowan Mine can still be found west of Payson and you’ll find it marked on most topographical maps. As with all old mines, people should be extremely careful around them.

News and Notes

Arizona budget cuts are hitting more than just Arizona State Parks. The Arizona State Archives has had to significantly cut hours and services. Research at their new archives building is now by appointment only on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday mornings. You can find out more at: http://www.lib.az.us/archives/.

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