A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to hike to the old Golden Waif Mine, referenced on topographical maps as the “House Mine.” This mine had a major impact on early Payson. It was the first major claim filed in the area, patented May 23, 1877 by a group of miners led by Irving Monroe House and D.I. Rouse.
Over the next couple decades, House would be a steady figure in area mining, while Rouse disappeared into the shadows.
I hiked to the approximate area of the old mine with local historian Jinx Pyle. We followed Main Street past the sewage plant and eventually came up a hill with a great view of the Mazatzal Mountains.
At that point we were in the heart of the region’s old mining country, a place that had an enormous impact on the area. Early on there was a town out here. It was called Marysville, and according to “Rim Country History,” published in 1984 by the Northern Gila County Historical Society, it had over 100 people by 1882. Today’s topo maps show Marysville Hill, but I’ve been told by some folks that’s not the actual location of where the little town was located. Eventually Marysville dissolved and Payson, which was known as Green Valley in 1882, became the area’s center.
Jinx and I turned off of the road to head toward the Excursion Mine and ultimately to a cutoff that would take us over to the Mazatzals. If we had kept going on the main road, we would have ended up at Doll Baby Ranch, which was settled early on and was the site of a Mormon settlement known as Mazatzal City.
Eventually we turned on to NF-414 and took it over closer to the Mazatzals to just past the North Peak Trailhead turnoff.
One of the things I asked Jinx about was what that country looked like back in House’s day. According to him it was a different country, with much more grass and a simple line of Cypress running through it. If you look at Fred Croxen’s “History of Grazing on Tonto,” you’ll find similar recollections as told to Croxen by area pioneers.
From where we parked it was upwards of two miles to the location of the old House Mine, which I had pinpointed on GPS. This is beautiful country, despite some of it having been burned in the Willow Fire a few years ago.
Eventually we came across the spot I had marked and hiked around through the riverbed. We knew that we were in the same spot that I.M. House had been over 130 years before. It truly was a trip back in time. You could see how this would have been a good spot to mine. There are all sorts of mineral evidence still in the area.
Jinx pointed out that visibility was good too. Remember, in 1877 things were not completely settled with Native Americans in the region. The threat of attack was very real. From this spot though, it appears that one person would have been able to dig while the other kept a fairly good watch on the surrounding area.
Table Mountain is quite visible in the area. This topographic feature is mentioned as a point of reference on many early mining claims.
Jinx and I hiked farther up and found the area to have been worked quite a bit more. This was really a good producer at one point in time, there’s no doubt about that. The word of the success of this mine helped set the table for other ventures in the area and by the early 1880s, the region was awash in activity. Much of the activity would move up to the East Verde River, where the Gowan Mine is located, and where other mines such as the Crackerjack, are close by. This clip from the Sept. 23, 1880 Arizona Silver Belt clearly states this trend.
“Messrs. House and Rouse, of Tonto Basin, were in town last Saturday and Sunday. They report that in their camp everything is quiet, but that on the River Verde, times were lively. Their mine, which we are assured, is a valuable one, was bonded to San Francisco parties. They have 150 tons of good ore on the dump and the mine is looking well. They tell us that on the East Verde, the miners have taken out a ditch to carry water to arrastras by which process they intend for the present to work their ores. The mines along the Verde are gold mines. Mr. Rouse is largely interested in mines along this river, and he claims that some of them will prove as valuable as any yet discovered. Wood, water and grass are plentiful. There is a wagon road from that country to Globe. Mr. R. says that Globe will have to look to its laurels or a new district will be organized on the Verde that will eclipse it.”
Eventually most of the mines flamed out, with just a few continuing to be steady producers, and the region became best known for its cattle. But mines like that of House and Rouse’s Golden Waif did have a strong impact and when visiting such sites, it’s easy to see why.
When I got back from the hike a friend asked me, “Is Jinx in as good of shape as he thinks he is?” My response? Oh yeah. Jinx had forgotten about our plans to hike and had worked out for an hour and a half before going on the hike — and if anything he had to slow down for me, not the other way around. I can only hope that I’m in that good of shape when I’m his age (65).
It’s worth mentioning that some of the old mine sites are dangerous. Most of the time old shafts are covered up, as was the case at the House Mine, but there may still be some uncovered. I wouldn’t get too adventuresome and also realize that there are still some active claims out there. Respect for others’ claims and property is important. For example, the old Excursion Mine is privately owned.
If you have any old photos or information or questions about old mines or other history in the area, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.