To many they are pretty rocks, the names of which and indicators of, are not understood. But for someone with a skilled hand, dreaming of riches, they can be something far more; the opening to a better life.
Here’s a brief look at how mining has shaped the area from early on.
One of the key things that set the stage for growth in this region was the presence of Army troops in the late 1860s and 1870s. While the closest camp to this area was Camp Reno to the south, troops likely wandered up and saw the potential of this region for mining riches. By the late 1870s, some of this potential was starting to be tapped — I.M. House and D.J. Rouse recorded a claim on the Golden Waif Mine in the fall of 1877. A series of other mines were soon recorded, some turning out to be prosperous, others, not so much. On Oct. 29, 1879, the Prescott Daily Miner had the following blurb about area mining.
“Tonto Basin Mines
“The mines of Tonto Basin are coming to the front and will eventually take their place with the best mineral lodes in the Territory. Messrs. Hill and Brown of Prescott, who are interested in the Tonto Basin country, returned yesterday from a trip of inspection to that place, bringing samples from some of the ledges that are exceedingly rich in free gold. The Zulu, a mine 12 feet wide, and carrying high grade quartz from wall to wall, assaying $180 to the ton is creating quite an excitement with prospectors and mining men. It is owned by Messrs. Hill, Samuels, Smith & Gowan, who are prospecting the ledge with a view of putting it in a shape for practical working and perhaps sale. It cannot remain long in an unproductive state, as it is one of those valuable properties that is bound to come to the front. Extensions on the Zulu have been made on both sides of the discovery claim, making the entire distance located about three miles. The same company have located other mines near the Zulu which are said to be quite valuable, but as yet little has been done on them, therefore, their real extent is yet a question.
“Mr. Allen, of the Tiger Company, is in S.F., and has had some of Judge Porter’s gold bearing rock from near Tonto Basin worked and obtained highly satisfactory results.”
While area historians have tended to focus on cattle, in part because those are the people who tended to stick around, it’s important to note that mining was the big thing early on in the area. Before getting a post office, this area was known as Green Valley and an 1881 Arizona Business Directory shows what people were thinking about when they mentioned Green Valley.
“Green Valley, Yavapai County
“This district, sometimes called the Verde, is situated in the southeastern part of the county, on the east fork of the Verde River, north of the Tonto Basin. The Verde supplies water constantly, and there is a fine belt of timber and plenty of grass. The ores are gold and silver.
“The Golden Wonder is working four arastras on ore which yields an average of fifty dollars per ton. The shaft is now down one hundred feet, and drifts are running on a three and a half foot vein.
“The Excursion, located three miles from the Verde, has a shaft down sixty-five feet; at that point the vein is four feet, and assays $300 per ton. There is now 150 tons of ore on the dump. Judge Porter is the principal owner.
“The Zulu, located on Wild Rye Creek, has a shaft of sixty-five feet, and a four-foot ledge; the ore is worked by arastra. The American and Gowan, on the Verde, are now building a five-stamp mill. The Mammoth has a shaft down fifty feet on a three-foot ledge, from which is being extracted ore that yields forty-five dollars per ton. There are many other mines being opened in this district.”
A lot of the early buzz never turned into as sustained a strike as hoped for. There were some mines that persisted and were producers, but ultimately the area became better known for cattle, and later for its scenic beauty as a getaway place from the hot summers of Phoenix.
The closure of the Arizona Department of Mines & Mineral Resources, and other items
When I read about the closure of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, it saddened me. Some of you might remember that I’d written about this department, particularly in relation to a “big” announcement, which turned out to be the Arizona Centennial Museum booting their museum out of its space. While I think the folks at this department saw the writing on the wall, I certainly did not. They were so nervous because I think that they knew their closure was just a matter of time, and they were right.
What is the immediate impact? Well, if you want a mining file, you’re not going to be able to get it. How long will it be until that’s changed? I don’t know. That information is not public at this point. Was this a sudden move? Yes. According to this department’s Web site, they were informed of the closure on Jan. 14 and given notice of a Reduction in Force to be carried out on Jan. 21.
I have nothing but the best to say about this department. I can tell you that as far as quality of people go, in my opinion, these folks were top-notch. They are very passionate, very helpful, and when I do eventually get a mining book put together, I will have missed not being able to go to them. I think that the records will be relocated, but some of this mining stuff goes over my head and I really appreciated the time that folks like Nyal Niemuth would take to explain things to me and to give me ideas on where to further search.
If you like reading history articles and enjoy the fruits of the research that historians put in, you need to be on alert. Historical funding has always been a tenuous thing, even when times were good. Now with the economy being flat, charitable giving is down for all organizations and budget deficits continue to reign. The historical community needs donors to step up and there are always plenty of things that are needed. If you donate, be careful and make sure it gets targeted — if you’re into research and the fruits of it, make sure that you get the money in the hands of the right people. If you like cemeteries, make sure your donation is correctly targeted for improvements, etc. I’m always happy to tell someone what I think we need locally and to at least give a direction if you’re looking to do something at the state level. We really need heroes, and I understand that there are a lot of folks hurting right now, but if you think history is important, I hope you’ll do what you can. No one’s getting rich on this stuff — it’s a hobby for me and others, not a primary source of income, and every good researcher has items they’d like to get.