Formation of Mining Districts

As we have heretofore seen, numerous attempts had been made by citizens of what is now Arizona, and also citizens of New Mexico, to organize the Territory of, Arizona, which attempts, up to the winter of 186263, did not seem to have been taken seriously by Congress, this territory being considered practically worthless and the home of the wildest set of Indians that ever cursed any portion of the continent, and it is doubtful whether the Territory would have been organized had it not been for the discovery of gold and silver within its boundaries.

The first discoveries, as we have seen, were made on the Gila about twenty miles from the Colorado, where gold placers were opened in 1858 and caused some excitement, A traveler passing at that time said he saw twenty dollars washed out of: eight shovels full of dirt; this in the rudest manner by an unpracticed hand. The diggings were located in sand hills from a half a mile to a mile from the river, and there being no water at hand, dry washing was resorted to by the Indians and Mexicans, who made from one to two dollars a day, and occasionally secured twenty to thirty dollars.

About this time the Eureka District was located above what is now the city of Yuma, where a vein of argentiferous galena carrying from twenty to thirty per cent of silver with a small amount of gold, was discovered. These lodes were in the mountain ranges from one to twenty miles east from the river bank, and were reached by trails. A few of them were taken up in 1862, and at that time were partially developed.

Castle Dome, fifty miles above Yuma City, so called from its being located upon this isolated mountain resembling a dome, was laid out about this time. The lodes were in the mountains fifteen to thirty miles back from the river, but were not easy of access, and water was very scarce. The ores were argentiferous galena in a vein stone of fluor spar, and contained from thirty to forty ounces to the ton. For years afterwards they were extensively worked and some of them proved quite profitable.

The next district was that above the town of La Paz, and bore the same name. It was first explored in the Colorado River gold excitement of 1862. Mr. A. McKey, a member of the Territorial Legislature from La Paz, furnished to J. Ross Browne, the annexed account of the discovery of the placers that caused the up building of La Paz, which became a place of considerable importance and a favorite shipping point for goods for Central Arizona, and, although I have heretofore alluded to these diggings, yet it may not be out of place to insert at this point the statement of Mr. McKey, which is as follows:

“Captain Pauline Weaver, and others, in the month of January, 1862, were trapping on the Colorado River, and at times would stray off into the mountains for the purpose of prospecting for gold. They had discovered what was then named and is still called ‘El Arollo de la Tenaja,’ which is about two miles north from El Campo Ferra, and about seven miles east from La Paz. In this gulch they had discovered gold in small quantities, and had taken out two or three dollars’ worth, which Captain Weaver kept in a goose-quill.

“Soon after this discovery Weaver visited Fort Yuma and exhibited what gold he had. This evidence of the existence of a commodity so much sought for in this country convinced others that gold might be found in quantities by hunting for it. Don Jose M. Redondo having heard of; the discovery, at once set out to visit the newly found ‘El Dorado,’ in company with several others. He arrived a few days afterward at the camp of Captain Weaver, who pointed out to him and his party the particular gulch from which he had taken the gold. After a short examination of this place the party set out in different directions to discover, if possible, something which would pay to work, and the extent of the placers. Within less than a mile from Weaver’s camp, south, Redondo took a pan of dirt to prospect, and when he had dry washed it, to the astonishment of himself and the party with him, he found that he had one ‘chispa’ which weighed two ounces and one dollar, besides other small pieces. Others of his party found good prospects, but none of the company had come for anything more than to ascertain the truth or falsity of the reported glad tidings and therefore were not prepared to remain and work for want of the necessary provisions and tools, but were compelled to return to La Laguna, a settlement some twenty miles above Fort Yuma, on the Arizona side of the Colorado. After their arrival at La Laguna, and report of what they had discovered, a party of forty persons prepared to visit the new mines. After their arrival in the placers, about the middle of February, 1862, discoveries were made almost daily, until it was known that every gulch and ravine for twenty miles east and south was rich with gold. Ferra Camp, Campo en Medio, American Camp, Los Chollos, La Plomosa, and many other smaller places, all had their rich diggings, but the discovery made by Juan Ferra, of the Ferra Gulch, was, without doubt, the most valuable of any. Very soon the knowledge of these discoveries spread to Sonora and California, and people began to pour in from all points, and continued to come until they probably numbered fifteen hundred. This population was maintained to a greater or less extent until the spring of; 1864, when the apparent exhaustion of the placers and the extreme high prices for provisions caused large numbers to leave. The discovery of the Weaver and Walker diggings in the year 1863, drew away many of the miners from these placers.

“Of the yield of these placers, anything like an approximation to the average daily amount of what was taken out per man would only be guesswork. Hundreds of dollars per day to the man was common, and now and again a thousand or more per day. Don Juan Ferra took one nugget from his claim which weighed 4/7 ounces and six dollars. Another party found a ‘chispa’ weighing 27 ounces, and another one of 26 ounces. Many others found pieces of from one or two ounces up to 20, and yet it is contended that the greater proportion of the larger nuggets were never shown for fear of some evil spirits, who infested the mines at the time. It is the opinion of those most conversant with the first working of: these placers that much the greater proportion of the gold taken out was in nuggets weighing from one dollar up to the size of the ‘chispas’ above named. I have often heard it said of those days that ‘not even a Papago Indian would work for less than $10 per day.’

“As has been seen from the above, the gold was large and generally clear of foreign substances. The largest piece (above mentioned) did not contain an apparent atom of quartz or any other base matter. The gold from the different camps varied a trifle in its worth at the mint in San Francisco, and brought from $17.50 to $19.50 per ounce. But all that was sold or taken out here went for from $16 to $17 per ounce. Since the year 1864 until the present, there have been at various times many men at work in these placers, numbering in the winter months hundreds, but in the summer months not exceeding 75 or 100; and all seem to do sufficiently well not to be willing to work for the wages of the country, which are and have been for some time, from $30 to $65 per month and found. No inconsiderable amount of gold comes in from these placers now weekly, and only a few days ago I saw, myself, a nugget which weighed $40, clear and pure from any foreign substances.

“Some parties have lately come into these diggings with what is called concentrators or dry washers, which they have been working for a few weeks, and in conversation with Mr. Finkler (an owner of one of these machines) he told me that he could make $20 per day where he was at work, and pay three dollars per day for his hands, and that he only required four to work the machine. Should these machines prove a success these placers will soon be peopled again with industrious, prosperous miners. Of the total amount of gold taken from these mines, I am as much at a loss to say what it has been as I was to name the average daily wages of the first years, and as I might greatly differ from those who were among the first in these mines, I do not feel justified in setting up an opinion as against them; I shall, therefore, give the substance of the several opinions which I have obtained from those who were the pioneers of these placers. I have failed to find any one of them whose opinion is that less than $1,000,000 were taken from these diggings within the first year, and in all probability as much was taken out within the following year.”

In 1863 what was known as the Planet Mine was discovered by one Ryland, who, in 1864, organized a company in San Francisco. This was a copper mine, and the second copper mine discovered in the Territory. It was worked from 1865 up to 1873, the selected ore being shipped to San Francisco and there sold at a hundred dollars a ton. The mine was located twelve miles from the Colorado, and within a mile from Bill Williams’ Fork.

It was not until 1862 and 1863 that an attempt was made to thoroughly explore Central Arizona. Whipple and Beale, as we have seen, had crossed on the 35th parallel. Aubrey and Leroux had seen something of the Verde River and the northern tributaries of the Gila, but no one had attempted more than a hurried trip through the country, although all believed it rich in precious metals.

Late in 1862, or early in 1863, Pauline Weaver, who had crossed Arizona by the Gila as early as 1832, being attracted by the placers at La Paz, was induced to look for others in the interior of the country, and started with a party of men for an exploration. They discovered what has since been known as Weaver Diggings near Antelope Creek, and located the town of Weaver some sixty miles south of Prescott. About this time the Walker party of gold hunters arrived at the Pima Villages and determined to explore the country north, from which the Indians brought fabulous reports of great wealth. This part}^ discovered the Hassayampa, one of the main streams of Central Arizona, having its rise about ten miles southeast of the town of Prescott, and running south until it sinks in the desert some twelve miles below the town of Wickenburg. Part of the Walker party went to the Weaver Diggings, and there Swilling and others, as we have seen, discovered the rich placers upon the top of Antelope Peak, which, from the accounts, was literally covered with gold, nuggets of unusual size being found. It is said that one man with his jackknife took out four thousand dollars in a single day from these diggings, and that there was taken from the small area of ground a million dollars in gold.

The remainder of the Walker party gradually ascended the Hassayampa, finding gold at almost every point, and in the winter of 1863, took possession of the Lynx Creek and Walker Diggings, ten miles east from Prescott, from which it was estimated that not less than half a million of dollars was taken. They also gathered much gold on Big Bug, four miles east of Lynx Creek, and when these placers were exhausted, the prospectors turned their attention to quartz veins, and found there was no lack of them all along the Hassayampa, and upon the Agua Fria, a parallel stream of considerable size, and also upon Lynx Creek, Big Bug, and Turkey Creek, and other creeks in Central Arizona, lodes of gold, silver and copper were found. In the excitement, as is always the case, a great many locations were made and recorded which had no value.

About this time Henry Wickenburg discovered and located what was afterwards known as the Vulture Mine, a ledge of about forty feet wide, having a chimney of ore five hundred feet in length, the ores of which averaged about forty dollars a ton, and another chimney about six hundred feet in length, of about the same width, the ores of which ran about fifteen dollars a ton.

These chimneys were worked to a vertical depth of about a hundred and seventy feet on the vein, and many millions of dollars were taken out.

The opening of these gold mines in Central Arizona, accounts of which, no doubt greatly exaggerated as they were reproduced in San Francisco and again in the East, were probably the incentive to Congress to organize at once the Territory of Arizona. The country, at that time, needed gold and silver to meet its war expenses, and our statesmen in Washington, no doubt became convinced that Arizona was a country worthy of reclamation and redemption from savagery.

The excitement attendant upon the discovery of these diggings drew into the Territory a large immigration, sufficient, in a way, to protect themselves from their Indian foes, which they had to do because the military, with the exception of a small guard at Tucson and Fort Mohave, was withdrawn from Arizona into New Mexico, and all the Indian tribes, with the exception of the Papagoes, Pimas, Maricopas and Yumas, were upon the warpath.

The following early locations and organizations of mining districts, made in those early days, will be interesting to the general reader. They are given without correction in grammar or spelling:



The foregoing mining districts were formed under the old California mining laws, which allowed miners to form their own mining districts, and designate the number of claims, and their size, which could be located. Claims on placers covered certain areas, and vein mines were located on the ledge vertically, in general not following dips, spurs and angles.

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 2, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

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