By Darlene Wilson & Parker Anderson
In the late 19th century and far into the 20th century, one of the key economic bases of Arizona has been mining. Various areas of Arizona have been rich with minerals, including gold, copper, silver and others. From the beginning of the Territory in 1864, Arizona has been awash in mining, and in areas where rich strikes occurred, towns grew up around the sites to provide supplies, provisions and alcohol for the miners.
Every mining town in those early days had saloons where, after a long week of work, the miners could go on weekends and blow off steam. Contrary to popular belief, however, the smaller mining towns did not have active red-light districts, and the miners had to travel into the larger communities to find “ladies of the evening,” whose trade was still legal in those days.
The earliest, richest strikes in the Arizona Territory included the Vulture Mine near Wickenburg, the Tombstone in Cochise County and Rich Hill in Southern Yavapai County. Towns grew up near all of these strikes and many more. Arizona was once teeming with active mining towns.
In the heyday of mining, these towns were vibrant hubs of activity, driven by the promise of wealth hidden beneath the earth’s surface. The very industries that breathed life into these places ultimately became their undoing.
Mining started to dry up by the mid-20th century, and many mines closed. As they closed, people left the towns for good, and many became complete ghost towns that are no longer on the map. Other towns survived, such as Prescott, Jerome and Tombstone, all of which began to derive income from other sources, including tourism.
For those who believe in ghosts, many of these towns (those that are still active and those that aren’t) are reputedly haunted. This would make sense, as many families called these towns home, died there and may be hesitant to leave. Others died in mining accidents, and perhaps their spirits still linger as well. Many locals have shared their stories of apparitions they have seen as well as stories that have been passed down through the years.
One of the most haunted sites in Yavapai County is the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome. It was once the United Verde Miners Hospital where many patients died due to unfortunate accidents. Probably the best-known accident at this location, however, is the documented death of Claude Harvey in 1935. He was found in the hospital basement, crushed to death by the service elevator under circumstances never clearly established. Workers at the Jerome Grand Hotel believe his spirit is one of the most active.
Walking through the deserted streets of Arizona’s ghost towns, visitors cannot help but feel the weight of history. Abandoned buildings with broken windows and collapsing roofs stand as monuments to forgotten aspirations.
These abandoned towns still have their cemeteries, reminders of the people who lived and died there. Flowers can be found on some of the graves where someone has paid their respects. So not all are forgotten, but unfortunately many are.
Although visiting some of the abandoned mining towns can be a sad experience, it is also a reminder that the legacy of a community is not solely defined by its rise, but also by its ability to leave a lasting imprint on the pages of time.
To learn more, come listen to Darlene Wilson & Parker Anderson’s lecture on Saturday, 10/7/2023 at 2pm at the Sharlot Hall Museum in the Education Center Auditorium. Reserve your seat by calling 928-445-3122 ext. 0, or email email@example.com. Tickets are $15.00 for non-members and FREE to SHM members. Seating is limited.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.