By Terry Munderloh
(This is the second part of a two part article regarding William Bradshaw.)
Not content to remain long in one place, William Bradshaw left the management of the ferry business to his older brother Isaac and gravitated to the Weaver mining district where the discoveries of fabulous gold strikes on Rich Hill were being reported. Missing the opportunity to stake a claim on Rich Hill, he moved on to the unexplored southern portion of the Silver Mountains to prospect.
Daniel Ellis Conner, a member of the Walker Party reports in his manuscript that when news of rich mines located by a man named Bradshaw reached the Prescott area, he started out with a party of men to join Bradshaw. Conner wrote: "Upon passing down Turkey Creek we struck the fresh trail of Bradshaw's party and followed it. But we were nearly at the locality sought, when we found this party. We all arrived at our destination about noon the next day and found the whole matter a myth. A more disgusted set of men never before sent on a fool's errand. This was a new land and looked at thought it had never contained any human souls...."
"These old hills and rocks echoed back that day the first horrible oaths expressed in the English language that ever graced this hitherto sterile and graceless quarter. This trip served only to name a mountain near Turkey Creek. Bradshaw Mountain retains its name."
Conner and his disappointed men probably later regretted their quick abandonment of Bradshaw's group, for in the fall of 1863, Bill did strike gold and a new mining district was named in his honor.
On May 26, 1864, Governor Goodwin issued a call for the first Territorial election, and Bill announced himself as a candidate for Delegate to Congress representing the miners. He was defeated by Charles Poston, but on November 7, 1864, the first legislature did grant to Bradshaw and his associates for a period of twenty years an exclusive ferry franchise on the Colorado River at any and every point between what was known as Mineral City and a point five miles above La Paz.
The ferry tolls authorized by the legislative acts were high: four dollars for a one-team wagon plus one dollar for each additional pair of animals; one dollar for every horse with its rider fifty cents for every person on foot and for each head of loose horses, mules, jacks, or cattle; and twenty-five cents for each hog, sheep or goat. The enterprising William had again struck gold.
At that time the Providence Point location of Bradshaw's Ferry had been renamed Olive City to honor Olive Oatman who had been held captive for several years by Mojave Indians. In 1867, it was again renamed Ehrenberg by Michael Goldwater in memory of Herman Ehrenberg who had been murdered at Dos Palmas.
Bill Bradshaw was back in Olive City in the winter of 1864. On December 17, 1864, the Los Angeles News published this startling announcement: "We learn from Mr. Grant that William Bradshaw, of Bradshaw route notoriety, well known to miners and mountaineers, committed suicide at La Paz on the 2nd instant, by cutting his throat. Bradshaw had been on one of his "Big Benders," was probably under the influence of liquor at the time; he was pursued by ghosts, etc. He walked deliberately into a carpenter's shop, took up a drawing knife, and with one stroke nearly severed his head from his shoulders."
Why would a financially secure and respected man of William's character commit suicide? A drawknife might be a hand instrument for an assassin standing behind his victim but an unlikely tool as a means of suicide, especially for a man proficient in the use of firearms.
Further shrouding the bizarre circumstances of the alleged suicide is the fact that the only known report of Bill's death is that given by James Grant, who held a long time grudge against Bill, James claiming to have been the first discoverer of the Bradshaw Road. No mention of Bill's death is reported in the December 1864 newspaper.
Probate of his estate filed in Yuma County lists his death place as Bradshaw Ferry in May (day unknown) 1865, place of burial known. The original probate papers are missing from the County files and no records of the contents and disposition of his estate can be found in the probate record book.
In 1867, Isaac Bradshaw sold his interest in the ferry and, leaving his wife and daughters in California, took up his bachelor brother's wanderlust for gold dust. Uncle Ike, as he came to be known in Yavapai County, became part owner, developer and superintendent of the rich Copper Basin mines.
By 1871, the discovery and rapid development of the Tiger and Eclipse silver mines warranted the laying out of a townsite on top of Bradshaw Mountain. The town was called Bradshaw City. At one time Bradshaw City had five thousand residents but now only a sign remains to tell of its existence.
In 1882, Uncle Ike sold his interest in the Copper Basin mines and moved on to the Castle Creek gold mining district. He died Christmas Day, 1886, at his claim on Whipsaw Gulch near Castle Creek where he is buried.
Over the subsequent years the entire Silver Mountain Range came to be known as the Bradshaw Mountains. If William and Isaac were alive today, the two brothers would probably be astounded by the number of places, business, schools and associations bearing their name.
Terry Munderloh is a volunteer at the Museum's Archives. She is also an active member of the Historic Trails Committee of the Yavapai Trails Association.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (c138pb). Reuse only by permission.
In 1992, Boyd Tenney and Aline Hoyt Berge (Isaac Bradshaw's great great granddaughter) visited Isaac's grave in the Bradshaw mountains. Isaac's brother, William was said to have committed suicide, although there seems to be little motive and an unlikely murder weapon.