By Kristen Kauffman


Today you would never know that Lynx Creek was once one of the most dangerous districts in Yavapai County, its secretive and rolling ridges serving as the backdrop for murder, kidnapping and theft.


Captain Joe Walker discovered the area and began gold panning in the creek in 1863 (and became the namesake for the township currently seven miles south of Costco). In no time, the vicinity was being mined by about 200 men with gold fever. At the time, the closest major settlement was Prescott about twelve miles away, which meant that these gold panners were removed from civilization–and the eye of the law. By 1868 things were out of hand; a band of thieves had stolen two mules from a Mr. Stanebrook, two horses from a Mr. Fredericks, and when the gang had not yet been caught, they murdered Juan Yeps, a passerby, for reasons unknown. When Yeps’ body was found by ranchers under a tree, Judge Flower and his messenger came from Prescott to investigate–and the band of thieves nearly killed them. Ranchers in the Walnut Grove area (in the Bradshaw Mountain District) implored General Halleck to regularly patrol the area. General Halleck was a Union Civil War hero and in charge of the military district in the county. The good people of Walnut Grove believed it would take no less than one of Abraham Lincoln’s experienced army generals to bring peace to the area.


Unfortunately, the military patrols did not seem to deter crime. In May and October of 1870, two camps were attacked by unrestrained criminals, and men of Mexican descent were murdered. In August nine horses were stolen. In November John Y. Shirley was kidnapped. Even so, there was enough gold to entice more settlers to move to the area; in 1870 John Kimler brought cattle to Mr. Marr’s cattle station, and Mr. Ballou set up a business running supplies and mail back and forth from Prescott, since the miners were too busy to fetch their mail from the post office. Even an organ grinder set up shop to entertain the community.


Then in 1877, on the same day that a raging wildfire was ravaging the Walker area, Dr. W.E. Day, the coroner, was called to the Lynx Creek Station. It was a story too good for the Weekly Journal-Miner to pass up; two men had gotten into a knife fight—Sam Lee and Jim Ah Fawk—over an unnamed woman, whom “they owned together.” According to the Weekly Journal-Miner, “whether one or the other was appropriating his own use too much of the profits of the station, or had secured the lion’s share of the affections of the woman in question Gum Kee [the witness] was unable to state, but he had no hesitation in saying that this joint ownership of a woman was a very dangerous partnership.” Lee had cut Fawk at least three times with a knife before Fawk turned on him, an aggression which the jury determined was justifiable homicide.


Major mining operations in the Lynx Creek area ended around 1957 after decades of lucrative gold production.  For example, in 1941 alone the Lynx Creek placers mined a total of $153,650. Thankfully, Lynx Creek is peaceful today, as evidenced by the day use areas at Lynx Lake and the seasonal restaurant nearby. Just about a mile and a half south of Highway 89 along Walker Road, you will see the sign for the Lynx Creek Ruins. Follow that to the gold panning day use area (run today by the Forest Service) and imagine a time when this activity was risky and (to some) rewarding. The friendly passersby are nothing like the dangerous ones you might have encountered here during Lynx Creek’s heyday.


“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.