Monday, October 17, 2011

Desert Bonanza

October 10, 2011 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Goldfield and the famous Mammoth Mine have long ceased to be the booming mining camp it was at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The inhabitants have left and little remains today of its glorious past. Remnants of this era can be found on the base of a large alluvial fan (an alluvial fan is a fan-shaped deposit formed where a fast flowing stream flattens, slows, and spreads typically at the exit of a canyon onto a flatter plain). This alluvia fan protrudes into the desert far below the towering cliffs of Superstition Mountain.

Late in the Nineteenth Century, early prospectors passed this area without much of a glance. Mexican prospectors found small stringers of gold in the area as early as 1879. However, these outcrops did not attract any serious interest. Eventually, some Mormons from Mesa City began to prospect in the area. The Lucky  Boy claim was staked in 1881,  but produced very little gold. On November 27, 1892 C. R. Hakes, Orlando Merrill, Orrin Merrill and J. R. Morse filed on the Black Queen claim. The Black Queen produced a reasonable amount of gold because it kept miners busy in the area until the discovery of the Mammoth claim occurred in April 1893. This discovery was prompted by a flash flood along Goldfield Wash (Weeks Wash) that exposed a rich vein of gold ore.

Hakes, the Merrills and Morse worked their claim for a short time than filed four other claims, the Black King, Mammoth, Mother Hubbard, and Tom Thumb. They sold their claims to Denver capitalists Denny Sullivan and Charles I. Hall just six months after filing the claims for a price of twenty thousand dollars.

It was the Mammoth that became the bonanza of the five claims. At first there was only a small amount of gold detected at the surface, however at the depth of sixty feet a large ore deposit was located that later became known as the “Mormon Stope.” Between seventy and two hundred and fifty feet the gold was so rich it held the quartz together in the stamp mill making it difficult to separate. It is claimed over three million dollars in gold was removed from this mine in four years between 1893-1897. Most of the gold was removed from the Mormon Stope in the first two and a half years.

Geologically, this area is a basement pediment complex composed of coarse grained, indurated conglomerates and granite breccia. The region was intruded by rich veins gold in quartz. The principle ore body, the Mormon Stope, was located in the vicinity of two northward striking and steeply westward dipping faults that outcropped some three hundred feet apart. Within this zone the riches ore was produced, resulting from granite outcrops heavily stained with brownish limonite containing irregular stringers rich goldfilled quartz. According to George B. Church, the material mined was oxidized. The Iron Pyrite that accompanied the quartz was the source material for the gold bearing Iron Oxide. Some minerals today that have been associated with the gold quartz was Monzanite, and Calcite.

By November of 1893, the hostile desert environment had been altered so that it was compatible for occupancy by miners and their families. Frame structures and tents were common place. However, Goldfield was doomed from the beginning. The miners were digging rich gold ore one day, and the next day the gold ore was gone. The rich ore body had been dissected by a fault millions of years before. The rich ore body had attracted well over five hundred people to the area. By November 1897, Goldfield became a ghost town haunted only by the wind and the coyotes.

Early in 1910, Goldfield briefly came to life again. George U. Young acquired the claims and for the next fifteen years tried to relocate the lost ore body. At 900 feet, low-grade ore was encountered, however this attempt ended in failure because they didn’t locate the high-grade ore deposit. It was at this time a large steamdriven electric power plant was installed. The purpose of the power plant was to operate a ten-stamp amalgamation mill and provide power for a 50-ton cyanide plant. The two were operated intermittently for several years producing about $67,000 worth of gold and silver.

On June 8, 1921 Goldfield was re-established as Youngsberg, Arizona. After the closing of the post office in Goldfield (Youngsberg) in 1926  the community ceased to exist officially. The area saw mining activity in 1949, and then through much of the 1970’s. During both of these periods gold was produced. Only sturdy concrete foundations and eroded mine dumps exist today.

In 1985, Goldfield had a rebirth when Robert and LuAnn Schoose deciding to fulfill a dream and build a ghost town that would serve as both tourist attraction and a museum. The site of Goldfield and Youngsberg are once again a place to go see. Schoose’s effort has definitely help preserve the mining history of the area and Arizona.

With our Arizona Centennial celebration coming up in 2012 their effort to rebuild this historical site should be recognized. This attraction is just north of Apache Junction on State Rt. 88 and has one the finest displays of old mining equipment in Arizona. It’s well worth your time to visit the Goldfield Ghost Town.