Monday, February 13, 2012

Goldfield: An Arizona Centennial Treasure

February 6, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

In honor of the Arizona 100th birthday this is the sixth in a special centennial series about Arizona by Tom Kollenborn.

The discovery of gold just west of the towering facade of Superstition Mountain in 1881 eventually led to the discovery of the Mammoth mine. This mine was a bonanza of rich gold ore.

The mine was located shortlyafter a thunderstorm and flash flood on April 14, 1893. The discovery of the mine must be attributed to four men, C.R. Hakes, J. R. Morse, Orlando and Orrin Merrill. The Mammoth Claims and others were soon sold to C. I. Hall and Denny Sullivan, two Denver mining men, in early May of 1893.

Hall, by June 1893, had sunk a thirty-five foot shaft on the Mammoth, and had extended it to the depth of sixty-five feet by June 15, 1893. At the sixty-five foot level Hall drifted eastward ten feet without striking any rich ore. He then drifted westward and at a distance of thirty feet he struck a rich ore body. This strike became the famous Mormon stope.

The development of the Mammoth Mine led to the construction of a small business section in the middle of the Arizona desert twenty miles east of Mesa City by late July of 1893. It wasn’t long before Goldfield had three saloons, the Capitol, Mammoth and the Pioneer. There was a boarding house, restaurant, stable,
butcher shop, barbershop and school.

The Mammoth Mine produced between one and three million dollars in gold bullion when gold was worth about $20 per ounce. The mine was productive for a period of four years. After the rescue of James Stevens, a miner trapped in the mine for thirteen days in July of 1897, the Mammoth Mine began to decline eventually closing down by January of 1898. The rescue of Stevens was in no way connected to the decline of the Mammoth Mine. C.I. Hall remained after the mine closed and continued to search for the elusive vein he had lost.

The operation at the Mammoth Mine opened and closed several times between 1900-1948. George U. Young acquired the property in 1910 and spent the next fifteen years trying to relocate the lost ore body. Young sunk the shaft to 900 feet eventually encountering a low-grade vein of gold ore. Young’s operation produced about $70,000 in gold according to some reports. Young eventually had the post office at Goldfield changed to the Youngsberg Post Office on June 8, 1921. The post office closed in 1926 and Youngsberg ceased to exist. The name was never officially changed back to Goldfield.

Alfred Strong Lewis, a pioneer mining engineer, became very active trying to revive Goldfield in 1949. Lewis extracted about forty-five thousand dollars worth of gold bullion using a 100-ton ball mill and a cyanide operation. After Lewis’ attempt the Goldfield property was acquired by Hugh Nichols, Ted Sliger, Doc Waterbury and Russell. These four men formed the Apache Trail Mining Company and again attempted to put Goldfield in production.

The most successful attempt to reactivate Goldfield was made in 1978. John Wilburn located some interesting gold properties in the Goldfield area. The Oliver-Clark Mining Contractors began core drilling and found several areas with gold. Wilburn sold his claim and lease to an unknown party for an undisclosed amount.

John Wilburn had introduced another breath of life into the once famous town of Goldfield. Goldfield has been a great place to invest a lot of money for very little return on the mining dollar.

Early in 1984, Robert Schoose found the old mill site at Goldfield an interesting challenge to create a theme town based on gold mining. He decided with friends to recreate the old town of Goldfield on an old five-acre mill site. Schoose’s attempt has been a big step toward preserving the history of gold mining in the Southwest and the history of Goldfield. His Goldfield Ghost Town Tours, Inc. offers the visitor an opportunity to enjoy and at the same time examine the old mining equipment used at the turn of the century.

Goldfield today is an experience of what the past may have been like. Schoose has a tremendous investment in capital and personal labor, as well as his love for this town and its history. He involves his entire family in the everyday operation of Goldfield. His love for authenticity in Goldfield is expressed by the architecturally accurate design of buildings throughout the town. It is certain Goldfield will stand as a reminder of his and others’ dedication and devotion to the preservation of Southwest mining history and lore.

Goldfield has gone from boom to bust. Now, under the guidance of Robert Schoose and company, Goldfield will continue to boom again on the Arizona desert west of Superstition Mountain.

Goldfield’s contribution to our community has been enormous over the years in a variety of ways. The ghost town provides business opportunities, employment opportunities, entertainment, good food, historical mining equipment preservation and a source of mining history.

A visit to Goldfield helps to ensure the preservation of old mining equipment that could have been easily sold for scrape and melted down years ago. Today, this old equipment is displayed at Goldfield. Our children and grandchildren can examine it, learn about it and ask questions about the early history of Arizona mining.

Goldfield Ghost Town preserves a distinct part of Arizona’s past mining history for the 2012 Statehood Centennial.