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Yavapai County, Arizona

First Settlements
Early Prescott
Courthouse Historical Marker
Montezuma Street Historical Marker
O'Neill/Mund House Historical Marker

Yavapai County is one of the four counties into which the Territory of Arizona was originally divided, and at one time embraced about one-third of the Territory, or all north of the Gila River, excepting that part of Yuma which lies north of that stream, and the county of Mojave. This county as it now is, is bounded on the north by Coconino county; on the east, by Coconino and a portion of Gila; on the south, by Maricopa, and on the west, by a portion of Yuma and Mojave Counties; and has an area of 7,863 square miles, and is a little larger than the State of New Jersey.

The population of this county, by census of 1900, was 13,799. It was called upon to contribute territory of which to form other counties, as follows; Maricopa County in 1871, part of Pinal in 1875, Apache County, which embraced the County of Navajo, in 1879, and the great County of Coconino in 1893.

Prescott, the first Territorial capital where the first legislature met in 1864, is now the countyseat and is a beautiful city, its altitude being over 6,500 feet, and situated among the pines, it has one of the finest summer climates in the world. Prescott is a place of great commercial importance, being the center of a large mining region, and extensive transactions in the mining world are carried through here, as there are three heavy banks that have reliable connections with the world's money centers.

There is considerable fine agricultural land in the mountain valleys of this county, but rains are too uncertain to make it altogether reliable for the farmer to depend upon raising crops without artificial irrigation. Whether water in sufficient quantities can be developed by artesian wells, or gathering of surplus from rain or snow in reservoirs, to be of much use in agriculture has not been sufficiently tested. Arizona is such a great mining region that it may be wrong to discriminate, but if any county can be said to stand at the head in this industry, it must be Yavapai. Some of the greatest producing properties of the Pacific Coast, if not of the world, are in this county.

The great camp of Jerome, incorporated as United Verde, about thirty-five miles northeast of the city of Prescott, is one of the world's wonders. This system of mines, now mostly, if not entirely, in the hands of Senator Clarke of Montana, yields a revenue almost fabulous; they will be described in detail further on.

The city of Prescott is as near the geographical center of the Territory as it well can be, and, with its unexcelled climate, fine buildings, hospitable and generous people, its railroad facilities, all combined, it would be pointed out as the spot for the Capitol, but the politicians and selfish interests of other sections took it away from Prescott and placed it in a city perhaps less suitable at all seasons of the year.

As a sanitary location, Prescott has no rival, and the United States Government is now re-establishing Fort Whipple for a sanitary camp, to which to send invalid soldiers and other military attaches.

As early as 1847 and l848 Joseph Walker and Jack Ralston, hunters and trappers, discovered gold upon the Little Colorado River, a short distance below the falls, but did not know what it was. In Oregon, in 1856, they saw the same yellow metal called gold and realized it was the same as that which they had found along the Little Colorado. Late in the 50's Ralston died, but Walker and a party, among whom were George D. Lount, John Dickason, Joseph R. Walker, Oliver Hallett, Arthur Clothier and Robert For- sythe, left San Francisco, in 1861, for the Little Colorado River, and arrived at the spot where some of the party had been before, but found no gold, as the gravel bed in which the gold had been found had been washed away by the high water of the river. The company went to Denver, Colorado, and the next spring another party was organized that went first to Albuquerque, ISPew Mexico, and from there to the Gila and San Francisco Rivers in Arizona. The party divided at, or near, where afterwards was established Fort Wingate, and the smaller party went by Santa Rita copper mines, New Mexico, and Pinos Altos, where they were recruited by Jack Swilling, W. T. Scott, now of Tucson, and some others, and passed through Tucson and Pima Villages and on to the Hassayampa Creek; and in the vicinity of where Prescott now is, made important gold discoveries. Joseph Walker, Pauline Weaver, Jack Swilling, Henry Wickenburg, Mr. Peebles and others made many discoveries of precious metals in the Hassayampa Lynx Creek, Granite Creek, Big Bug and elsewhere, and in July, 1863, the rich placers of Weaver's Gulch were discovered.

The great "find" of gold at Antelope Peak was made the same year. There was a rush of miners and adventurers for these localities, and the Apaches made bloody raids on travelers in all directions. The Apache was sure to find them when too weak to resist, or if too careless or negligent. These Apache raids interfered very materially with the development of the country.

On the 30th of May, 1864, a meeting of citizens was held on Granite Creek, a town was located, and named Prescott in honor of the eminent American writer and standard authority upon Aztec and Spanish- American history. The streets of the new city were laid out wide, straight and with the cardinal points of the compass ; many of them were named after governors and other prominent men.

Nature has been most prodigal in distributing minerals throughout this county, and while there is considerable grain and fruit raising, as well as grazing lands in the county, yet for many years, perhaps for generations to come, mining for gold, silver and copper will be the prevailing industry. The mines of this county have passed through the many stages to which a mining community are subject. For some years lack of transportation facilities prevented large extents of valuable mining country from being opened, or from being known, except to the most hardy prospector. Years after Americans began to come to the Territory and much mining was being done, it was considered that ore which would not yield thirty dollars per ton was too poor to be of value; in fact, the law passed by the legislature to tax net proceeds of mines in 1875 exempted thirty dollars per ton from taxation, as it was considered that it took about that amount to pay expenses. With the introduction of railroads, the vast body of minerals of this county commenced to come into the world's markets, and now there are many men who have within the last ten or twelve years rolled up for themselves princely fortunes, while adding largely to the material wealth and happiness of the world. The most celebrated mines of the county are the "Jerome" group, or United Verde, near Jerome, and the "Congress," and these as producers may be termed world-beaters, but there are within the county many others that are steadily producing year by year and rolling up a handsome fortune for their energetic owners.

Some thirty miles south of Prescott, at and near Myers Station, on the route of travel between Southern and Northern Arizona, is a great bed or quarry of Mexican onyx, cropping out over at least one hundred acres in extent. This stone is scientifically called travertine, and takes its name from the Latin appellation of Lapis Tiberius, which was given to it from having been used by the Emperor Tiberius as the building stone in the Coliseum, erected at his instigation in the city of Rome, when that city was the center of the world. From whence the haughty Roman obtained his building material has not come to light up to the present time. To the modern world the existence of travertine has been unknown outside of some rather small quarries in the Mexican State of Pueblo, until the discovery of this large body near Myers Station in this county. The great demand for this beautiful stone for building purposes within a few years has nearly exhausted the Mexican mines; so much so that a scarcity has been feared and the value has advanced nearly twenty dollars per cubic foot for the clear and well-colored material. To the man who has not made geology a study, this quarry presents almost as many interesting subjects as it does to the geological professor. Its beautiful colors of black, white, red, emerald, pink, opaline, translucent old gold, russet, purple and all their varying tints and shades, make up a combination never, perhaps, surpassed in stone, while the vagaries that nature has shown in various and ever-changing combinations produce an exquisite effect. Some day this onyx claim will be of great value.

Next to mining comes stock-raising. While the valley regions and the mountains are not altogether lacking in this respect, many of the mountain valleys that have not been brought under cultivation for the raising of cereals are fairly adapted for the raising of stock, and water is- being developed more and more every year; the lack of a sufficiency of water has been the drawback to its being a great stock county.

The mountains are filled with minerals, but in addition are covered with nutritious grasses, and the climate is such that stock rarely need be sheltered or winter-fed.

Hardy enterprising men are settling in, and each year water is developed at points heretofore considered to be waterless, and wells at depth produce the life-giving fluid in abundance. At small expense reservoirs might be constructed and filled with the surplus water that is allowed to run to waste during the periodical rains. By this means enough water could be impounded to supply the requirements of a larger amount of stock than is now done; or the water can be used for irrigating the soil for agricultural purposes; in either way, very remunerative for the industrious and thrifty farmer.

In this section of the Territory, including this county, all grasses and forage plants cure standing, and they are constantly increasing in variety. In the higher altitude, even up to an elevation of 9,000 feet, is found the pine grass. This is a bunch grass; it grows thick and high, affording an excellent range in summer, and is of great fattening qualities. This grass grows green in winter under the snow, and is a main dependence at that season as food for stock. The bunch grass of these elevated table-lands of this county is the same as that of Montana, which is the chief dependence of the stockmen of that State for their vast herds through winter and summer.

On the lower table-lands these grasses do not grow, but their places are taken by the white and black grama. The white is the hardier, and in most places the more prevalent, though in some localities, and on a rather lower level, the black grama grows luxuriantly. The black mesa is given its name from the abundant growth of this peculiar grass there. Both the white and the black grama are very nutritious, and are superior foods for all kinds of stock. The white grama is used most extensively for making hay. There are many other excellent forage plants besides these "stand-bys" that contribute largely to the sustenance of stock in an Arizona winter. The white sage, the chief dependence of Nevada stockmen, is also largely distributed over the vast stock ranges of this county, and forms no insignificant part of the stock food in winter. There is another variety of grass called Mormon tea, a good food-plant, having medicinal qualities of a high order. The green sage usually grows near the white sage, but is mostly a food for sheep. The manzanita is much fed upon by sheep, while the chincapin, with a rabbit-ear leaf, may be considered equal to the white sage for winter feed for sheep. There is a peculiar grass or weed, found mostly in the valley of the Verde River, called elm weed, which derives its name from having something of the taste of slippery elm bark. Sheep fed upon it get fat in a short time. When rains commence, the "six weeks" grass at once starts up and matures in that time; hence the name.

The grass probably of greatest importance in stock-raising for this county is of California importation, brought in with the sheep that came from that State with the seeds of this valuable grass, alfileria, in their fleece. This grass grows as a vine, from six to eight feet in length, with shoots putting off from the main vine ten or twelve inches, making a perfect mat of the finest feed in the world for stock of all kinds, and in this dry climate it lasts until rains commence again. Another excellent forage plant seldom mentioned by writers is the wild pea, growing in patches of an acre or so in mountain regions, where other plants seldom grow. It forms no sod, but is hardy and very nutritious. It grows at higher altitudes than bunch grass, and has been found over 9,000 feet above sea-level. The pea itself has as many nutritive qualities as corn, and horses and sheep will leave their accustomed ranges to get at the pea fields after frost has killed the vines.

A grass known as blue-stem is more world-wide, being much in evidence over the Southwest, forming the basis of the heavy hay exports of Kansas and of Las Vegas, New Mexico, from which points it is shipped over a large portion of the West and Southwest and even to Eastern points. This grass properly cured makes the most nutritious hay, and grows anywhere it once takes root, finding sustenance on lava-covered hills where other plants will not flourish. It is a grass that propagates itself rapidly when once introduced. Where a few years ago there was but little of it, now vast stretches are covered, and when the growth is matured it makes a good hay or feed, as with rain, even after the greatest drouth, it turns green again. This is the hardiest and perhaps most useful of all the native grasses.

The first regularly organized body of mining men to put foot in what is now the county of Yavapai was the historical Walker party. They met in Contra Costa County, Cal., May 7, 1863, leaving for Arizona soon after, and took up their residence on what is now known as Groom Creek. Twenty-five composed this party, and all are believed to have passed over the great divide at this writing (1903).

In November, 1863, a party of twenty-four men arrived from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among them were Ed Peck and Lew Walters, who afterwards became residents of Prescott. As soon as the lumber for sluice-boxes could be whip-sawed out and the sluices gotten ready, members of this party commenced operations upon Granite Creek, washing for gold. This creek, now generally a "dry" stream, at that time carried considerable water for four or five miles above where Prescott now is, and many men were soon at work washing for the precious gold. Another feature of this stream in those pioneer days, at which persons who have only known it in recent years, may indulge in an incredulous smile upon hearing, is that it afforded a fine variety of mountain trout, which contributed materially to the luxury of many a miner's table, in those days when luxuries were scarce. The waters seem to have withdrawn from the face of civilization, as at this time there is no water in Granite Creek, except when a heavy rain falls, and then only for a few hours.

This county, in her early settlement by civilized man, had the same difficulties to contend with as other sections of Arizona, from the warlike and treacherous Apache Indian ; and very many of the first settlers were cut down in their prime by these inveterate foes to all civilization. Where one brave man fell another took his place, and today this county stands well to the front,. with the foremost in the Territory, in the production of the precious metals, besides being well up in other products, both useful and necessary.

Prescott, the county seat, and former capital of the Territory, is now a very beautiful city of fully 5,000 inhabitants, and is an important mining center; and owing to the banking facilities heavy mining transactions are frequently accomplished at this place, without having to call upon greater money centers. Prescott has as fine hotels as can be found in the Southwest, except Los Angeles, and it is doubtful if they can be excelled there. There are electric lights, but no street cars yet. The water-works are unsurpassed by any other town or city in the Territory or elsewhere. Owing to the energy of the enterprising population, water is brought in pipes 22 miles from springs in Chino Valley.

The city has numerous church edifices, and the people are devout in proportion. Denominations are, Catholic, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists (North and South), Baptists (Hard and Soft-shell), Congregational- ists, Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, Divine Healers, etc. The county is liberally supplied with schools, so much so that every child who wishes to do so can acquire a liberal education without leaving the county. There are three newspapers published at Prescott, both daily and weekly,—Journal-Miner, Republican, and Courier, Democratic, and one neutral.

The great interest of this county now, and for many years to come, will be mining for the precious metals. The development in this respect in the last few years has been phenomenal. This county alone has sent into the world's markets as much gold and silver as far-off frozen Alaska, and yet it has been demonstrated that what has been produced is but a small fraction of what will be produced in the future.

This county is largely in the mountains of Central Arizona, and consists of mountain and rolling valleys, many of them of considerable extent. Much of the soil of these valleys is very fine, and in years, when that section is favored with sufficient rains, they produce magnificently; but such years are too uncertain for farming purposes, and the remedy must be in artesian water, which can be obtained in almost any of these valleys by going to a depth not to exceed 2,000 feet. Each well will flow water enough to irrigate ten acres of land, maybe a little more; so it is easy to see what a vast body of land, in this county alone, can be rendered a certain producer by the expenditure of a little money and labor. Even now considerable is done in the way of raising cattle, though in the long drouths to which Arizona is subject whole herds perish for want of water.

The great industry upon which reliance is placed for the subsistence and prosperity of the people is mining, and the mines of this county stand high in the financial marts of the world as producers.

The great mining camp of Jerome yields heavily in gold, silver and copper. This camp is thirty-five (fifty-two by wagon-road) miles northeast of the city of Prescott, and the amount of money expended here in development work and machinery is something almost marvelous, running up into millions of dollars. This mine, or system of mines, now belonging to Senator Clarke of Montana, yields a net revenue that is princely, and exceeds that of many European kingdoms. The net revenue from these properties has been over nine millions of dollars a year for several years, so that Senator Clarke may be put down as the richest private individual in the world. The enormous sum of eighty millions of dollars in gold coin was offered by an English syndicate for this property, a few months since, and declined.

It almost staggers belief when one realizes the immense wealth that has been taken out of the ground in Yavapai County within the last twenty years, and thrown into the channels of the world's commerce; yet, great as it has been, it is but a small fraction of what it will be in the next few years.

The altitude of Jerome is about 6,000 feet above sea-level, which gives the place a cool and pleasant climate in summer and not excessively cold in winter. The Congress mine, while a great producer, is second to Jerome. There are many other mines in the county, at different points, that have been, and are being, operated with great profit to their fortunate owners, and benefit to the community at large, enabling the county to have a tax-roll of over $5,000,000 of assessable values, and this while mines are not taxed,— only the improvements.

The city of Prescott is 136 miles, by railroad, nearly north from Phoenix, and is the old and first capital of the Territory. It is a pleasant and beautiful city among Yavapai hills, at an altitude of 6,400 feet, which gives it a delightful summer climate. The town has a population now of about 4,500 people, and is mathematically laid out,—wide streets, crossing each other at right angles and upon the cardinal points of the compass, well paved and kept in good order. There are many fine buildings in the city, all of brick. There are three heavy banks that are rendered necessary by the great mining transactions here accomplished, and with the proper security almost any amount of money can be raised at short notice.

This county, with resources sufficient for an empire in a former age of the world, is but one of the thirteen counties of Arizona, and it is hard to say which has the greatest natural resources.—"Where all are kings, who shall take the precedence ? "

The assessed valuation of this county for taxation was, to be exact, for the year 1903, $5,801,017.99.

Source: The History of Arizona: From the Earliest Times Known to the People of Europe to 1903 By Sidney Randolph De Long, Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society Published by The Whitaker & Ray company, 1905

This page last updated on -- 6 Jun 2013

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