Tag Archives: mining

Audrey Headframe Park



Just down the road from the Jerome State Historic Park is the Audrey Headframe Park. It is a tiny “park” which includes a portable toilet and lots of mining equipment. The park is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm. A sign on the fence surrounding the park says there is a $2 donation requested per person, but when I visited (on a Saturday morning in February 2016) no one was collecting money at the gate. I don’t recall a drop box for donations either.

The Audrey Headframe is the largest wooden headframe still standing in Arizona. It was completed in 1918, and towers over the mine shaft, which is 1,900 feet deep.


According to the TechnoMine webpage,

This photo shows the Audrey Headframe, the largest wooden headframe still standing in Arizona.

This photo shows the Audrey Headframe, the largest wooden headframe still standing in Arizona.

Headframes…are structures present over the mine-shafts and are used to house the skips. It supports the hoists and is used to transport the workers and materials in and out of the underground mine…Headframes are also known by different names like gallows frame, winding tower, hoist frame, pit frame, shaft-head frame, or headgear.

The reference to “skips” in the explanation of headframes led me to the Encyclopædia Britannica which says,

Ore is transported to the surface in special conveyances called skips.

Of course, Jerome got its start as a mining town, so it makes sense that artifacts from the history of mining are displayed prominently.

Wikipedia says,

Jerome is a town in the Black Hills of Yavapai County in the State of Arizona. Founded in the late 19th century on Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley, it is more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above sea level.

This poster compares the depth of the Audrey mine shaft to the heights of the Eiffel Tower, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Great Pyramid.

This poster compares the depth of the Audrey mine shaft to the heights of the Eiffel Tower, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Great Pyramid.

The town owes its existence mainly to two ore bodies that formed about 1.75 billion years ago along a ring fault in the caldera of an undersea volcano….In the late 19th century, the United Verde Mine, developed by William A. Clark, extracted ore bearing copper, gold, silver, and other metals from the larger of the two. The United Verde Extension (UVX) Mine, owned by James Douglas, Jr., depended on the other huge deposit. In total, the copper deposits discovered in the vicinity of Jerome were among the richest ever found in any time or place.


I think this is a cage used to lower miners down the shaft and into the mine. I didn’t make any notes when I took the photo, and I can’t find confirmation on the internet.

Because I’ve studied a bit about U.S. labor history, I  was interested to learn how the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was involved in organizing miners in Jerome. According to the aforementioned Wikipedia article,

In 1917, two miners’ strikes involving the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which had been organizing strikes elsewhere in Arizona and other states, took place in Jerome. Seen as a threat by business interests as well as other labor unions, the Wobblies, as they were called, were subject nationally to sometimes violent harassment. The labor situation in Jerome was complicated at the time by the existence of three separate labor unions—the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (MMSW); the Liga Protectora Latina, which represented about 500 Mexican miners in Jerome; and the IWW. The MMSW, which in May called a strike against United Verde, regarded the rival IWW with animosity and would not recognize it as legitimate. In response, the IWW members threatened to break the strike. Under pressure, the MMSW voted 467 to 431 to settle for less than they wanted.[35]

In July, the IWW called for a strike against all the mines in the district. In this case, the MMSW voted 470 to 194 against striking. Three days later, about 250 armed vigilantes rounded up at least 60 suspected IWW members, loaded them onto a railroad cattle car, and shipped

This photo shows my feet standing on the glass covering the top of the 1,900 feet deep shaft.

This photo shows my feet standing on the glass covering the top of the 1,900 feet deep shaft.

them out of town. Nine were arrested and jailed temporarily in Prescott though never charged with a crime; others were taken to Needles, California, then to Kingman, Arizona, where they were released after promising to desist from labor agitation.[35]

More information about the “Jerome Deportation” (of the Wobblies) can be found on the town’s website.

I thought the coolest part of the park was standing on the glass over the mineshaft. The shaft is so deep, I couldn’t see the bottom. Even though the glass is thick and probably safe (or else the lawyers for the Jerome Historical Society would advise keeping people out of there), it was still a little scary to stand above the shaft and look down, down, down and never see the end.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Jerome, AZ


Cleopatra Hill in Jerome, AZ

A friend and I visited Jerome, AZ in February 2016. We arrived mid-morning and left mid-afternoon. We spent our day learning about the town’s history and walking around looking at the old buildings and the new art.

The town’s website says,

Located high on top of Cleopatra Hill (5,200 feet) between Prescott and Flagstaff is the historic copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona. Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Jerome was a copper mining camp, growing from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community. Four disastrous fires destroyed large sections of the town during its early history, resulting in the incorporation of the City of Jerome in 1899.

Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory. The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920’s.

Douglas Mansion Museum in the Jerome Historic Park, seen from a distance

This photo shows the Douglas Mansion in the Jerome Historic Park, seen from a distance. The Mansion houses a museum.

My friend and I started our day at the Douglas Mansion museum in the Jerome State Historic Park. Adults pay $7 admission to the park, but there is no additional charge to visit the museum.

The Jerome State Historic Park website has information about the mansion.

The Douglas Mansion has been an eye-catching landmark in Jerome since 1916, when James S. Douglas built it on the hill just above his Little Daisy Mine. This former home is now a museum devoted to the history of the Jerome area and the Douglas family. The museum features photographs, artifacts and minerals in addition to a video presentation and a 3-D model of the town with its underground mines.

I thought the admission fee was money well spent to learn about the history of the town. This museum was a joy to visit. The exhibits are nicely laid out and consideration obviously has gone into choosing artifacts to share. The items on display were very well-organized. It wasn’t overrun by stuff that was just old but not very interesting. Maybe because this is a state-run museum, there are funds and expertise available to do the exhibits well.

The rock room was GREAT! It housed a large variety of specimens Don’t miss the glow-in-the dark minerals in the

This piece of azurite and malachite is on display outside, not in the rock room, but it's a gorgeous specimen nonetheless.

This piece of azurite and malachite is on display outside, not in the rock room, but it’s a gorgeous specimen nonetheless.

small room on the side. Once you’re in the room, you press a button, the lights go out, and rocks light up in a variety of amazing colors. WOW!

I highly recommend  the short (half an hour or so) documentary about Jerome shown in the master bedroom. I learned a LOT about the town’s history from that video. When you arrive, ask the ranger when the next showing starts.

Parts of the documentary (like the ghost of a miner who narrates the movie) are a little cheesy, but the information I learned outweighed the silliness. (Perhaps the ghost character was there to make the film more interesting to children. Perhaps the filmmakers decided a movie about a ghost town required a ghost.)

Something I really appreciated about the documentary at the museum and the historical plaques s around town is the mater-of-fact presentation of Jerome’s rowdy past. The present-day citizens of Jerome don’t try to gloss over or clean up the town’s rough history. The good people of Jerome are proud of the town’s past as part of the Wild West. Yes, there were saloons in the town. There was gambling, yes sir, there was. Jerome had brothels and in those brothels were prostitutes, doing what prostitutes do. Jerome was a town of ruffians, and the current inhabitants want visitors to know all about it.

 The aforementioned Jerome SHP website gives more of the town’s history.
This building is a piece of Jerome's mining history visible from the state park. It is the Little Daisy Hotel, built in 1919 by the Phelps Dodge company as housing for their employees. It's now a private residence.

This building, visible from the state park, is a piece of Jerome’s mining history. It is the Little Daisy Hotel, built in 1919 by the Phelps Dodge company as housing for employees. It’s now a private residence.

Jerome’s modern history began in 1876 when three prospectors staked claims on rich copper deposits. They sold out to a group which formed the United Verde Copper Company in 1883. The resultant mining camp of board and canvas shacks was named in honor of Eugene Jerome, the venture’s principal backer. Hopes for the enterprise ran high, but the costs of operating, especially for transportation, outstripped profits, and the company folded in less than two years.
Wikipedia offers insight into to town’s past and present demographics.

The makeup of early Jerome differed greatly from the 21st-century version of the town. The original mining claims were filed by Whites, but as the mines were developed, workers of many nationalities arrived. Among these were people of Irish, Chinese, Italian, and Slavic origin who came to Jerome in the late 19th century. By the time of World War I, Mexican nationals were arriving in large numbers, and census figures suggest that in 1930 about 60 percent of the town’s residents were Latino.[54]

The ratio of females to males also varied greatly over time in Jerome. Census data from 1900 through 1950 show a gradual rise in the percentage of female residents, who accounted for only 22 percent of the population at the turn of the century but about 50 percent by mid-century.[56]

As of the census of 2000, there were 329 people, 182 households, and 84 families residing in the town.

Jerome is a fun and fascinating place to visit for anyone interest in the history of the Wild West, mining, or Arizona.

This photo shows a view of the mine from the Jerome State Historic Park.

This photo shows a view of the mine from the Jerome State Historic Park.

I took all of the photos in this post.

The New Cornelia Mine (Ajo, AZ)



Ajo is a town because of mining. According the the Ajo Chamber of Commerce website’s history page (http://www.ajochamber.com/explore/history-of-ajo/),

On the way to silver mines near Magdalena, Sonora, Tom Childs, Sr. and his party chanced upon the Ajo area in 1847 and stopped to mine the ore they found. Soon the Arizona Mining & Trading Company, formed by Peter M. Brady, a friend of Childs, worked the rich surface ores, shipping loads around Cape Horn [and] smelting in Swansea, Wales, in the mid 1850s. The mine closed when a ship sank off coast of Patagonia. Childs and other prospectors worked claims here; long supply lines and the lack of water discouraged large mining companies…

A wily promoter, A.J. Shotwell, enticed John Boddie of Missouri to help set up the St. Louis Copper Company in 1890s. Shotwell organized the rescue [of] Copper Company when bankruptcy threatened. This became the Cornelia, then the New Cornelia, named after Boddie’s first wife.

“Professor” F.L McGahan and Shotwell introduced the so-called vacuum smelter that supposedly channeled each type of molten ore to different spigots and ran perpetually on the initial fuel. Mcgahan [sic] conveniently slipped away from the demonstration model in Los Angeles –it exploded when been [sic] tested.

The first to develop the Ajo area profitable [sic] was John Campbell Greenway…He became general manager of the Calumet and the Arizona Mining Company. Dr. L.D. Ricketts and Greenway developed a leaching method to process the carbonate ore overburden. Greenway also located the well that still provides water to Ajo and directed the construction of the Plaza, the community’s focal point. Calumet and Phelps Dodge merged in 1931 and the mine became the new Cornelia Branch of Phelps Dodge, managed by Michael Curley…

Ajo continued as the quintessential southwestern mining town, with occasional strikes and shutdowns, until 1983. The strike that began in July that year crippled the community with acrimony on both sides. Though the mine struggled on with non-union labor, copper prices plummeted and so did Ajo. Mining stopped in 1985. P[helps] D[odge] remained a presence in the community but sold much of its holdings, including the Plaza and the company housing. The remaining mines [sic] property is now owned by Freeport-McMoran [sic] Gold and Silver, Inc., which merged with Phelps Dodge in 2007.

According to http://www.mindat.org/loc-3370.html, the New Cornelia IMG_4762

is a huge open pit operation  (about 3,000 feet long and nearly 2,000 feet wide) at 750 feet deep. Haulage was by internal railroad installed in the pit. Total production from 1917 through 1972 amounts to some 350,000,000 tons of ore…Higher grade ore was mined in the early years and lower grade ore in more recent years.

I picked up a sheet of “Mine Facts” at the Ajo visitor center. The question and answer format gives a lot of information about the mine.


Tell us about the open pit?

First, three green hills were leveled from 1916 to 1930. Each bench of the pit is forty feet deep. In all, it is 1 1/2 miles wide and 1 1/4 miles across. Currently it is 1100 feet deep.

And what about the lake at the bottom?

The water, about 90 to 100 feet deep in places, is spring fed…The color is from the copper sulfite.

How does this mine compare with others?

At one time the New Cornelia was the largest producer of copper in Arizona. In 1959 it was the third largest open-pit mine in the United States and the second largest copper producer in Arizonza.

There is a mine lookout and visitor center (open October through May) on Indian Village Road. I went out there IMG_4783early one morning before it got too hot. There was an elderly man standing outside the visitor center. When I asked him if the lookout was open, he told me it was. He told me a lot about himself and the mine.

He first came to Ajo with his father in 1949. He worked at the mine in the maintenance department for over 32 years. He told me that when he worked in the mine, equipment was expensive and men were cheap. He said that’s how thing are in China now, which is why there’s more mining going on in China than the U.S. He said there’s still copper in the mine, but it’s low grade, and right now it’s not profitable for Freeport-McMoRan to extract it. However, Freeport-McMoRan gets tax breaks on the mine, so it’s in the company’s best interest to hang on to the mine until it is again profitable to extract the copper.

Here’s more from the “Mine Facts” sheet:

Is the mine closed?

Yes, mining operations shut down in 1984 and the smelter closed in 1985. At its peak about 3000 were employed.

Did the mine close because of labor unrest?

No. The mine continued operating during and after the strike of 1983. Falling copper prices resulted in the closure of many Arizona mines in 1985.

Can the mine ever be re-opened?

A large quantity of low-grade ore remains. It depends upon the demand for copper and the plans of the owner. When the mine closed it was capable of producing 40,000 tons of copper annually.

The open pit mine is massive. It’s one of those things that is so big, my brain has trouble processing it. (Mine brain seems to have particular trouble with gigantic things made by people. I can look at a mountain or a giant sequoia and think, that’s HUGE, and my brain grasps it, understands it. But when I look at, say, the enormous football stadium at UT Austin or the New Cornelia Mine, I can feel my brain struggling to comprehend how such a thing could possibly exist.)

The wall of each terrace is 40 feet tall. Each “bench” (the flat part of the terraces) is 40 feet wide. When the mine was open, trains chugged around on those terraces.

(From the “Mine Facts” sheet:

How was the ore hauled up?

Tracks were laid down on the terraces, and then ore cars were loaded by steam shovels.)

I cannot put into words how big this mine is. Unfortunately, my photos don’t do justice to massiveness of the open pit. Trust me, it’s fantastic, in an Oh, no, what have we done? sort of way.


I took all of the photos in this post.