No one would have ever come to the desert Southwest if it weren’t for the search of minerals. Coronado got lost seeking gold in Cibola but ended up finding it in Southern Arizona. He also found Native Americans from the Sinagua (without water) tribe living peaceably on the land. Arizona is rich in minerals and people came here to mine. The Anglo Saxons, the white guys, were the first to come after the Native Americans to look for minerals. Gold, Silver, and Copper. Traders, cattle ranchers, farmers, and homesteaders followed. Some of the mines are still in use and others have been abandoned. Nearly every great fortune of the West was made in mining.
I wasn’t looking for minerals when I started out on my four-day excursion on 89A, one of the first highways constructed in Arizona. I was exploring. Just like Coronado, I didn’t find gold or silver. I found copper. Not in the ground, but in a museum. Copper from all over the world. The museum is in Clarkdale, a booming mining town that now caters to tourists and retirees.
The two settlements of Clarkdale and Tuzigoot have some similarities.
Clark is best known as one of the three “Copper Kings” of Butte, Montana, along with Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze. In 1935, Phelps Dodge Mining Corp. purchased the United Verde Copper Company for $22,800,000.00 and operated the mine until its closing in 1953.
The first mining claims in Clarkdale were made by the Irish in 1876. William A Clark arrived in town and purchased the United Verde Copper Company in 1888 for $80,000. He bought out the Irish who had also laid claim to the land. He named the town of Clarkdale after himself. Doesn’t everyone want a town named after them? The West was wild and just about anyone whose pockets were lined with cash was free to do what they wanted. Clark was one of those prosperous guys. He started mining “chalcopyrite”, referred to as “fool’s” gold. Chalcopyrite was mined in the town of Jerome about 40 miles from Clarkdale between 1876 and 1953. This was no easy task considering the physical labor and expense it took to bring the chalcopyrite forty miles down very steep mountains. It was Clark who was responsible for bringing in the narrow-gauge railroad which boasted 187 curves and 28 bridges in the last 14 miles of its 27-mile run, making it one of the largest copper mining operations in Arizona. The “J” for Jerome can be seen painted on the mountain when standing in Clarkdale. The smelting mill in Clarkdale was the major source of employment. The process of smelting was to take the oxygen from the ore and leave the metal behind. Clarkdale processed the chalcopyrite into copper from 1913-1953.
William Andrews Clark was a man with three great ambitions in his lifetime. One of those ambitions was to own a town that would be one of the most modern mining towns in the world. Clarkdale, a town which bore his name, would be such a town.
Mr. Clark needed a place to house his employees. Before the idea of neighborhoods, people built their houses where there was land. Freestyle camping. Mr. Clark didn’t want this kind of haphazard living style. He wanted his workers to be close together and he wanted a design. What he really wanted was control. The concept of company housing began. Clarkdale was the first “neighborhood design” to be developed in the state of Arizona. Construction started in 1912 and continued until 1930. The town had 560 dwellings and homes, and two hotels. Before a home was built it had to be approved by Clark or his son.
The first house he built was the Pilot House in 1912. It was two stories tall and made of concrete. Clark didn’t like the idea at first because it was too expensive for the number of homes he wanted to build. The bedrooms of the house were rented out to the men who worked in the smelter. Workers slept in eight-hour shifts. When one worker woke up, another took his place in bed. That made space for three people to rent at the same time. There were limited opportunities for shift workers in their daily living.
The town was divided into four sections: Upper Town, Lower Town, Patio Town, and Santa Fe town.
Mr. Clark believed the “well housed and contented employees were an asset to the company”.
The Bungalow or Craftsman style homes were built for the white people. These were engineers and executives. Fifty-five of these homes were built from 1915-1917. They were built with bricks produced in a factory in Clarkdale. They were low cost, simple living quarters with an artistic touch to the American trying to get by with modest means. In 1912 workers earned $630 a year. The rents started at $15 per month for smaller homes and $45 for larger homes. Wide boulevards, large lots, and a great assortment of home designs made up the housing. A park in the middle of the city served as a place for the “white folks” to get together and socialize. Services included power, light, water, and sewer. There was a police force, street maintenance, garbage collection, and volunteer firefighters. All residents were required to keep the premises and yards clean. Clark did not allow his employees to own the land. They were required to lease.
Lower Town was blue collar. These homes were cheaper than the homes in Upper Town. Every home was identical in design. The people living in Lower Town had very low salaries.
Lower Town homes have three sizes of Neoclassical, small single family, large single family and duplex. Small homes have a sleeping porch recessed into one corner. Large homes have a sleeping veranda under a shed roof. The yards were small and life was contained in the home. The people who lived in Lower Town or the Patio Homes were not invited to mix with the Upper Town folks. They had their own swimming pool and ballparks.
Patio Park was designed for immigrant Mexican laborers. There was an open courtyard between two houses. This was referred to as the patio. Mr. Clark felt that the Mexicans liked being outside. Mexican culture is a very close culture and they like to be with each other and socializing. This neighborhood still exists and is inhabited by Mexicans in this day.
Santa Fe Town/Rio Vista
The last neighborhoods were the Rio Vista and Santa Fe town. Houses sold for $1,250-$2,225 in 1912. Duplexes had front and rear facing gables and porches at each end used as sleeping quarters.
The Rio Vista “View of the River” was near the Verde River. People built their own homes and rented the land from the UVCC. Railroad workers built their homes between Lower Town and Patio Park and called it Santa Fe after the railroad company. It also had the name Twittyville, E Twitty, the train master for the UVCC.
The Mine Closes
In 1917, the population increased to 4,200. The population in 1920 was 5,000. In 1960 copper prices dropped and the mines were closed. After the mines closed the population dropped to 500. The people who live in Clarkdale are retirees, hospital workers, and work in the tourism industry. Thirty percent of the population is Hispanic and 400 are Native Americans.
It was not easy to travel anywhere out of Clarksdale. No cars nor roads. In 1927 highway 89A was completed.
In the twelfth century, land near Clarkdale was occupied by the Sinagua tribe. Sinagua is Spanish for “without water”. The only indication of their life is a cluster of rocks representing past buildings on top of a small sandstone ridge close to the Verde River. There were 250 people living in 80 rooms. The village was abandoned sometime in the 15th century.
Tuzigoot means “cracked water”. It was built between 1100-1450 AD. The building was two stories high and had 110 rooms. The Natives depended on rain to help grow their crops. They hunted deer, antelope, rabbits, and ducks. They used salt to make their food taste better and keep from spoiling. They made axes, knives, hammers, jewelry from shells, turquoise and red stone. They grew cotton and wove textiles. Mining was also a part of their lives. They began to extract argillite and copper from the mines. The village was deserted for a variety of reasons. It could have been because of lack of
rain, attacked by another tribe, or disease.
There was a volcano eruption (Sunset Crater) not far from the city of Flagstaff. People did not have access to news channels and became scared and left.