Memories > Kingman a Short History
Kingman, Arizona - A Short History
By Dan W. Messersmith
© 2000 All Rights Reserved
Printed with permission from the Author
The area of Beale’s Springs, near Kingman, can trace its Euro-American history to 1859 when work parties of the Beale Wagon Road discovered and improved the site.  Beale called it Bishop’s Springs in honor of his colleague who found the springs.  By 1863, the site was commonly know as Beale’s Springs and became a way station on the Mohave and Prescott Toll Road in 1864.  During the Hualapai War (1866-70), the site was a temporary camp for the military in an attempt to protect the mails.  Between 1871-74 the area was officially designated Camp Beale’s Springs and was used as a temporary Indian Reservation.  The water from beale’s Springs would play an important part in the establishment of a nearby railroad siding on the new Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.

Kingman was founded in 1882, with very modest beginnings.  Its basic origin was as a simple railroad siding near Beale’s Springs in the Middleton Section along the newly constructed route of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.

By December the new settlement was already the site of a fledgling sampling works installed by Chamberlain and Higby.

In an article in the Alta Arizona indicates that Kingman consists of: a hotel, 43 1/2’ x73 1/2’, a temporary store building, 20’ x 40’ for use by Conrad Shenfield, and a saloon building, built and owned by Jack Ryan.  We also know from some early pictures that a small number of tent buildings were in use and provided for restaurant, laundry, and mining office operations.  The location of this commercial strip was the area between Third and Fifth streets on what is now Andy Devine Avenue.  According to the 1883 tax rolls, Kingman included: one tent, used as a restaurant, one tent, used as a residence, a lumber house known as Ryan’s and Lassel’s Saloon, a hotel run by B.H. Spear and a stable and corral with one horse. Truly, it can be said, the Kingman was once a one horse town! 

Early in March, Conrad Shenfield opened a general merchandise store in Kingman and on March 22; the Kingman Post Office was established with Edward F. Thompson serving as the first postmaster.  He was followed by William H. Taggart in May 29, 1883.  Even then, there were rumors that this new community would be a successful concern.  The concern was enough for the Mohave County Miner, then located in Mineral Park, to publish the following:
• “It is hardly possible how Kingman will be of very much importance...”
• “There will be, of course, a great baa-baa and a little wool...”
• referring to the sale of town lots, “...look well before you leap...”
• “...Kingman, and all other schemes not founded on a legitimate basis will die an ignominious death and be buried beneath its own land.”
• “I saw the water works showing up yesterday, a contractors water tank and the water peddled in a pail.”

In spite of the Miner’s best efforts to downplay the possibility of Kingman ever amounting to much, over the next five years, the townsite continued to prosper as a supply center for the area mines, as well as a commercial center for travelers through the area.

In May, W.H. Taggart purchased the business of Conrad Shenfield.  The business consisted of general merchandise and general forwarding.

In June a movement was afoot to rename Kingman to Beale City.  The purpose was to recognize the fact that Beale had “Discovered” the area when he improved Bishop’s Springs (Beale’s Springs) during his building of a wagon road d through the region.

William H. Lake was one of the first merchants in Kingman opening a store in 1883.  He ran for Sheriff in 1888 and was elected to that position.

In January, W.J. Belden appears to have the distinction of being the first person to die and be buries in the new settlement of Kingman.

Conrad Shenfield, a railroad contractor, was also a land speculator.  using his connections with the railroad to layout town sites along the track and develop buyers for the lots within the town sites.  Shenfield had purchased the 160-acre town site from Walter G. Middleton for $1,000 in november 1884.  Other than his connection with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, there is very little information known about Middleton and less about his legal claim to the 160 acres of land he sold to Shenfield.  Shenfield began to develop and sell lots in the new town.  It appears he ran afoul of the law when it was found he was selling public lands and he Quickly ceased his activities.  Into this void would step Judge John M. Murphy and his friends.

In March, the  Mohave County Miner reported, “Deputy U.S. Mineral Surveyor Otto F. Kuencer has been ordered by the Land Department to make a new survey of the Kingman town-site, and left [Mineral Park] last Sunday for that purpose.  We understand that the necessary steps to complete the patent to the town-site will be taken at once.”

Before Shenfield could arrange for a clear title, it appears that E.F. Thompson (Shenfield’s local agent.), T.L. Ayers, and W.S. Clarke were appointed “commissioners” set up a town plat and with the help of Judge J.M. Murphy, as county Judge, set to assessed a “tax” to have homesteaders file titles to their lots.  The “tax” was to be assessed to recover the expenses incurred by the survey and record the town lots.  The assessments tended to vary depending upon who you were and probably what political party to which you happened to belong.  It appears that the Judge got to keep the “tax” and records show that “Commissioners” got some very choice property for very little “tax”, certainly far less than many other people.

 Part Two
Continued from last month’s issue

In January the new town was a host to a Masquerade, the first ever held in Mohave County.  The dance was held in Whipple Hall. ...(Where the hall was located is not known to this author.)  The hall was described as, “...quite large enough, with the addition, which had been added, on one side, part of it serving as a music stand and the remainder as ladies’ dressing room.  The end of the hall opened into a tent containing a stove, table and chairs, which answered as a lounging room for those not dancing.”

Throughout the year, Judge Murphy continued his work of registering Kingman lots and assessing his “tax”.

In November, the new Kingman schoolhouse was completed.  It was a wooden structure 18’ X 40’.  It was located on the SW corner of 4th and Oak Streets.

In December, W.H. Taggart & Co. began the erection of a two-story building.  The structure would be 24’ wide and 60’ long.  The bottom floor would be used, as the future home of the Mohave County Miner and the upper floor would have a hall of 24’ X 48’ with a hallway and two anterooms on the front end of the building.  The upper floor would be used as a public hall.

 In January 1887, Frank Garner shipped forty-three head of cattle from Kingman to Los Angeles, California.  This was the first shipment of cattle from Kingman via the railroad.

In early 1887, Shenfield came back into the picture and purchased, from Murphy, all of the unclaimed lots-about 60% of the total that had been available.  (Murphy had not been reelected to his county judge post and wanted to collect as much of the “taxes” as he could before the new judge took over.)

During this year, the Blakely Home (NE corner 5th & Spring) was built.

The first church in Kingman was organized on February 10, 1887.  The methodist Episcopal Church of Kingman was formed and the first directors of the organization were Gus W. Beecher, E. L. Burdick, William G. Blakely, Ebenezer “Eb” Williams and Eugene D. Whipple.  Col. L. C. Almond, attorney for Conrad Shenfield, donated lots 2, 4 and 6 of block 15 in the Kingman Townsite for the location of the church.

The Kingman Hotel built by Ben H. Spear and leased and operated by J. L. Nelson, opened for business in October.

The town was both populous and prosperous enough to win the November election that moved the county seat form Mineral Park.  Kingman got 271 votes and the town’s strongest competitor for the county seat was, interestingly enough, Hackberry, which got 132 votes.  Mineral Park received only 93 votes.  One can speculate that the Mineral Park merchants were interested in reducing their costs by being nearer the railroad and as most of them already had some economic connection in the new town, it would be to their advantage to relocate there.

The Mohave County Miner, once the biggest critic of moving the county seat to Kingman, gave in to economic reality and made the move form Mineral Park to the new county seat and became a strong promoter of the area.

In December, H. H. Watkins leased the corner room of the Luthy block at 4th and Front Street for the future home of his drug store.  (This is the NE corner of the intersection of 4th and Andy Devine today.)  William H. Hardy had his warehouse near the tracks torn down and the lumber moved to a location several hundred feet to the south where smaller buildings were constructed.  These buildings would become Hardy’s homesite in Kingman and were located on the SW corner of 4th and South Front (Topeka) streets.

 In the May 12, 1888 edition of the Mohave County Miner, an article listed the businesses currently in Kingman.  It reflects both a promotional and protectionist viewpoint. 


      The MINER has received numerous inquiries as to the various kinds of business represented in Kingman, and herewith is given a list of the business houses:
      Two general stores, each of which carry a stock of general merchandise ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.  One drug store, which is the best fitted and arranged and carries a larger stock than any like establishment in the Territory.  One hotel, the largest and best in Northern Arizona, five saloons, three restaurants, three feed and livery stables, one blacksmith shop, one lumber yard, four lodging houses, one butcher shop, one jewelry store, one shoe shop, two carpenter shops, one boarding house, two laundries, one newspaper and sampling works.  The medical profession has two representatives and the legal profession has four.
      At present all lines of business are fully represented here, and unless there is a marked increase in our population additional business ventures will not pay.

In June, Kingman formed its first baseball club and played a game against nine men from the general public.  It was reported that the club would recruit some more local players and then be ready to play clubs from neighboring communities.

The population of Kingman was approximately 300.  Mrs. J. C. Ogden was the teacher of the public school and she began the 1890-91 school year with twenty-five students.

William H. Hardy, a pioneer who had been involved with the development of Mohave County from its beginnings in 1864, began a well drilling business, serving the needs of the growing population.  William Aitken, a carpenter and contactor was just as busy building windmills for all of the new wells going in.

...Ross and John Blakely, sons of Judge Blakely, leased the hardy Stables and were conducting a livery business.

H. H. Watkins brought in an “Arctic Soda Fountain” for use in his drug store.

F. F. brawn, with voluntary subscription funding of local citizens, put eighteen men to work building a new “short line road” to Stockton Hill.  We know this road today as White Cliffs Road.  (White Cliffs has been said to be part of Beale’s Wagon Road, Hardy’s Toll Road, etc.--none of which is correct.)

 In January, Harvey Hubbs sold his Hubbs House [hotel], on Front Street [Andy Devine Ave.] to Thomas Baker for $4,000.

March marked the opening of Kingman’s “new burial ground west of and outside of said town limits.”  All citizens who had friends or relatives buried within the town limits were directed to move them, at their own expense, to the new site.  Those not moved within 30 days would be moved by order of the Board of Supervisors and the costs born by all the residents of Kingman.  The cemetery was located on the current site of the football field of Kingman High School’s, South Campus.  Most of the marked or identifiable graves were moved to the current Mountainview Cemetery site when the High School built the football field.

Another “first” for Kingman was a “prize Fight” that was held between a stranger named McCaffrey and a local black resident named John Lee.  The purse was $30 and Mccaffrey “won” the fight although he was unconscious, having been hit on the head with a whiskey bottle by Lee.  As the fight had progressed, it became more of a brawl.  McCaffrey attacked Lee in Lee’s corner and Lee responded with the blow to McCaffrey’s head with the bottle.  Although knocked helpless, McCaffrey was awarded the prize after the spectators ganged up on Lee and beat him unmercifully.

In April, Harvey Hubbs was having a well sunk on his lots south of the railroad, and was making plans to build a house at the site.  That house, now listed on the national Historical Register, sits in the center of a small city park and a pump house that covers one of Kingman’s earliest wells is still standing.  The well was dug by Hardy’s crews.

Crozier and Mackenzie began working on their new slaughterhouse just east of town, in what is now known as Slaughterhouse Canyon.

 A telephone line was put in between the railroad depot and the Hubb’s House.  Thomas Baker (owner and operator of the Hubbs House) was responsible for the little line, and it was reported that it indicated that there was a need for telephone service on a larger scale.

J.R. Halsey provided his wife a “safety” bicycle that he purchased on a trip to Denver, Colorado.  Halsey and his partner Lynch ran Kingman’s Arizona Sampling Works.

In May, Gaddis & Co. merged with the Kingman Mercantile Company.  The new company had George M. Bowers as president, C.E. Bowers as secretary and F.L. Smith as treasurer.  O.D.M. Gaddis sold his interest to the other members and left the company.

In December, Anson Smith decided to the take the Mohave County Miner from weekly to daily.

In, January, Anson Smith decided he could not keep up and changed to Mohave County Miner back to a weekly edition.

Kingman’s barber, David Kelleher, was doing well enough to build an addition on his house located on the “Hubb’s ranch” south of town.

Mulligan’s and Hubb’s miner’s Exchange Saloon was doing a good business and had been the target of several burglaries throughout the year.

In April, eight new buildings were under construction in town, three if which were to be business establishments.  One of these structures was the Lake Building on Fourth and Front Streets.  This building would house the new Kingman Mercantile Company on the lower floor.

In July, a new Brick Yard was out in operation and with six men at work at the site.  By the end of August, they had 200,000 bricks on fire in the kiln.  The brick was destined to be use in the new Kingman Public School (the Little red Schoolhouse).

D. M. McKenney opened his law office in Kingman.  His specialty was real estate and mining.  His office was located on the second floor of the new Lake Building.  As Mr. McKenney was also 80 years old, he became the oldest practicing attorney in Mohave County.

Kingman’s new public school was opened at the southwest corner of Fourth and Oak Streets.  The red brick structure was destined to have a long useful live in Kingman.  It replaced the earlier wooden structure which had occupied the same site.  The older schoolhouse was sold to L.O. Cowan for $250 and was moved to the area where St. Mary’s Church now resides.  Cowan remolded it into a residence.

The new school included a lecture room of 20’ x 55’, two classrooms of 20’ x 24’, a hall of 8’ x 55’, a teachers room of 6’ x 8’ and a cloakroom of 6’ x 11’6”.  The building cost is estimated to be $4,900 and $1,100 will be used to furnish the new building.

In July, the Kingman Bottling works, then run by John Dillon, was producing various bottled soft drinks as well as Schlitz beer.  By November, the company had outgrown its quarters on Front (Andy Devine Avenue) Street and was erecting a new building on Beale Street.

August 1, 1897 was the opening day for one of Kingman’s Chinese restaurants.  Wung Sing promised in his advertisement to provide meals on the European (you pay for what you get) plan.

Needles, California took a little jab from the Mohave County Miner when the paper ran the following article.  “A Needles minister had for his subject last Sunday evening “Heaven is Here,” and that is why Kingman people don’t go to heaven.

The population of the community was estimated to be about 700 in a Mohave County Miner article.  It is possible that the number is high, as the article was a promotional piece by the Miner expounding on the economic and mining opportunities available in Mohave County.

In July, the Miner called for serious consideration of the incorporation of Kingman.

The Arizona and Utah Railroad opened for business with Kingman serving as one end of the line and Chloride the other.  This connection to the main AT&SFRR line speaks well of both Chloride’s mineral boom at the time and Kingman’s ability to serve as a main supply center from the main line.  The Stockton Hill mines and other mining areas in the Cerbat Mountains were going strong and people and supplies poured into and through Kingman. 

In January, in an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors, provisions were made for establishing an official Kingman Township town plat creating streets and alleys.  The population was approximately 500.

Henry Lovin grubstaked a miner who, in turn, located the rich veins of the Gold Road mines.  This discovery in the Black Mountains would have a very large economic impact on Kingman.

In October, Lovin and Withers opened their own store at the northwest corner of Fourth and Front Streets.  (Fourth and Andy Devine) Henry Lovin had set about to invest his new wealth into business.

 In June, Lewis J. Lassell built a fireproof assay office on his lots on Beale Street.
 During the same time, the new telephone line was being strung from Kingman to Gold Road and other camps pf the Black Mountains.

 The Elks Hall was opened at the NW corner of 4th and Oak Streets.

To be continued in next month’s issue

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Copyright © 2008 Mohave Pioneers Historical Society
Mohave Museum of History and Arts
400 West Beale Street
Kingman, Arizona 86401