MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND ARTS
> White Hills, Arizona
|White Hills began inauspiciously when a Hualapai Indian
cowboy who went by the name of Jeff, was off-handedly
asked by Judge Henry Schaeffer “if he knew of any good
In 1894, a correspondent from the Arizona Republic, set many rumors aside when he interviewed Jeff, quoting the following:
“During the latter part of 1887, Hualapai Jeff was on his way toward the head of the canyon (now camp White Hills) in search of paint that he had been told existed in that neighborhood. He found both, the paint (oxide of iron) and a fine specimen of chloride of silver. He thought the specimen was worth keeping and later on, while in Mineral Park, he showed the sample to Louis Siebrecht who told him that it was iron ore with no value, so Jeff paid no more attention to his find.
“In the winter of 1891, a snow storm was raging and Frank Robinson asked Jeff to help in driving back some cattle, which had wandered from Gold Basin down the canyon toward the desert below White Hills (the mountain range.) Jeff... camped for one night near the place where he was getting paint, which he had found in 1887. . .he accidentally found a rich silver float. He said nothing at the time, but in Gold Basin a short time afterward, Judge Henry Schaeffer. . .asked Jeff if he knew of any good mine prospect. Jeff brought him a specimen and he offered Jeff $200 if he would show him the location. . .”
“Jeff accepted the offer. . .Schaeffer invited John Barnett and John Sullivan to join him for the trip to the location. . . with Jeff as guide. It was in May 1892 when the three men staked the following claims: Horn Silver, Occident, Grand Army (of the Republic), Chief of the Hills, Treasurer, Norma and Emma. . .” These three men formed a partnership, excluding Jeff. Judge Schaeffer had his two partners bond their interest to him for $10,000 backed by a side arrangement whereby they should have an equitable “divvy”. . .before he told them of the location. The Judge told everyone in July 1892 that no Indian was involved, that he found the original float years previous, and had spent that time since searching for it.
The scarcity of potable water and lack of tools slowed its growth only momentarily. The Judge and other miners gathered (200 by the third week!) to form the Indian Secret Mining District to have an authority available to keep track of claims. A few men gathered in Taggart’s tent store, debated and chose White Hills as the name for the new camp, versus Indian Secret or Schaefferville. A latecomer M. L. Vail, went to Prescott for a photographer, and mentioned to the local newspaper it should have been named “Silverado.” As more prospectors arrived upon hearing of the “strike,” a few “mild knockdowns” and a lawsuit over claim jumping indicated a major problem. . .that of accurate claim notices. Judge Schaeffer was among those who “became slightly confused as to the points of the compass”, and according to his words “avaricious people had the impudence to relocate some of the most valuable claims.”
The boom was on. In the shape of an “L” about 1 mile in length, countless buildings were erected - homes, a school, stores, laundries and 12 saloons (7 in a row on Main Street). Town lots went for $300. A post office came into being October 20, 1892 to be discontinued August 1914.
The rich shipments caught the attention of David Moffat, noted mining man of Denver, Colorado. He sent D. T. Root to investigate and in August 1893 Moffat and Root had consolidated most of the claims into one property under “White Hills Mining Company.” They immediately shipped a ten stamp mill from Denver and had it running early in 1894. At this time 500 men were working on leases, while still more men worked for the company. The mill was successful for two years, when the Moffat-Root Company sold out in April 1896 to an English company, the “White Hills Mining & Milling Company,” for $1,750,000. The new company gave the more than 500 lessees on the small claims notice to quit, in effect banishing them from the camp. Disposing of the old mill as junk, they built a 40 stamp mill for $150,000.
A 7-mile, 8” pipe line was constructed to springs guaranteed by a “water witch,” ignoring ample water in the mines for the old mill and promise of more in depth. A concrete reservoir of 1,000,000 gallons capacity was built, to hold the springs’ water and White Hills was provided with an up-to-date water supply system, including fire hydrants - which did not work - the gravity was insufficient for operation. An electric plant, $150,000, was constructed. Twenty employee houses were erected and a complete telephone system was installed. All this cost $350,000, even though considered wasteful management, the company was enabled to continue substantial production for 4 years because of the large quantity of good ore left by the first company and by the lessees.
For a good part of 2 years after the mill was completed, the south 20 stamps were run on the law grade ores and the high grade ore shipped as before. But management refused to follow their company engineer’s advice to develop. The company paid promptly, until last payment came due, causing a dispute and a litigation, until 1904 when property sold under judgement to Moffat. In 1911, Moffat failed in business, at which time the property passed to Mr. Root’s family and litigation again ensued. In 1922, another attempt was made to operate, but because of lack of experience and capital, the property became involved in another litigation which was finally settled in the early 1930’s clearing the title for the first time in several years.
Despite $12,000,000 in total ore production for the past six years, in 1898 new strikes stopped, rich vein paid out. Building ceased, the cost of living soared, so miners and families drifted away.
By 1899, those few hardy stragglers left were ultimately hit by something more devastating. . .a flood that inundated the town and its mineshafts. Its destiny was sealed. The telephone line was given over to Chloride. Owners closed everything by 1902. In 1903, a 40 stamp mill was installed for a short revival, and again in 1920, with the local paper quoting “20 children in the school” until about 1923. In 1972, a mining company commenced exploration, but found not enough to warrant expense of full development.
Today, 100 years after the flood, White Hills is considered a ‘true’ Ghost Town of Mohave County.Located nearly midpoint on the western side of Detrital Valley, 30 miles from Hoover Dam via Hwy. 93, or 39 miles from Kingman on the same highway, that replaced one of the many “spider web” roads system. A road sign announces its presence to the east of the highway.
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