(For those coming early or staying after the Mining History Association Annual Conference in Prescott, June 7-10, 2012, Herb Shepard has sent the following suggestion for a day trip/side trip to the old mining town of Crown King.)
Crown King, a historic gold mining town in the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains mining area, is only 20 miles southeast of Prescott as the crow flies. Driving to Crown King takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to travel about 65 miles. The hour part of the trip is the last 27 miles, a good dirt road (FS 259, Crown King Road) from Interstate 17 to the town. The road follows the old railroad route to the mines and has 4 scenic 180 degree switchbacks.
Crown King is an active mining ghost town that never completely died. There are about 100 full time residents and 400 summer cabins mostly owned by people that live in Phoenix. When Phoenix is 110 degrees Crown King is in the 80’s because of its 6,000 foot elevation. In the 1890’s, the southern Bradshaws was one of the most active mining areas. Bradshaw City once had 5,000 people before the population migrated to Crown King. The mines and town are within the Prescott National Forest. The historic mines include the Crown King, War Eagle, Del Pasco, Oro Bella, Tiger, Philadelphia, and Lincoln. Several mines may be going back into operation. The Gladiator Mine plans to reopen this year. It was last run in 1986-1988 with about 70 miners and still has the mill and equipment as it was left at that time.
The story of the railroad to Crown King is nearly as interesting as the mining history. The railroad had reached Prescott in 1893. The potential freight traffic from the mines in the Bradshaws had already attracted attention. In 1901, Frank M. Murphy and his investors incorporated the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad Company. The 28 mile long line started in Mayer where it connected with Murphy’s Prescott & Eastern. The first 12 miles from Mayer to Turkey Creek descended from 4,400 feet to 3,501 feet in elevation. The last 16 miles climbed to 5,835 feet at Crown King. That steep climb required 9 switchbacks, a 142 foot long tunnel, and a 393 foot long, 70 foot high wooden trestle. The line was opened in May 1904 and operated until 1926 when it was abandoned. A second branch line, 8 miles long, was also constructed to Poland in the Big Bug Mining District and started operation in 1902.
Crown King has a small but very active historical society and museum. A walking tour of the sites in town has just been put together. Click Here for a 1904 article about the town in Leslies Weekly. The Chamber’s website, crownkingfun.com, has more information. Driving directions will be available at the MHA registration area.
Readings and References:
Bruce M. Wilson, “Crown King and the Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History,” (Chandler, AZ: Crown King Press, 1990).John R. Signor, “The Crown King District,” The Warbonnet, Santa FE Railway Historical and Modeling Society, 18, no. 3 (2011) 13-32.