Mining History Association

23rd Annual Conference June 7-10, 2012

Prescott Resort, Prescott Arizona


Prescott’s Mining History


Like many mining areas of the American West, gold was discovered in creeks in the Agua Fria River Basin near Prescott in 1863.  Joseph Walker and a party of prospectors had set out from the California gold fields, possibly fleeing from conscription in the Confederate or the Union Army during the Civil War.  They found gold placers and, shortly afterward, lode deposits.  These discoveries were in what collectively became the Big Bug Mining District a few miles southeast of Prescott. 

When the railroad arrived around 1898 transportation of equipment, minerals, and people became easier and cheaper.  Gold, silver, lead, and/or copper were produced from several famous mines including the Poland, McCabe, Silver Belt, Little Jessie, Henrietta/Big Bug, Blue Bell, Boggs/Iron Queen, and Iron King.  Several smelters were also built in the area.  The World War I era saw the greatest production from the district; however, the post-war drop in metal prices caused many mines to close.  The Iron King was the last of the major mines in the district.  After a series of different owners, it was operated by the Shattuck-Denn Mining Company from 1942 until it closed in 1969.

Map of Prescott, Arizona Mining Area (After J. F. Blandy, AIME Transactions, 1883) 

Prospectors staked claims in the Jerome District in 1876.  In 1882 the United Verde Copper Company was formed and mining started.  The rich oxidized ores produced copper, gold, and silver.  Transportation costs were very high until William A. Clark of Butte, Montana fame bought the company and brought the railroad to Jerome.  The United Verde Mine prospered and became the largest copper mine in the territory.  The original smelter built on unstable ground adjacent to the mine was replaced by a larger, more efficient one in Clarkdale. 

View of Jerome, Arizona with United Verde Mine and Smelter (U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 782)  CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1912, the Little Daisy Mine near the United Verde was purchased by James S. (“Rawhide Jimmy”) Douglas.  In 1914 and 1916 rich ore bodies were discovered.  A smelter was built in Clemenceau near the current town of Cottonwood.  The United Verde Extension Mining Company mined out the extension in 1930.  Phelps-Dodge purchased the United Verde and operated an open pit until mining ceased in 1953.  Today, the Douglas Mansion adjacent to the Little Daisy Shaft is part of the Jerome State Historic Park.  Jerome was designated a National Historic District in 1967.  Many of the historic buildings in Jerome have been converted to shops and eateries catering to tourists.  The Jerome Historical Society Museum occupies one of the buildings.

The Bagdad Mining District is located about 40 miles west of Prescott.  It has a rich history of mining including such famous mines as the Old Dick, Copper King, Copper Queen, and the Hillside among others.  The Bagdad deposit was discovered in 1862 and the claims were patented in 1889.  It was owned by a series of companies.  Exploration drilling was started in 1919 and the first mill was constructed in 1928.  During World War II, a 2000 ton per day mill was constructed with funds from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

In the late 1940’s, the underground mine using block caving was converted to an open pit.  It is one of the oldest mines using solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX/EW) to recover copper.  (Ranchers’ Bluebird Mine and plant, the first SX-EW operation, was demolished as it was incorporated into a larger operation.)  The town of Bagdad was a company town.  In 1973 the Bagdad Copper Corp. merged with the Cyprus Mines Corp. to form the Cyprus Bagdad Copper Company.  It later became part of Phelps-Dodge.  As a result of the 2007 merger, the mine is now operated by Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Corporation.

Bagdad Mill, 1946 (Courtesy Bill Hawes)




Richard F. Pape, Big Bug Lead-Zinc District,The History of Mining in Arizona, Vol. I, J. Michael Canty and Michael N Greeley, Editors, (Tucson: Mining Club of the Southwest Foundation, 1987), 77-98

John F. Blandy, The Mining Region Around Prescott, Arizona, AIME Transactions, Vol. XI (New York: AIME, 1883), 286-291

Waldemar Lindgren, Ore Deposits of the Jerome and Bradshaw Quadrangles, Arizona, Bulleting 782, U. S. Geological Survey (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1926)

William P. Blake, The Copper-Deposits of Copper Basin, Arizona, and their Origins, AIME Transactions, Vol. XVII, (New York: AIME, 1889), 479-485



All contents copyright 2011. This is a ZStudios website.