Ranching and Railroads are chapters to the Kingman story, but the mines and miners wrote the book.
The railroad opened the doors the west, making ranches possible early on. This brought military encampments to keep the peace along newly developed reservations. Out of boredom, soldiers turned to prospecting to pass the time. Soon prospecting produced results and the mining boom was on!
Ores were rich, particularly in the Cerbat Mountain Range. The silver and gold ore from these mines was hauled by wagon to the Colorado River, steamed to Yuma then railed to San Francisco to be smelted. Some of the best ore was sailed still further to the British Isles for processing. These hills still produce copper and Kingman turquoise, but mostly what remains are ghost towns like Cerbat or the living ghost town of Chloride.
In 1902, a gold rush hit Oatman in the Black Mountains so hard that the flat and easy Old Trails wagon road in Western Arizona would be yanked up and rerouted through the snaky, rocky backcountry foothills. All because everyone wanted a stake in the gold. A few of the mining exhibit in the Mohave Museum of History & Art shows a view point from up high in the hills overlooks dozens of little mines and stakes throughout this small range. Some stakes were literally on top of one another. One can take this fabled road to Oatman and see remints of Gold Road, a former mining town now overrun by one of the last remaining current gold mining operations.
The Kingman Powerhouse is a testament to the power of Mining in Early Arizona. Electric power was still a new commodity and not particularly available in small rural towns. But Kingman, situated conveniently with railroad access, was a perfectly positioned to run juice to nearby mining towns. Built in stages between 1907 and 1911, the Powerhouse was followed in newspapers as far away as the Los Angeles Times. The Powerhouse opened in 1909 “prepared to furnish motive power to mines and mills within a radius of forty-five miles from Kingman.” The Historic Powerhouse now houses the Kingman Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum.
The Mohave Museum of History & Arts opened a mining display with artifacts and images covering the local scene such as Chloride, Oatman. Another testament to mining which can be seen in the Mohave Museum is an 1873 Winchetster embedded in a tree trunk. It was the World’s most famous tree when discovered along the Sante Fe RR in the mid 1950’s with a the Winchester (the gun that won the West) inside. It is speculated that prospector likely booby trapped the spot to protect his claim, as they did on those days, and never retrieved it.
One only needs to look to the hills at the scars and abandoned zigzagging trails to see the effects mining had on the landscape. But you can get a boots on the ground perspective at White Cliffs Wagon Trail. The wagon road was once used to bring ore from the Mines to the railroad in the 1800’s. Parts of the ore route have cut deep into the stone, with depressions along both sides of the roadbed where stubbing posts were employed to keep the heavy wagons from going downhill out of control.
A recent attraction that fits well into the story is Desert Diamond Distillery. Walking thrgouh the front doors fills your nose with the sweet smells of molasses - railed in as it would have been 100 years ago - ferminting into rums and vodkas. The family owned distillery has concocted a dark rum with a hint of desert agave. Their single barrel rums rival a fine bourbon and have won awards up against the big boys in the distilling indistry. Tastings take place at a bar once catering to the likes of the rat pack in Vegas’s heyday. It is a modern twist, and welcome answer to the old miner’s watering hole.
Kingman has some interesting mining history. Check it out next time you're in this neck of the cactus groves.