Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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GOLDROAD

MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA

 

By Kathy Block

APCRP Research Staff

 

GOLDROAD was a historic gold mining town. A cemetery was developed near a wash below the town to bury miners and others who died there.

 

Some references spell it GOLD ROAD. To avoid confusion, I am referring to the town, mine and cemetery as GOLDROAD which is the most accepted and used spelling over the decades.

 

Map 1. Location of Goldroad site on historic Route 66.

 

Google Earth map showing probable location of Goldroad cemetery, Courtesy Neal Du Shane.

 

Additional cemetery/graves in the Goldroad area are possible. Research by Neal Du Shane

 

Goldroad is in a canyon just beyond Sitgreaves Pass when traveling westbound on Route 66. Before Goldroad was a town, a prospector named John Moss discovered traces of gold in the area in the early 1860s, but when silver was found in abundance in the Cerbat Mountains, he abandoned his diggings and headed north to the Chloride area. However, prospectors began swarming all over the mountains. One of these was Jose Jerez.

 

Jose Jerez Monument. Date unknown.

Courtesy Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rich gold vein was discovered in 1900 by Jose Jerez and a partner, Henry Lovin, about one and a half miles northeast of the Tom Reed mine of Oatman. The vein assayed 48 ounces of gold to the ton! This vein was worked in a small way for several months and in 1902 the Gold Road Mining and Exploration Company was the first formed to mine this area. When the known ore bodies were exhausted in 1923, an estimated $6,654,050 worth of gold bullion had been recovered.

 

Jose Jerez (also spelled Jerrez and Jerres; Jerez on his DC) was born in 1836 in Sonora, Mexico. He was working off a grubstake of about $12.80 from Henry Lovin, a prosperous merchant, when he discovered the rich gold-bearing ore 48 hours later! He and Lovin sold the claims in 1901. Jerez supposedly drank away his share in a saloon owned by Lovin. He came back after he'd lost all his money and worked as a laborer in the Goldroad mine he had discovered. On August 10, 1906, he killed himself. This single miner was buried in Goldroad Cemetery.  A monument was erected over his grave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Article from the Mohave County Miner, August 11, 1906, gives a few details:

 

"Jose Jerez, discoverer of the famous Gold Road mines, committed suicide at Gold Road by taking “Rough on Rats” (Poison Brand Name) . He lived several hours after taking the poison, suffering great pain. Henry Lovin departed yesterday to Gold Road to take charge of the funeral arrangement. Jerez was a captain in the Mexican Army, but tiring of army life many years ago immigrated to the United States, settling in the Salt River Valley. 

    

Coming to Kingman one day he struck Henry Lovin for a grubstake and getting it, departed to the Colorado River. While passing over the Blue Ridge chain of mountains he stopped to rest on the outcrop of what is now the Gold Road mines and carelessly picking up a piece of float found it was rich in gold . . . assays from the outcrop ran about forty ounces in gold to the ton . . . Within a short time Lovin and Jerez sold their interests for $50,000.

 

After getting the money Jerez entered on a life of debauchery and within a few years his money was all gone and he was again compelled to subsist on the grubstake for a living. Whatever may have been the shortcomings of Jose Jerez the giving to the world of the great Gold Road mines wiped clean the slate."

 

New owners incorporated the mine in 1902 for $1.5 million. The rich veins declined in 1907 after the mine produced $2.25 million. In 1911 Goldroad prospered with the reopening of the Goldroad Mine with new owners and many buildings arose, including Lovin's Goldroad Club and Lovin's mercantile store. The population was about 400 people at this time. The census data for the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census (no census in 1900, as there wasn't a town then), showed a population predominantly involved with mining. The 1910 Census listed fourteen names with six miners/mine related jobs, and one doctor. The 1920 Census listed twenty three people, with fifteen associated with mines, and one prospector. The 1930 "Goldroad" census had fifty two names. There were twenty two people associated with mining, one cowboy, seven garage owners, workers, and mechanics, and two farmers. A trend is seen to development of services for automobiles, and other occupations.

 

The roster for Goldroad Cemetery shows the first known burial in 1902 of Henry Bailey, who died of typhoid fever. The last known burials were in 1924, two infants, Santiago Higuera from cholera, and Baby Girl Sanchez, stillborn. Of the thirty seven documented burials, eighteen were miners, thirteen were children, and two of the deaths were suicides and one was a murder! 

 

The suicide of Augustino Redolfi, who was buried in Goldroad Cemetery in 1912, was noted in lurid detail in the Mohave County Miner, June 22, 1912. Sometimes contemporary news accounts verify burial if there is no Death Certificate, as in this case:

 

"Over at Goldroad . . . an Italian miner went into a small tunnel west of the Goldroad mine and shot himself to death with a shotgun, the charge entering his body below the heart and tearing a great hole through him. The man was missed the following day, but although search was made in the town, no one thought that he would have committed a rash act in the taking of his life. Monday afternoon some people noticed that buzzards were alighting near the entrance of the little tunnel, and went there to investigate and found the body. It was in a horrible condition owing to the heat in that place. Undertaker Van Marter was called to attend to the funeral of the unfortunate man and went out there and burial took place the following day. The man left a note stating that he was tired of living. It is stated that he made a big losing at poker and that a love affair were the primary causes of the man taking his life. He was aged about twenty-six years."

 

Murders were of great concern in Goldroad in 1905.  An editorial in the Mohave County Miner, September 9, 1905, proclaimed:

 

"It is reported that since the several murders at Gold Road the people have concluded that it was necessary to make the undesirable residents of the town get up and 'hit the high places' on the road to some other locality. In consequence the officer at that place had been making a cleanup and many of the 'hop heads' have already gone away. These non-producers are the mischief makers in a camp and the sooner they are driven out, the better it will be for the law abiding citizen.

 

The Coconino Sun, September 9, 1905, also stated:

 

"There has been but few murders in Arizona this year, but an epidemic seems to have broken out during the past week, one at Gold Roads (sic), two at Kingman, and one at Beaver. The man with the gun is always sure of finding trouble and there should be a law against carrying pistols at any place and any time and it should be rigorously enforced."

 

 A famous victim was Jennie Bauters, a local saloon owner and madam, who was shot to death by her lover, Clement C. Lee, (Leigh) in the "Bad Lands" section of Goldroad, on September 7, 1905.  Leigh was hanged in Kingman on June 18, 1907. Ironically, both were buried in a mass grave when the old Pioneer Cemetery was moved. (See details in article on Kingman Pioneer Cemetery, APCRP).

 

Another murder was James Stevenson who was shot to death by John Fitzpatrick on August 27, 1905 in a quarrel. The news article noted that both were armed, but "Fitzpatrick was the more handy with the gun else there was something the matter with his antagonist's weapon." Stevenson is buried in Goldroad Cemetery.

 

One lingering mystery was the death of Eliza J. Estella Mead Azbill on Dec. 8, 1915.  Her husband, Henry Azbill, was suspected of the murder of his wife. She, her husband, and another woman were driving up the old grade at Goldroad Hill in a wagon when the harness gave way, causing her to fall out and be run over by the wagon; or another account said the wagon rolled over the grade into the canyon, killing Eliza, who was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman. The other woman was badly injured. Henry and his brother were then charged a year later with murder of a man at Williams. They fled and were never caught. A relative said that one of the two brothers lived in San Diego and would wear sunglasses all the time, even at night!

 

A news article about the gruesome death of one of the miners, buried in Goldroad Cemetery, shows the hazards faced by early miners, who lacked safety devices and regulations:

 

"Cage Tender Meets Horrible Death. John Cassela, a cage tender at the Gold Road mine, met a horrible death yesterday afternoon. The man was accustomed to riding the cage from the 500 level to the collar, and in some unaccountable manner was caught in the timbers and killed. The cage coming up without him, the hoist man investigated and found one foot and shreds of flesh on the cage. A search party was sent down, but failed to find the body of the unfortunate man. As the chains at the 500 were open, it is believed that the body dropped from the cage to the sump at the 800 level. The pumps were at once started and the water has been reduced to within twenty feet of the 800. The sump will be drained sometime today and the body recovered."

Mohave County Miner, November 13, 1909.

    

In Ghost Towns and Historical Haunts in Arizona by Thelma Heatwole, 1991, Golden West Publishers, in the chapter on "Goldroad and an Old Graveyard", she mentions a search for Goldroad Cemetery, at an unspecified date. They had almost given up, when her husband saw the graveyard while scanning the area from a knoll with binoculars. They explored a cluster of graves, each enclosed by a picket fence. Looking at them up close, "the little shrines were weathered gray and decayed." Other graves were simply outlined by stones. And, "not far from the forlorn memorials was a mine."

 

Photo of Goldroad Cemetery, 1979, Courtesy Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

 

Map of Goldroad Cemetery. Courtesy Mohave Museum of History and Arts.

 

The mines closed in 1937, after producing $7.3 million. The post office opened April 15, 1902 and remained open until October 15, 1942, when the federal government ordered the closing of mines. The Presidential order, L-208, closed the Gold Road Mine. The idea was to focus the country's mining resources and equipment on necessary metals for World War II. The mill was dismantled and moved to Bayard, New Mexico to process zinc ore. The mine was not restarted quickly after the war because of the high cost of labor.

 

Goldroad vicinity c. 1922

 

A major developer of economic and business growth in Goldroad was Henry Lovin.  He and a partner, J.S. Withers, had mercantile stores in Goldroad, Oatman, and Kingman in the early 1900s. Many featured clever slogans, such as, in a 1906 newspaper ad, "We Will Deliver the goods if it breaks our backs." An ad in front of his liquor storefront said, "Henry Lovin Wholesale Dealer in All Kinds of Liquors, Welcome, Not Afraid of Tainted Money."

 

Here are some typical ads:

 

 

1910 store ad.

1911 "Lacqueret” ad

 

Slogans in 1906 Ad.

Ad for Optometrist 1914

 

Before easy transportation was available, services came to Goldroad and other mining towns. An optometrist advertised in 1914 (above) that he would be available in Goldroad on Monday, February 16, to "WATCH YOUR CHILDREN'S EYES: Bring them to us and we will gladly examine their eyes and tell you their condition. We are responsible and know our business. Our methods are exact with children's eyes."

 

Fourteen month old George (Andy) Brunson, former resident of Goldroad, during his busy work day, takes a break and poses for a photo at Goldroad in 1942. Ready for any task at hand, holding a screwdriver in his right hand and a pipe wrench on his legs. Even then, he was rambunctious feller.

Photo Courtesy Andy Brunson

 

Henry Lovin was born July 22, 1867 in Rockingham, Richmond County, North Carolina, and died Dec. 29, 1931, from pulmonary edema and diabetes mellitus in Kingman. His first wife was Ruby Roe, 1874 to 1911. She died from acute toxemia of unknown origin and neurasthenia and left two children, Fannie and Elizabeth. She is buried in Kingman. Henry married again, to Cora Thompson of Louisiana, in 1923. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman.

 

Henry Lovin had varied business interests that included his stores, mines, cattle ranches, and had been elected twice as Sheriff of Mohave County and was a member of Arizona's Constitutional Convention. He was also elected twice as Democratic state senator. The 1913 Who's Who in Arizona compiled by Jo Connors, said:

    

"Mr. Lovin knows the people he represents, and their needs, enjoys their confidence and esteem, and he is especially interested in the welfare of the working people, and familiarly known as 'Friend of the Miner.' He has, in fact, helped many a man at a critical point, and thus enabled him to attain success, has financed some of the greatest projects in the State, and by his aid has made it possible for some of the great mines of Mohave, the gold-producing county of the north, to be developed.

 

A news article in the Mohave County Miner, October 28, 1905, tells about a hotel that Henry Lovin planned.  A 1907 photo of "Goldroad Mining Camp" shows a two story building on the main street, and an article about Goldroad ghost town mentions the ruins of a two story building that "may have been a boardinghouse or hotel."

 

 "H. Lovin is at Goldroad overseeing erection of a new hotel building. The structure is to be two stories in height, contain about 45 rooms.  A hotel at the big gold camp will be of great convenience to the public, as at the present time lodgings are found to be hard to get."

 

J. Sam Withers was the partner of Henry Lovin in his mercantile business, beginning in December 1901. The Kingman Mercantile Company inventory in Kingman was divided among various firms in December 1901. Lovin and Withers took groceries and moved them into the former company storeroom. Withers had previously been mentioned in an 1898 news article as going East "buying goods for a gents furnishings store which he expects to open in Kingman next year." By 1900 the partners had stores in Kingman, Oatman, and Goldroad from 1900 to 1911, then the business seemed to be consolidated in a large store in Kingman, closing the other two stores.

 

Withers was born around 1874 in Tennessee. His wife, Ethel, was born May 23, 1877 in Arizona. She died Feb.9, 1946, and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. They had 3 children listed in the 1920 census. One child died in 1901. The Mohave County Miner, Sept. 7, 1901, noted: "The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Withers died last Sat. night and was buried Sunday afternoon. The remains of the little one were followed to the grave by a large number of sorrowing friends."  And in the same paper, the parents had a Card of Thanks: "Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Withers wish to express in this manner their heartfelt thanks to the many friends who extended loving aid during a last illness and death of their beloved child."  The Death Certificate for Baby Cecil Withers shows she was born in Kingman, on July 28, 1901 and was 1 month, 3 days old, when she died Aug. 31, 1901, of "Inflammation of bowels." No burial place given.

 

J.S. Withers was a miner who owned the Lookout Mine. Allegedly, the "rock was literally laced together with gold." In 1905 he struck gold again when it was found in the Secret Pass-Blue Ridge section. 

 

 

Withers also was Treasurer and ex-officio tax collector for Mohave County, Arizona Territory, in 1908. By 1920 he was Clerk for the Board of Supervisors of Elections. 

 

Lovin and Withers Company billed the Board of Supervisors in 1906 for reimbursement of expenses that included items such as: "Coal and supplies for court house and jail, $170.98"; "Supplies for Geo, Hanson while searching for lost prospector, $4.80"; "Supplies for John Hartman indigent, $8.30."

 

Transportation to and from Goldroad was accelerated in 1905 by stage coaches, though the Mohave and Milltown railroad existed. Little freight was going from Needles to Goldroad and nearby Vivian, but was going to Kingman. There, according to a news article in the Mohave County Miner, Sept. 9, 1905:

    

"At the present time over one hundred horses are used in hauling freight into these camps from Kingman. Eight teams are constantly on the road and each team hauls from three to ten ton of freight. Besides the teams on this haul, there are teams hauling to other section that have to be diverted to this road whenever emergency demands. Besides these teams there is a four-horse daily stage to Gold Road and a two horse stage from that place to Vivian. Two livery stables with from forty to sixty team are in constant demand, many of which are run continually between this place and Gold Road and Vivian. Thousands of tons of freight go out to the Blue Ridge section yearly from Kingman, which is by far and away ahead of that going in from Needles. On the other hand we see no reason why Needles should not carry all freight into the Vivian section and a little effort on the part of the businessmen of the little city by the Colorado would bring the results. The train should be run daily over the Mohave and Milltown railroad and freight and transfer rates should be reduced. With freights as high as they are on the railroad, there is little wonder that operators get their supplies in some other way."

 

Henry Lovin's freight companies supplied mines and merchants in Goldroad. By the time of the 1930 census, showing garages and mechanics, the era of stagecoach deliveries and transportation in Goldroad was long gone. Lovin and Withers advertised tires for sale.

 

Historic Route 66 passed thru Goldroad, winding from Oatman, past Goldroad, over "Goldroad Grade" summit at 3,523 feet at Sitgreaves Pass.  This narrow, winding road was the main highway for east-west commerce until 1952 and the "road of hope" for travelers like the Joads in "The Grapes of Wrath." Steep climbs and hairpin switch backs of the road are briefly seen in the movie. The road originally was built to connect important towns for commerce and the goods needed to live in Goldroad, Oatman, and other small mining camps. In 1952 most of the main Route 66 was relocated by ADOT to follow the railroad down the wide valleys from Kingman to Topock, and rebuilt as I-40. Historic Route 66 still winds over the mountains from I-40 to Goldroad and on thru Oatman, ending at Topock near the Colorado River. (See map 1.)

 

 In 1949 the entire town of Goldroad was razed by property owners to save taxes on the structures! This was the last organized activity in the area until 1992. You can see the ruins from the highway, but they are posted, "No Trespassing." The ruins begin around mile marker 30 with foundations and excavations visible along the highway, the main ruins are at mile marker 26 to 28.

 

Ruins of the former Goldroad community. (Courtesy of the late Ed Block)

 

In 1992 Addwest Minerals bought the site and in 1995 reopened the Gold Road mine, as they spelled it. It produced 16,000 ounces in 1995, 40,000 in 1996, and 36,500 in 1997. Three shifts a day of miners worked drilling, blasting, and hauling out the ore. The bottom dropped out of the gold market in 1998 and in the spring of 1998, low prices forced the mine to close again. Workers were laid off and most moved away.

 

In 1999 tours of the mine were begun. Barry Britt and his wife ran regular tours of the mine until May 2007, when Addwest leased the historic United Western Mine nearby and reopened the Gold Road Mine. Ed and I took this tour and we were hauled up a hill in an open wagon to the tunnel that went into the mine to reach gold reserves.

 

Goldroad Mine in 2005, at the time of the tour.

 

Addwest changed the name of the company to Mojave Desert Minerals, LLC. The reopened mine employed 125 people. An article in the Daily Miner, "Old Mine Makes a Comeback", Aug. 30, 2010, featured the first gold bar poured and "It was pretty exciting stuff," according to the manager. "Everyone wanted to watch as the gold ore was treated, melted and then poured into a mold . . . The result is a hardened bar of ore about the size and thickness of an average brick." However, the gold wasn't pure, with silver and other minerals in it, requiring transport to a refinery.

 

The mine, however, again closed in January 2015.  More than sixty employees were laid off. The company, based in Colorado, informed Mohave County of the closing and layoffs early in January. Buster Johnson, a county commissioner said, "It scares me because of the continued loss of good paying jobs and families."

 

At present, in April, 2015, there is no access to Goldroad Cemetery. The mine had for some time required any visitors to be accompanied by a company staff member. A high chain link fence and gated access roads and NO TRESPASSING signs discouraged researchers. The company offices are closed and locked.

 

Ed and I had attempted to find Goldroad Cemetery in 2011. We were unable to reach anyone at the mine to gain access. Using the photo of the cemetery with the distinctive mountain in back, we were stopped by a blocked and gated road that may have gone to the cemetery. The area was patrolled by security on ATVs and we didn't attempt to drive or walk any further.

 

Possibly at some time in the future the mine will reopen and researchers will be able to gain access to historic Goldroad cemetery where some of the people who lived and worked in Goldroad are buried. There were many cycles of boom and bust in the mines in the past, and this pattern has continued to the present time.

 

Note: This article is written in memory of Ed Block, who cheerfully drove me to look for the Goldroad cemetery, photographed the ruins, took the mine tour, and was interested in the history of Goldroad.

 

Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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