Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project


Version 050608





N34* 16’ 29.32”, W112* 16’ 40.22” (WGS84)

Elevation 3,966



Middelton vs. Middleton:

The creek for which the community resided is spelled Middleton Creek. It was named for mine promoter George. W. Middleton. While most historical information spells it Middelton. In the photograph below, the Rail Road spelled it Middelton on the sign hanging at the station. Very likely a misspelling of the name and it stuck.


We are a welcome sight at the Middelton depot as we deliver fresh vegetables and bolts of cloth ordered from Prescott. The first and second switchbacks on the difficult ascent to Crown King are at Middelton; the engineer prepares his locomotive by taking on water and checking brass gauges. Behind the depot, a magnificent aerial tramway climbs the rugged mountain slope to the De Soto Mine high on the ridge.


Middelton, AZ c. 1906


Compare and Contrast: Middelton on March 28, 2008.

The railroad right of way is still visible, compared to the 1906 photograph.

Photo courtesy: Neal Du Shane

Table of Contents

Table of Contents 3


Arrival of Railroad in Crazy Basin. 4

Bradshaw Mountain Railroad Map. 5

Tramway. 5

Middelton Station Map. 8

First Shipment - 1904. 8

De Soto Mine Dormant 9

Reactivated – 1914. 10

World War I 10

Middleton Post Office Re-established. 11

Recreation. 11

Middleton School 11

Voting a Serious Matter 12

Middleton Utilities 12

Hectic Days Past 12

Railway Fell into Disuse. 13

Middelton Deserted. 13

Map to De Soto Mine from Middelton. 14

Middelton Cemetery. 14



1903 – 1932

Courtesy: Ghost Railways of Central Arizona

By: John W. Sayre



The route of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway, like the Prescott and Eastern, was determined by the location of several mines in which Frank Murphy and his associates held a financial interest. One mine upon which Murphy had a keen eye and which influenced the right-of-way of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway was the De Soto Mine. Located about three miles west of the community of Turkey Creek, the mine was high on McKinley Peak on the north side of Crazy Basin. Promoters called it "another Jerome" and wrote glowing accounts of the mine's worth. Murphy, and avid reader of assay results and production statistics, ordered a depot established at the foot of the mountain. The depot was christened Middelton, in honor of the owner of the mine.

Although the area was prospected as many as ten years earlier, the De Soto Mine was not discovered until September 1875. The mine was originally called the Buster Copper Mine but was also known at various times throughout the years as the Copper Cobre, Bradshaw Mountain Mine, and the name by which it is generally known-the De Soto: The early tunnels and operation of the mine centered on the north side of the ridge, although exploration on the southern slope was extensive. A short distance west of the De Soto were numerous prospector holes and several productive silver mines. A well-maintained road, over which ore shipments and supplies were dispatched and received, led from the silver camps to Prescott. A crude wagon road connected these camps to the nascent De Soto Mine.



A small mining camp west of the De Soto was originally the home of the men employed at the mine. This camp was utilized by the men of several mines and probably dated to the 1870s. In the early 1890s, a bunkhouse and blacksmith shop were constructed on the northern slope near the main tunnel and served as the base of operations. Although the camp moved to the mine site, transportation, communication, and social ties were still with the silver camps a couple of miles to the west.


Arrival of Railroad in Crazy Basin


The arrival of the railroad in Crazy Basin in 1903 caused a shift in emphasis at the De Soto from the northern to the southern slope of McKinley Peak. A new tunnel was blasted into the mountain from the south to intercept the rich ore deposits. A modern camp, including an assay office, office building, boardinghouse, cookhouse, blacksmith shop, warehouse, and corral, was built near the new tunnel and within sight of the railroad in the valley below. A road was carved to the railroad siding, and ore was delivered in wagons or on pack animals. Although the railroad was less than three ­quarters of a mile below the mine, transportation to the railroad siding was still slow and costly. The mining company realized that a more efficient means of moving large amounts of ore to the siding was needed. After several weeks of consideration, the owners of the De Soto Mine built an aerial tramway to move their ore from the mine to the highway of steel.

Bradshaw Mountain Railroad Map



The elevation of the mountain on which the De Soto Mine resides is 5,533’ at the top. The elevation of the De Soto Mine was 5,366’ and the elevation of Middelton is 3,966’. An elevation gain of 1,400’ or 27% grade. A road some 7.5 miles leads from Middelton (Crown King Road) to the main shaft at the De Soto mine. Not a practical or economic method for processing the ore with equipment of the era.



The tramway, which was the best money could buy, was completed in April 1904. It was designed by the Blechert Transportanlagen Company of Leipzig, Germany, and manufactured in this country by the Trenton Iron Works Company. The tramway was four thousand feet in length and had a daily capacity of two thousand tons. It operated entirely by gravity as the loaded buckets traveling down the mountain slope furnished the power to return the empty ones up the mountainside to the mine. During the first years of its operation, daredevil miners balanced precariously in the buckets and rode the tramway from the railroad siding to the mine. However, after a year or two of operation, even the most adventuresome declined rides, as mishaps occasionally caused battered ore buckets to fall to the rocky ravine two hundred feet below the tramway cables. It is not believed that any lives were lost riding on the tramway, but the tram was used on at least two occasions to lower caskets to the siding in Middelton. The caskets of a miner killed in a dynamite explosion and the wife of the mine foreman were lowered from McKinley Peak amid moist eyes, doffed hats, and noisy tramway cables.


While the tramway was being built on the mountain slope, Middelton was also the site of considerable construction activity. The railroad decided to make Middelton, which was halfway between Mayer and Crown King, the base camp for its maintenance workers. The site served as a temporary home for the construction crews as" they worked their way toward Crown King and was later made the permanent camp of the men responsible for maintaining railroad track and property on the Bradshaw Mountain Line. The railroad built a section workers' bunkhouse which was similar to a dormitory and also constructed a separate dwelling for the foreman and his family.



The railroad built and maintained numerous other buildings and structures in Middelton. The depot, which measured twelve by forty-eight feet, was connected by a wooden platform to a large adjacent warehouse. A house was built for the station agent assigned to the depot, and two other dwellings were built in the community for various purposes. A water tank, tool shed, and assorted platforms and storage structures were also railroad property in Middelton. During the days of track construction between the town and Crown King, a turntable was placed in Middelton to allow the engines to change directions for the trip back to Prescott. This turntable was removed after the rail was completed to Crown King.

In addition to the railroad, several other enterprises were represented in Middelton. The mining company owned the tramway terminal and a large powerhouse and maintained an office in the community. Wells Fargo and Western Union established offices in the depot and operated them in conjunction with the railroad. A post office was granted to the town on 8 May 1903, and George Middleton was named postmaster. In 1904, the population of the community was about seventy ­five, while the population of the camp at the mine was near one hundred.



Frank Murphy took an early interest in the De Soto Mine. A first-rate businessman and promoter in his own right, Murphy had contacts and friends in all the right places. He was advised and kept abreast of mineral discoveries and noteworthy mining developments. Murphy invested in several mines, and considering the risk of that type of investment, he did rather well. He knew George Middelton, the developer of the De Soto Mine. The mine and Murphy's railroad presumably were discussed whenever the two met. Several factors indicate that Murphy was involved .with the mine ownership either directly or indirectly as early as 1902. By 1905, he served on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Smelting Company, which owned the mine. Unfortunately, the De Soto was not as rich as many people, including Murphy and Middelton, had hoped.


Entrepreneurs attempted to duplicate the successful efforts of Charles Wingfield in Huron and Leverett Nellis in Turkey Creek by establishing saloons in Middelton. The town and De Soto Mine supported two saloons: one owned by Thomas Hogan, the other operated by Robert J. Schwanbeck. Schwanbeck was the first to open his doors in Middelton, doing so in 1903 shortly after the rail reached the community. Schwanbeck and his competitor never achieved the success they sought. Hogan stayed only briefly, while Schwanbeck eventually moved his establishment to Humboldt.



Schwanbeck and his wife attained a degree of notoriety for an event which occurred in 1907. Accidents were relatively common to mining and railroad towns. Often the experience of a miner or a railroader was measured by the number of scars he wore or by the number of fingers he was missing. The Schwanbeck mishap of September 1907 was a bit unusual even in a community accustomed to injuries. While pushing a baby stroller along the road in front of her house in Middelton, Mrs. Schwanbeck was bitten on the ankle by a large diamondback rattlesnake. Her husband was notified immediately and arrived home within fifteen minutes. He quickly opened the wound with his razor and in heroic fashion sucked the poison from it with his mouth. When the doctor from Crown King reached Middelton to attend to the woman, he found her experiencing some pain but past the crisis stage. However, Mr. Schwanbeck was extremely ill as he had swallowed some of the poison while sucking it from the wound. After treatment, he recovered and was a good deal wiser for his experience. A lengthy article appeared in the Prescott newspaper casting the couple into celebrity status for a few days after it was printed. The hillsides near Middelton were infested with more than their share of rattlesnakes, for which the railroad workers and miners were constantly on the alert.


Middelton Station Map


First Shipment - 1904


In 1904 when ore was first shipped over the Bradshaw Mountain Line from Middelton, the total production of the entire Peck Mining District was only $83. With the luxury of the railroad, this annual figure increased rapidly and reached $307,213 by 1906. Production and ore shipments received a major setback, however, in September 1904 when the Val Verde smelter burned to the ground. Without a local smelter to process its ore and due to poor financial decisions, the company that operated the De Soto Mine was forced into bankruptcy.


De Soto Mine Dormant

N34* 17’ 7.17”, W112* 17’ 26.08” (WGS84)

Elevation 5,366


The De Soto Mine lay dormant, and the miners left town. The merchants, in search of trade, were forced to leave Middelton. The post office was discontinued on 31 January 1908. The railroad depot was closed and boarded up; the agent's house was empty and neglected. Wells Fargo and Western Union deserted the community. Only a few section workers continued to be employed, as many of the mines in the Bradshaw Range were closed for financial reasons. With dwindling use, the rails received less maintenance. It was not long before a few railroad employees and a mine watchman were all that remained of the bustling little town. The population of Middelton was reduced to twenty-five by 1908.

With the railroad, large-scale operation of the mine disproved the proclamations that the De Soto was "another Jerome." The ore, which was spectacularly rich near the surface, diminished in quality with depth. The deposit was a large one, and great amounts of ore were mined, but the ore was only 3 percent copper. Although high by today's standards, the ore was considered low quality by the standards and technology of the day.

Reactivated – 1914


The town deteriorated until the mine was reactivated in 1914. During the mine's inactivity, the railroad leased two of its dwellings in Middelton to a rancher who raised cattle nearby. His dozen cattle outnumbered the human population of the community through the end of 1914. The loss of the powerhouse and one of the old saloon buildings to fire reduced the number of buildings in town, but the livestock and reptile population didn't seem to mind.


World War I


The enormous demand for copper generated by World War I reopened the De Soto Mine. The mine's ownership had undergone several reorganizations and was solvent by 1914. In August of that year, crews reconditioned the aerial tramway. Technological advances and improved mining methods made the mine very profitable, but the aspirations of ten years earlier were dashed forever. Miners returned to town, rail traffic increased, and more railroad employees were assigned to the community.

The town of Middelton was a busy community once again, albeit on a much smaller scale than a few years before. The railroad never assigned another station agent to the community, and the depot remained boarded up and closed. Wells Fargo and Western Union never returned, and the only merchant represented was James Cleator of Turkey Creek. He leased a portion of the railroad warehouse in Middelton and operated a little store there. His establishment featured a pool table, card tables, soft drinks (prohibition), and popular food and sundry items. The mining company office moved to the mine site, and inquiries, correspondence, and visitors were directed up the mountainside.

Middleton Post Office Re-established


After a year of effort, the community was successful in having a post office re-established on 13 January 1916. In accordance with United States Postal Service regulations, which prohibited the recognition of a previously discontinued post office branch, another name had to be selected for the community's new post office. The name chosen was Ocotillo, and Pearl Orr was named the postmistress.

The residents of Middelton were employees of either the mining company or the railroad and their families. Middelton, during the years of World War I, housed approximately one hundred people. The miners were primarily Europeans, and the railroad section workers were mainly Mexicans. Supplies and fresh produce were generally ordered by telephone from Prescott. Although these items could be purchased from several trackside com­munities, prices were generally cheaper in Prescott. Storekeepers placed the goods on the southbound train and knew the return train would carry their payment. Blocks of ice for the family iceboxes were ordered from Mayer and delivered by the train. The railroad also transported the coal which it provided for its employees' use in their wood burning- stoves. The railroad also, often unknowingly, provided the railroad ties that other residents used in their stoves.



Recreation in Middelton was simple yet satisfying. Dances were the favorite pastime of the men and were held often in Crown King and Turkey Creek. The bunkhouses witnessed innumerable card games, as that was also a popular form of entertainment. On the few occasions when snow stayed on the ground, snowball fights and throwing snowballs at the railroad water tank were cold but fun activities. Once a year, a traveling band of gypsies visited the community. The group's "dancing" bear was always a big hit with men and women and boys and girls of all ages. In late August, an annual picnic was held near Crown King. It included homemade ice cream, wild grapes, and walnuts. These annual events were delightful highlights for the residents of Middelton.

A dependable water supply was important to the railroad and the community. Most of the town's water came from the Blanco White Spring over a mile away. The railroad piped the water from the spring to its water tank in Middelton. Another small local well was also used to meet the town's water needs. Yet another well and spring on the mountainside were not very reliable, and water for the boardinghouse at the mine was shipped up from Middelton via the tramway.

Despite the hardships, the townspeople were happy and stayed relatively healthy considering their isolation and occupations. If they did "take ill" country doctors in Mayer and Crown King still made house calls. Hospitals in Humboldt, Prescott, and McCabe (until 1907) treated the severely injured. Those that medical science could not help were buried in little cemeteries that still dot the countryside.

Middleton School


L-R Bob Orr, Ernie Orr, ?, ?, Floyd Orr, ?, ?, Ruth Orr, ?, ?, Jack Orr Sr., ?, ?, ?,

Names provided by Jack Orr Jr. 05/06/08 thanks to Todd Zuercher.


The majority of Middelton residents were single men; however, enough children were present by 1917 to necessitate the construction of a schoolhouse. The enrollment of the small, red, wooden structure never exceeded fourteen pupils, yet it housed all eight grades. Almost as important to the townsfolk was the wooden flagpole which stood beside the school. The American flag waved proudly from the pole for many years. Middelton's population never warranted such refinements as a church, fire department, or police force. The county sheriff was called whenever lawlessness required his presence.


Voting a Serious Matter


Although all the refinements of urban living were not present in Middelton, the residents of the community displayed civic pride. Voting was a privilege which was taken very seriously. Votes were cast in Middelton between 1904 and 1908; however, after the town was revived in 1915, the voters traveled to Turkey Creek to cast their ballots. Middelton was always well-represented at the polls.

Middleton Utilities


Although strong in spirit, Middelton lacked many of the "modern" conveniences. The luxury of electricity was never enjoyed by the community. Some of the buildings on the hillside near the mine had electric lights, but most of them also relied upon kerosene lamps, as did the populace of Middelton. Telephone service was installed to the mine prior to 1901, but Middelton did not obtain this utility until 1915 when a party line running from Mayer to Crown King was installed. Roads led from Crown King and Turkey Creek to Middelton, but their poor condition prevented any but the sturdiest vehicles from reaching Middelton.

The railroad depot in Middelton was vacant during World War I, but the town witnessed increased railroad activity. The train crossed the trestle on the outskirts of town many times over the years. The sidings in Middelton could hold twenty-eight cars and were often filled to near capacity. Many of the ore cars were empty and destined for Crown King while others awaited copper ore from the De Soto. The rail witnessed decreasing activity, however, in the early twenties as Bradshaw Mountain mines one after another were worked out and abandoned.

Although the De Soto Mine produced a great deal of ore during World War I, it failed to live up to the expectations of its owners. In 1919, development work enlarged the limits of the ore bodies already known but did not result in any new discoveries. The days of great activity were numbered, as the company considered the mine to be completely developed and resigned itself to work it out gradually in accordance with market conditions. Work was discontinued at the property in 1922, and the mine was considered exhausted. The total yield of the De Soto Mine at that time was $3,250,000, which made it one of the largest producers in the Bradshaw Range, but no Jerome.


Hectic Days Past


The days of hectic activity in Middelton had passed. Fewer than a dozen railroad employees made up the town's population as activity at the De Soto Mine ceased. On 15 June 1925, the Ocotillo Post Office in Middelton was discontinued. Middelton had a ghostly look in 1926 when a small company leased the De Soto and shipped a few carloads of low-grade ore. Various lessees continued operations at the mine until August 1930, when the lower two tramway towers and terminal were destroyed by fire. The mine was abandoned for the next quarter-century.


Railway Fell into Disuse


The Crown King Branch of the Bradshaw Mountain Railway fell into disuse and was abandoned. The tracks were pulled up and removed in sections beginning in 1926 with the Crown King to Middelton segment. The rail remained in Middelton until 1932, when it retreated even farther. The railroad razed the structures it owned along its right-of-way, which included its buildings in Middelton. The deserted schoolhouse and two abandoned residences were all that remained. These structures were burned, wrecked, or carried off by vandals, thieves, and natural elements prior to 1946. A similar fate befell the buildings at the mine site with the exception of a portion of the upper tramway terminal and several tramway towers, which still remain.


Middelton Deserted


Today, Middelton and the surrounding area are deserted. The De Soto Mine, lying high on the rugged mountain slope from which more than $3,250,000 worth ore was carved, is silent. A stiff wind screams in its loneliness as it blows down the mountainside and across the abandoned landscape that was once filled with promise. The weathered and fallen timbers of the Bleichert aerial tramway, miles of frayed cables, and the weed overgrown railroad switchbacks are the last vestiges of the thriving Middelton community.


A small portion of the remains of the lofty De Soto Mine

Photo Courtesy: Neal Du Shane 03/28/08


Looking Southeast at 5,366’ Elevation

Head tailing pile of the De Soto Mine

Photograph by: Neal Du Shane 3/28/08

Map to De Soto Mine from Middelton


Middelton Cemetery

Our research detected no sign of a cemetery at Middelton proper. A short 1.5 mile distance down stream and old arrestra was found and graves numbering approximately 20 in number where identified there. The most noticeable was a miner who died in 1898 and his grave has a concrete enclosure below.

It is very likely this was a community cemetery serving the area. Also deaths after the rail road would have very likely been loaded on the train and shipped to Prescott or Crown King if – if the person or family could afford the expense. Otherwise the person would very likely have been interred here.


Photo by: Neal Du Shane 3/28/08


APCRP - Internet Edition


Version 050608


Published – Photograph Enhancement by: Neal Du Shane


WebMaster: Neal Du Shane




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