Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project
Copyright © All Rights Reserved
A Story of Men and Mining
Yavapai County, Arizona
By Kathy Block
APCRP Research Staff
Placerita is a historic mining settlement located east of Kirkland, AZ and south of Wagoner Road near other areas researched by APCRP, such as Walnut Grove and Wagoner. This little-known site has an interesting history and is presently marked by one deteriorating stone building, an old mine adit, and remains of a processing mill.
The terrain is thick chaparral vegetation that opens up to grassland. There are a number of cattle ranches in the area and some leased BLM land used for grazing. As the land becomes steeper heading into the edge of the Weaver Mountains, the brush becomes even thicker. Elevations around Placerita are around 4,800 feet. There are numerous washes and gulches nearby that were mined, dry washed and panned for gold and copper.
The name “Placerita” came in with early miners from California. It is a diminutive of “placer” in Spanish, which means the place near a riverbank where gold dust is found and washed out. Usually less than 100 people lived there, although the 1910 census listed 172 residents, at its peak in the active mining period from about 1880 to 1910. Only 30 people were there in 1905. Many residents probably lived in tents, as was typical of early mining settlements. A 1905 USGS map indicated five buildings on the north side of Arrastre Creek clustered together, plus scattered buildings to the NE along the creek and a few along the road to Placerita from Kirkland.
Former building locations at Placerita.
Map by Neal Du Shane, text overlay by Kathy Block
Typical miner's residence with two burro’s.
Photo Courtesy Mohave Museum of History and Arts, Kingman, AZ
In ways, Placerita was an “Old West” town with some murders, a range war between goat herders and sheep herders, and great excitement over gold prospects, followed by decline as the mines played out.
Our interest in Placerita was prompted by an article from an old newspaper.( Note: Most of the newspapers quoted in this article are from the Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner unless otherwise stated.) There was the possibility of a cemetery or graves, commonly found around old mining areas. The article of August 01, 1906 read:
“DEATH SAID TO BE DUE TO EXTREME HEAT
Eph Meador Expires At His Home in Placerita
After an illness of only a week, due, it is said, to the heat, Eph Meador died yesterday morning at his home in Placerita.
The deceased was a native of Illinois and about 54 years of age. He was unmarried, and leaves two brothers surviving him both residents of the Walnut Grove district.
A casket in which to inter the remains was shipped by express last evening to Kirkland by the Rufner undertaking establishment on Cortez Street. The funeral will take place this afternoon from the home of the deceased to the Kirkland Cemetery, where internment will take place.”
Actually, Eph Meador was buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery. His grave is marked by a flat brown stone with his name chiseled out on top and on the bottom the words, “Died July 30, 1906.” There is an upright wooden marker behind this stone. His sister Ophelia, his father Ambrose, and brother Louis are also buried at Walnut Grove Cemetery, located about 5 miles to the East of Placerita.
General area map of Placerita. Map by Neal Du Shane
1950 stone structure. Photograph reproduced with permission of Bill Fessler, American Traveler's Press.
2008 - Gene Simonds in front of structure. Photo courtesy Neal Du Shane
2013 - decay in 5 years. Photo courtesy Ed Block
There are various theories about the use of this building. Thelma Heatwole in her book, “Ghost Towns and Historical Haunts in Arizona” (1991) said: “A concrete marker above the front door reads 'Isabella-1875.' Whoever she was, Isabella must have owned the most substantial house in town. It was the only one still standing. Inside features were a fireplace and a floor with a trap door.” (Written in the 1950s.)
Other writers referred to the building as a “stone cabin”. It could have been related to a mine.
A Nov.10, 1909 news item said:
“R.E. McGillen, interested in the Old Spaniard group of mines in the Placerita section, makes the statement that his company is preparing to resume development and the Isabella claim system will be selected as the demonstrative point.”
Ed Block on trail to stone ruin. Photo courtesy Kathy Block
Area east of stone ruin. Photo courtesy Ed Block
There were probably at least two roads to Placerita. A rough track off present-day Whitehead Ranch Road that goes directly to the stone ruin is a walking path only. Another road that can be driven goes down to a large open, flat area less than 1/2 mile east of the stone ruin. This area may have been the site of many buildings, and an old road goes west across a gulch to the ruin. The main road to Placerita was probably built around March 1900, though others probably existed prior to that time. In 1880 “Grizzley Callen” had found small veins and opened a quartz mill, which must have required access. The 1900 road “for steam traction wagons” being built by a New York and Ohio Company of “unlimited capital” was “now being graded from People's Valley to Placeritas, for a 100 stamp mill on the property.
There apparently were no stores in Placerita. Most residents probably traveled the 15 miles NW to Kirkland or about 65 miles to Prescott or Wagner for goods and services. By 1900 an old photo of Kirkland showed a hotel, store, stage station, and mentioned a “safe” (maybe for miner's gold?). The same commercial conveniences were offered at Wagoner, 11 miles to the east. A 1909 ad for a train from Kirkland to Phoenix listed a fare of $3.20 one-way, from an Atchison and Santa Fe RR depot in Kirkland.
Mining equipment could be ordered from a firm in San Francisco in 1888. Some stores in Prescott advertised “eastern prices” for items such as clothing, buggy whips, lumber, groceries, feed and grain. There were several undertakers in Prescott. Rufner Funeral Parlour was a popular one.
1886 Undertakers Prescott, AZ ad. Coffins were often shipped to Kirkland, AZ by train.
There were probably few children in Placerita, though some miners did have families. The nearest school was Walnut Grove, about 4 miles East, where children could either walk, ride, or go in a wagon on a rough road. A photo from 1896 showed 16 children and an older male teacher sporting a white goatee and a woman standing beside him in front of a one-room schoolhouse. Another photo, undated but probably about the same time, showed the same man by himself with a class of 22 children.
The road or roads to Placerita were steep and rocky and tended to become muddy and needed regular repairs. In September 1909, the Office of the Board of Supervisors of Yavapai County, Arizona Territory in Prescott, authorized W.B. Wright to spend not exceeding $200 for repairs to the Kirkland-Placerita Road. Again, in December 1909, one John Flanagan was authorized to spend the sum of $50 in repairing the road between Kirkland and Placerita. And in January, 1915, $10.05 was approved from the “expense fund” to one L.J. Haselfeld for “supplies for Kirkland to Placerita Road.”
January 11, 1911, news article reported a new road being built at Placerita:
“GREAT ACTIVITY REPORTED AT PLACERITA. Arrivals from the camp of the Mines Development Company, opening the McMahon and Zonia mines, at Placerita, give an interesting account of the progress of the work, saying that the camp is teaming with activity, and has a healthy business look. Several new buildings have been erected, and old ones remodeled and enlarged to meet increased demand. A large force of men is employed in building a new wagon road up the canyon from the main works, that the grade may be wide enough to accommodate the wagons carrying the two large churn drills that are to be taken in from Kirkland, for exploring the property. Considerable mine work is also under way on the ground opened, and the belief is that the enterprise faces an attractive future....”
As the mines developed, five and ten stamp mills were built to process gold ore from many claims at Placerita.
1950 – typical of mill house's at Placerita. Reproduced with permission of Bill Fessler, American Traveler's Press.
2013 - Remains of a mill site at Placerita. Photo courtesy Ed Block
One gold ore processing mill was located at Whitehead Ranch Road near a road heading south to Placerita. There are only a few remnants left. There were actually a number of mills in the Placerita area.
Mention of two mills was made in an article November 02, 1895:
“The Arizona & Illinois Construction Company has the most of its machinery for a ten stamp mill on the ground at Placerita and expects to have it up ready for operation within thirty days. The Isabella Mining Company is also putting in a Huntington mill of ten tons capacity near the same place and expects to have it in operation about the same time. Both companies have good claims there although they are yet developed to any very great extent.”
Another mill was proposed in 1900 at a property called the Navy group. The 10 stamp mill would be built if the present ore values continued to a depth of 40 feet; the deepest cut was then 18 feet on a ledge 200 feet wide and 2 miles long, worked by 15 men. One group of mining men pronounced it “a second mother lode, like that of California.” The New York and Cincinnati capital group had already purchased water rights and paid cash for over 700 acres of land in the area! No later word on results.
An ad in the Arizona Weekly-Journal, January 27, 1897 offered employment at Placerita:
“WANTED - A first class millman to take charge of a ten stamp mill. Also must be able to make all necessary repairs. Address: The Placerita Co., Placerita, Arizona Territory.”
In the early 1900s, Placerita was the site of extensive placer mining in Placerita Gulch and other rich gold-bearing washes. The nearby ranches raised goats and cattle, and some sheep.
A murder in May 1907 highlighted tensions between goat herders and sheep herders. On May 10, 1907 A.T. Meadows died at his goat ranch after being shot in the groin by a Mexican assailant who fired four shots at him. Meadows returned fire and with “an unerring aim” managed to kill the shooter. Meadows left behind a wife and 6 children “in poor circumstances.” The incident aroused the Walnut Grove and Placerita districts. The farmers and stockmen declared they would “assert their rights and prevent further encroachments on their domain by the sheep herders, who are said to show no respect for the rights of the old settlers of the community.” Meadows may have been buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery, but no records verify this.
Over a year after the murders, an ad from the Arizona Republican, August 2, 1908, in a section called “Popular Wants” offered: “FOR SALE. 150 goats, located at Placerita, 40 miles S.W. Of Prescott. Address: N.H. Scott, Mesa, Arizona.”
An earlier murder took place in Placerita around August 6, 1895. According to a news report, a Mexican had been killed at Placerita by a “fellow country man,” around 10 PM, on a Sunday night. The whole top of the Mexican's head was blown off. The other Mexican, named Frederico Monje, about age 32, who did the shooting, mounted a horse and, with two other Mexicans, left the camp, saying he was heading towards Prescott. Instead they rode towards Peeple's Valley. A Justice William Peat from Walnut Grove held the inquest on the “remains of the dead man” the next day. It was assumed the murderers were “well on their way to the Mexican line.”
Placerita had a post office from February 1, 1896 to August 15, 1910. It may have been in the stone building. There were a number of people who had managed the post office. John W. Cool, a miner and merchant, was postmaster in 1903. Lottie B. Mahard was appointed postmistress at Placerita in 1906, replacing Richard E. McGillen who resigned.
Possible mill crane near entrance road to Placerita. Photo courtesy Ed Block.
In November, 1901, it was announced that bids were being taken for the U.S. Mail on “star routes”, as present contracts expired June 30, 1902.
The service was fifteen miles from Kirkland to Placerita and back, three times a week. Mining camps and all citizens residing along the star route were served by a carrier bringing mails to various post offices along the route. Also, the carrier was required to deliver mail into all boxes and hang small bags or satchels, provided by the customer at their own expense, containing mail, on cranes or posts the customer erected along the route! The crane or box on the roadside had to be located in such a manner as to be reached “as conveniently as possible” by the carrier without dismounting from the vehicle or horse! If there was a lock attached to the box, a key was not to be held by the carrier, as he was expected to deposit the mail without the necessity of unlocking the box. The carrier “is not expected to collect mail from the boxes, but there is no objection to his doing so if it does not interfere with his making the schedule time.” The mail carrier “must be of good character and of sufficient intelligence to properly handle and deposit the mail along the routes.” In 1901, pay was $272.46 and in 1905 pay was $550 – per year!
Placerita has an extensive history of mining ventures. The earliest prospectors were probably Mexicans who took out “free gold” as early as 1565. A gold rush began in the early 1880s with a colorful miner named “Grizzley Callen”, who found small veins of gold in the vicinity of Placerita Gulch. Soon a small settlement arose along Arrastra Creek and much placer mining was done. Gulches dissected a northeastward-sloping pediment of general elevation of less than 5,000 feet above sea level. This pediment consists of granite, diorite, and steeply dipping schist with gravel and lava. It contains many small gold-bearing quartz veins. These eroded to furnish gold for placers.
No records or estimates of early production are available. A publication, Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, Bulletin 168, by the Arizona Bureau of Mines, reprinted 1994, reports on gold mining in the Placerita area thru 1933. It reported that “in 1899 Blake (an Arizona Territory geologist, in a report to the governor), stated that 'the placers at Placerita have long been known and worked and are regarded as good wage mines.” A small dredging project was attempted in the early 1930s on a small area of ground in French Gulch about 1 mile below Zonia Mine. This was 20 years after peak mining activity.
During the 1932 - 1933 season, when water was available, about 25 men were placer mining in the vicinity of the junction of French and Placerita gulches, using rockers and sluices. Their average daily earnings were about 50 cents per man! The total production prior to June 1933 was approximately $2,000. They found fairly coarse gold, with many $5 and $10 nuggets and one $80 nugget. The value of gold then was $18 per ounce. A large-scale operation with a one-yard gasoline shovel, angle-iron riffles and a barrel amalgamator processed gravels and boulders at the junction of Placerita gulch and French gulch in June 1933. No report on production.
Early newspapers beginning in 1886 began mentioning Placerita, mines, and gold. Some mines opened, only to close again, possibly due to poor returns or financial difficulties.
1898 Mine for sale, Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner, March 16, 1898
Typical claim stake near Arrastre Creek. Photo courtesy Kathy Block
A sale notice, on Feb. 8, 1899, read:
“Sam Hill vs the Placerita Co. Order of sale Bonanza Mine, machinery, etc. Walnut Grove District, $2,389.23. County recorder's office reported by the Akers-Tritle-Brown Abstracts.”
Used mining machinery was available for sale as mines failed. Here's one ad from a May, 1897, Prescott paper:
“MINING MACHINERY FOR SALE:
A Two stamp mill-stamps 850lbs each, heavy battery and 8 to 10 horse power engine and Perfection concentrator. Will be sold cheap and on reasonable terms. Also a complete small steam hoist capable of raising 500 feet. Perfectly new, never in use. Will be sold for cash for less than it cost in Chicago....”
Some news reports, though, were very optimistic. Note the sometimes exaggerated language. These give a picture of what was happening in mining. Here are some excerpts:
March 28, 1888: “The Great Placerita Country, in Walnut Grove District – One of the richest and best portions of Yavapai couty is that known as the 'Placerita' and comprises the western portion of Walnut Grove mining district.... It is about ten miles in width and fifteen in length, and it is everywhere interspersed with ledges of gold, silver, copper and lead, and almost every ravine, gulch and canyon contains heavy placer gold, and many of them are very rich. It is dotted all over with numerous springs of pure crystal water....”“The placer mines have only been superficially worked, and that by “dry washing” process, although even in that way more than $100,000 has been taken out of the main Placerita gulch in coarse gold, some of the pieces weighing over a pound, and one piece containing $900.” (Gold was about $18 ounce or less then.)
November 15, 1899: “For several days we have heard rumors of a 'find' in the vicinity of the Placerita country, but we could get nothing tangible until today. The new discovery has been kept secret until it has been demonstrated that the values exist, as claimed, and that the new discovery located by those interested....But little work has been done upon this claim, but enough was done to prove that the values are sufficiently high to warrant the assertion that it is even a greater deposit than the great Alaska-Treadwell mine in Alaska, where the ore only averages only about $2.50 per ton. On this new discovery several samples of a 46-foot cut across the cleavage of the schist shows an average of from $4 to $8 per ton. In other places averages of shafts and pits show values of over $12 per ton.....”
The January 26, 1904. Arizona Republican stated:
“BUSY PLACERITA: Steady Work in Little Cripple Creek District and Vicinity.... Mr. Green has started in to do some extensive mining on the President Mine, situated in the lower end of Placerita (sometimes called Little Cripple Creek).... the ore of which resembles the ore of the Gold Coin mine of Cripple Creek... About 3 miles northwest of the President Mine on Arastra Creek, the owners of the Virginia Dale Mine are taking out ore which they intend rolling at their 10-stamp mill farther up the creek in the near future. This is one of the mines which D. Jones,,,,tried to bond before taking head of the Octave Mine. He could not make satisfactory terms with the owners at that time, as the showing was very flattering, and thereby Placerita lost a great opportunity to become a 'live' mining camp....”
“The Nagel group, which is west of the Placerita, is being worked by one of its owners, C.C. McKene. The former owner, Fred Nagel, caught the Klondike fever and left for Alaska. Before going he stopped and gutted all the ore he could get at and the present owners have considerable dead work to do before getting in shape to work profitably. It has hundreds of feet of work done on it in the way of tunnels and cross-cuts and the writer has seen tons of ore from this mine milled that placed in the neighborhood of $100 a ton.”
Mining was dangerous, hard work, and accidents were frequent. Here's a report of an April, 1908 accident: “Frank Hand, hurt by a cave at the mouth of the tunnel ten days ago while engaged in timbering the tunnel entrance, is slowly recovering. He was covered by several tons of falling earth and rocks. He was released from his perilous position by his brother, George Hand, who feared at the time that his brother would not be rescued alive. None of Fred's bones were broken in the accident but he was crushed and badly bruised all over. He expects to be able to get out of bed in the next ten days.”
One month later, in May 6, 1908, report, Frank Hand had apparently recovered:
“Hand Brothers are developing a promising ore body in the Rochester Mine in the Placerita district.....the paystreak varies in thickness from one to three feet, the ore being of a good milling grade. It is uncovered a distance of fifty feet in a tunnel which is being run to tap a shaft at a depth of 100 feet, 200 feet further ahead. There are now 100 tons of ore on the dump ready to be milled....The (Rochester) group is located one mile east of the Placerita post office....”
A September 15, 1909 report enthused that:
“Along the Hassayampa and at the Placerita Gulch more men are at work placer mining at the present time than in years past, and some big nuggets are being found at the latter place. It is conservatively estimated at the present time that the total receipts per month in this city of gold bullion and placer dust will run close to $75,000, several small shippers sending in various sums.....”
Possibly exaggerated news in a May 29, 1912 newspaper:
“BIG GOLD NUGGET EXCITES PLACERITA.” The story described a gold nugget discovered that weighed 23 pounds avoirdupois worth at least $2 per ounce, in the aggregate of $2500....the nugget contained considerable quartz and a heavy percentage of silver, hence the lower value....
A final news item from July 18, 1917 almost 7 years after the post office closed in August 1910, claimed:
“GETTING LIVELY IN PLACERITA COUNTRY....Adding to the encouraging outlook is a gold strike made a short time ago by Dud Meadows. It was only surmised as to the values the samples would run to the ton, but this feature was not weighed by the owner, who stated the discovery was out of the ordinary and he feels very much pleased....”
Old Grizzly's Open Letter, not legible – (hype selling his mining claims)
Many of these gold discoveries and mining developments were begun after a man named Anson W. Cullen, known as “Old Grizzly,” traveled to Placerita and “struck it rich” in July, 1884, while building a dam. He picked up about $350 in gold. One piece was worth over $200. Then, in March, 1887, he found gold worth $900, while completing a 5-mile ditch to his Placerita camp, and was expected to start up his mill shortly.
Anson Wilbur Callen had a varied life and career, in Placerita and other places. He was born in New York State on May 11, 1832, and as a young man moved to Junction City, Kansas with his wife, Catherine, born in 1835. They had nine children. One son died at birth in 1878, another lived only 4 years, from 1872 to 1876. The family are all interred in Highland Cemetery, Junction City, Kansas, with individual upright marble tombstones marking their graves. The 1870 census lists him as a cattle dealer in Junction City.
By 1875, Callen organized the Arizona Mining Company, in Junction City. Pamphlets were printed that represented the Arizona Territory as rich in mineral deposits and members, who were supposed to subscribe $500 each, were recruited. Wagons and a general outfit were procured and the party started for Arizona, arriving in Prescott the latter part of October. An old 1875 photo shows about 40 people, mostly men, but a few women and children, riding horses, or standing in front of a line of 14 covered wagons in downtown Junction City. Three people sat on the roof of a two story brick and frame store watching the action. The wagons seemed to mostly have teams of horses hitched to them, but a few oxen/cows were visible.
The party spent some time camping near Prescott when they arrived. Another member of the party was elected manager, instead of Callen. Some claimed that “misrepresentations” of the richness of the “mineral belt” were made before any prospecting or exploration of the Placerita area had been made. One disillusioned investor the next Spring in April 1876, when a debate of the truthfulness of Callen's statements was discussed in newspapers, proclaimed:
“I do not blame Mr. Callen for any statement contained in these resolutions, but I have heard of the height of imagination, and I think the individual who drew up these resolutions stretched his ideas very much, for his “mineral belt of Arizona” is the very width of imagination. I would not notice these resolutions had I not been requested to do so by citizens of Kansas now in Arizona. It is possible that these countries may turn out to be good mining districts....When I say possible, I do not mean that the prospect is any wise encouraging.”
Callen wrote a rebuttal in 1878 after he returned to Junction City. He said it was his farewell shot and that he will hereafter “leave Arizona and her affairs to take care of themselves until he gets ready to start back to Prescott, and that when that time comes he will not ask the advice of anybody about the propriety of his going. In the meantime if he owes anybody anything, let them send in their bills.”
Near the end of his letter to the newspaper in Prescott from Kansas, his irritation came forth: “I am yet alive, and do not shrink from meeting any man face to face. Am asking no special favors. Am continuing to pay my own way. Am acting on my own judgment. Am poor but independent as ever and shall not especially bother myself about how many are exercising their minds over my affairs and doings.”
By 1880, Callen, now referred to in news as “Old Grizzly,” maybe due to what seems to be a feisty temperament, (though he was only 47 years old), had found some gold and rich veins. He opened a quartz mill. His son, James S. Callen (1861-1929), apparently joined him at his claims. His other children and wife apparently stayed behind in Kansas, and he made frequent trips there by train to see them. Train passengers were often listed in Prescott newspapers.
Tragedy struck in July 24, 1889. Many such incidents happened in mining camps.
A headline screamed:
“IN SELF DEFENSE
Two Miners Shot and Instantly Killed by A.W. Callen at His Camp.”
A news reporter visited Callen in the county jail where he'd given himself up to famed sheriff Bucky O'Neill and been transported to Prescott, a 65 mile trip from his camp. There, Callen “declined to make any statement further than to allege justification in the killings, stating there were witnesses to it and he preferred to await the preliminary examination, when all the facts and circumstances would be brought out.”
Briefly, two of Callen's friends, Byron J. Charles and Frank H. Work had been at work at their claim near Callen's claim. The two men walked to nearby Callen's cabin and a dispute arose over a claim. Frank Work allegedly threatened to “do Callen up” unless Callen signed a deed to a piece of mining property. They told him to get his pen and paper and make out the deed. Callen refused and Charles may have told Work, “We can't do anything with this old S.O.B, let's go.” Callen turned to see if Charles was armed and was hit by him with a club across the neck. Callen went to his room, got the shotgun, and confronted the men outside his house.
Byron Charles was armed with a six-shooter and Callen had a double barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot. Witnesses said Charles fired two shots at Callen with the pistol within 20 feet of Callen's house, hitting a window and door frame. Charles supposedly said to Work, “You have always been my friend and I'll stand by you.” A housekeeper heard the shots and heard another man yell, “They're going to kill Callen.” But, Callen fired back at both men with the shotgun, killing them.
Judge Ward was summoned from Walnut Grove to hold an inquest. Before the judge could arrive, the bodies were “coffined and buried without an inquest.” (Maybe due to the July heat? I could find no information on these burials or their final disposition.) The 1870 Census listed a Byron J. Charles, age 16, born in New York, living in San Diego; in 1880 Byron J. Charles, age 26, harness maker, lived in Pinal County, Arizona. The 1870 census listed a Frank H. Work, age 13, born in Maine, living in Pixmont, Maine. These may possibly be the two men whom Callen killed?
At the county jail in Prescott, Callen was released on $2,500 bail, and Judge Fleury stated that while he was justified in releasing Callen, an investigation by a grand jury should be held. The jury found Callen had acted in self-defense.
Callen's son Jim S. Callen of San Diego arrived on the train to help his father. The local paper reported that:
“His father, with a number of friends, drove down in a barouche to the depot to meet the talented young lawyer. The meeting between father and son is said to have been very affecting.”
In September 5, 1906, Callen lost his mines, after his company failed. His son Jim had attempted to take over the properties, but was unable to raise enough money to keep them going. Callen published a touching notice in several papers. It was titled, “Old Grizzly's Letter”: “Old Grizzly Talks for Arizona's and Especially Placerita's Mines in an Open Letter to Mine Investors, Creditors, Prospectors and Miners.” In it, he lists his various properties, including his Bonanza Cabin on Arrastra Creek, for sale, and gave up his claims.
Anson Wilbur Callen died February 14, 1916 in Junction City, Kansas, and is buried with other family members (including his wife who had died in 1911) in Highland Cemetery, Junction City, Kansas.
According to the family, “at least twice in his life he was a millionaire, but he spent it as quickly as he earned it. He had a great interest in fine jewelry and after each strike he had fabulous pieces of jewelry made.” He gave his daughter Ella a gold watch with the inscription: “A.W. Callen to his daughter E.E. Callen on the 16th anniversary of her birth April 19, 1886.” His son Jacob received the watch chain inscribed: “To J.B. Callen on the 27th anniversary of his birth with love from his father “Old Grizzly,” Junction City, Kansas, September 22, 1885.” (Reference 1.)
Legendary “Bucky” (William Owen) O'Neill (1860-1898) had applied for the job of Assistant Paymaster of the U.S.Navy, but due to a delay in the appointment, he went to Arizona and edited a newspaper called “Hoof and Horn” (a cattleman's paper in Phoenix.) He became a Judge for Yavapai County and was then elected Sheriff for three consecutive terms. He and a deputy came to Placerita to take Callen to jail in Prescott. “Bucky” was famous for his “courage and fearlessness” and considered the best armed man in the Territory and the best shot in 5 fights with 6 shooters. He was killed in action in the Spanish American War with the Rough Riders on July 1, 1898. His nickname came from his tendency to “buck the tiger” - play contrary to odds at faro or other card games. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 1907 a monument was erected to him in Prescott Courthouse Plaza. A sculpture by Solon Borglum shows O'Neill on a horse, and a plaque details his accomplishments in Arizona.
In reaction to various killings and lawless incidents at Placerita and the surrounding areas, an attempt was made to make Placerita “dry” in August 1909. Residents of the area voted on enforcing prohibition in a zone including Kirkland, Peeples Valley, Zonia Mining Camp, and Placerita. The basis was the reopening of a saloon at Kirkland. There was supposedly “unanimous sentiment among the men, women, and children to wipe out the liquor business.” The “dry zone” would have encompassed a strip of country approximately 60 miles long by from 10 to 15 miles wide. The voters passed the law by a narrow margin. The enforcement of the law, as allowed by Arizona at the time, could have taken two years, but soon the law was repealed.
Today, there is little commercial mining at Placerita, except for a copper mining effort at Zonia Mine, by a Canadian group, Alliance Mining Corp. In 2011 the company did an “airborne” geophysical survey of Placerita South claims adjacent to the Zonia Mine. They will use this data to begin drilling in quartz veins. Some of the areas are historic mines.
Recreational prospectors drywash and, when there is water in the creeks, pan for placer gold, in the once thriving area of Placerita. Except for the stone ruin, an old mine adit, and scattered remains of an old mill and a few pieces of rusty metal, nothing much remains to show the history of this “Old West” mining settlement.
How to locate Placerita. Keep in mind that some of the roads go thru private cattle grazing areas and ranch land. Stay on the main roads and honor any gates (keep them open or closed as you find them.) Please do not litter or trespass, so these roads will stay open to the public.
Go east on Wagoner Road, signed to Walnut Grove, from Highway 89 between Yarnell to the south and Prescott to the north. After about 3.3 miles, at the top of a hill, turn south on Zonia Mine Road (signed). Go about 1.5 miles and continue straight on Whitehead Ranch Road at a junction. (Zonia mine road branches off on the right.) Travel about 5.5 miles on the Ranch Road to a junction. The Ranch road goes to the right. Take this and go about .5 mile, looking for the stone ruin on your right. You will see an overgrown, rough track leading down a hill to the ruin. If you go another .5 mile, you will find a good track that leads to the right to a large camping area. Take this short road down and walk or drive back along the creek bed to your right about ¼ mile to the end of an old road. Cross the creek and walk about 100 feet on a faint trail to the ruin. If you miss the turn-off, a locked gate and active mine are about 1 mile further on Whitehead Ranch Road.
Enjoy this ghost town site, take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints! The site is currently on Forest Service land.
2013 Ed Block - collapsed roof, stone house ruin. Photo by Kathy Block
2008 stone house interior before roof collapsed. Photo by Neal Du Shane
2013 - Collapsed wall. Photo by Ed Block
2013 - Chimney on back of ruin. Photo by Ed Block
Ed Block examines ruins of stone cabin/house. Photo by Kathy Block
2013 - Rocks using mud as mortar in stone cabin walls. Photo by Ed Block
Neal DuShane - maps, photos, and editing.
Ed Block - locating, driving, photograph, and research Placerita.
Bill Fessler - American Travelers Press, permission to use two photos from the book, “Ghost Towns and Historic Haunts” by the late Thelma Heatwole, 1991.
Kay Ellermann – Librarian, Mohave Museum of History and Arts, for photo of miner's tent camp with burro.
Internet site: historywired.com: A Few of our Favorite Things. Smithsonian Institution. Information about the watch and chain.
Historic newspapers are found on the internet site: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.
Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project
WebMaster: Neal Du Shane
© 2013 Neal Du Shane
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