CITY – MINE – CEMETERY
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02/23/06 Neal Du Shane
In talking with Kris Anderson, present caretaker of the Vulture Mine, Kris indicated that Marge Osborne would be the only person that would have any knowledge of the names of people interred in the cemetery.
Kris was sure that none of the “Highgraders” or other eighteen people hanged here was ever buried in the Verde Flat cemetery. These people would not have been awarded the privilege of this recognition. Their remains were buried anywhere on the property of the mine. Kris also indicated that most to the burials in the cemetery were children who were overcome with diseases common of the era, diphtheria, typhoid, small pox etc.
While Russ (Hunting) was working in the mess hall, silence descended on him. He couldn’t hear the usual desert noises, and he began to hear voices. The voices cheered him on, told him he was doing a good job. They repeatedly called him "Ben." Gradually, his hearing returned. After this, Russ Hunting would occasionally give tours, in costume, as his alter ego, Ben Russell. Russ died in 1996. His friends, John and Marge (Osborne), fulfilled his request that his ashes be scattered at the mine "so that I can be with my friends."
In 1923, some "personal miners" were working in one of the large underground chambers. The Vulture Mine, a hard rock mine, had no need of support timbers. The mining company found it necessary to leave about forty percent of the ore in place as supporting columns. One large chamber had ore columns that were very rich in gold. The personal miners were chipping away at these columns when they suddenly gave way. One hundred feet of rock over their heads collapsed on them. The cave-in killed seven miners and twelve burros. There was no hope of rescue.
legendary Vulture Mine offers visitors a glimpse of a vanished world, the
chance to meet some ghosts, and an object lesson in the grim cost of striking
it rich. Although the Vulture was the largest producing gold mine in
The first stop on the main street is the assay office and manager's headquarters, one of the most complete buildings in the ghost town. The structure’s walls, built from low-grade ore, contain an estimated six hundred thousand dollars in gold and silver. Visitors cannot enter the assay office itself, but they can wander through the other sections of the building, including the bullion storage room where gold and silver bars were stored in an underground vault.
The ground floor of the living quarters is scattered with remnants from long
ago, including an old
The tour trail loops around to the stamp mill and the head-frame, which loom over the remains of the white quartz butte that first attracted Henry Wickenburg to the area in 1863. Although Wickenburg held the original claim to the rich mine, he ended his life on the bank of the
The tour continues to the Glory Hole, a pit that originated in 1923 when some miners chipping ore out of the rock walls cut into support pillars and brought down one hundred feet of rock on their heads. Other miners dubbed the resulting depression the "Glory Hole" because seven of their companions and twelve burros were "sent on to glory" in the incident.
Not far from the Glory Hole, the main shaft of the Vulture Mine drops to a depth of two thousand one hundred feet at a perfect thirty five percent incline. A concrete slab at the entrance marks the place where Henry Wickenburg first made his strike. Miners eventually removed two hundred million dollars of gold from the bonanza and perhaps as much disappeared into the pockets of miners, supervisors and freighters. Jacob Waltz, better known as the "Lost Dutchman," worked at the Vulture Mine for several years, and some stories hold that his famous find actually originated from the common practice stealing the Vulture’s rich resources.
The wooden head-frame still towers over the entrance of the main shaft. The opening is partially boarded up to protect visitors, but one can still peer into the dark tunnel where bats drop from the rafters to flutter uneasily at the echo of human voices. The blacksmith shop sits next to the main shaft as if waiting for operations to resume.
South of the blacksmith shop, a road leads visitors to the ball mill where steel balls crushed rubble and low grade ore for the cyanide leaching process used in the later years of the mine’s production. The cyanide storage room, with its heavily barred windows, and the ball mill sit at the far end of town overlooking the white-encrusted leaching pits.
From there, the trail loops back to its beginning past the mine’s tailings, Henry Wickenburg’s original home, and the infamous Hanging Tree, where eighteen residents ended their lives for the crimes of rape, murder and high-grading.
Another group of buildings served as bunkhouses, a jail, whorehouses, hotels and even apartments. Visitors also can tour the old mess hall with its cast iron stove and wooden ice chest and the odd assortments of pans, dishes and canisters.
Although it is not shown on the map, the original schoolhouse, on the other side of town, is open to the public. A second schoolhouse, built to accommodate the city’s growing needs, is used for storage. Outside the schoolhouses, wooden picnic tables, the remains of two wooden teeter-totters, and a dilapidated slide and swing set entertain the imagination.
There have been more than ample versions of how Henry Wickenburg made this discovery, but the long story short: the fact is he did discover the Vulture Mine.
His discovery was in 1863; and the Vulture Mine was at one
time, was one of the richest gold mines found in
Active mining continued off and on for nearly 80 years, before being shut down in 1942 by the government as part of the “War Effort.” Some exploratory work by lease “Personal miners: and reworking of tailings has occurred since.
In 1923, some "personal
miners" were working in one of the large underground chambers. The Vulture
Mine, being a hard rock mine, there had been no need of support timbers. The
mining company found it necessary to leave about forty percent of the ore in
place as supporting columns. One large chamber had ore columns that were very
rich in gold. The personal miners were chipping away at these columns when the
column suddenly gave way. One hundred feet of rock over their heads collapsed
on the miners. The cave-in killed seven miners and twelve burros. There was no
hope of rescue. To this day their remains are forever entombed in the Vulture
Above ground, what had been a small hill became a pit. The collapsed chamber area became known as the "Glory Hole." Ironically, the miners soon discovered that the new Glory Hole was an excellent place for personal mining.
Located 2/10ths of a mile west of the
Henry Wickenburg found the gold in 1863, and since physically working a mine wasn’t high on his priority list, he let others do the physical work. Charging miners a flat fee of $15.00 a ton to work the Vulture Mine.
In 1866, Henry sold an 80% interest in the mine for $85,000, but only received $20,000 as a down payment. Henry remained a partner in the company until it folded in 1872. The Vulture Mine proved to be a true bonanza. Unfortunately, Henry Wickenburg barely shared in the wealth the mine produced.
After Henry sold his interests in the Vulture Mine, he set up and operated a ranch near the town which bears his name, to this day
After the Vulture Mine produce over $2.5 million dollars in 1872, the Vulture Mining Company was so far in debt that they were forced to shut down, despite the fact the ore was still rich.
A good mine like the Vulture can’t be kept down, and in 1878
new owners reopened, and began mining in earnest.
By 1880, the Vulture had 60-80 stamps crushing its ore, an assay office, blacksmith shop, a half dozen boarding houses, carpenter shop, cookhouse/mess hall, laundry, offices, saloons, stores, and warehouses.
Courtesy The Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources
A school was added to educate the children of the 300 or
more miners. Over 40 cabins housed the
In Vulture Cities peek, it was reported to be the largest
In 1884 financial troubles again shut down the mine and in 1886 a new owner reworked tailing piles and mine dumps, but did not venture underground. In 1887 the new owners sold out after one short year of operation.
Tabor had trouble keeping the bottom line of the Vulture out of the red, and finally in 1896 he leased the mine. The new operator tore down a number of stone buildings to run the rocks through the mills, as the gold showing there was higher grade than what showed in the tunnels. In addition, the main vein hit a fault and disappeared. Tabor canceled the lease and put the mine up for sale. However, he couldn’t sell fast enough, and the mine ended up being taken from him, and sold at auction.
In 1897 the new owners built a ball mill and cyanide plant and reworked tailings and dump material. In 1911 the faulted vein was found, and production began in earnest again. But in 1916 the slippery vein disappeared again, after officially producing over four million dollars. The mine never reopened in a big way, but small production runs and leasers kept it alive until it officially closed in 1942.
Today some heap-leaching of old tailings is taking place south of the site, but the property is open for visitors. A small entry fee is charged to walk around and visit the memories of the past.
The decaying remains of Henry Wickenburg’s cabin sits in the shade of a huge ironwood tree whose branches are said to have been the last thing that 18 men saw as they dangled by ropes dancing in air. In the area immediately around the hanging tree are a dozen or so buildings in various stages of decay. Here in the heart of the mining camp you can wander through the buildings and see what life must have been on this desert frontier in the 1800’s.
The largest building of the mine workings is a rock-walled two story structure that was built in the 1880’s by the Central Arizona Mining Co. This structure served as mine office and assay office. The rocks used to construct the buildings came from the mine, and were thought to contain thousands of dollars worth of gold. Most of the remaining buildings were also constructed in the mid 1880s.
Behind the mining company office building is a low hill capped with a small head-frame over the original discovery site, and a tin-sided building housing the blacksmith shop.
To the south was some mill buildings and the operation that was used to leach out 7-12 ounces of flour gold per ton of material treated.
Looking to the north, the Vulture’s Roost is visible through the desert vegetation, and a small hill just to the west has a couple lived-in cabins that once housed mine executives. This house also was the home of the former caretakers.
North of the hillside cabins and entry drive are a cluster of former workers’ cabins and the two school buildings, with their remaining playground equipment.
The Vulture Mine and
As mentioned previously, this is not a gussied up tourist trap. The buildings have not been restored, nor have they been stabilized. They remain as they were, and are slowly crumbling as time and the elements take their toll.
The Vulture Mine and
If you would like a piece of Arizona History the mine, real-estate and all buildings are currently for sale.
While there is no documentation to the following, I figure my theory is as good as the next person’s theory. Being they have never found the Lost Dutchman Mine this is logical to me.
At one time Jacob Waltz worked the Vulture Mine.
High-grading activities (stealing raw gold) at the Vulture Mime were legendary
and prevalent. The only theory I’ve ever heard regarding Jacob Waltz and “The
Lost Dutchman Mine” in the
Miners who evaluated Jacob’s gold over the years, have indicated it wasn’t Superstition Mountain Gold, his gold resembled gold mined at the Vulture Mine.
Anyway . . . that’s my theory and until they find the Lost Dutchman Mine, I’m sticking with it.
This is a tranquil, peaceful and remote location.
Some years ago a scout troupe placed white cross’s at the visible graves which number approximately 100. When APCRP researched by walking the total fenced area we estimate there are an additional 100 unmarked graves making the total interred approximately 200.
Sadly the majority to the graves are of children at various stages of life when they perished. There is much speculation to the causes but children’s death rates were high in those years. To this date there no identification or recorded document of those buried in this cemetery. Through research we were able to make contact with a relative of one of the children buried here. Although the headstone has long ago perished and isn’t physically there any longer. We were able to gain access to an old photograph of the young girl.
Photo enhancement by: Neal Du Shane
The Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project in 2006
reconstructed a headstone for the only known grave in the
We speculate there could be up to 250 interments in and
Update Sept. 2007: Through the diligent research of Pat Ryland, she has identified two individual grave sites across the blacktop road to the east. These graves are shown on old topographical maps. Pat and APCRP will be researching both of these sites to try and determine exactly the total graves that are at each of these locations. Documentation and verification with historic agencies will be forth coming.
YOUR GROUP CAN ADOPT THIS CEMETERY – help preserve our heritage
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