Decicated October 2, 2011 (6016)
To see the PBCs from this doins, chick here.
is herein retold, redacted, replaced, repulsed, repelled, resurrected, and retouched
In northwestern Arizona, near its border with the great state of Nevada, lies a mining community who history. It is not isolated; rather, it is connected to the history of many nearby mining areas in this part of the southwest. While it has gone through many booms and busts, it has never ceased to exist.
This is the community of Chloride, Arizona, host of the bi-chapter doins being held September 30 through October 2, 2011. The community of Chloride has a long history. It began as a mining camp in 1865, taking its name from the type of silver ore found in the vicinity.
Chloride was one of a number of communities in the northern Mohave County area. The earliest were focused on the Colorado River. Mohave County was one of the first four counties created in the Arizona Territory by the first Territorial Legislature in 1864. Part of the county was divided off to create a new county, named Pah-Ute County, in 1865. This was done to try to hold onto land on the western side of the Colorado River, south of the southern border of Nevada, which had been set as the 37th parallel when it become a state the year before.
Nevada was offered, and accepted a new southern border in 1866, which brought the southern tip of the state to where the Colorado River intersected California's eastern border at the 35th parallel. This meant most of the territory which had been split from Mohave County and put into Pah-Ute County, was now part of the state of Nevada. Arizona's Territorial Government protested this loss of land, but given its support of the south in the then-recently concluded Civil War, the federal government did not choose to give the land back. In 1871, Arizona Territory accepted the reality of the new Nevada state boundaries, and Pah-Ute County officially ceased to exist. What was left of its territory was returned to Mohave County.
By 1881, the current boundaries of the Mohave County were set. In the area around Chloride, mining was well established. The town of Chloride was not the first settlement in the area, but it did become the first incorporated city in Mohave County.
Chloride was originally part of the Sacramento Mining District. The district was formed in 1865 by miners who had come from Sacramento, California, to the Cerbat Range of mountains in 1863, based on reports from the California Volunteers stationed at nearby Fort Mohave. The initial strikes were worked through about 1867, and then the cost of transportation and supplies became too much. As is the case in any mining area, the value of the ore is directly proportional to the cost of transportation. Mediocre ore close to cheap transportation is worth more than good ore requiring expensive transport.
Attacks by Hualapai Indians on a party of mine owners from Baltimore who were looking over their mine in 1867, in which four of the investors were killed, led to the abandonment of the mines in the area. Three years later, however, miners were reentering the area, again prospecting the Cerbat range. A peace treaty with the Hualapais helped, and in 1870 the Wallapai Mining District was formed. A number of camps grew up, including Mineral Peak and Cerbat, but Chloride proved to be the lasting community.
By 1873, Chloride had a post office, and was growing. Hardyville, which had been located where Bullhead City is today, had burned, and some of the businesses relocated to the community. At this time, the selection of a town as county seat was a major benefit for any small community. Mohave County's county seat was originally Mohave City, near Fort Mohave. By 1867, it was moved to Hardyville, and then to Cerbat in 1871. Mineral Peak received the honor in 1872, and Chloride vied for the position in the election of 1873. Unfortunately, Chloride was unsuccessful.
In 1875, the destruction of the smelter owned by Thomas Coover led to the closing of the Chloride Post Office in 1875. Chloride was at its lowest point, but it did not completely die. In the early 1880s, the Schuylkill Lode was reopened by Monroe Salisbury, and the silver-lead ore extracted from the ground was of sufficient quality that shipping it to Benson in southern Arizona proved financially feasible. A new community, Kingman, named for railroad surveyor Lewis Kingman, was founded in 1882 as a siding on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad being built through northern Arizona. The next year the Kingman Sampling Works opened, making it possible for small mine operators to economically have the ore processed. Kingman grew sufficiently by 1887 that it became the county seat.
Chloride also grew with the coming of the Atlantic and Pacific. It was now possible to ship ore by wagon to Kingman, where it would be shipped by rail to smelters elsewhere. In 1890, Chloride boasted 30 registered voters. By 1893, Chloride finally had a post office again, and residents no longer had to go to Mineral Peak for their mail.
The great Tennessee-Schuylkill Mine was the focus of mines in the area, though it was by no means the only one. It was originally a gold mine, and was best known for its gold production, but on lower levels of the mine, lead and zinc were found in sufficient quantities to make them as valuable as the gold production
Transportation, being central to survival, was provided by stage and freight lines until the coming of the railroad. By 1898, the Arizona Stage Company ran a thrice-weekly stage to Chloride, White Hills and Temple Bar, and was joined by the Kingman and White Hills Stage line a few months later. Other stage lines served throughout the area.
While the railroads will be described later in this keepsake, suffice it to say here that by 1899, one had finally arrived at Chloride. The town was back with a vengeance.
On March 8, 1900, Chloride became the first city to incorporate in Mohave County. Within a month, there were grumblings about the cost of maintaining a city government, but the incorporation stuck, making Chloride the only incorporated city in the county until Kingman followed suit over fifty years later on January 21, 1952.
With incorporation came ordinances, with business licenses among the first. If one wished to be a real estate agent, fees ranged from $5.00 to $15.00 pre year, but if you were a "Chinaman" keeping a Chinese laundry, the fee was $10.00 per year. And astrologers, fortune tellers, and clairvoyants were especially hard hit, with the required license costing $20.00 per year.
Two years later, the Arizona Arrow newspaper moved from Kingman to Chloride, which it said was going to be a more important community. Given that there were more voters in Chloride that the county seat of Kingman, and the tax base seemed quite stable, publisher Lew Blakely promised to continue to offer "a clean paper, free of personal spite or party prejudice."
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, Chloride was booming. The mines were producing well, and the small community grew. The mines began to shut down at the end of the 1920s, and Chloride became more of a traveler's stop on the road from Kingman to Las Vegas. As early as 1917, Chloride officials were in contact with the Clark County Commissioners in Las Vegas, requesting help with the ferry across the Colorado on the Searchlight - Chloride road. An October 7, 1922, article in the Las Vegas Age showed the road's condition was an ongoing issue. Under the title "To Improve Ferry Road", the Age reported,
"The County Commissioners at the meeting Thursday received a communication from Chloride, Arizona, asking that some improvement be made on the road leading from the Colorado River Ferry to Searchlight to accommodate the considerable automobile travel from Arizona to Las Vegas and other Nevada points. The road in question is in very good shape except for some encroaching brush, and it was decided to put one man at work to remedy the difficulty."
Apparently the difficulties were remediated. During high water, the ferry on the Searchlight-Chloride portion of the automobile road would at times be shut down, but the road was normally passable. 1917 also saw reports of baseball games between the Chloride baseball team and teams from Searchlight and Nelson, in Eldorado Canyon. These games were often accompanied by community celebrations, with the Chloride Band playing in Searchlight for the dance after that game.
Other roads were also promoted, such as John Wisner's ferry route between Chloride and Eldorado Canyon. He claimed, in his ads in the Age in 1917, that the route over his ferry to Eldorado Canyon saved 19 miles over the Searchlight route. His route does not show up in the papers long after 1917, so perhaps it was not quite as wonderful as the advertising claimed.
In 1919, a new excitement occurred in the area between Chloride and Searchlight. This was the discovery and promotion of the Chloride-Kerwin Oil Field. William Kerwin, a Searchlight resident, thought oil was possible in a stretch of ground about fifteen miles long along the Colorado River between Searchlight and Chloride. Working with J. P. Ryan, a well driller, he promoted the new field, bringing in Texas investors. There was quite a lot of excitement about the possible new oil field, with many residents of Chloride investing in the Colorado River Oil and Gas Company. Unfortunately, the oil fields proved to be much more profitable for the sellers of the stock than for the buyers, and the boom ended within a short time.
By the end of World War II, Chloride was close to a ghost town, but it never completely died. Twenty years later, Roy Purcell, an artist and former director of the Southern Nevada Museum (today's Clark County Museum, where the author of this keepsake is the Administrator), decided to paint murals in one of the canyons near the town. He completed his work in 1966, restoring them in 2006. They can be viewed today.
Chloride is now a small community with a rich history. With between 150 and 250 residents, depending on the season, it is a great stop for anyone interested in the rich history of the Southwest.
The Railroads of Chloride
The value of a mine is directly proportional to the cost of shipping and processing the ore found in the mines. In the case of the many mines in the Chloride area, the proximity of the Colorado River first made possible their successful exploitation. Later the coming of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad through northern Arizona in 1882 provided a new transportation route which helped boost the mines.
However, the Atlantic and Pacific, later the Santa Fe, was about 25 long miles away. A short line directly to Chloride was the dream of many mine owners and local business people. It was to be many years, though, before one was built.
The first attempt to build a railroad from the Atlantic and Pacific, later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, to the Chloride area was led by Samuel McConnico, a mining promoter. McConnico is still memorialized in the McConnico siding on the Santa Fe where the Arizona and Utah eventually started toward Chloride. The Sacramento Valley Railway Company was incorporated in 1898, but never began building.
McConnico was interested in the same route that Alvin Daugherty had proposed just a short time before, but Dougherty had never done anything about his proposal. McConnico proposed a rail line which would have eventually connected with the Utah Southern Railroad in, you guessed it, southern Utah. The company began moving dirt in 1899, but funding problems doomed this first effort.
The importance of less expensive transportation, though, was made clear in some of the promotion around the Sacramento Valley effort. Without a rail line, ore worth less than $50.00 per ton was left in the tailings piles. With the railroad, the $5 to $25 additional cost per ton to move the ore would be significantly reduced, down to $3.50 to $3.80 per ton, and $50.00 per ton ore would become quite valuable.
There is one final note on the name of this first effort. The area near Chloride was called the Sacramento Valley because of the first miners in the area, who had been recruited from the Sacramento area in California, and had brought the name to the area. Sacramento means sacrament in Spanish, and was a name taken from the early Spanish name for the Sacramento River, which was Santisimo Sacramento, or Most Holy Sacrament, meaning the Eucharist.
Following the demise of the Sacramento Valley Railway Company, the Arizona and Utah Railway Company was organized by McConnico. This was to be a somewhat more successful venture. The railway started building from McConnico on the Santa Fe, and made it to about two miles south of Chloride in August 1899.
The coming of the railroad, even though it was not in the actual town, was a cause for great celebration. The silver spike used to complete the route was placed August 16, 1899, driven into place by a silver mallet wielded by Miss May Krider. Miss Krider was chosen for the honor, and according to first-hand accounts, was apparently quite successful, driving the spike "as neatly as it could have been done by an old railroader," as one account noted. The Celebration lasted both the 16 and the 17th, with drilling contests, greased pole climbs races, and, of course, food and speeches.
The arrival of the Arizona and Utah led to great activity at the Tennessee Mine, which had been reopened in anticipation of the rail line. Other mines, such as the Elkhart and the Samoan, also began expanding their efforts as the cost of transportation was lowered.
The Arizona and Utah was doing well, in spite of a fire in the Tennessee in 1900, which shut down production for a time. The rail line was dependent on the mines shipping ore to make a profit, so any stoppage in production hurt the railway's bottom line. The final extension was completed in 1900 when it was extended toward the White Hills, about three miles away.
The proximity of the Arizona and Utah made Chloride the supply center for mining districts as far away as Temple Bar in Arizona, and Eldorado Canyon, Rioville, Overton and St. Thomas in Nevada. Chloride was growing, boasting a local newspaper, the Arizona Arrow in 1903, the usual assortment of stores and shops, and 13 saloons.
1904 saw the beginning of the end of the Arizona and Utah. In August and September, torrential rains washed out the line in a number as places. For a short line running only three times a week, this was devastating. It was said that by the end of August, the line had been nearly washed off the map. Though repairs were begun quickly, the further rains in September taxed the line's meager resources. The railway was finally reopened in April 1905, but it could not pay its debts.
In June, the Arizona and Utah was seized for its creditors, and all of its assets were sold in December 1905 to the Santa Fe. The Santa Fe created a new, wholly owned separate company, the Western Arizona Railway. With the financial resources of the Santa Fe, the line was quickly put back into shape, and reopened as the Western Arizona.
The Santa Fe, in some of their comments, talked about extending the newly formed Western Arizona Railway to the Vegas valley, by crossing the Colorado at Rioville, also known as Bonelli's Ferry. This site, now under Lake Mead, would have been the best way across the Colorado to various local mining districts, as well as a way to connect with the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad being built at the time.
Fire hit Chloride in 1906, and much of the town was lost. None of the mines was affected, though, and ore continued to be shopped. There were rumors that the rails might be extended to Cerbat, but this never happened, and Chloride rebuilt and continued to be the shipping hub of the mining districts.
In 1910, the Western Arizona graded the site of a new terminal nearer the center of Chloride. The tracks were finally extended to this site and beyond to the Tennessee Mine, a distance of slightly less than two miles. The Tennessee was an interesting mine, as I noted earlier, in that as the shafts were sunk lower, different ore bodies were found. At this time, zinc and lead had been found, and it was shipping these ores. The ores were shipped to distant smelters, with lead going to Needles, California, and zinc going as far away as El Paso, Texas, and Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Rain continued to be a problem through the years. Washouts in 1912 slowed the extension of the line, but on November 23, 1912, the Western Arizona finally reached the new depot in Chloride. Another big celebration was held, the highlight of which was a baseball game between the Kingman and Needles teams (Kingman won handily, 8 to 1). About 1,000 people attended the festivities.
By 1916, Chloride was booming. It had two newspapers, the Chloride Herald and the Chloride Mining Review, as well as electric lights. A new theater was opened, and the town grew. The mines were doing well, mainly shipping lead and zinc ore.
The early months of 1917 brought the good news that there were efforts in Mohave County, Arizona, to build a good automobile road to the Eldorado Canyon ferry, with Clark County, Nevada, improving the road from the ferry to Las Vegas. The papers noted that this could save 22 to 24 hours of travel time between northwestern Arizona and Salt Lake City. Nothing came of these plans, though.
Unfortunately, in December of 1917 mine production was fast declining. The value of lead and zinc had dropped precipitously, and the Tennessee, the largest producer in the area, was shut down. Seven-day-a-week service by the railway was reduced to six-days-a-week by June 1918, then to once a week by 1922. Chloride's railroad glory days were moving into the past.
In 1927, half of Chloride's business district was destroyed in a fire, the most devastating in many years. Declining mine production continued, and passenger traffic dwindled to nearly zero. Between 1927 and 1931, only 27 passengers were counted on the line, and ore shipments declined from over 2500 tons to 479 tons. The line was no longer profitable. There was a slight hope that perhaps the Western Arizona could become the access rail line for the new Black Canyon project, building the largest dam in the world. Unfortunately, the Union Pacific's proposed short line through Railroad Pass to the dam site was closer (70 miles vs. 22 miles), and much less expensive to build. Had the Western Arizona become the shipping railroad for the dam project, the dam itself would have been put in a different location, but it was not to be.
In 1931, application was made to abandon the line by the Santa Fe. This was granted in 1933, and the Western Arizona ceased to be. Chloride was again without a railroad.
There were other proposed rail lines for Chloride, though none were ever built. George Chartier promoted the idea of a street railway for Chloride in 1906, unsuccessfully. Some years later in 1910, another proposed railroad, the Intermountain, St. George, and Grand Canyon Railroad, was to run from Thermo, Utah, through St. George, and then down to the Grand Canyon, with another branch running to Chloride and finally Kingman. This effort also was unsuccessful.
Chloride has been without a rail line since 1933. However, the final depot of the Western Arizona still stands, as does the community. The monument we place today will provide visitors with a glimpse of the community's railroading.
Andress, Donna, compiler, Eldorado Canyon and Nelson, Nevada, 1977, self-published
Arrowsmith, Rex, Mines of the Old Southwest, 1963, Stagecoach Press
Barnes, Will C.; revised and enlarged by Granger, Byrd H., Arizona Place Names, 1977, University of Arizona Press
Cook, Fred S., Legends of the Lower Colorado, 1973, California Traveler
Helbock, Richard W., Western Post Offices, 1993, La Posta
Malach, Roman, Chloride; Mining Gem of the Cerbat Mountains, 1978, Mohave County Board of Supervisors
Messersmith, Dan W., The History of Mohave County to 1912, 1991, Mohave County Historical Society
Murbarger, Nell, Ghosts of the Adobe Walls, 1964, Westernlore Press
Myrick, David F., Railroads of Arizona, Volume 6; Jerome and the Northern Roads, 2010, Signature Press
Paher, Stanley, W., Northwestern Arizona Ghost Towns, 1970, Gateway Press
Paher, Stanley W., Colorado River Ghost Towns, 1978, Nevada Publications
Paher, Stanley W., Chloride, Mines and Murals, 1978, Nevada Publications
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