1858 Gold Rush in Arizona
The Spanish came to Arizona in
the 1500s looking for legendary cities of gold but found only mud-walled adobe
villages. Mexicans mined some areas of Arizona in the 1700s and the fierce Apaches
soon drove them out. After the 1849 California gold rush began, Americans traveled through
Arizona on their way to California.
Eleven years later, in 1858, Jake Snively discovered gold on the Gila River in the
southwestern part of the state and, suddenly, Arizona was noticed. Frontiersman Pauline
Weaver made another major strike in 1862, a little farther north along the Colorado river,
at La Paz. With the second discovery, every miner who had not struck it rich in California
headed for Arizona. Almost overnight, Arizona was awash with would-be millionaires.
Henry Wickenburg reached Arizona
in 1862. He was believed to be an Austrian or German immigrant, and had probably been a
farmer. Some tales of Wickenburgs origins say that his real name was Heinrich
Heitzel; some say he was running from the law in Europe. Whatever the reason, Wickenburg
ended up in California during the gold rush.where he learned how to prospect and pan for
gold. Henry was probably a part of Pauline Weavers exploration party which traveled
along the Hassayampa River. One version says this was when he spotted the quartz
outcropping which later became the Vulture Mine.
Wickenburg initially worked the mine by himself, but began to sell the gold ore to other
prospectors. By 1866, Henry Wickenburg had had enough of gold mining. He sold eighty
percent of the mine to a man named Benjamin Phelps, who represented some eastern
investors. The Vulture Mining Company was born.
The Vulture Mining Company announced plans to introduce modern mining methods, and to
build a twenty-stamp mill on the Hassayampa River. The stamp mill site was to be twelve
miles to the northeast, about one mile north of an existing settlement on the river. This
settlement had already attracted merchants eager to provide the Vulture with goods and
services. Henry Wickenburg retired from mining and established a farm near this
settlement. The settlement became known as Wickenburg.
Henry Wickenburg, for his 80% interest, received $20,000 in cash, and a note for $65,000.
The new owners soon claimed that Wickenburg didnt have a clear title to the
property, and refused to pay the remainder of the price. Wickenburg spent most of his
$20,000 trying to collect on his note, but never succeeded.
In 1868, Wickenburg funded an
ex-Confederate soldier in a new project that eventually changed Arizona history
forever. That project was called the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company conceived by Jack Swilling of nearby Prescott. Swilling started the
project that very year and by 1869, water flowed from the old Hohokam canals for the first
time in 400 years into the waiting fertile soil. The town's name was Phoenix.
Map of Arizona
Map of the reservations and Four Corners