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A Visitor To Early Arizona Territory Describes The Landmarks ("Ruins Of Ancient Buildings...And In Some Places Chapels"), Agriculture ("The Finest Part Of The Country I Have Seen So Far For Agricultural Purposes"), And The Prolific Vulture Gold Mine ("I Should Like To Own It For About A Year")
AL. 4pgs. March 2, 1869. Fort Whipple, Arizona Territory. A lengthy-but-incomplete letter sent from Arizona Territory. Writing to parents back home, the author describes in detail the landscape, agriculture, and mining in the region. He mentions key rivers, architectural monuments, history, and gold mines. Arizona Territory was established in 1863, with Fort Whipple as its first capital, and became a state in 1913: "My Dear Father & Mother, We left Camp McDowell on the 19th of last month, and made about thirty miles to the settlements on the Salt River: this is the finest part of the country I have seen so far for agricultural purposes; it would do Shoddy good to see the immense stretches of country, as level as a floor and without a stone; the ploughing is generally done very superficially, all it requires being simply to put the seed in and it will come up. The entire country is just as fertile as these river bottoms, but the great drawback is the scarcity of water; even on these river bottoms nothing would grow, if they did not make irrigating ditches (aquafers the Mexicans call them) all over the land and plow their crops in the dry season. Manure is never need in the country, the land is so productive that it will grow anything without any stimulant of any kind. The only markets they have are the military posts, so they raise grain principally for forage: barley is the grain most used by the government for feed for the horses: in fact it is far better than corn and the horses do more work on it. The hay grows wild and all it requires is cutting; nearly every post having mowing machines and plenty of men; they have abundance of hay for all purposes. All through the settlements we found, and in fact for miles, we found pieces of pottery, scattered along the ground, supposed to be the work of the Aztec under the Jesuits. I find in the history of Arizona that all these fertile valley are supposed to have been settled at least a century ago, and that civilization flourished much more so than at present, under the rule of the priests. Everything goes to show that such was the case, as we find ruins of ancient building, pottery, old canals for irrigation, and in some places their chapels. In the valley of the Santa Cruz nine miles south of Tucson is the old Cathedral of San Xavier del Bac as fine an old ruin as you could wish to see; in fact it is hardly a ruin, but is in a fine state of preservation, having the roof entire and most of the decoration; some of the statuary is really good and would not disgrace some of the public buildings in the States. This cathedral is supposed to be some two hundred years old. I think there is little doubt that what this country has been settled at one time, and its mines worked, but it has keen land waste by the depredations of the Indians. Our next days march was thirty miles to mud tanks, covering two (so called) rivers on the route; these rivers are dry half the time, in fact are only rivers during the rainy season. One of them we found dry and the other with considerable water in it, although our train, that was about an hour behind us, found no water whatever it having sunk in the sand. Next day we travelled thirty mules to Wickenburg a mining town and the only self-supporting town in Arizona; I visited the Vulture mine and also the mill, and was very much entertained in so doing; the gold is found there almost in the quartz, and varies in value (that is the rock) from thirty to three hundred dollars per ton. The mill in what is called a twenty stamp mill; the stamps being on the same principal as a trip hammer. The rock is first fed into a machine like a picker, that crushes it somewhat; from this it passes through the stamps, they crushing it to a fine powder: water is continuously pouring on these stamps, washing the crushed powder down a sluice-way to the pans, this sluice-way is lined with quick-silver, and the silver retains nearly all the gold: the pans are also lined with mercury, and what gold escapes is caught there. After it is thrown out of the pans it is called tailings and these again are called to an account, and go through much the same process, until they have taken every particle of gold. The mill I mine are owned by four men, (one of them from Windsor Locks, Conn.) and they make a very good thing out of it; I believe it pays nine hundred dollars in gold per day, after all expenses are taken out. I should like to own it for about a year. The day of our arrival at Wickenburg was the 22d Washingtons birthday, the citizens gave a ball to which we were invited, and we had a very nice time, although the company I must say was decidedly mixed. Just before we arrived [letter ends here]." The Vulture Mine was a highly-successful gold mine from 1863 through the mid-twentieth century; it is now a ghost town. The nearby town of Wickenburg was established around the same time and was named for Vulture Mine's founder Henry Wickenburg. Wickenburg - still in existence but sparsely populated - had a history of violent clashes between miners and the native populace in the nineteenth century. The church the author speaks so highly of, San Xavier del Bac, was a Catholic church near Tucson that was built by Spanish Jesuit missionaries in the eighteenth century.
      [Bookseller: Stuart Lutz Historic Documents, Inc.]
Last Found On: 2018-02-26           Check availability:      Biblio    

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