Harquahala Mountains ~ Ellsworth Mining District

Gold Mining Claims

The Harquahala Mountains is the highest mountain range in southwestern Arizona, as well as home to some of the most profitable mines in La Paz County. The Harquahalas actually consist of two mountain ranges, the Big Harquahala and the Little Harquahala to the west.  Southwestern Arizona is home to a series of mountain ranges whose cores are predominately volcanic in nature. Most of these mountain chains trend north-south or northwest-southeast. A few mountain ranges deviate from this pattern, such as the Harquahalas, their cores are composed of ancient Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks and they trend northeast-southwest. These Precambrian “metamorphic core complex” ranges occur in a belt that consists of folded and faulted igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Meaning that, this area was able to become highly mineralized due to faulting and its formation. These metamorphic core complex ranges include the Harcavar and Buckskin mountains as well.

Rich gold deposits were first discovered in the area in 1762 by Spanish prospectors. They were reworked over 50 years later in 1814 and by the mid 1800’s American prospectors were scouring the Arizona mountains looking for mineral wealth, as rumors had spread about gold in this mountain range circulated the western frontier for many years. By the 1860’s the area was beginning to get so busy that they had a stagecoach, which later was bought out and became known as Wells Fargo.

Socorro Mine was one of the first developed gold producing mines in the area, put into production in 1882 at Orville. There was a 5 stamp mill at the mine and the town was home to some 30 residents, one saloon, and a general store. The town was later renamed Centennial, but didn’t last long as a winter flood washed the entire town away. Production for the Socorro mine prior to 1906 is unknown but between 1906 and 1914 it yielded 967.58 ounces of gold or $1,644,895 at todays gold prices. Free milling ore at the mine consists of white quartz and oxidized gold bearing iron minerals.

Harquahala Bonanza mine

Placer deposits were worked in Harquahala Gulch from 1886-1887 before the first big reported strike in 1888 by Harry Watton, Robert Stein and Mike Sullivan when they discovered the rich Gold Mountain ore body. This fabulously immense formation later became known as the Harquahala Bonanza Mine, the richest mine in the area. It was sold to Hubbard and Bowers who organized the Bonanza Mining Company. Reportedly, a 20 stamp amalgamation mill was erected in 1891 and by 1893 had produced 82,245 ounces, or roughly $139,816,500.00 at todays gold prices. Total reported production from the Harquahala Bonanza mine from 1891-1929 is said to be 120,560 ounces. From 1888 to 1910 the Harquahala mine was a busy place. It had by then a number of stores, numerous boarding houses, three saloons and many other businesses needed for a small town. It even had a newspaper Harqua Hala Miner.

Today very little remains of this bustling little town, a few adobe walls and boot hill cemetery, with its small unnamed markers of the miners who lost their lives in search of wealth. According to one USGS report from the 1930’s the 29k tons of mine dump tailings were reported to still contain an average of .124 ozs gold and .4 ozs silver. Ore at the Harquahala mine is course grained grayish-white quartz with abundant iron oxide, pyrite, chalcopyrite and galena.

The Golden Eagle Mine had two ore shoots on the veins which were numerous and pockety, some of these pockets were more than 15 ft. wide. Two samples taken at lower levels in the 1930’s by H. Bancroft for the US Geological Survey were reported to contain .48 ozs and  1.12 ozs gold and 1.32 and 2.88 ozs silver per ton.

The San Marcus Mine near the northern base was discovered, according to local reports, in 1897. Later it was acquired by Pittsburg Harqua-Hala Gold Mining Company. It is reported that gold production in October 1909 yielded 599 ounces. But most of the gold production occurred prior to 1906. In 1915 the mine had been relocated by Peter Smith and Associates, who for a short time carried on small scale operations until 1919.

The Hercules Mine, at the northern base of the mountains is reportedly to have produced 483 ounces of gold prior to 1909. In 1934 the property was held by the Hercules Gold Company, but the company did not publicly report their earnings or production.

 The Hidden Treasure Mine at the southern base was discovered in 1932. During that year, according to reports, the mine yielded twenty six cars of shipping ore. The mine has continued to be worked intermittently through the years and is even being worked today.

The Alaskan Mine, on the plain south of Harquahala, was discovered in 1920 by A. Johnson. It had been worked by several different lessees. The total reported production is 1,200 tons of ore. Mining in this area was difficult as water for the operations had to be hauled from distant places. According to Mr. Johnson, the gold occurs mainly where the chryscolla and reddish limonite are relatively abundant. On the south end the ore body was cut off by a steeply dipping fault but the structural conditions that might determine a possible continuation of the ore westward have not been explored.

Arizona Gold Mining

Other rich lode mines in the area include: Extension, Summit Lode, Narrow Gage, Grand View. Also reported are several “lost” mines, most notably the Lost Frenchmen Mine. 

The only known female miner of the day was Carmelita Campbell. She had been married to John Campbell, who had become Arizona’s delegate to Congress. The couple lived in Prescott and she was credited to much of her husband’s political success. Unfortunately, after 30 years of marriage, he took a mistress. They divorced and she went into mining with John Rarick. Together they mined on the south side of the Harquahalas and dubbed the mine Carmelita after Ms. Campbell. There are no reports on the quantity of gold mined from the Carmelita, however, the two mined the claim from about 1878 to 1883 until she had been swindled out of her mine by a couple of “good ol’ boys” in town. It is said that she moved on to California where she died a lonely old woman.

With the gold rush and discovery of new mines, came opportunity. William Beard aka Bill Bear, a famous miner (among other professions), was one of the founders of the town of Harrisburg and was the towns first postmasters. He along with territorial governor F.A Tritle and H.E Harris established Harris Gold and Silver Mine and Mining Company. This little boomtown had everything the mining camps needed. It also had the famous lawman of Tombstone, Mr. Wyatt Earp, who settled there and mined in the Harquahala after his notorious shootout at the OK Corral. He operated a small saloon with female “entertainment” before moving on, eventually truly retiring in California, but frequently made visits to various parts of southwest Arizona. Nothing today remains of Harrisburg, as the town had been washed away by flooding from the Centennial Wash.

Reported lode production from the Little Harquahala (excluding the Big Harquahala ), as of 1959, was estimated to have been 134,000 ounces. Small production operations from lessees has continued through the years and with todays gold prices it has become more economically feasible to mine low grade ore that had been passed by several years ago.

Harquahala Peak, at an elevation of 5682 feet, was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to build an observatory to measure solar activity. Data was collected and compared to other observatories and used to forecast weather. The observatory was built in 1920, after surface rights’ were granted from Mr. Charles Ellison, who owned and operated a small mine at the peak. Charles Abbot was the lead scientist for the project and hired local residents from Wenden to not only help build the facility, but also to haul the delicate instruments and supplies up the rugged trail via burros. The observatory closed in 1925 and is now maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Harquahala is an inspiring mining district as it has proven itself repeatedly over the last 250+ years.

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