Welcoming Wickenburg and the Hardy Hassayampaby John Scott on Aug. 09, 2012, under Uncategorized
The year was 1863, the height of the Civil War. Arizona was wild, dangerous, and full of opportunity. Anywhere a miner found some color, it was call for making a camp. Many camps grew up into towns, and some of those towns are still yielding today.
Henry Wickenburg was one of these miners. He found gold, opened the Vulture Mine, and a community began to grow as opportunists from all over moved in. Good old Henry got a town named after him.
Wickenburg is located near the banks of the Hassayampa River, a dry riverbed that is said to run upside down. Legend says that anyone who drinks from it will never tell the truth again. I’m not entirely certain how you drink from an upside down river, but politicians have obviously done it, so it must be possible.
Wickenburg was growing fast. By 1866, it was the third largest city in Arizona Territory, and missed being the capital by two votes. Miners were coming up with copper and silver as well as gold, and ranchers were moving in. Even though it was prospering, Wickenburg was not without its untamed frontier reminders.
In 1871, Indians attacked a stagecoach traveling from Wickenburg to California. All but two passengers were killed, and the military was brought in to investigate. The Wickenburg Massacre, as it is now known, had dangerous repercussions that led to Yavapai Indians being put on the same reservation as their life-long enemies, the Chiricahua Apache. So, not only did we take their land, we put the Sharks and the Jets in the same bunkhouse.
Near the center of town lies the Jail Tree, a 200-year-old Mesquite used to chain up offenders of the law. History states that early Wickenburg didn’t have a jail, so this was the solution. Wait a second…the town had saloons, stores, banks, but no jail? Maybe this is another tall tale brought on by a drinker of the Hassayampa River. We may never know.
If you’re up Wickenburg way, visit the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, dedicated to preserving the western lifestyle through historic exhibits and art. Maybe go up in February for Gold Rush Days, where you can experience a parade, rodeo, street entertainment, and a classic car show. Ghost town hunters will love a trip to the Vulture Mine, where plenty of old buildings still stand that throw you into mining history. It’s a charming town dotted with historic buildings, great shopping, and fun restaurants. If you don’t want to leave there a pathological liar, make sure you buy bottled water.