Days Past: Arizona and the Great War - Arizona contributes to the war effort

William A. Clark portrait. (Courtesy)

William A. Clark portrait. (Courtesy)

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James S. Douglas owner of the United Verde Extension Mine. (Courtesy)

While Arizona had cattle growing, cotton production and other agricultural crops, the state’s biggest contribution to the war effort was copper production. Mines in the southern Arizona town of Bisbee, central Arizona towns of Globe, Clifton and Morenci as well as those in Yavapai County at Jerome and Clarkdale were some of the biggest producers in the country. As early as 1910 Arizona was the leading copper producer in the nation.

In Yavapai County, the big copper producer was the United Verde Extension Mine owned by James S. Douglas. An article in the March 6, 1918 Weekly Journal-Miner indicated that the mine had produced 63 million pounds of the red metal in 1917. This was nearly double the 36 million pounds produced in 1916. There was a similar increase in the amount of gold and silver produced as a byproduct of the smelting process.

Known locally as the UVX, the ore body was discovered by J. J. Fisher in 1900. The principal workings were the Edith Shaft, Audrey Shaft and the Little Daisy Shaft. When production stopped in 1970 they had more than ten miles of workings.

The original big producer was the United Verde Mine incorporated in 1883. James A. MacDonald was the first president, territorial governor Frederick Tritle was vice-president, and Eugene Murray Jerome, namesake of the town of Jerome, was secretary-treasurer. By 1888, the mine had stopped producing and was purchased by William A. Clark who had made a fortune in mining in Butte, Montana.

Clark’s infusion of capital allowed for the mine to be worked again and an increase in the price of copper made it profitable. Underground mining went on with good success until a fire started underground in 1894. Attempts were made to control it, but it was ultimately decided that the best method of ore recovery in the future would be via the open pit method.

This meant taking out a newly constructed smelter that was built over the ore body and constructing a new one near the town of Clarkdale. By 1915 the new smelter was ready for production and in 1918 the stripping away of waste rock to reach the ore body was begun. All the while the mine continued to produce copper for the war effort. An increase in the price of silver caused many of the county’s old mines to be reopened. As an example, an article in the July 17, 1917 Weekly Journal-Miner stated that “Octave Coming Back to High Class Rating”. The Octave Mine on the south side of the Bradshaw Mountains had at one time been a major producer.

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William A. Clark purchased the United Verde Mine in 1888, eventually making over $60 million from it, according to the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. (Courtesy)

New minerals were discovered with manganese first being shipped in July 1917. The July 17, 1917 Weekly Journal-Miner stated “The first known manganese mine in Arizona to reach the stage of a shipper is the one owned by C. E. Champie, located in Castle Creek district, about two miles from the Castle Hot Springs resort.” Manganese was the principle mineral in early Twentieth Century dry cell batteries.

One of local small copper mines produced a vein of molybdenite according to a January 16, 1918 article. “Unexpectedly the United Arizona Copper Company has made its most important determinations in cutting a body of molybdenite….” Molybdenite ore yielded the metal molybdenum, an important part of making battery terminals.

The following week’s paper had an article on a potassium strike near Jerome. “Potassium, one of the minerals most essential to modern agriculture, industry and the waging of war, has been discovered three and a half miles west of Jerome, in the vicinity of Walnut Springs.

Too late to benefit the war effort was the discovery of a tungsten deposit nine miles south of Kirkland station. One of the main uses of this metal at the time was for incandescent light bulb filaments. A counterpoint to these successes was Joseph Heslet’s Chino Valley Oil and Mining Company’s well failure in late 1916. Oddly, this spurred interest in further oil production, triggering the organization of companies such as the Arizona Del Rio Oil Company, the Arizona-Oklahoma Oil and Gas Company, and the Arizona Oil and Refining Company. While oil derricks abounded, not a single barrel of oil was produced from these efforts. It would be other locales such as Texas and Oklahoma that would bask in the glory and riches of “black gold,” leaving Arizona with its “five C’s” – copper, cotton, cattle, citrus and climate.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.