Amazing Places: Brooklyn Basin Mine, its ruins
At the beginning of this month, I took you on a visit to Richinbar, a mining ghost town. Today, we are retuning to the Agua Fria National Monument (NM) to explore the mining remnants left in Brooklyn Basin. Brooklyn Basin isn’t easy to get to, so has a number of structures still standing.
It isn’t in the AFNM but on Tonto National Forest (TNF) land, but you have to cross part of the AFNM to reach it. Richinbar is on private land, an inholding within the AFNM, whereas Brooklyn Basin is on TNF land and must have been a mining claim that was never “patented” — i.e., not claimed by the mining company to become privately owned land.
The first photo shows a large stone building that is in good condition, although the roof and the windows are long gone — it probably dates back around 100 years. Its elevation is 3,900 feet — you can see the hills behind that surround the basin. My research on the Brooklyn Basin Mine hasn’t found many details so please contact me if you have more information. This impressive building is about 40 feet wide and 60 feet long, with a doorway at each end. Some think it was a bunkhouse
for the miners, but my good friend, Kurt, thought is was a “mercantile” — the store where the miners and their families bought their provisions. I did find two large spring mattresses there, one still inside the building and one outside, but I don’t think miners were provided with such luxurious sleeping arrangements — so who knows! This building has a chimney flue in the wall with signs of an interior stove, and an intriguing box on the outside wall near the southeast corner — what was it for? Just down-slope from the building is a large, deep well with a concrete outer wall — water was important for mining operations, as well as for the miners.
The history of the mine indicates it was started around 1907 and worked sporadically until around 1970 for gold, silver and copper. The company was incorporated in Maine. About 1910 the mine was owned by a corporation led by Frederick Small, but whether it was a real going concern or just a way to fleece gullible Easterners is hard to say. (Copper ore that had to be transported long distances by wagons for smelting was seldom profitable. The huge quantities of copper ore found in Jerome, with scores of shafts and adits, justified two railroads to the town over its productive life.)
In July 2017, a lightning-caused wildfire burned 32,000 acres around Brooklyn Basin, so all wooden remains are now gone. I first visited the site in November 2003, well before that fire.
Not far, northeast from the large building, there’s a nice stone chimney with colored copper ore (see the second photo) that’s worth a visit. This house was where Frederick Small lived. Usually these wooden buildings were destroyed by fire, but this one was apparently taken down, with its walls and furnishing moved back to civilization, probably Bumble Bee. This information, by Bonnie Helten, is in an APCRP article — do an online search for “Brooklyn Basin Mine AZ.” West of the mercantile, you’ll find a small ruined building next to the foundations for some mining machinery, as well as a concrete dynamite hut — constructed to prevent accidental explosions.
In October, I plan to describe some fascinating petroglyphs along the rim of the basin — the AFNM area keeps on giving. At that time, I’ll provide driving directions for these two locations, although access to the mine area at the bottom of the basin is challenging.
Nigel Reynolds was born in England and has lived in Arizona for 40 years, and in Prescott for over 20 years. “Exploring is in my blood,” he says.
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