Friday, August 12, 2011

Jerome, Arizona

Jerome is a former ghost town supposedly now inhabited by numerous ghosts, along with about 350 corporeal humans who live there full-time. Situated in northern Arizona, about half an hour by car from Sedona, Jerome is a former mining town built just shy of a mile high at 5,246 feet on Cleopatra Hill (see photo above). Established in 1876, the town was named after Eugene Murray Jerome, a New Yorker who never visited but owned rights to mines in the area.

Nowadays, Jerome (see photo below) is known as an artists’ colony and a tourist destination, with lots of shops and galleries catering to tourists, but in the nineteenth century it was an important copper mining town. At the height of its economic success, more than 15,000 people lived there and it was the fourth largest town in the Arizona Territory. Businesses catering to the mines and miners sprang up and people of European, Hispanic, and Asian heritage lived there, in addition to the Native Americans who were the original inhabitants of the region. The Mine Museum showcases Jerome’s history from its beginnings to the present day and includes exhibits on the mines and the men who worked in them, the medical care available to the miners, the hierarchy of prostitutes in Jerome, and law and order in the town. One of the many interesting artifacts is a washing machine used by a Chinese laundry in Jerome (see photo above). The Mine Museum also contains a restored bar from a local saloon.

Travelers to Jerome might have stayed in the Connor Hotel (see photo below), which was built in 1898. Intended for such guests as businessmen or teachers, rather than miners, it cost one dollar to spend the night there and was considered expensive at the time. However, the hotel had indoor plumbing, with a bathroom on every floor. There was also a bell in each of the rooms that allowed guests to ring for service. If Heyes and Kid had enough money, they would undoubtedly have stayed at the Connor Hotel.

To support the miners and the mining companies a “mixed” train, that is, one that carried both ore from the mines and the miners themselves, ran between Jerome, Clarkdale--a nearby town at the bottom of Cleopatra Hill--and other towns in the Verde Valley. The train ran daily and in the nineteenth century cost a miner $2.06 for a roundtrip ticket from Clarkdale to Drake, 38 miles away, where the train connected to the Sante Fe Railroad. In the twenty-first century, what is now called the Verde Valley Railroad (see photo above at right) carries tourists on a four-hour narrated ride through the region, from the depot in Clarkdale to Perkinsville and back. Riding along the Verde River, which had water in it even at the height of an Arizona summer in late July; seeing prehistoric Indian cave dwellings high up on the sides of cliffs; passing by the remains of miners’ shacks and mine tailings, and old telegraph poles (see middle photo above at right); travelling over trestle bridges and through a tunnel in total darkness that was cut through a mountainside (see photo above at right), the trip makes the nineteenth century come alive.

Heyes and Kid made some unsuccessful attempts at mining (Smiler with a Gun, Six Strangers at Apache Springs, Night of the Red Dog) and conned people into believing they were miners or mine owners (A Fistful of Diamonds, The Great Shell Game). They would have felt right at home in Jerome!

Website about Jerome:
http://www.azjerome.com/

Article about Jerome in DesertUSA:

http://www.desertusa.com/mag98/oct/stories/jerome.html

Website for the Verde Canyon Railroad:
http://www.verdecanyonrr.com/