Jerome History

Jerome History
 
Around 700 A.D. the Hohokam indians lived around what is now Jerome and Mingus Mountain. The Verde river sustained their life styles and was a paradise with its climate and natural beauty. Before the arrival of explorers from Europe, native peoples mined for copper-bearing minerals malachite and azurite. Their tools and adornments were centered around these rich deposits that much later became the focus of life for the mining community.

In the late 1800s investors James A. MacDonald and Eugene Jerome of New York City created the United Verde Copper Company and the mines and their history began it journey of success and wild stories. The mining camp on Cleopatra Hill was named after Eugene Jerome and thus began the ups and downs of the history of this fascinating little town. Right off the bat in 1884 the price of copper had fell by 50 percent and the town went dormant.

Four years later, William A. Clark came from Montana and bought the United Verde properties and modernized the smelter. He built a railway called the United Verde & Pacific.  Mining of the ore increased dramatically and Jerome grew from 250 in 1890 to more than 2,500 by 1900.  United Verde Mine became the leading copper producer in the Arizona Territory. Between 1876 and 1953 it produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The other large mine in Jerome was estimated to be worth over $1 billion. Geologists claimed copper deposits of Jerome were among the richest ever found.

During the late 1800s Jerome grew into a full blown community. Then it suffered four major fires between 1894 and 1898 which destroyed much of the business district and half of the community's homes. Jerome incorporated as a town in 1899 and efforts were made to create a safer environment. For obvious reasons it had become a legendary saloon party town of mostly men spending their paychecks on booze and prostitutes...AKA the Wickedest Town in the WEST! In the early 1900s the Little Daisy Mine produced $10 million worth of copper, silver and gold and went on to produce over $125 million worth of ore. They mined four million tons of uncommonly rich ore averaging more than 10 percent copper and Jerome thrived again.

World War I demanded copper and by 1916 3,000 miners lived and worked in Jerome and Clarkdale. A standard gauge railway was built to haul ore from its mine to the new smelter. The main mine was upgraded to an open-pit operation by 1919. This had to happen because underground to open-pit mining was needed to stop several fires which burned for decades in the mine's high-sulfur ores. In this period another ore rich opened a mile southwest of Jerome.

Life in Jerome with Mexican workers in the 100s became an area of conflict between the the companies and the politicians and deportations with legal battles ensued. Meanwhile new buildings and streets continued to upgrade Jerome and life although hard and very wild continued. Mutli floored brick buildings were built which barely made it through the upcoming natural disasters. Part of Jerome's charm is the remnants of these buildings which still exist in part today. Jerome is so small you can almost see everything from the corner of Main Street and Jerome Avenue. The Connor Hotel and Mine Museum are among the most popular.

Jerome in the 1920s saw copper prices rise to 24 cents a pound. five automobile dealerships opened.  Workers started getting disability and life insurance benefits. A baseball field, tennis courts, swimming pools, and a public park were added to make Jerome into a more family like atmosphere. Company donations upgraded the town's schools, churches, and hospitals and library. Back then when it was harder to get to it must have seemed like Shangri La when you arrived.

The 1930s brought the Great Depression and the price of copper fell to 14 cents a pound. Verde Central mine closed when the price of copper fell in 1932 to 5 cents a pound. In 1935 the Clark family sold United Verde to Phelps Dodge and in 1938 it went out of business. Douglas Mansion eventually became the Jerome State Historic Park.

Decades of underground mine fires took its toll and eventually caused earthquake type damage to most downtown buildings. Through the 1930s. Dozens of buildings, including the post office and jail, were lost as the earth beneath them sank away. Miraculously Jerome survived this disaster of almost biblical proportions. Once you are in Jerome and can experience the almost perfect small town atmosphere with a natural landscape view spanning the entire valley you can understand how almost nothing can stop this incredible little mountainside stronghold.
 
These days the Jerome Historical Society which started in 1953 has a museum and gift shop. The beautiful hotels, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, restaurants, including the famous Spirit room and Spook Hall are among the many spectacular attractions mostly within walking distance. Come see for yourself and you will agree there is nothing like it!

National Historic Landmark status for Jerome was granted by the federal government in 1967. In 1962, the heirs of James Douglas donated the Douglas mansion, above the UVX mine site, to the State of Arizona, which used it to create Jerome State Historic Park. Music festivals, historic homes tours, celebrations ect. will amaze and entertain you and your loved ones....see you soon!