Jerome AZ Seesaw: Riches to Rags to Riches

Marshall Terrill, an author and a reporter for the East Valley Tribune, emailed me and said he loved my book Home Sweet Jerome and wanted to write something about it.  It’s every author’s dream. After I got his email, I looked him up. He is noted for his biographies of Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen and Pete Maravich, basketball great. Wow, I thought to myself, what an honor.

Terrill wrote me questions and asked me to write the answers and to please stick to two paragraphs. They were good questions and I thought a long time about how to answer them. The article Terrill posted was wonderful. My answers, way too long, were shortened. Here’s his article, which was generous and praiseworthy: http://eastvalleytribune.com/eedition/page_42427fd9-1903-594e-9f23-e06eb4f4ee05.html#page_a14

For the historical record, here’s the long version of my answers.

Difference between Aboveground and Below Ground Jerome AZ

Terrill: 1.) Give us a taste of what Jerome when it was a thriving copper town before 1953?’

 The major boom years were 1895 to about 1930 with a population peaking at about 15,000. Two mines worked full time, employing about 4000 people, and pulling out some of the richest copper ore ever seen in America. Aboveground, Jerome AZ was a rich and glamorous city, the center of Northern Arizona with the finest hospitals and schools; and plenty of social activities, not all savory.

Below ground, in the city of 88 miles of tunnels, life was not so glamorous. For the working miner, it was a 12-hour hardscrabble life, with plenty of dust to infect your lungs, and where being able to shower after work on company time was considered a ‘perk.’

The Dry

“The Dry” where me showered after work— first they showered off all the muck; then took off their clothes and hung them high in the rafters to dry, headless ghosts of the men below, Photo by Bob Swanson (www.SwansonImages.com). The Dry no longer exists. It was razed circa 2005.

In the nineteen thirties, a number of events began to turn Jerome in a downward direction, including the depression, the sale of the United Verde to Phelps Dodge, and the drop of copper prices after World War II.

Environmental Degradation: Mining’s Biggest Insensitivity

Terrill 2) You cite 1953 as a sort of Ground Zero for Jerome when Phelps Dodge discontinued mining. My jaw dropped when I read about how the company not only pulled out of town, but salvaged parts of buildings and took anything of value before leaving Jerome. Was this sort of behavior par for the course with other copper mining towns or was Jerome’s case particularly insensitive?

It was standard operating procedure, however insensitive and cruel it was. You close down a mine and salvage what can be re-used. If you could give employees jobs in your other mines, you did. The rest of the people you forgot about and took no responsibility for. Move or stay was their problem. The Mexican laborers and their families who had built their own houses, pulled them down, salvaging what they could, and went to find jobs elsewhere. The houses that Phelps Dodge built for employees, usually management and middle management, were either torn down or shut down or put on flatbeds and carted away to other towns. The hospital, United Verde apartments and company hills houses were boarded up and the electricity shut off. The 4-story Miller Building, the company store, was pulled down to avoid taxes and potential liabilities from what Phelps Dodge called ‘safety issues.’ Nor was their any expectation that the 140 or so adults and 86 children that stayed behind, would have the wherewithal, the money or the will, to continue living in Jerome and maintain the infrastructure. “Jerome is finished,” one mining official said. “Within a year grass will grow on Main Street.”

Perhaps the biggest insensitivity, if you could put that rather bland word on it, was the immense environmental degradation Phelps Dodge walked away from. Not just in Jerome, but in the Verde Valley. But remember, this was the fifties. There were no environmental laws in place. No law equaled no responsibility.

Toxic tailings

When it rained, water that was contaminated with copper sulfate flowed through the taiiings and into Bitter Creek, turning the water azure. Photo by Bob Swanson (www.swansonimages.com)

Supernatural Attachment.

Terrrill 3.) Jerome was literally a ghost town in the 1950s and 1960s. For the few people who stayed behind, what did they state their reasons were given the poor conditions of homes, sewer, water and power?

First, Jerome was never a ghost town. That was an invention of the Jerome Historical Society as a way of encouraging tourism. Jerome was a village that 220-300 people lived in, with perhaps 100 houses and maybe eight buildings that weren’t being lived in. The high school, with the exception of a few years, was still operating in 1972. If you stayed in Jerome after the fifties, you kept up your house as much as you could. The houses that were not lived—such as those on Company Hill— in deteriorated pretty fast. And the big problem that emerged with advertising Jerome as a ghost town was that many tourists became predators who thought they somehow entitled to the ‘leavings.’ They would wander into houses that obviously looked lived in and become entirely surprised to find someone quite offended.

Jerome's "Pretend Ghosts"

Jerome Historical Society members dressed up as “Spooks: on Main Street in the nineteen fifties to help publicize Jerome as a ghost city. Courtesy Jerome Historical Society

Virtually everyone that stayed, or moved there in the fifties and sixties, talked about the love they had for Jerome, one that I characterize as a supernatural attachment. They always talked of the superb views. People that left and came to visit told me they always wanted to come back to live there again. And people that did live there in the fifties and sixties told me what how peaceful, enjoyable and quiet village life was. For sure the kids had a superb life, the mines, the tunnels, the empty buildings and homes were just one big massive playground that was entirely open to them. And then, layered into all that, was the sense that everyone was working towards the town’s restoration, and there was some sense of hope that someday, Jerome would become a history Mecca, and later, an art Mecca—even though towards the end of the sixties, the town needed something of a miracle to stay alive, not just in terms of fixing its deteriorating infrastructure but its very poor economy. In those years, Jerome was one of the poorest towns in the state.

Love, Need and Hope

Terrill 5.) The late 1960s and early 1970s saw an invasion of dissatisfied hippies move into town and had to not only intermingle with the old-timers, but had to come together in planning the future of Jerome. How did that happen?

Well, that’s the whole book and more, and it’s the question that impelled me to writing it, and what probably makes the book a fascinating read. Love, need and hope make powerful allies. That’s what binds uncommon people together, overcomes antipathy and impels them forward in a common mission. Virtually everyone shared a love of the town, a need to make sure it didn’t fall down the mountain, and a hope that it could become a viable place to live.

“The way I felt about it, I kind of resented it at first, this hippie group moving in,” said John McMillan, one of the most respected of the town elders. “But I found there were some pretty smart kids among them and they got into the politics of Jerome and took over the Town Council and did a pretty good job. I don’t resent that at all because these old timers, they can’t run the damn place forever.”

Restoration didn’t happen all at once, but what made it start to happen, is that the hippies became ‘joiners.’ Some joined the fire department; some joined the historical society; some ran for town council, and so on. And it wasn’t so much that there was a plan, but a need to get infrastructure in order, town accounting organized in order to get grants. And the other piece, the one that’s the most controversial, is that the hippies began to grow large marijuana gardens that brought cash into town and enabled everything from artists starting their own businesses to having the money to rebuild their houses. When you add income to love, hope and need, and begin to build a viable economy, then suddenly a future for Jerome became a whole lot more possible.

Riches to Rags

Terrill 5.) What inspired you to research the history of Jerome and make you want to put it all down in book form?

I wanted to know the history of where I had chosen to live. When I moved to Jerome in 1979, several layers of history were entirely visible and wove in and out of each other, but without context. There were large amounts of mining wastes and a big open pit; a denuded mountain; large houses on Company Hill that looked like they were ready to fall apart and were emblematic of what I heard was a ghost town; large, boarded buildings, such as the hospital, or the Daisy Hotel which was windowless and roofless. And because the town was encompassed in about one square mile of real estate and only had about 400 people living there, my first question was how did Jerome swing from rich to decrepit.

A typical house wreck in Jerome AZ

One of my all time favorites ruins, now the cover of the book Rich Town Poor Town. In 1985, the building was in perfect splay when Bob took the shot. Then it fell down. (Photo by Bob Swanson, www.swansonimages.com)

Although there was a fair amount written about the boomtown mining days, what happened afterwards was scant. So I started asking. Old-timers and newcomers began telling me stories that edged on preposterous—how Jerome’s mortician flew over the town in the sixties and threw out seeds of paradise trees; how the historical society acquired most of downtown for $10; how the biggest theft in Jerome was money hidden in the church and discovered after the priest died in 1979. So if you were a historian, like me by education and curiosity, you became a detective that was sucked into researching the veracity of those stories. I became hooked. And the more I heard and studied, the more devilishly contradictory and intriguing it all became. It was as though I found myself in the middle of a movie, in which I was playing some role that wasn’t quite clear to me, with a cast of extraordinary heroes and scoundrels that had already been part of many dramas. So there we all were, careening towards a future for Jerome that was not possible to predict, in a falling down town. Better than any novel you could concoct.

Rags to Riches: America’s Loveliest Town

Terrill 6.) What is your view of Jerome today, and has it reached its full maturity?

I would use the word restoration instead of maturity. With a few exceptions, Jerome has reached full restoration. Jerome has become the art and history Mecca that residents had hoped for. The town draws more than a million visitors a year. Business is booming. If you visit Jerome in the early morning or even after five when the visitors more or less disappear, what you would see is an astonishing lovely village, perhaps one of the most beautiful in America, surrounded by empty land that is beginning to be reforested and a breathtakingly beautiful eighty mile panoramic view of valleys and canyons that changes with the weather and time of day—“heaven on earth” as photographer Ron Chilston likes to say. Buildings on Main Street, the Grand Hotel, Douglas Mansion, The Little Daisy, have been lavishly restored. Many rebuilt homes are beautiful and comfortable. Those old decrepit Company Hill houses are now jewels on the hill. The whole town has become an oasis—one huge garden of flowers with thousands of pine and fruit trees. A variety of activities can accommodate visitors of every taste and age, from looking for ghosts to sipping wine or cappuccino, dancing to rock ‘n roll, to visiting Jerome’s mining museums, to going to the quirky museum of old trucks at the Gold King Mine (which was never a gold mine).

Fall in Jerome AZ

“Fall in Jerome” by Mark Hembleben, a plein air artist currently living and painting in Jerome. Hembleben has an art studio in the old Mingus Union High School. The painting shows why artists love to paint this lovely village. (www.markhemleben.com).

But for many residents, there is a downside to success. Lots of cars and motorcycles go up and down the hill daily and with them a lot of noise and low rumble. Quite a few people own homes right on the main highway and noise and fumes from cars creeping into the houses are intolerable. A kind of frenetic people bedlam makes it less pleasant to be uptown or even near it during the day. And then there is some fear that the income that can now be commanded from vacation rentals will mean a decrease in residential population, a decrease in taxes coming into the town, and a degradation of the community spirit that once re-built the town.

Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City by Diane Sward Rapaport

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Mining in Jerome AZ after 1953

(Short excerpt from Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper City by Diane Rapaport  (to be published by Johnson Books, Boulder, CO., spring 2014.))

Mining activities never stopped in Jerome after the two great mines—United Verde Extension Gold, Silver and Copper Mining Company (UVX) and Phelps Dodge Corporation (successor to the United Verde Copper Company—shut their operations and the city emptied out.

In 1953, speculation ran high that the entire town of Jerome would be razed. A former official of Phelps Dodge Corporation said, “Within a year—grass will grow on the main street of Jerome—Jerome is finished.”[A]

It would have been an easy time for the mining companies to bulldoze the rest of the town. There were not a lot of people. Essential services, such as the hospital and schools, had been relocated to the Verde Valley. The mining companies owned a great deal of buildings and property in Jerome and beneath it.

The open pit just outside of Jerome. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The open pit just outside of Jerome. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The Big Hole Mine

In 1954, new activity at the open pit just outside of Jerome, fueled rumors that big scale mining would someday return.

The small mining division of Phelps Dodge leased rights to mine the slopes of the open pit  to three people that lived in the Verde Valley.[i]

They called it The Big Hole Mine and operated it until 1975.[ii]

Between eight and twelve men were employed at any given time. They scaled the sides of the pit and drilled into the steep walls and dynamited the ore-bearing rocks. “It was dangerous work,” said Robert Sandoval, one of the miners who grew up in Jerome. “The trails were narrow, we were working high up, and the overhangs were large. We’d hide in some of the small caves up there when we blasted.”

Miners would separate waste from the ore-bearing rocks, put them in pickup trucks and load them into a railroad car in Clarkdale that was sent weekly to the Phelps Dodge smelter in Douglas, Arizona.

According to Paul Handverger, a geologist living in the Verde Valley, The Big Hole Mine shipped over 200,000 tons of ore that contained 25 million pounds of copper (12,500 tons), 2,800 ounces of gold, and almost 200,000 ounces of silver.[iii]

It was a profitable small business. Mining was discontinued when the surfaces of the open pit could not be further exploited.

Gold Mining in Jerome: 1980’s

In 1980, geologist Paul Handverger discovered an unexploited source of microscopic gold in the old UVX mine. The gold, perhaps less than .02 ounces to the ton  was part of silica-rich quartz chert that could be used as flux in smelting operations and could become a profitable by-product.[1]

In 1985, Verde Ex, successor to UVX,  leased mining rights to A. F. Budge Mining Limited (Budge), a company located in Scottsdale, AZ. Repair and exploration took about three years and in early 1988, Budge started production. Their goal was to take out 100,000 pounds of chert daily, using five to eight twenty-ton trucks going up and down the hill from Jerome to Clarkdale and to employ about forty people.[2] The mine was located just below the Arizona State Park (Douglas Mansion).

Although most of the nonproduction activity occurred at night, some Jerome residents complained about lack of sleep because of the noise of the air compressor that was used to pump clean air in and out of the mine, the sounds of trucks being filled with rock and truck back-up signals. The problem was exacerbated by dogs barking and whining at night. Most oddly, there were reports of bees acting queerly—by forming in clusters, coming into homes and dying.

Like many issues in a small village, strong arguments from those for and against the mine became increasingly negative and emotionally charged. In one rancorous Jerome town council meeting, one mining geologist stood up and shook his fist shouting, “You’ll see big mining return here in the next century. The biggest zinc deposit in North America is right underneath Jerome.”[3]

Although four different mining companies professed interest as buyers of the chert, contracts for the ore were not forthcoming. Budge shut down in 1989.

Although mining for ores has stopped in the Jerome area, mining activity has not. Phelps Dodge and its successor Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., spent millions of dollars in remediating water laden with copper sulfate and other mining wastes from flowing into Bitter Creek and potentially contaminating water resources downstream.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper. After heavy rains, the ditches above Jerome ran blue.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper. After heavy rains, the ditches above Jerome ran blue.

In 2008, exploration for a new copper ore body west of Jerome  heightened fears among Jerome residents that active mining might again return.


[A] News Bulletin, Jerome Historical Society newsletter, 1955.

[i] The owners of the Big Hole Mine were Mark Gemmill, his son Dick, and Gordon Robineau.

[ii] Douglas Mansion geologic display, The Verde Independent, April 15, 1965, and author interview with Paul Handverger, 2011.

[iii] Email to author.

[1] Verde Independent, Nov 11, 1987 and author interview with Paul Handveger 2011.

[2] Author conversations with Budge mining foreman Pete Flores and geologist Don White.

[3] Minutes of the Jerome Protection Foundation, Diane Rapaport files.


Lament for Ghost Town Ruins

Jerome, Arizona’s ruins are slowly disappearing. The grand hulks that became symbols of the ghost town that it became known for—hospital, elementary school, Daisy Hotel and Douglas Mansion—are restored and have become, respectively, the Grand Hotel, Town Hall, a private residence and State Historic Park.

Leigh and Richard weremarried here; kids loved to skateboard here; and the fire department benefits were great. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

Leigh and Richard weremarried here; kids loved to skateboard theses floors; and the fire department benefits were great. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

The floor of the Bartlett Hotel, the only ruin that remains on Main Street, is filled with coins pitched by tourists at an old outhouse and toilet and rusted mining artifacts. This odd coin toss earns as much as $6500 a year for the Jerome Historical Society.  Behind the shop called Skyfire, the remains of the brick ‘cribs’, home of Jerome’s ladies of the night, were taken down by co-owner Michael Farcas to gain access to the back of the building.  The bricks were neatly stacked.  Then the bricks slowly disappeared.  As Jane Moore commented, it was a ‘crime.’

No cribs, no more. And where did all those bricks go?  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

No cribs, no more. And where did all those bricks go? (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The Jerome that I moved to in 1979 was still forlorn and decrepit looking, needing rescue. Today, Jerome has become modernized. Spiffed up. Gentrified.

This wreck was in old Mexican town below the post office. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

This wreck was in old Mexican town below the post office. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Money flows in from tourist veins that are as rich as any gold mine. Over a million visitors a year come to shop, party in the bars, gawk at the views, and hear tales of bordellos, gunslingers, and ghosts. The shops are full of art, jewelry, and handmade clothing, award-winning wines and exotic olive oils.

Can this building be saved? It's the old Cuban Queen, symbol of the mining city bordellos. (Photo by )Bob Swanson

Can this building be saved? It’s the old Cuban Queen, symbol of the mining city bordellos. For those of us who lived in Jerome in the Jade/Rosie days, it was their home and magnet/tile making studio.  I still have some of them.  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The names of many businesses play on the mythology of ghosts: The Haunted Hamburger, Ghost Town Inn, the Spirit Room bar, Ghost Town Tours, and Ghost Town Gear. The Grand Hotel provides ghosts meters to visitors interested in documenting their contacts. The annual Jerome Ghost Walk is one of the most popular events that the Jerome Historical Society produces. It draws many hundreds of people to its re-enactments of historic events.

Many don’t mourn the loss of ruins. Sometimes tourists fell off the old walls. Shopkeepers complained ruins were fire hazards and dubbed them liabilities. Many homes that once went for under a $1000 have sold for over a quarter of a million dollars. In the ghost town years, they were ripe for pickings and vandalism. Up to the 1980’s, residents would find people wandering through their yards, saying, “I thought this was a ghost town.”

The iconic T.F. Miller building was ordered to be torn down by Phelps Dodge in 1953. "Jerome is finished," a mine official said. Kids were paid a penny a piece to clean the bricks. (Photo courtesy: Jerome Historical Society)

The iconic T.F. Miller building was ordered to be torn down by Phelps Dodge in 1953. “Jerome is finished,” a mine official said. Kids were paid a penny a piece to clean the bricks. (Photo courtesy: Jerome Historical Society)

I never tired of walking among Jerome’s ruins. The shards of Jerome’s fabulous mining past were embedded in its abandoned buildings, crumbling walls, and collapsed roofs. Ruins shared visible histories of this once powerful and fabled city—“the richest copper mining city” in the West.  There were ghosts in those ruins; you could feel them.

The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends, (Photo by Bob Swanson)

The old bakery ovens are still hanging around in the back yard of one of my friends, (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Before new mine owners forbid walking down to the 500-level, I loved walking around the foundations of the housing units for mid-level employees (plumbers, carpenters, electricians). I loved sneaking into the old mining building known as the “Dry” with its rows of empty lockers and broken-up shower stalls. I could easily visualize 1500 miners simultaneously showering up after their shifts and hanging their clothes to dry on pulleys that hoisted them high into the rafters. Vaporous ghosts.

Interior of the Dry on the 500 level.  (Photo by Bob Swanson)

Interior of the Dry on the 500 level. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

For old-timers who return by the hundreds for the annual town reunion called “Spook Days,” ruins were the roots of their powerful attachment to Jerome. “I was only here from 1928-1948, but I feel a strong attachment to Jerome. No other place I’ve ever lived in have I felt that attachment,” said one old Mexican.

Another said, “I was only three years old when I left Jerome, but I remember things. . . I remember my father’s house. I remember the snow. And I remember sitting on my grandmother’s balcony at night, looking down into the valley. I could hear crickets and it was so peaceful.”

Ruins revealed oddities about people who used to live here. One of my favorite ruins was the old homestead where Father John used to live. When he died, he left behind a lot of junk: rusting cars, collections of stoves, and a room full of ladies shoes, singles only. Now what would a priest be doing with so many ladies’ shoes? Father John’s home mysteriously burned the night after he was dragged to the hospital. Years later, the homestead was replaced with the new Gold King Mine, which includes a lot of old pre-fifties trucks, a museum of mining relics and old sawmill from Weed, California. There never was a mine there, much less one that mined gold.

A new town has emerged, full of its own colors and legends, a village of little crime and high spirits. The ghost town is all but gone.

One of my all time favorites ruins, now the cover of Rich Town Poor Town. It was in perfect splay when Bob took the shot. Then it fell down. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

One of my all time favorites ruins, now the cover of Rich Town Poor Town by Roberto Robago, a great book. The ruin was in perfect splay when Bob took the shot. Then it fell down. (Photo by Bob Swanson)

But when the oldtimers die, who will share the memories and secrets of old Jerome? And when the ruins are gone, where will the ghosts hide?

Open Pit Mining: The Protest that Worked

In 2009, Vista Gold Corporation,  a Canadian-owned company that was headquartered in Denver Colorado, announced plans for an open pit gold mine in the watershed of the Sierra Laguna, above the town of Todos Santos, in Baja, California.  The water for Todos Santos and adjacent villages came fro a dam that was very close to the location of the the proposed mine.  There are no other water sources. and the risk of contamination by mining waste was high. The value of the mine was estimated at 1.2 million ounces of gold over a 9.3-year period.

“The proposed mine near Todos Santos was a preposterous idea: the mine would have needed to move a million pounds of rock to get a pound of gold,” said John McNerney, known to many in Jerome as the founder of  Jerome Instrument Corporation in 1979.

John knows a lot about gold mines. He spent many summers prospecting in Northern Nevada and that’s where he got his idea for designing a detector that could accurately measure mercury vapor. He knew just how nasty the consequences of open pit gold mining could be.

One of his biggest regrets is finding the Jerritt gold mining prospect near Elko, Nevada, which John described as a most beautiful canyon that began filling with mining waste as soon as the mine opened. The Jerritt mine was shut down after it contaminated the Owyhee River and other streams with atmospheric mercury used in the processing of gold. It could re-open when it installed better mercury emission control equipment. “By that time the damage was done,” said John.

After John McNerney sold his company in 1988, he and his wife Iris moved to Port Townsend, Washington where John built a most beautiful boat that took them on many voyages. A favorite was sailing the islands that were near La Paz, Baja, California.Eventually they moved to Todos Santos, in Baja California (a tourist town not unlike Jerome, AZ), where John built a home. He joined Niparaja, an organization which is devoted to marine conservation and the protection of many of the sensitive environmental coastal areas and islands that he grew to love while sailing. (niparaja.org)

When Vista Gold announced the potential for a new open pit mine above the town he lived in, John helped spearhead the grass roots movement against it.

Virtually as soon as announcements of a new mine were made and permits applied for, a new website, vistagoldno.com, was put up and. During the first year, the articles were about the terrible working conditions and environmental disasters that attached to open pit mines. The first year also coined its ‘rallying’ slogan : Agua Vale mas que Oro! (Water is Worth more than Gold!).

The first article that was put up on vistagoldno website was: “Water vs 3700 tons of arsenic.” This short, concise, article made clear that the biggest threat to water sources was arsenic contamination. The article put up some graphic photos of the health problems that workers had due to working with arsenic. “With every hurricane or heavy rain, this exposed arsenic will leach into the aquifers for generations.” (Arsenic is a major component of acid mine tailing in and around Jerome.)

Hands and feet contaminated with arsenic.
Hands and feet full of arsenic poisoning.
John’s said that putting up these types  articles was part of the process of educating the community that had very little real knowledge about the effects of big mining in the communities surrounding them. “The information is all over the internet, John said. “We just had to find the best and start putting them up.”
The website shows the interesting sequence of activities that culminated in the protest that shut down the mine. The organization of the protest is clear and could easily serve as a model for virtually any other mine protest.

As the protest grew, so did the promises of Vista Gold—jobs (400 to 600 workers during construction and 300 full-time employees for the project’s life) and proper work-safety practices. Vista Gold also promised to use “environmental sensitive, state-of-the-art mining technology and practices, and uphold the highest international standards.” The company promised to build a desalination plant to ensure long-term, fresh water. (This was probably a just-in-case they wrecked the water sources for Todos Santos and nearby villages.)

Vistagoldno kept the pressure up. They put up stories about damage to Mexican communities that had ongoing mining operations. They featured a story about a few American companies that were protesting ‘dirty gold’ operations in other parts of the world. They summarized and provided links to a series of articles in the New York Times about contamination that resulted from the operations of global mining companies.

“When the residents of Todos Santos began to realize, ‘Hey that’s our lives they’re going to take away’—the protest picked up the momentum of a snowball careening downhill” John said.

The protest began to draw in leaders and residents in the communities that would be affected.  It was beginning to be so effective that. They wrote letters of protest to the mine and to Mexican officials.

Within a year, Vista Gold decided to change the name of the project from Paredones Amarillos (literally “yellow walls)” to the “Concordia” project “because it believed “that this will better reflect the integration of the project with the environmental, social and economic priorities of the region. The name Concordia (translated as “agreement” or “oneness”) was selected after “a wide-ranging dialogue with local communities and other project stakeholders.” which you could translate into community leaders were beginning be increasingly concerned about the nature of mining dirty gold. According to Vista Gold, “The name change is part of a broad program intended to communicate Vista’s commitment to developing the Concordia gold project in a way that is consistent with contemporary standards for sustainable development, environmental stewardship, and the health and safety of the communities in which the Company operates.”

Don’t you just love public relations mining speak!

In 2011, more than 8500 people chanting “Agua Vale mas que Oro! “ at a protest rally near Los Cabos. It included the entire town of Todos Santos — the cops, the school kids, the teachers, firemen, business owners, carpenters and plumbers and many others in neighboring communities. See a video about this march: http://www.bajainsider.com/environment/goldminevideo.htm

Support against the gold mining project drew .

Support against the gold mining project drew .

The following day, director of SERMANAT (environmental agency of Mexico) announced they would not issue the required permits for this mine.

Protesting a large mining operation can be done with committed leaders, their ability to inspire volunteers, a long-range plan to attract a strong following, and a catchy rallying slogan.

“You could say that my life has come full circle,” John McNerney said. “I used to be involved in helping mining companies find new sources of gold. The world needs metals, but mined responsibly. No one needs any more gold.”

Book Review—Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

I would love to have had a fairy godmother like the late Huguette Clark. She was the daughter of William Andrews Clark, owner of Jerome, Arizona’s legendary United Verde copper mine, and, in his lifetime, one of the richest men in the world. Huguette was the rich princess bestowing gifts of great worth with her magic wand throughout her 105-year life.

The book, written by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., was published in 2013 by Ballatine Books.

Interestingly enough, the cover of the book does not show the mansions and apartments that Huguette abandoned, but the lavish home that her father, William Andrews Clark built on Millionaire’s Row in Manhattan.  Clark’s wife Anna and Huguette and Andree, daughters of that marriage, lived there until his death in 1925.

Interestingly enough, the cover of the book does not show the mansions and apartments that Huguette abandoned, but the lavish nine-story home that her father, William Andrews Clark built on Millionaire’s Row in Manhattan. Clark’s wife Anna and Huguette and Andree, daughters of that marriage, lived there until his death in 1925.

I loved the story of Gwendolyn Jenkins, an immigrant from Jamaica who became a nurse’s aide. Jenkins helped take care of Irving Gordon, a Madison Avenue stockbroker who helped handle Huguette’s investments and died of cancer. After his death, Huguette wrote her a lovely note, “a proper note” thanking her for his care.  “She included a ‘little gift,’ “a check for three hundred dollars.” Her daughter said, “You’d better sit down, Mother, and let me read this letter over to you. This check is for thirty thousand dollars!”

In another story, Huguette waved her magic wand to find the illustrator Felix Lourioux, who illustrated fairy tales in the French weekly, “La Semaine de Suzette,” a favorite in her youth, and commissioned several works by him. Lourioux was also the early illustrator of Mickey Mouse books. She lavishly supported him and his wife Lily throughout their lives.

Huguette spent a great deal of her considerable fortune on her very personal tastes in art and people. She supported as many as a hundred families in her lifetime—artists, craftspeople illustrators, and musicians; William Gower husband of less than a year and his new family; the Frenchman Etienne de Villermont, the love of her life whom she refused to marry and the wife he eventually married; relatives, friends, staff that helped take care of her many properties, and nurses.

The surprise of the book was that Huguette’s passion was dolls. She spent millions of dollars on buying and outfitting them with costumes. She meticulously researched the period in which each doll came from and directed the building of the ‘house’ or ‘castle’ some were to live in as well as furniture and accessories to go with them. She extravagantly paid the artisans, sent gifts to their wives, children and grandchildren and continued to support the families after they died. (The collection is valued at $1.7 million.)

Photos of two of the dolls from Huguette’s collection that are found in the book. To help publicize its publication, authors Dedman and Newell posted a three-minute plus video on NBC News displaying images of Huguette’s doll collection of French, Japanese, German dolls and some of their lavishly made homes. The background music is the tune “Salut d’Amour, played by pianist Eduard Laurel and violinist James Ehness on the the famous Strativarious violin, “La Pucelle.” http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbc-news/52916662#52916662

Photos of two of the dolls from Huguette’s collection that are found in the book. To help publicize its publication, authors Dedman and Newell posted a three-minute plus video on NBC News displaying images of Huguette’s doll collection of French, Japanese, German dolls and some of their lavishly made homes. The background music is the tune “Salut d’Amour, played by pianist Eduard Laurel and violinist James Ehness on the the famous Strativarious violin, “La Pucelle.” http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbc-news/52916662#52916662

I loved the story of the Japanese artist Saburo Kawakami who was hired to build a replica the lavish Hirosaki Castle, which included cutting shingles from a rare Japanese cedar for its roof. Huguette loved Japanese culture and history and collected rare Japanese Hina and other period dolls.

As portrayed in the book, Huguette was exceptionally private, well-mannered, introverted, shy, generous, and kind, absorbed daily in private passions that gave her a great deal of pleasure. Not much more about her personality can be gleaned from the book. To his credit, Dedman tried hard—plugging through archives, bank drafts and written documents and interviewing anyone alive who knew her. Co-author Newell’s scant five sidebars of conversations with Huguette on the telephone don’t add much by way of illumination and left me wondering why the book included them.

If I have a quarrel with the book it is that the book is very much a prize-winning journalist’s approach to writing about someone whose life was so carefully guarded. Perhaps only a third of the book is about what can be gleaned about Huguette from descriptions of her art and doll collection, descriptions of the lavish homes she lived in and abandoned, and the people that received some of her generous gifts.

Even the major love of Huguette’s life (“Love of Half a Life”) with the Marquis Etienne de Villermont gets a scant five pages, taken up in part with a few short affectionate notes between them: “It’s Valentine’s Day and I am thinking of you with great affection. I send you this bouquet but the mimosas are under the snow. We will take the boat in the middle of March, the United States. It will be a joy to see you. I can’t wait, I hope you are well, will try to call you. Much love, always, Etienne.” Another page or so of this segment describes the friendship that continued after he became married to someone else, which included Huguette’s gifts to help them adopt a child and a description of some of the gifts she sent to that child.

You have to admire a woman who was able to guard her privacy to that extent and live quite a full life absorbed by the pleasures and people she was drawn to. Up until her twenty-year stay at Beth Israel Medical Center, she stayed clear from fortune hunters, gossip, media attention, and family or friends that might only have cozied up because of that fortune.

What is interesting is that the book documents the sadness of those aspects of a very wealthy person’s life—attempts by Beth Israel to get her to sign over much of what remained of her fortune (politely called ‘cultivating the donor’). Equally sad is the lawsuit instigated by remnants of her family, most of whom had never met her, who wanted a piece of her fortune. Sad too the controversy surrounding Hadassah Peri, the nurse that devoted her life to taking care of Huguette while she was in the hospital and became perhaps her only friend and confidante. Huguette supported her with huge donations to her and her family ($31 million!) and left a considerable portion more to her in the will,

The settlement of Huguette’s estate came after the book was published. Those who would like to know about it can read Dedman’s article, “Huguette Clark’s $300 million copper fortune is divided up: Here’s the deal” at http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/24/20675759-huguette-clarks-300-million-copper-fortune-is-divided-up-heres-the-deal

There’s a lot of captivating detail to interest the reader who can’t get enough of the lives of the rich and famous.

The most interesting and valuable segment  of Empty Mansions is the 125 pages or so (almost a third of the book) devoted to William Andrews Clark, Huguette’s father. For me, It is single best biography yet written about W.A. Clark, from his birth to a not so poor family, to his education, growth of his business empire, the building of his mansion in New York, and the dissolution the mansion and sale of the United Verde mine. The book offers a much more complex and interesting portrait of him than the one of Huguette.

William Andrews Clark in Jerome, Arizona.  Courtesy of the Herbert V. Young Collection of the Jerome Historical Society.

William Andrews Clark in Jerome, Arizona. Courtesy of the Herbert V. Young Collection of the Jerome Historical Society.

Perhaps this is where Newell added a great deal of value to Empty Mansions. Newell’s father was Clark’s uncle and Clark often visited him when he was in Los Angeles. Newell was writing a biography about Clark but “his health was failing, so only fragments of that work were completed.”  Newell took up that his father’s work by organizing the archives, visiting museums and historical societies and developing friendships with some of the relatives that had known Clark. It was a visit to the Corcoran Gallery that revealed that Huguette was still alive (by this time she was already ensconced in Beth Israel Medical Center). Newell  was quick to say that even his father had never met the very shy and reclusive Huguette.

The segment on Clark included 18 pages of rich new information about the battles between Marcus Daly (owner of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company) and Clark for control of political power in Butte.  These include debunking some of the allegations of Clark’s bribery for the United States Senate and its aftermath, which included the Daly camp’s bribery of some of the Montana legislators that had initially voted for Clark to recant their testimony. Clark eventually resigned in the swirl of controversy, then was reappointed to fill the vacancy.

The book also debunks the veracity of Mark Twain’s now famous and oft-quoted excoriation of Clark.  “He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag.” (It goes to show that negative accusations always stay more firmly in the mind that positive ones, especially when they are well-written.) Turns out Twain had been saved from bankruptcy and was a close friend of Henry Huttleston Rogers, CEO of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, the company which took over Daly’s Anaconda Copper, a fabulous stock swindle story all on its own.

Empty Mansions contains twenty-four pages of wonderful (and rare) color photographs and many black and white ones. My favorites were the black and white photo of Anna Clark’s bedroom with her harp at Bellosguardo taken in 1940 by Karl Obert and the full page photo of the very lovely Huguette taken in 1943.

In summary: Empty Mansions is a good read—especially for those of us who love the history of Jerome and all the byways it can take us on.

Gold Mining in Jerome AZ 1980’s

Outfitted with overlarge Wellington boots, a hard hat with a flashlight and a self-rescue device, which would give us breathable air in case of a fire, Walter and I are ready to descend 1100 feet down the hoist located at the Audrey Shaft in Jerome, adjacent to the Douglas State Park.

Audrey Headframe, Jerome, AZ.

Audrey Headframe, Jerome, AZ.

In 1984, Budge Mining Ltd. leased mineral rights from Phelps Dodge and United Verde Exploration and sunk quite a few bucks into fixing up the Audrey Shaft and elevator of the old Little Daisy Mine and fixing some of the tunnels. Mining, albeit on a small scale, threatens to come back to Jerome.

The new mine is after red- and black-banded jasper and other types of quartz chert and intend to haul the ore to New Mexico. There it will be crushed and used as a flux to process copper. The flux is heated and the gold will float up as a byproduct.

The gold is electron gold, microscopic and invisible. The only way geologists know it is there is to assay the rock. Paul Handverger, who was managing Verde Ex’s properties, was excited because he discovered the new prospect.

I’m there as part of a newly formed organization called the Jerome Protection Foundation, which is objecting to the proposed mining. Too noisy, especially at nights with dumping and sounds of trucks backing up, too disruptive to tourism that comes to the State Park, too much wear and tear on our already damaged roads, and so on. The road from Highway 89a to the State Park (Mine Road) is narrow and twisty. We’ve seen drivers who can’t always see around the curves drive much too fast and not quite on their side of the road.

The mine personnel are trying to appease us and have invited me to go into the mine. I’m all smiles and charm. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of a mine.

Pete Flores, mine foreman, reassures me that it’s perfectly safe. “You’ve been seeing too many movies. It’s not too bad at all down there. I even took my wife.”’

“How much gold is in the ore?” I ask. “Oh about .2 percent to a ton of rock,” says Flores. “I’ve been mining gold for 4-5 years and the only gold I’ve ever seen was in my teeth.

Down in the big tunnel, Flores shows us the safety rules, the emergency 
stretcher, the stepladder that would allow us to climb out if the elevators have a problem, the pneumatic tube that flows and circulates air. “I never had an accident and none of my men have either,” Flores says.

My big surprise is how roomy, high and long the tunnels are. My two-story house would hardly touch the ceiling. The ceiling of the tunnel is netted with wire mesh and embedded with bolts that go five feet into the rock. Flores also showed me some soft spots that could possible lead to cave-ins, which he likens to rotten apples.

We’re slowly walking in muck towards the high school. The muck is from water that needs to be used in diamond drilling through the hard rock jasper. We’re also shown two types of ores that hold massive amounts of copper—one a black schist that looks like coal and is very dense. I’m told it assays out at 30% copper to the ton. In the other or type, you can see copper seams—Jerome’s Apache gold— that assay out as 50-70% ore to the ton. They’re part of the extremely high concentrations of copper that are common to Jerome’s massive sulfide deposits.

I ask Flores what he likes about mining.

“The temperature,” he says. “My first job out of school was doing surveys in Grants New Mexico. It was windy, cold and miserable. Then I got a job mining. Down there the weather’s always perfect, an even 70 degrees all year round.”

While walking around, Flores told us about old mining superstitions.

“The miners of Arizona’s copper districts belong to many different nationalities. If they worked as miners in the Old Country, they bought their superstition with them. Many nationalities believe that mines are inhabited by impish “little people” called kobolds by the Germans, duendes by the Mexicans and tommyknockers by Cornish miners. They like to play pranks, like carrying carry off small tools. In the old country, miners kept them appeased with food offerings. The superstition that lingers on is that a woman will invariably bring bad luck into any mine. So whether true or not, it is very difficult for women to go down into the mines.

Tommyknockers, in mining folklore, are the spirits that knock on walls just before cave-ins.

Tommyknockers, in mining folklore, are the spirits that knock on walls just before cave-ins.

Anti-Mining Activism: The Jerome Protection Foundation

Barbara Blackburn, who had a level head and was a great organizer, started the Jerome Protection Foundation in the late 80’s. I was secretary. We were the black hippie crows creating as much an uproar as we knew how. Joining us was Mayor Francesca Segretti, who became livid when she had to drive to work at a crawl behind eleven ore trucks. Our members called and wrote a barrage of letters to officials at ADOT, the State Preservation offices, Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C., UVX; Phelps Dodge, Budge Mining. We flew off press releases, held meetings, got residents of Jerome engaged in doing something with their anger besides spouting off.

John McNerney, founder of JErome Instrument Corporation, which manufactured mercury detectors, used a noise detector to take formal measurements. “You need a baseline, something to compare potential noise levels to,” John said.  Joey van Leeuwen made a list of trees along Mine road that might be cut down if the road was widened. The strategy was to create a big bother along many fronts.

In one rancorous town council meeting, one mining geologist shook his fist and said, “You’ll see big mining return here in the next century. The biggest zinc deposit in North America is right underneath Jerome.”

There is a lot of zinc up there near the open pit and underneath the Company Hill houses, but it’s low grade and so far there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in mining it.

Fortunately, although four different mining companies professed interest as buyers of the chert, contracts for the ore were not forthcoming. Then there was an accident down in the mine, which nobody could get any details about. A big hush-up. A first for Flores. The mine shut down for repairs and never reopened. Today, the Historical Society constructed The Audrey Headframe park.

Would our protests of the Jerome Protection Foundation have amounted to anything? Maybe a few small concessions by the mine. At best. we probably did little more than spook them. Mining is a big Goliath. We were saved by either fate or serendipity.

It did not give us much hope against successfully protesting against an even bigger mining Goliath that may loom from discoveries of new massive sulfide deposits.  (See a previous post: “The Future of Mining in Jerome.”)

The Audrey Headframe  Park

In 2010, volunteers led by Allen Muma, President of the Jerome Historical Society, and Mayor Jim Kinsella, constructed the Audrey Headframe Park. The big draw is not just the restored headframe, but a glass platform where visitors can walk and peer down into the shaft—the same one that held the old elevator that took us down into the mine. Special zenon lighting and mirrors heighten the effect of looking down into the tunnels. The shaft is surrounded by old mining artifacts, such as ore cars, drills, water cannons, and an old mining cage. http://www.jeromehistoricalsociety.com/projects.html

Looking down the old Audrey shaft. In the 1980's, I was taken down by elevator to  tour a proposed new gold mine.

Looking down the old Audrey shaft. In the 1980’s, I was taken down by elevator to tour a proposed new gold mine.

The mirror walk was built by the same company that built the spectacular glass skywalk on the portion of the Grand Canyon owned by the Hualapai nation.

http://www.grandcanyonskywalk.com/

The Case of the Azure-Colored Water: Jerome AZ

Jerome’s mining wealth in the first half of the twentieth century came at a big cost to the surrounding environment. The mountains were denuded for wood to build 88 miles of mining tunnels and other infrastructure. Mining wastes and tailings that are contaminated with a large toxic cocktail are visible from most every part of town.

Mining has always been a dirty business.

The biggest environmental threat to citizens in Jerome was the flow of azure-colored water during heavy rains in drainages on Perkinsville Road between what is now the Gold King Mine and Jerome. Moreover, the large slag heap and tailings on Sunshine Hill, just above the Daisy Hotel and other nearby residences, would leach blue water into Bitter Creek, which flowed directly into Jerome ‘s newly renovated sewage treatment plant, potentially contaminating it and groundwater resources below it.

The blue water was laced with a heavy potion of copper sulfate. In that watery mix were also found cadmium, selenium, arsenic and other nasty substances.

Kids liked to throw nails and car parts into it and watch them turn copper. They liked touching it. Jerome citizens loved to take their dogs walking out on Sunshine Hill or out Perkins Road. The owners had to restrain the dogs form drinking the water.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper.

Drop a metal part into copper sulfate water and watch it become coated with copper.

A major characteristic of sulfide ores is that they oxidize when exposed to air and water, e.g. they turn to sulfates. The toxic cocktail of blue water resulted in the oxidation of copper sulfides still present in the tailings piles that were created by the United Verde Mine and its successor, Phelps Dodge Corporation. Today, the colors showing in the unmined portions of the open pit above town—vivid oranges, yellows, dark reds—are evidence of the oxidation process, as well as indication that some of the ores still exist.

That characteristic was the clue that led Native Americans sometime prior to the 1600s up to what is now called Cleopatra to dig up the blue colored ore that was exposed there. Today, the colors showing in the open pit above town—vivid oranges, yellows, dark reds—are evidence of the oxidation process, as well as indication that some of the ores still exist there.

Often found near the top of massive sulfide copper ores is azurite, a deliciously colored blue minerals used in jewelry. The Hopis used pigments for their pictographs and the Yavapai used it for body adornment. Specimens collected from Jerome mines can be found in the Mine Museum on Main Street and at the Jerome State Park (Douglas Mansion).

Often found near the top of massive sulfide copper ores is azurite, a deliciously colored blue minerals used in jewelry. The Hopis used pigments for their pictographs and the Yavapai used it for body adornment. Specimens collected from Jerome mines can be found in the Mine Museum on Main Street and at the Jerome State Park (Douglas Mansion).

(More information about Jerome’s massive sulfide ores are discussed in in the previous blog, “The Future of Mining in Jerome Az.”)

The Mining Act of 1872 regulated little in the way of potential environmental degradation. Mining companies had a virtual free pass to mine gold, copper, coal as profitably as possible. Up until the nineteen seventies, pollution caused by mining, whether it was caused by what the mines left behind, or practices that were ongoing, were largely ignored.

In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded. In 1972, amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, now known as the Clean Water Act,  establishes guidelies for regulating the discharges of pollutants into ground and surface water. This meant that the EPA could mandate the clean up degraded and hazardous mining sites. The laws were strengthened when the The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) was passed in 1980 which gave the EPA authority over sites contaminated with hazardous substances, as well as other pollutants or contaminants.

Citizens, most old hippies, began complaining to the town of Jerome and the town responded by contacting the EPA.  The new sets of laws gave EPA officials a mandate to investigate complaints. They came to Jerome, took photographs, and passed complaints on to officials at Phelps Dodge, then owner of the UV property on which the blue water was found, and hoped for voluntary compliance. It did not happen. Instead, PD stalled the process by claiming that there were broken water pipes under the affected lands and that the town was responsible for maintaining them, a claim that was untrue.

Finally, in 2003 that the EPA finally issued a Complaint and Consent Decree against Phelps Dodge for discharging acid mine drainage (e.g. the blue water) in violation of the Clean Water Act. PD was fined a civil penalty of $220,141.00 and told to formulate a reclamation plan to avoid seepage into Bitter Creek and other groundwater resources downstream. The EPA threatened to make name the PD site a Superfund site, which would have meant many more millions in fines and cleanup costs.

Once ground and surface waters are contaminated, they are virtually impossible to adequately restore to even drinkable use with any available technology in any time-frame that is within most people’s life spans. They best solution is to prevent contaminants from reaching water sources.

Phelps Dodge formulated a remediation plan and and spent close to $12 million to control the seepage, not entirely successfully.

In 2006, Phelps Dodge Corporation was sold to Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc. (Freeport) the largest publicly traded copper producer in the world and one of the world’s largest producers of gold. The deal created the world’s largest publicly traded copper company.[1]

In 2008, Freeport continued the remediation plan begun by Phelps Dodge and spent tens of millions of more dollars in extensive voluntary reclamation to control the seepage and improve water resources. Part of that project was to build a new drainage system on their property to ensure that mining wastes containing potential contaminants did not escape into groundwater resources.

The blue water stopped flowing.

Freeport also paved and put street lighting into a much-appreciated parking lot for tourists just outside of Jerome on the road heading towards the Gold King Mine. They provide buildings at that location to both the Town of Jerome for vehicle and equipment storage and a studio to sculptor Scott Owens.

So far, they have been good neighbors.

[1] Business Wire, November 19, 2006