Once upon a time in Crown King

Crown King is a small village, a “living ghost town,” in the Bradshaw Mountains about 85 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. It can be reached via a steep, narrow, winding dirt road wending its way up a mountain in Prescott National Forest. Crown King has been in the news recently because of the Gladiator forest fire raging near the village.


The current population is about 130, but in its heyday, spanning the turn of the 20th Century, Crown King had about 800 buildings and a booming mining industry producing gold, copper, lead, zinc, and silver. It even had a railroad at one time. An interesting history of the village and mines can be found at http://www.crownking.com/history.html.

One of the stories is of lost treasure:

“During the fall rainy season of 1897, an incident occurred that was to create one of the many lost treasure stories that endure in Arizona history. George Harrington, on the first leg of a visit to the east, was being driven in a buckboard to Prescott by experienced freighter J.P. Bruce. The buckboard also contained $5,000 in bullion from the Crown King Mine. They had crossed the rain-swollen Wolf Creek, about six miles from Mayer, and were climbing the far bank when one of the horses balked. The buckboard slipped back into the water and overturned. Harrington managed to save himself by grabbing a tree branch, but Bruce and the horses were caught in the flood. Unable to find Bruce, Harrington walked to Mayer and phoned to Prescott for help. A search party was sent out and Bruce’s body was found about a half mile below the crossing at 1am the next morning. The bullion was never found, even though it was searched for extensively after.” By the way, that $5,000 in bullion is worth about $420,000 at current prices.

The following description of the mines is summarized from Arizona Lode Gold Mines and Gold Mining, by Eldred Wilson, 1934, revised, 1967, Arizona Bureau of Geology and Mineral Technology. Wilson gives dollar values for the ore and concentrates calculated at a gold price of $20.67 per ounce and a silver price of about $0.60 per ounce versus $1595 for gold and $28.00 for silver today. To get a rough estimate of the current value of the ore, multiply Wilson’s figures by 80. Wilson mentions “middlings” which are an intermediate product from a washer, concentration, or preparation plant consisting of fragments of mineral and waste rock. The material is often sent back for crushing and retreatment.

The Crown King group of claims, southeast of Towers Mountain, includes the Crown King vein which has yielded the most of any deposit in the district. During the early days, this deposit yielded rich gold ore from near the surface.

From 1890 to 1895, the property was operated by the Crown King Mining Company. Their 10-stamp mill caught $10 to $12 per ton on the plates and made a lead concentrate that contained $150 to $350 in gold and silver per ton, besides a middling that carried 15 per cent of zinc and $12 in gold per ton. The middlings were stock-piled, and the concentrates were packed to Prescott, some 40 miles distant, at a cost of about $21.50 per ton. In 1895, the property was bonded to H. B. Chamberlin and Company, of Denver. The mine was operated until 1901 when it was closed by court order. [This closing was due to litigation by squabbling factions of the mine owners. The mine was closed and reopened in 1893 for the same reason.]

During the 1890-1901 period, the ore shoot was followed to a depth of 650 feet, with an estimated production of $1,500,000 of which $200,000 was paid in dividends. Transportation costs were greatly reduced by the extension, in 1899, of the Prescott & Eastern Railway into Mayer and further by the completion, in 1904, of the Bradshaw Railway from Mayer to Crown King.

During 1906 and 1907, the Crown King Mines Company worked the middlings pile and shipped concentrates containing gold, silver, zinc, iron and copper. In 1909, the property was sold at receiver’s sale to the Yavapai Consolidated Gold-Silver-Copper Company controlled by the Murphy estate, for $75,000. In 1916, lessees organized the Bradshaw Reduction Company which installed flotation equipment and made a few tons of concentrates from old middlings. Some ore is reported to have been blocked out above the 480-foot level, but was not mined.

In 1923, the mine was taken over by the Crown King Consolidated Mines, Inc. During the winter of 1926-1927, a flood wrecked the mill. The railway tracks from Middleton to Crown King were torn up during 1926 and 1927, and the grade has been utilized for a road. In 1933-1934, a 300-ton flotation-concentration mill was built.

The production of the mine since 1890 is estimated at $1,840,000.

That’s the way it was, once upon a time in Crown King.

Crown King’s mining days have past. The village is now a tourist destination.

See also:

Gold of Cañada del Oro and rumors of treasure

Old mines of the Tucson Mountains

Oracle Ridge Mine on Mount Lemmon

The Pontatoc mine in a north Tucson neighborhood

Saginaw Hill, another old mine in a Tucson area neighborhood

Sierrita Mine is only U.S. source of Rhenium

Surprising Structure of the Copper Deposits near Green Valley, Arizona

The I-10 copper deposit

One comment

  1. My family used to pan for gold in Bumble Creek on the east range north of Black Canyon City in the 70s. All told, we probably pulled a half-pound of gold out of the creek over the years. Now, though, mining claims have closed off most of the creek. You can’t even walk the creek anymore without risk of being shot (or, actually, yelled at by scruffy, gun-toting types claiming you’re trespassing).

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