The Wickedest Town in America – Jerome Arizona

Keep Your Hand Upon Your Wages
And your eye upon the scale
Charles David Tillman, – Miners Song 1875

Whether you are interested in the arts, food, live music, motorcycles, history,  or a breathtaking view of the Verde Valley, you can’t go wrong by taking a drive through Cottonwood and Clarkdale Arizona, then the climb up  the Mingus Mountain to visit in Jerome.

Once known as the  The Wickedest Town In America, it’s reputation has mellowed, but it’s intrigue, variable nature and hell of a good time remain. Jerome has winding cobblestone streets, turn of the century architecture, an eclectic mix of shops, bars, and eateries, inviting Bed & Breakfasts, art galleries, and a Grand Hotel, all clinging  precariously to the eastern slope of Cleopatra Hill.  For those interested in a Classic Boon and Bust American Frontier Story, there is none better than Jerome.

Beginning in the 1880’s and for the next seventy years, Jerome embraced the identity of a billion dollar copper mining town. Arizona Govenor Tritle, as well as East Coasts investors James McDonald and Eugene Jerome made millions of dollars by Investing in the United Verde Copper Company.  Eugene had the town named for him for his investment,  while never actually stepping foot in Jerome. Eugene’s cousin, Jennie, was the mother of Winston Churchill, a bit of Jerome trivia often repeated in the telling of Jerome’s story by the locals.

By 1920, Jerome was thriving with over 15,000 residents, a large red light district, saloons, opera house, an opium den, and at one time 14 Chinese restaurants. Workers came from many countries, as well as the United States.   Fires would burn Jerome, and she would quickly rise from her ashes and continue on.

Tons of copper, silver,  gold, and other minerals were removed from the mines of Jerome. Then in 1938, the town’s very foundation was shaken by a blast that caused the business district to slip 225 feet downhill, some saying this was the beginning of the end for the Little Daisy Mine. owned by                James Stuart Douglass. It is his former residence, recognized as one of the grandest houses in all of Arizona, where today’s photo gallery was taken.

The United Verde Valley Mine was purchased by Phelps Dodge during the Great Depression.  Unpredictable Copper prices, escalating labor unrest, World War II,  and reduced copper yields all took their toll, with the mine closing in  1953.

Jerome became a ghost town of only 10 or 50 residents,  depending on who you speak with. Artists moved into the buildings during the sixties, with Jerome making it’s comeback to a thriving town today based on the arts and good time tourism. Many of the businesses that thrive today are housed in buildings restored after the 1894 and 1899 fires, and the remains of the 1938 slide can be viewed safely from the many view opportunities throughout town.  Live Music, laughter, and a good time for all is the mood when you walk the streets of Jerome.

Today we visit the Douglas Mansion located in Jerome State Park, Jerome Arizona, USA. It offers  a very real and in depth look at the mining history of Jerome while safely staying above ground.  Offering an extensive collection of mining equipment, tools, photos, and memorabilia from the copper/gold mining years. I have returned many times and always learn new details of a fascinating time in US history.  An excellent collection speaking to  the chang form manual to mechanized mining, as well as the danger, difficulty, hard work, and harsh working conditions involved in the mining process Displayed side by side with  a glimpse at the wealth the miners created for the Douglass family.

 

Today’s Song: Trigg Morris- Keep Your Hands Upon Your Wages, Your Eyes Upon The Scale- Union Miners Song

Welcome November, and my best to Each and Everyone!

November 6 Update: Giving everyone a link to my friend Nancy’s Website: Two Trails One Road as she just did a post on Jerome which not only compliments Jerome, but will give you more reason to visit!

 

37 thoughts on “The Wickedest Town in America – Jerome Arizona

  1. I love Arizona – I’ve spent some really happy times exploring there. And had all manner of adventures there too – I fell in love in Tubac, travelled around in an old VW camper, had a terrifying run-in with minutemen in the small hours of the morning, got stalked by a mountain lion in a canyon on the Mexican border… was briefly shut in a basement former crack den in Bisbee, met birders out hiking in the Santa Marta mountains with binoculars, fieldguides and handguns… and drank margaritas that made my face go numb. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place!

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    1. Oh this such a colorful and well told Arizona Adventure! And I just know you will be coming back for more! Thank you for sharing this lively accounting of your experiences here!
      See you soon.

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  2. Great photos and story about Jerome. Takes me back to the four years we spent in Bisbee, AZ – another grand old town left by Phelps Dodge back in the mid seventies and brought back to life by the hippies that moved in and became artisans in crafts such as leather making, jewelry making and the like. Without the likes of people such as these, I doubt that Bisbee much like Jerome would still be standing today.

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  3. I just did a post on Jerome. WOW! Great minds think alike! I also sent my readers over to your post on the Jerome junkyard! I did not know you did this post!
    I enjoy Jerome every time I go there. So much to see and learn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey girlfriend: Here’s what I did:
      I just went and did postscripts added information to both The Soul of the Junkyard, and The Wickedest Town in America suggesting folks go read your post on Jerome and the appropriate link.

      I am finding a new exciting development that people are actually reading my previous posts …..so lets see how this shakes out for both of us!
      And all those smart people who head on up to Jerome!

      All my best to you.

      https://johannamassey.com/2015/11/01/the-wickedest-town-in-america-
      jerome-arizona/

      https://johannamassey.com/2015/09/18/the-soul-of-a-junkyard/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The signs sound silly–do not spit on floor–but we haven’t progressed much when it’s common place to warn people that things like climbing up a ladder means they could fall. We humans are funny creatures.

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    1. Several of them are so funny…spitting on the floors and throwing clothes out of the windows…but the majority really speak to what a high risk danger zone the mining of the copper was.

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    1. It is very common for visitors to pass right by the signage for the park. A visit to the Douglass Mansion really gives a full and colorful glimpse of the what and whys of Jerome. It really is nice to carry that perspective on up the hill for when you actually walk the streets themselves. The perspective is so much bigger and enhanced in a good way.

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  5. Fascinating post, lots of photos that bring it to life. i am reminded that back in the first half of 20th century, my grandfather, and his father worked down the coal mines of Wales. They were Irish immigrants. It was a hard, poor living. That’s life for some still, in parts of the world. Best wishes.

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    1. Oh it is very interesting. Many visitors drive on by the entrance to the State Park in their excitement over the steep ascent upward, but always it is the best and first place to stop to get a full appreciation of the town.

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