Silverking Mine

March 19, 2015.

We headed out on a perfect Arizona spring-like day to visit a few historic sites of ghost towns and an abandoned silver mine. Bob was a great tour guide/historian. He led us to some really interesting places and shared his knowledge of their history and some good stories about what happened there.

We started out at the wagon tracks, and ended with the Silver King Cemetery. We all learned something, and the kids even had a good time!

The wagon wheels were made of wood, with iron treads which ground deep grooves into the rock. We also noticed round depressions between the wheel tracks that are said to be from the mules pulling the wagons stepping in the same place as they passed.

THE LEGEND OF THE APACHE TEARDROP

On the way from the wagon tracks to Pinal we passed below the place of the legend of Apache Leap. We stopped to find some Apache Tears, and talk about the story of the 75 Apaches who lost their lives in that place.


The legend has it that the Pinal Apaches tried to discourage people from mining copper on their land. After the Apaches had made several raids on a settlement, the Cavalry trailed the tracks of the stolen cattle and waited for dawn to attack the Apaches. The Apaches, confident in the safety of their location, were completely surprised and out-numbered in the attack.

Nearly 50 of the band of 75 Apaches were killed in the first volley of shots. The rest of the tribe retreated to the cliff’s edge and chose death by turning their horses and leaping over the edge, rather than die at the hands of their enemy.

It is said that their sadness was so great, and their burden of sorrow so sincere, that the Great Father embedded into black stones, the tears of the Apache women who mourned their dead. These black obsidian stones, when held to the light, reveal the translucent tear of the Apache. It’s also said that the stones bring good luck to those possessing them, and that whoever owns an Apache tear drop will never have to cry again, for the Apache maidens have shed their tears in place of others.

PINAL CITY AND CEMETERY

Originally named Picket Post, At its height, Pinal City had a population of 2000 residents, a bank, a church, several stores and saloons, a hotel, and its own newspaper. Picketpost was developed on the site of an old short-lived Army road construction camp along Queen Creek at one of the few places in the area with a reliable water supply.

Queen Creek ran all the time back then. Picket Post was renamed Pinal City on June 27, 1879. The devaluation of silver made the mines unprofitable and the town quickly dwindled. By 1890, only ten people were left. Very little remains of Pinal City today.

Pinal City is where Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp’s common law wife, met her end. Mattie Earp was also known as Celia Anne Blaylock Earp and Mattie Blaylock.

Mattie was considered to be Wyatt Earp’s common law wife. She was with Wyatt during his days in Tombstone, where he became known for his involvement in the O.K. Corral gunfight. She was said to have suffered from severe headaches, most likely migraines, and while in Tombstone, she became heavily addicted to laudanum, a commonly used opiate and pain killer of the day.

 Wyatt Earp met a young lady in Tombstone whom he quickly fell in love with: Josephine Marcus. After the shootout in Tombstone the relationship between Wyatt and Mattie was badly strained and he left Tombstone to be with Josephine, the love of his life. Mattie later returned to Pinal where, on July 3, 1888, she took a lethal dose of laudanum together with alcohol. She was 38 years old. Her death was officially ruled as suicide by opium poisoning.
The historic Pinal Cemetery served the residents of Pinal and the mill workers from Silver King Mine.

 


Following the mine closure in 1888, Pinal was depopulated but the cemetery was still used by the residents of the new copper camp, Superior.

With the establishment of Superior’s own cemetery in 1916, use of the Pinal Cemetery was discontinued.

 

SILVERKING MINE

The Silver King Mine traces its beginning to 1870, during the Apache Wars. 

General George Stoneman, desiring an easier access route to Apache strongholds, had ordered the construction of a road from Camp Picketpost into the Pinal Mountains. The road became known as the Stoneman Grade.

In 1876 the Silver King mine was discovered in the mountains on four patented claims in Comstock Wash, about 1 mile west of Kings Crown Peak and about 3 miles north of Superior. The richest silver mine in Arizona, it produced an estimated $42 million worth of silver ore between 1875 and 1900.

Because of declining silver market prices, the cost of wood to supply the steam engines at the mine and its machinery, and rising costs of processing, the Silver King Mine was closed in 1888.

 By that time the principal shaft of the Silver King Mine reached a vertical depth in excess of 700 feet. The town tied to the production of the mine was abandoned several years after the mine closed.

We then left Silver King and turned up the road a bit to the old Silver King Cemetery, which was a short hike up the hill. We found a few of the 75 graves marked, most notable that of the Trevethan family. 

The story goes that their nine year old son died of a snake bite, and his mother planted irises around his grave. Old Bob smiled and said this was the first time he has ever seen them bloom.

If you want to know more about the mine and the area, check out this book;

WHEN SILVER WAS KING

By: Jack San Felice