Statehood Date:



Arizona Gold Locations are significant.

In 1912 President Taft signed the statehood proclamation that made Arizona the 48th State using a pen made of gold from Arizona mines. The gesture was an appropriate symbol since this metal has played a significant role in the history and development of the State.

Gold first brought Europeans into the area and later attracted the first settlers. Many of the colorful tales woven into the history of Arizona are tales of gold. The Spanish Conquistadors entered the area that we now call Arizona in the 1500′ s in a search for gold. It is doubtful that these expeditions found even minor amounts since many settlers ignored the region for 200 years. In the late 1700s, Franciscan priests discovered what are believed to be the Arivaca, Baboquivari, and Quijotoa Placers in southern Arizona.

Production possibly was significant, but without records, we can only speculate when Arizona became a U. S. Territory in 1848, Americans began filtering into the area looking for placer gold. Most of them were discouraged ’49ers’ from the California gold rush, hopeful that the unexplored Arizona washes would prove fruitful. Col. Jacob Snively discovered the Gila City Placers in 1858 near the Colorado and Gila Rivers confluence. Quickly hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of California miners converged on the site. As R. J. Hinton, an early historian, described it, “There was everything in Gila City within a few months but a church and a jail.” Feverish mining activity continued for about four years. These dry placers have been working intermittently since that time. In 1863 a member of a group led by Capt. Pauline Weaver found gold nuggets in a most unlikely place in the Bradshaw Mountains in Yavapai County.

This is another story of a wandering burro leading to a valuable mineral discovery. Of course, these accounts would be more questionable, except there were many burros around in those days, and it is like burros to stray. Nevertheless, this particular burro led the Weaver party up to the top of a small mesa where, in one day, the group picked up over 200 ounces of nuggets. Rich Hill, as it came to be called, was the wealthiest placer discovery in Arizona history, with estimates of gold recovery put at 110,000 ounces.

Joseph R. Walker and his followers, to avoid conscription during the Civil War, set out across Death Valley in 1861. After traveling through California, Colorado, and New Mexico, they eventually made their way through the hostile Apache country of central Arizona. They discovered the Lynx, Humbug, Big Bug, and Turkey Creek Placers. Many members of the original Walker party went on to carve names for themselves in Arizona history. The story of their remarkable journey makes for exciting reading. Despite Indian attacks, transportation difficulties, and communication problems, the period between 1860 – 1880 was the most active and productive period of placer mining in the State. All central placer districts were worked at this time, including Greaterville, La Paz, Chemehuevis, Lynx Creek, Big Bug, Humbug, Turkey Creek, and Gila City.

Placer mining continued into the 20th century at a reduced rate, gaining impetu~ during the depression of the 1930s. World War II was a significant setback for placer mining, as mining efforts turned to metals more vital to the war effort. Placer mining has never reached the pre-war levels again. Since the war, placer mining in Arizona has been characterized by many small, sporadic operations and increasing recreational activity. Gold Panning in Arizona 4 Arizona is currently experiencing a 50-year high in placer activity. Since the lifting of the U. S. government’s fixed price for newly-mined gold in 1968, the restoration of the right of citizens to own gold in 1975, and numerous changes in world economics, gold prices have risen to a level that makes gold exploration much more attractive.


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