Although it never became the largest town in Arizona, as Henry Wickenburg predicted,
the town he founded is big on history, and this year, it celebrates its sesquicentennial.
© Desert Caballeros Western Museum Archive
Henry Wickenburg, circa 1890
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By Kayla Frost
Henry Wickenburg wanted gold — and gold he got. Born near Essen, Prussia (modern-day Germany), in 1819, Wickenburg sailed to the United States 28 years later. He first made his way to California and later arrived in Peeples Valley, Arizona, where he teamed up with two prospectors, E.A. Van Bibber and Theodore Green Rusk. In 1861 or 1862, they set out for the Harquahala Mountains with dollar signs in their eyes.
According to Mark E. Pry, author of The Town on the Hassayampa, the trio found nothing worth pursuing in the mountains, but on their way back to Peeples Valley, Wickenburg saw a quartz ledge that looked promising. He visited the site on his own and found evidence of gold, which he later showed to the other men. Although they filed a claim, neither Wickenburg nor his partners took any action.
In 1863, Wickenburg returned to the site alone and filed a new claim. Turns out, there was, indeed, gold in those hills, as well as silver. The mine — dubbed the Vulture Mine — went on to produce millions of dollars in ore.
The community of Wickenburg grew up around the mine, and the man behind the town had big dreams for the settlement, which is located just 54 miles from Phoenix. A column in the June 15, 1910, issue of The Arizona Republican read: "Henry Wickenburg … said many years ago that the town would some day [sic] be the largest in Arizona. This is by no means an improbability."
Although Wickenburg's vision never came to fruition, the town has become a favorite among fans of Western culture. This year, it celebrates its sesquicentennial.
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