Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bagdad and Skull Valley Arizona (Tom's Perspective)

After watching a special about how the states came up with state lines, I made a comment on how much we do not know about the real history of our county. Oh sure we know about our founding fathers, constitution, when stuff was ratified, all of the wars we fought; however, how much do we really know about our back yard. What do “Old Timers” have to say about our history? Danna came up with an idea to “Discover Arizona”. For me this was foreign since I am third generation Arizonian and thought I knew all of the history. After allot of opposition from me, I finally reluctantly decided to go along with the crazy scheme. Danna has a way to wear me down, kind of funny Zachary has that same ability. So off we went on our first junket to the great Unknown Arizona!

The weekend was to start on our 18th anniversary and we decided to visit Danna’s parents in Bagdad Az. First stop Bagdad mine. What impressed me the most about the mine was the community, the whole town is owned by the mine. This is foreign to all of us because this does not happen in America 2010 , or so we thought. We have been conditioned to believe that corporate America is evil and only have stockholders in mind when they make a business decision. Last year this mine made cutbacks to avoid closing the mine all together. The people that I talked to said that the mine was very close to shutting down if they did not make changes. The mine decided to cut back on future expansion in order to save the town and the mine. Not necessarily a good short term decision for stock holders, but the mine wanted to keep the workers together for the future since they operate so efficiently. After the cutbacks the mine produced more copper with less overall people. Unlike most jobs these people live the mine , love the mine and adore the mine. This Mine invented new ways to extract copper years ago that is employed by mines across the world. This mine reminds me of what it would be like working for Westinghouse in 1940 or Motorola in 1950. I felt like I have stepped back into time where the “Company” is a good thing, the mine cares about the employee’s. I realize this is foreign to most of us but companies do at times take care of their workers.

After Bagdad we made our way to Skull Valley Az. I remember when I was a kid uncle Harry used to take us to Skull Valley to visit his friend. I do not remember the historical stuff that they have now. The train station was very interesting, the former Principle of the school greeted us and was our personal Historian. What I learned the most was skull valley was a thoroughfare for Indians and miner. We enjoyed all of the places we visited.


Bagdad and Skull Valley Arizona (Kid's Perspective)

By: Kendall Brooks

This weekend we took a trip to Bagdad, Az and stayed with Grandma & Papa. Papa set up a trip to the Bagdad mine with Bob. We saw a huge pit, a lot of rocks and huge trucks. We got to see one Huge truck being built and we stood next to the big truck. We got to see large copper plates that must have weighed 100 pounds each. We also saw a pool with copper floating at the top. There was a conveyer belt that was spilling rocks out of the top and making its own mountain. They made me wear a hard hat, glasses that protect your eyes and an orange vest. I was supposed to be Nine years old but Bob said “You are Nine Today”.
After the mine we went Skull Valley and saw the Train Museum. In the train museum we saw a 100 year old wedding dress. We learned how Skull Valley got its name. We ate lunch at the Skull Valley Dinner and I had huge kid’s burger.
What I liked the most about our trip was the mine and the big trucks. I was very happy to see Frannie when I got home.

By: Zach Brooks

This weekend we went to many places. We went to the Bagdad, AZ mine. We also went to Kirkland. The last pace we visited was the town Skull Valley. At the mine I learned many interesting things such as: the mine has a drip system for acid to dissolve the copper, this bleaches all color from the walls of the pit. The best thing I saw during my trip was the truck haulers. They were huge! I was ¼ the size of the wheel! They are used to haul rocks out of the mine. I also learned something in Skull valley. This valley has a very violent history. It started when the Apache-Yavapai was kicked out of a Pima village. When the able bodied Pima went out to a harvesting festival the Apache-Yavapai attacked everyone there was kidnapped everything was destroyed. The Pima Indians were infuriated. They killed every weak Apache-Yavapai Indian. The bodies were not buried. The army from the fort in Arizona named this land skull valley. This was my trip during the weekend.

Bagdad and Skull Valley Arizona

Our first adventure begins in the little town of Bagdad, Az. Located north and east of Wickenburg, it was always merely a sign on US 93 on the way to Vegas. Bagdad was founded in 1880 by John Lawler. It was identified as a possible site for mining but was not developed right away. Giroux Syndicate bought the right to the mine in 1906 but still did not develop a mine at the location. It wasn't until 1906 that attempts were made to develop a mine by Lewishon interests but they were not very successful. It wasn’t until 1927 when the mine was acquired by the Bagdad Copper Company that things began to take off. Although hampered by the depression starting in 1929, the mine did not stop and operated with little success until 1941. In that year, the company received a government loan and was able to purchase new equipment for the mine which helped but did not solve the problems of mining underground for such a low grade ore that was barely profitable at best. As the mine converted to an open pit operation, they began to see the mine finally become successful. Over the years, the mine has led the way in advancing techniques to mine copper more easily and efficiently. Today they mine produces about 160 million pounds of copper per year and various other by-products of the mining process. The mine, owned by Freeport-McMoran employs about 825 people who call Bagdad their home. The town of Bagdad and the land, homes, and other buildings are all owned by the mine. In order to live in Bagdad today, you need to be an employee of the mine, school, police, or other support businesses within the community. The population is, according to different sources, between 2000 and 2700.

The most famous person we learned about in Bagdad actually came from Phoenix by way of Ohio. Some of you may recognize the name John C. Lincoln. He got his start building the Camelback Inn in Phoenix when he and his wife Helen moved here from Ohio due to her failing health. John became the CEO of the Bagdad in 1944. He brought with him some new and innovative ideas on how to treat employees. He had the idea of profit sharing bonuses that was unheard of at the time. Lincoln was head of the mine from 1944-1959 when he passed away. He held 75 patents in mines, mining processes, and innovative machines. After his passing, his son David became head of the mine. John and his wife Helen are very well known for their extensive philanthropic work through their donations of millions of dollars to the Sunnyslope hospital, which later was renamed, John C. Lincoln Hospital. His wife Helen help to establish the Phoenix Boys Choir which she felt was a good way for young men to learn to become good citizens. She was their greatest benefactor and is revered by the Boy’s Choir to this day. Of course, this was especially interesting to us because of Zach’s membership in the choir.

Our adventure continued in Bagdad with a tour of the mine. We were first able to ride by van through the mine and up to a communication building where we had a bird’s eye view of the massive pit. Thankfully, the rain of the previous day and that very morning had stopped and we were able to see the mine in action. If you can imagine, the biggest hole you can imagine with steps measuring 50 feet high all along the sides of the whole, you have a good idea of what the mine looks like. Huge scoop loaders chew through mounds of rock and earth and dump them into massive dump trucks that hold hundreds of tons at a time. The trucks move slowly up the winding dirt road to the crusher at the top of the massive hole. From there, the rocks are crushed into smaller, more manageable pieces and moved by conveyer belt to another building. Here, a series of crushers pulverizes the rock into a fine powder and sends it on to be “washed” by acid and other chemicals to pull the copper ore from the rock. The ore is then loaded into semi trucks and shipped to Morenci Mine on the eastern side of the state for smelting. We also learned of another process which baths the rocks in acid, removing copper oxide from the rocks. Another chemical is then added to the acid which draws the copper out of it. It is then put through a process called electrowinning which uses electricity to collect the copper into sheets. This process was developed and tested at the mine decades ago and is now used in many mines throughout North America.

Of course, the mine trip would not have been complete without a trip to the “garage” where the mechanics work on all the heavy equipment used at the mine. We were able to stand next to massive CAT haulers and scoopers that dwarfed even Tom. The tires are twice as tall as he is and cost about $30 or $40 thousand each. The highlight of the “garage” was the new CAT scooper that was not even completely assembled yet. The mechanic was like a little kid in a candy store talking about his very own Taunka toy.

Our next adventure took us further up the road toward Prescott to a small town called Kirkland. Unfortunately, nothing is open on Sundays so we were not able to stop. It will have to wait for another day. On we pressed to the little town of Skull Valley. Nestled in a narrow valley along the old Santa Fe Railroad line, this quaint little town has a lot of history to offer. Though small, it has several notable landmarks; the General Store, the old schoolhouse, and the Skull Valley museum. A local resident even boasts the largest Cottonwood tree in the county. We found the Skull Valley museum to be a wealth of historical information. It is maintained by the local historical society who offer tours on Sundays from 2-4 during the summer months. At the museum you will find the original train depot that serviced Cherry Creek near Dewey, Az., a few miles away. It was moved to Skull Valley in the 1926 where it was in use as a train stop for passenger and freight trains until the late 1960’s on route from Congress to Prescott. The last passenger train used the depot in April of 1962 and the last freight in March of 1969. The depot and a section house from 8 miles down the tracks are now housed at the museum today. Memorabilia from the time both were in use is displayed throughout both buildings. Our tour guides are members of the local historical society and provided a wealth of information about the town and the railroad.

The history of Skull Valley dates back to the time when the Yavapai-Apache lived near and hunted the area. The name conjures up all manner of sordid tales and the truth, or rather legend, does not disappoint. It all began when the Yavapai were suffering through a horrible drought and decided to flee their land to the more fertile valleys of the south, the Pima-Maricopa Indian community, present day Phoenix. Losing nearly half the tribe, they made the journey south under the worst of conditions. When they finally reached the Pima, they remaining tribesmen were starving and dying. Though they distrusted the Yavapai, the Pima could not turn the dying people away. They fed them and nursed them back to health. However, they did not want the Yavapai to remain in their village for fear of attack or looting. They told the Yavapai to go back to their home and leave the fertile valley. The Yavapai, not wanting to return to their drought stricken land, left the valley but only went as far as the surrounding hills. They watched the Pima and pondered what to do. As luck would have it, the Pima were preparing to leave for their annual harvest festival where all able-bodied Pima went to celebrate. The village was all but deserted, leaving only the very old and the very young who could not travel. The Yavapai, seeing this, saw their opportunity. They plundered the homes and food stores of the Pima village and they kidnapped those left behind. They marched for days toward their home when they realized that they would soon be out of food if they continued to bring their captives along. They killed their Pima captives and continued on their way. The rains soon came and solved the problems of their land and the Yavapai returned to their previous life of hunting the area near Prescott. The Pima, however, did not forget how their generosity was met with betrayal. They traveled far to the land of the Yavapai and exacted their revenge. Only the most fleet-of-foot were able to escape the wrath of the Pima. The massacre was so profound that the Yavapai bodies were scattered all over the area and were not buried. The area became known to the Yavapai as the Valley of Skulls and later, when discovered by the soldiers traveling from nearby Fort Whipple to join the Union Army, was called Skull Valley. For years, farmers and ranchers continued to dig up bones from the devastating massacre.

And so ends our very first “History” adventure. We experienced the beautiful countryside of central Arizona and learned a little of the history that shaped this interesting land. We may not have found many places still open and accessible, but what we did find was a wealth of historical information. Here’s hoping that the next adventure produces as much or more opportunities to learn.


So, my husband Tom and I had this idea that kids these days do not know or understand enough United States history and that we, as parents, should be teaching them things they don’t learn in school. Well, I’d love to say that we are packing up the RV and heading out to travel the country, but that is not possible right now for obvious reasons. So, the next best thing is to start this process here in our own state of Arizona, where we can take short day or weekend trips. To chronicle our adventure, we’ve decided to start a blog of our adventures. We’ll tell about out adventures and what interesting historical facts we have learned about our great state and try to pass them on. Who knows, it may be interesting to someone or they might learn something new. Hopefully, it will teach our children a little more and make them curious about the history of not only Arizona but of this great nation we call America.

The first blog is pretty long. I guess I need to get better at editing and being concise. I promise future posts will not be as long.