Arizona. A deal with Barney Barnatto, the South African diamond king. Karl
Eilers and I locate shafts which yield porphyry copper. My crew on strike.
Blowing up the assay office. A bundle of dynamite and lighted fuse under our
house. My men propose to hang me. The arrival of payroll in the nick of
time. The rope "fence" to keep out snakes on the desert. Colonel Bean tames
the days of 1859 the Ajo mines have been producers of copper. Hi Golly, a Greek
who did odd jobs about the camp, told me that he had come to Arizona with a herd
of camels and packed copper to California for many years. The veins were small
but rich, and no tow openings had the same form of mineral. None of the shafts
were more than seventy feet deep. The deepest had a streak of calcite studded
with native copper the size of a pea; another shaft had copper glance or
chalcocite; still another had red oxide; but the best showing was in the shaft
were I put the hoist. There, after the hole had been deepened below the old
workings, I found a streak of bornite and glance that produced several carloads
of ore yielding 63% of the red metal. This was hauled over the desert in wagons
to Deming and sold to the sampler there. A drip of water, blue in color, from
the back of one of the drifts, was productive of almost pure copper when it fell
upon the iron scrap. The formation on the surface was a soft porphyry, well
saturated with the copper solutions, but that was only the secondary excretion
of the vast bodies of sulphides that underlay the whole mass.
Barnatto, the South African diamond king, was approached as likely to finance
the project on a large scale, and he sent Charles Roelker, the chief engineer
for the Chartered Company of South Africa, to make an examination, but the grade
of ore was just below his limit and he turned the proposition down. That was
before the day of “porphyry copper’” and no process had yet been invented
for the successful reduction of low-grade ores. It was owing to the sagacity of
Karl Eilers and his sterling qualities as a geologist and mining engineer that
the values of the great Ajo copper deposit was demonstrated to the world. Mr.
Eilers, who was an official of the American Smelting & Refining Company,
came to the Ajos to study the geological conditions prevailing around that
ancient volcanic crater out in the middle of the desert and decide whether there
was a real mine there. Together we selected sites for four shafts, which were
sunk to a depth of one hundred feet each, and these four pits have since proved
the existence of a mineral deposit that has produced hundreds of millions of
dollars in copper. Since then has come the transformation of that barren spot,
on which was nothing but cactus and greasewood, into a thriving young city,
modern to the Nth degree, including business houses, hospitals, churches,
schools, hotels, theaters, parks, and fine residences, a water system that is
the envy of every town in Southern Arizona, and a railroad connected with the
Southern Pacific at Gila Bend, forty miles away.
job of managing an outfit of misfits, renegades, and bandits forty miles from
nowhere and getting a reasonable day’s work from them was not altogether a
sinecure. The Mexicans would demand high wages, and by working town days would
make enough to keep a family of ten children for two weeks, so they would quit
work and spend most of their time lolling around their adobe huts. The Yaki
Indians were by far the best workers, as every payday they had me send their
wages to their people in Sonora to buy arms with which to fight the Mexican
government, and for this reason they were always broke and anxious to hold their
jobs. This set an example to the others, which engendered a fierce antagonism.
However, should a grievance arise, they all banded together against the common
enemy – the management.
Bean, the manager, was seldom at the camp, as it was necessary for him to give
his time to the financing of the work and other activities of the syndicate. Mr.
Ward, the chairman of the group, was very prompt in forwarding the pay roll to
Bean, but in those days of uncertain transportation the money did not always
arrive on time at the camp. This would cause a hullabaloo and give the radical
element an opportunity to stir up trouble. On one occasion when the pay roll was
behind time, a stick of dynamite with a lighted fuse attached was thrown into
the assay office, but no one was present and the damage was confined to the
destruction of the assay furnace and chemicals.
wife and I had a house separate from the rest of the camp. The building rested
on posts as a protection from snakes, Gila monsters, and other reptiles. A
delayed pay roll had aroused the anger of the I. W. W.’s, and one morning as I
emerge from the house I observed a thin line of smoke coming from the spot under
the house above which our bed was located. I walked over to it and saw that it
was a lighted fuse, which I jerked out from a bundle of six sticks of powder
wrapped in burlap. In another minute the house would have been blown to atoms
with my wife in it. I was never able to locate the dastard who had intended to
murder us in our bed.
most trying time at the Ajos was when the whole force went on strike for more
pay and shorter hours. The pay roll was also behind, which added to the
dissatisfaction. The men were in an ugly mood, drinking heavily at the saloon
tent, and word was sent to me of the dire threats they were making. Fortunately
there were no firearms in the camp, or an attack would have been made that
following morning, as my wife and I were walking over to the cookhouse for
breakfast, the crew came around the corner of the house and blocked the way. I
told them stand aside. The spokesman, one of the most rabid of the I. W. W.’s,
said: “Where is our money?”
answered: “Why worry about your money? The mail will soon be here and then you
will be paid off!”
don’t propose to wait any longer! Come on, boys!” they all shouted in
unison, and closed in on me. One f the Mexicans produced a lariat and flung the
loop over my head. Another tried to tie my hands, but I frustrated him. Pushing
and dragging me toward the head frame of the mineshaft, they fastened the lariat
to the sheave wheel above and evidently intended to drop me into the hole.
wife rushed in among them and pleaded for my life, explaining to them that I was
only an agent and should not be held responsible for their troubles. This had
not occurred to them, and the argument seemed to have some weight. The gang
began to argue among themselves, and I saw that my wife’s pleading had erected
a split, the outcome of which was in doubt when the crunching of wheels was
heard coming up the canyon. With the coming of the buckboard I was released, and
I lost no time in going through the mail sack. Fortunately the money for the pay
roll was there, and I fired each one as he reached for his money.
waiting for a new crew of men, I did some prospecting on the desert and found
that the mineralization was not confined to the Ajo crater. The formation looked
good to me and I made one location on what appeared to be an exceptionally rich
piece of ground. I did not proceed with its development, however, but a company
several years later opened up a producing mine at that spot.
one of these prospecting trips I went out into the desert with another engineer,
traveling in a light spring buggy drawn by tow horses. At nightfall we made our
camp, and tried out a recipe we had heard of to keep the snakes by tying our
hair lariats together and running it around our camp. The theory was that the
snakes would not cross the scratchy rope. Then we spread our blankets on the
ground and rolled up together. Our sleep was undisturbed until the wee sma’
hours, when I felt a heavy lump of something between us which was slowly moving.
I was awake in an instant and threw back the blankets, yelling “Hey! There is
a rattler in the bed.” My companion leaped out, and we looked around for a
club, but before we found one the snake had uncoiled and wriggled off into the
brush. We spent the rest of the night in the spring buckboard.
flies at the Ajo boarding house were legion. Everything was covered with wire
screens, yet they would get into the food while we were in the act of eating it.
The scorpions and tarantulas would crawl along the rafters and drop down on
one’s plate; then scamper off with a mouthful, much to the disgust of the
diner and the despair of the cook. Armies of ants, both red and black, were
always on the march in front of my house. Trapdoor spiders seemed to be their
meat, for they were usually transporting to their barracks, in sections, a
spider, which had probably been disabled by a scorpion. On one occasion they had
captured a small tarantula, and if a moving picture could have been taken of
that battle, showing the neat and scientific was in which they overwhelmed the
big insect, then jauntily dissected the monster, and ended in a victory parade
conducted in precise military order, it would have been the prize feature of the
few Gila monsters made their habitat in the district, and sidewinders, king, and
rattlesnakes were plentiful. The king snakes would art between one’s feet with
lightning swiftness, but they are harmless and we encouraged them because they
are death to the rattlers.
Bean was a connoisseur in rattlesnakes, and one day as we were riding together
on muleback to Gila bend, I saw a large rattler coiled on a bank beside the
road, and called his attention to it. I always had an aversion for snakes, no
matter what the breed, and was for keeping on our way.
on!” cried the colonel. “I want that snake. I promised a friend in Phoenix I
would bring him one!”
so as not to disturb the reptile, the old gentleman cut a forked stick, and
moving closer began to manipulate the switch over the snake until it uncoiled,
when he got the forked end over its neck, pinning it to the ground. Then he
reached down, and running his hand along its back, grasped the rattler behind
the fork. Straightening up, with the snake writing and thrashing about, and
winding about his wrist, he came over to where I was standing and shoved its
head close to my face. As I sprang back he shouted: “Isn’t he a beauty?”
was too disgusted to express any admiration for the reptile, but nevertheless
unstrapped a pair of overalls from my saddle, tied up the bottom of a leg with a
shoelace, and the old fellow dropped it in. This impromptu sack was tied on
behind the colonel, and we pursued our way. We nearly lost the rattler though,
for on looking behind I saw that the string had loosened and about a foot of the
snake’s tail was hanging out and flopping against the mule’s belly with the
movement of the animal. Bean dismounted and shook the snake back where it
belonged, tying it up more securely. Later he presented it to his admiring
friend without any further mishap.
on in the year the option on the Ajo came due, but the syndicate declined to
exercise it, and we closed down. The land lay idle for several years. The came
the discovery of a method of treating low grade copper ores; the old Ajos became
the New Cornelia; and the dream of my old manager that the property would one
day become the greatest copper mine in Arizona has been fully realized, although
the old colonel did not live long enough to see it.