Nestled on the shore of Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Arizona under a sky of dazzling blue, is the desert oasis that is Crazy Horse Campground. But this is more than a place to park the trailer, or RV, or rent a campsite. It is a special place for those who enjoy answering the call of adventure.
Draw a circle with a one a hundred mile circumference that has the campground at the center. Within that circle are enough diverse adventures to fill a lifetime, let alone a weekend or season.
Nestled in the foothills of the scenic Cerbat Mountains, eighty miles from Lake Havasu City, is the tarnished and dusty gem that is the old mining town of Chloride.
Even though the intersection of 2nd Street and Tennessee Avenue in Chloride, Arizona is the center of the business district there are often days when stray dogs out number cars. The post office housed in the old Club Café sits on one corner. Stretching for almost a block are a row of storefronts that date to the 19th century framed by the towering mountains.
With the exception of the extensive Tennessee-Schuykill mine tailings where Tennessee Avenue ends at there is little to indicate that this intersection or that this community were once one of the busiest in northwestern Arizona. There are even fewer indications that this is one of the oldest mining camps in Arizona. But even a cursory exploration will reveal dusty little treasures, tangible links from from when this quiet town was more than a haven for retirees and eccentrics.
The Chloride story begins with tragedy. In the summer of 1865 Ira Woodworth, Metcalf Baker, Andrew Judson and Urich Benjamin arrived in the Arizona Territory from Sonoma, California on the heals of increasing and persistent rumors of rich ore bodies being found in the rugged desert hills bordering the Colorado River Valley. On the 11th day of September, on a ridge that now serves as a backdrop for the cemetery they discovered a rich vein of silver ore of a type known as Chloride.
As the men began working what became the Silver Hill lode, the discovery of a significant gold ledge prompted the four men to sink a shaft to one hundred feet in just eight months. With the arrival of two other prospectors, Sam Knoodles and James Conover, who staked a claim one mile to the south the little encampment was christened Chloride.
The extreme isolation of the camp prevented word of the rich strike from reaching the outside world for some time but those who called the Cerbat Mountains home, the Hualapai Indians, were quick to notice. About eight months after the arrival of Knoodles and Conover, an attack was launched simultaneously on both mines.
Woodworth working the windlass was shot and died instantly. Benjamin was wounded but managed to maintain a running gun battle for most of a mile before being overtaken and killed by the warriors. Judson and Baker at the bottom of the shaft never had a chance as boulders poured down the shaft upon them.
Knoodles and Conover faired somewhat better. Knoodles was operating the windlass when the attack began and in spite of wounds managed to fend off the attack while helping Conover from the shaft. The two men began a desperate retreat to Hardyville on the Colorado River some thirty miles to the west. Incredibly both men lived to tell the tale of the attack and of the riches that were to be found in the shadow of the Cerbat Mountains.
In spite of continuing discoveries of rich ore bodies, the community grew slowly. The Mohave County tax rolls for 1872 listed but eight properties in Chloride. Among these were a home, with billiard table, which belonged to James Bull, and a home with adjacent silver mill belonging to Frank Kemp.
Overshadowed by the more prosperous community of Mineral Park several miles to the south Chloride continued to languish for almost twenty years. Then in 1893 came an explosion in new and ever richer strikes.
At the dawn of a new century twenty-seven buildings including the Metropole Hotel and Robinson’s Saloon lined the north side of Tennessee Avenue. The south side of the street was even more popular with seventy-four buildings listed in the city tax registry including the Parker Store, J.P. Finnegan’s Restaurant, Hart’s butcher shop, a boarding house, a doctor’s office, the miners exchange, eight saloons, Wong King’s Chinese restaurant, and a Chinese washhouse.
In 1900, thirty-five years after the discovery of the Silver Hill lode that was the communities cornerstone, Chloride became the first incorporated city in the county and the official registry of Mohave County indicates that Chloride had 189 voters while the county seat of Kingman had but 179. To bring civilization to the frontier numerous ordnances were enacted befitting its status as the counties first “city.”
“No person shall appear in a public place naked or in a dress not belonging to his or her sex.” “Street musicians shall pay a license fee of $10.00 for each instrument used.” “Astrologers, fortune tellers and clairvoyants who by sign, advertisement of notice purport to any of these occupations shall pay a license fee of $20.00.” “For keepers or owners of Chinese laundries by Chinamen the license fee is $10.00.”
The year previously, the Arizona-Utah Railroad Company had opened a twenty-four mile spur line connecting the bustling mining community with the main Santa Fe line in McConnico west of Kingman. Despite living in an isolated part of the Arizona territory by 1902 residents could travel from the depot a few blocks off Tennessee Avenue to most major cities while enjoying the comfort of, “palace or tourist sleeper, free reclining seats and dining rooms and dining cars managed by Mr. Fred Harvey.” Chloride was well on the way to becoming a boomtown and Tennessee Avenue was its heart.
In 1912, to meet the needs of the communities up and coming status as the shining star of the county a new depot was built several blocks north of Tennessee Avenue and portions of the original depot were relocated to the present location two blocks north of Tennessee Avenue on 2nd Street. The “new” depot has also survived to the present day and is located a few blocks east.
By 1916 as the distribution and supply center for more than a dozen of the states most productive mines, businesses with national branches began flocking to Chloride. Additionally the population was nearing 2,000 and that in turn lured even more companies to the community.
Then like flickering candles that sputter before going out the mines begin to close one at a time. The railroad closed, the rails were pulled, and the highway was realigned to its present location four miles south of town.
The town began its boom with mines and began its decline with mines. With their closure, the town began to fade slowly from prominence into obscurity. On March 31, 1939, the giant Tennessee-Schuykill with a payroll of 250 shut down.
A dusty report published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1951 serves as a fitting epilogue for the community of Chloride and in particular the Tennessee-Schuykill mine. The report notes that between 1901 and 1948 the main Tennessee shaft had been sunk to 1,400 feet and at the Schuykill, the depth had reached 800 feet. From those glory holes had poured 42,383 ounces of gold, 1,514,187 ounces of silver, 839,837 pounds of copper, 59,897,096 pounds of lead and 66,805,907 pounds of zinc.