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GOLDROAD, Arizona

 

by

Gary Speck

 

A pair of crumbling blacktop lanes drift and dip with the scenery flowing southwest from the neon ribbon-strip called Kingman, Arizona.  Five miles from downtown, Historic Route 66 passes under I-40 at EXIT 44, leaving the motels and fast food joints of that desert city behind.  Ahead, dark mountains loom ever closer, cradling a pair of Arizona’s most famous ghost towns in their bosom.  As the road begins its ascent of the alluvial plain, what in 1997 were low rock walls, a rock chimney and a pair of rock pilasters on the north side of the road, have now been transformed.  In 2012, those ruins had been replaced with a fully restored Route-66erized gas station and café, complete with a fleet of Harleys out front.  In 1997, we explored the building foundations, which were identifiable as a gas station, repair garage and café.  Running down the embankment below the complex was a debris field filled with rusty cans and broken glass. Back in the “good old days”, this was a busy stop for travelers heading west into the winding grades of the Black Mountains, but after Route 66 was relocated around the south side of the mountains in the early 1950s, the place died.  By 1997, all that remained were the silent rubble, ruins and concrete slabs.  Today, it’s been revived.  In fact I was so shocked, I didn’t realize until I was five miles away that we passed it.  COOL SPRINGS is located midway between milepost (MP) 33 and 34 and from its website appears to be a great little stop.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned previously we were several miles past it before I realized it was the same place as those ruins we visited in 1997. 

 

A mile west (between MP 32 & 33) is Ed’s Camp, which in 1997 was a motley collection of occupied shacks and mobile homes.  It looks about the same now.  Even though this historic old site is vacant, it is NOT abandoned.  Please note the difference, and respect the rights of the property owner.  If you do stop here, please observe all buildings from the road shoulder OUTSIDE the property.

 

At MP 30 a couple of foundations and excavations are visible just east of 3523' Sitgreaves Pass.  At the summit are the remains of two other buildings, one of which may have been a gas station.  Nell Murbarger in her book 1951 book, Ghosts of the Adobe Walls states, From the lonely little way station at Sitgreaves Pass, Marion and I coasted down the Oatman Grade into the ghost town of Goldroad.”  The road switchbacks for two miles down the hill towards Goldroad, whose site strings out between MP 28 & 26.  In May 1997 it was under claim by the highly visible Addwest Mine of Goldroad.  The entire town site was posted no trespassing, which was a big disappointment for me, as I longed to explore the picturesque rock walls and ruins.  Fortunately, many of the ruins are highly visible from the shoulder of the road.  In 2012 not much has changed, despite rumors that the mine had closed.  It sure didn’t look like it to this old boy.  This time we did stop and I took a couple photos from the road shoulder under the watchful eyes of mine personnel.

 

The gold mines at Goldroad were discovered by Jose Jerez, around 1899 or 1900, and as the story goes, he was working off a grubstake from Henry Lovin.  He was camping at the site, when he discovered rich gold-bearing ore.  One story claims Lovin was the Mohave County sheriff, but Nell Murbarger and other sources say Lovin was a Kingman storekeeper.  That seems more realistic as later when Goldroad was enjoying its glory days in the sun, there was a Lovin Saloon.  In any case, the mine was discovered, then Lovin and Jerez sold it in 1901 for $50,000.  In 1902, new owners incorporated the mine for $1.5 million.

 

One of the most persistent stories of the discovery has Jerez breaking off a heavy chunk of rock from a ledge to chuck at his burro. It’s not noted why, but this story has been told of nearly every major discovery throughout the west.  Anyway, he noted the weight of the rock, which turned out to be rich gold ore.  Jerez is credited with the discovery, and in true prospector fashion is said to have drank away his portion of the proceeds from the sale of the mine...in the Goldroad saloon owned by Lovin, who purchased it with his share of the proceeds from the mine sale.  I can’t vouch for the truth of the tale, but it sounds plausible.

 

As the mine pumped out the gold, the little town grew.  A post office opened in 1906, but a year later, the rich gold veins pinched out after the mine had produced $2.25 million.  Even though the mine closed for a few years, the town struggled along.  Then in 1911 the Goldroad Mine reopened under new ownership, and the town enjoyed another brief bout of prosperity.  Period photos show scores of buildings, including Lovin’s Goldroad Club and a two-story structure that looks like a boarding house or hotel.  During this boom cycle, the population is said to have been around 400 people. The mine closed again in 1931, after producing $7.3 million.

 

In 1940, the WPA Guide to Arizona called Goldroad “a typical small mining community,” and listed the population at 52.  However, what finally killed the town was World War II and the 1942 government ordered closing of most of America’s mines for the “war effort.”  That was the nail in the coffin.  Goldroad rolled over and kicked off its boots.  In 1949, the remaining wood-frame buildings were demolished, while the rock and adobe ones were rendered unusable so the owner wouldn’t have to continue paying property taxes on unoccupied buildings.

 

In 1951, at the time of Murbarger’s visit, Goldroad still had a “...combination grocery, gasoline station, bar, and blacksmith shop. Our visit happened to fall on one of the days when the place was closed, and though we spent more than two hours in the old town we didn’t see even one person...  Most of the adobe and rock buildings had been de-roofed and their empty shells stood hollow and ghostly.”

 

Sixty years later, not much has changed.  Except for the active gold mine.  Today, those same adobe and rock buildings that had been de-roofed, their empty shells standing hollow and ghostly, still are.  It is worth a brief pause on the journey to or from OATMAN.  The best viewpoint is from the upper (east) end of town, looking west over the town site and active gold mine.

 

 

GOLDROAD:

·        SW¼ Sec 11, T19N, R20W, Gila & Salt River Meridian

·        Latitude: 35.0466689 / 35° 03' 48" N

·        Longitude: -114.3796810 / 114° 22' 47" W

 

ED’S CAMP:

·        NW¼ Sec 17, T19N, R19W, Gila & Salt River Meridian

·        Latitude: 35.0338916 / 35° 02' 02" N

·        Longitude: -114.3266238 / 114° 19' 36" W

 

COOL SPRINGS:

·        SW¼ Sec 16, T19N, R19W, Gila & Salt River Meridian

·        Latitude: 35.0273937 / 35° 01' 39" N

·        Longitude: -114.3088013 / 114° 18' 32" W

 

 

This (coupled with OATMAN) was our GHOST TOWN OF THE MONTH for March 1999.

Goldroad is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

 

 

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FIRST POSTED:  March 01, 1999

LAST UPDATED: September 15, 2013

 

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