January 22, 2017

The Crazy, Two-Hour Jerome Junction Gold Rush

The railroad's section foreman was five or six miles out toward Jerome doing his usual job, when it was time to take his dinner break. He found a nearby rock to sit on and began eating the food from his pail.

There wasn't anything particularly new to look at, so he happened to look down at the rock he was sitting upon.

Soon he noticed something shiny and matted within the rock that caused an instant double-take. It was shiny; it was heavy; it was gold!

The foreman stood up and examined further. Not only was there some gold in the rock, there was a great deal of it!

Not only was there one gold bearing rock, but an entire vein was visible!

He couldn't wait to rush back to Jerome Junction and tell of his unbelievable luck. So he broke off several pounds of the ore as a sample and took his handcar to get back to the hotel in town.

When he got back to that establishment, he proudly showed off the samples. "I found it about 5 or 6 miles down the line to Jerome--right at the edge of the right of way," he proudly proclaimed.

He made the rounds giving away bits of the sample and telling the story. People agreed that the samples were particularly rich in gold. As the foreman got to the last old gambler, he noticed that the rest of the room had quietly emptied out. "He gave his last piece of the rich ore to (the) old gambler explaining that there was plenty more where that came from."

When the foreman finally went outside, he found himself in the midst of a good old-fashioned, full-blown, town evacuation. Half the townsfolk were already heading down the line while the other half was fixing to follow.

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"Every conceivable means of transportation was requisitioned," the newspaper reported. Any beast that was trained to ride had already departed. By the time the foreman left the hotel, people were desperately trying to quickly befriend the town's stray burros!

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The foreman ran over to the handcar house to get his handcar. Unfortunately for him, "two of the tin-horn gamblers and two waitresses from the hotel across the tracks commandeered the...handcar and were well on their way."

Infuriated, the foreman started out on foot when he came across the one last stray burro that no one else had taken. After some persuasion, he mounted the beast and convinced it to head down the tracks. However, when the pair got a half-mile out of town, the burro stubbornly turned-tail and hastily headed back towards town.

Meanwhile, the rest of the town's populace was arriving at the scene grabbing rocks and boulders to break-off pieces of the rich ore.

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The foreman was finally able to convince his burro to reverse course until it reached the same point and began to turn around again. This time the foreman quickly dismounted and begrudgingly continued on foot.

He soon met the crowd coming back; each laden with large amounts of the ore. He was able to regain his handcar at this point and "pumped back to the little valley where the (gold) was found."

The scene was barren. Like the work of a colony of ants on a sugar cube, there wasn't a grain left.

It was estimated that 100 ounces of gold were taken from that outcropping. In today's market, 100 ounces of gold is the equivalent of a modest house and a million dollar lottery ticket.

Those stricken with gold fever today still wonder: Did they get all of this gold vein or only the part that was visible?

Years later, the newspaper related: "No more of the rich ore was ever found there and to this day no one knows where it came from. The section foreman who had talked too much did not even have a specimen of the ore to remind him of the bonanza that was found and lost."

Prescott Evening Courier. 12/5/1945; Pg. 2 Col. 5

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