June 4, 2017

Story Behind the Names: Mingus Mountain; Cherry & Yeager Canyon

The first mention of the mountain that would become known as Mingus is found in the origin story of the Yavapai people. A girl named Kamalapukwia was placed in a water tight log to survive the worldwide flood. After the waters receded she went to Mingus mountain before dawn and allowed the rising sun to hit "her inside" in preparation for having a child. (*1)

Before the white-man came, the Yavapai "had rancherias, (and) farmed and hunted rabbits and rats in the area." (*2)

Mingus Mountain was also "a source of juniper berries, pinon nuts and acorns" for the native people. (*2)

The Yavapai Indian's origin story includes a "Great Flood" that holds intriguing commonalities with the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis.

Then at some point, according to an Indian named Charley Yavapai, a two day fight between the Hualapais and the Yavapais occurred in Mescal Gulch at the eastern foot of Mingus Mountain. "It ended with nearly all the Hualapais dead. Six or seven temporarily escaped, but were overtaken in Chino Valley. Because Indians customarily avoid places where death has occurred, no Indians will go into this canyon or near Mingus mountain in which the canyon lies," Charley related. (*3)

The origin of Mingus mountain's name is murky. Research has found three different stories explaining its etymology.

First, while the Indians kept away from the area, two Mexican brothers named Dominguez farmed and ranched there "in the early days." Some say the mountain got its name when the Indians shortened Dominguez to "Minguez" or "Mingus." (*4)

A second account involves William Ming. Around 1876, Ming entered the mountain to prospect and mine. He spent 35 years on the mountain and quickly started calling himself Mingus. A 1911 obituary described Mingus as "a miner and prospecter and is said to have owned several properties in the Black Hills district. Mingus Mountain, in that range bore his name and was christened by him over 30 years ago. He was one of the first to make a mining location there and he lived in that locality for many years." (*5)

"He led a secluded life and desired to be away from everybody. He had eccentric habits and disliked to live in the city, although it is said he had financial means," the newspaper reported. (*5)

"(His) end was attended by a terrific struggle as indicated by the ground that had been torn up evidently by his feet. The last time he was seen in the city he complained of illness and informed friends that he believed he would experience a reoccurrence of the grip (influenza with respiratory complications), with which he had been afflicted some years ago." (*5)

A later, third story is found on the Arizona Highways website: "In the 1880s, Jacob and Joseph Mingus opened a sawmill at the base of the mountain that now bears their name." (*6)

Unfortunately, any of the three stories could be true and the real reason of how Mingus Mountain got its name has been lost to history.

The early history and construction of what is Arizona State Route 89A today. It was originally known as Arizona Highway 79: The Prescott to Jerome "Shortline."

The origin of Cherry's name is simple enough. Like many other places, it was named for the flora that was found there. When first settled, "there were many wild cherry trees in this locality and the name derives from that fact." (*3)

"By curious coincidence, several years after the naming of the location, the Norville Cherry family arrived from Texas. That fact has led to some confusion concerning the origin of the name." (*3)

Yeager Canyon:
Another miner / rancher who lived in a canyon on the west side of Mingus mountain (and died the same year as William Ming) was Louis Yeager. Yeager  (born 1877) used a spring there to water his sheep herd. One day when he tried to separate his sheep from those of a Mexican herder, a dispute became heated and Yeager was fatally shot. "The spring and the canyon were named (after him) thereafter." (*3)

Everyone knew Yeager never trusted banks and most assumed his mining booty was kept hidden somewhere in the canyon. Due to his untimely death, his treasure was never recovered and is still out there waiting to be found. (*7)

Good luck!

CLICK HERE for a index of all the "Stories Behind the Place Names" in Yavapai County

Tourist Tip:

CLICK HERE for information on the outstanding Mingus Mountain Campground!


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(*1) Oral History of the Yavapai, by Mike Harrison, John Williams, et. al. Arcadia Publishing; (c) 2012. ISBN# 978-1-935089-55-1. Page 174.
(*2) IBID. Page 43.
(*3) Arizona's Names: X Marks the Place, by Byrd Howell Granger; 1983; Falconer Publishing Co. ISBN# 0-91-8080-18-5. Page 401.
(*4) Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes. University of Arizona Press, 1988. ISBN # 0-8165-1074-1
(*5) Weekly Journal-Miner 11/29/1911; Pg. 6, Col. 5.
(*6) https://www.arizonahighways.com/explore/camping/mingus-mountain-campground
(*7) http://bradshawmountains.com/bradshaw-lost-treasure-stories.htm


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