July 7, 2019

Castle Creek Hot Springs in the 19th Century

The first anglo to dwell at the Castle Creek Hot Springs was a miner by the name of George Monroe who discovered it in the 1870s. “At that time he was engaged as a government scout, employed in the numerous campaigns against the Apaches,” the paper recalled. “One evening, just as the sun was sinking, Monroe was traveling down the banks of Castle Creek. As night (fell,) he began a search for a place to sleep, (avoiding) the Indians. His search brought him to the mouth of a canyon, through which a small stream wound its way to Castle Creek. Following it a few yards he came upon the bodies of 12 Maricopas who had, from all indications, been slain (recently) by Apaches.”

Concerned that the Apaches might still be in the area, Monroe travelled further upstream. The further he walked, the warmer the water became. “He was amazed to find upon closer investigation that the water poured in streams, hot and pure, from several springs.” In surrounding caves, he found signs of long-time habitation: broken pottery, weapons of stone, and other objects were extensive proving it was “once a favorite resort of the natives.” Monroe established a camp at the junction of the hot springs and Castle Creek and remained there with his partner, Mollie Monroe, who was remarkable in her own right. “She dressed in men's clothes and endured all the hardships of western life.”

Monroe hoped that the hot waters were a sign of gold in the area. He would mine the area for 30 years finding just enough to get by. Finally, he sold the rights to the land to “Uncle Tommy” Holland around 1878 or ’79. Holland wanted to develop the potential of the hot springs as a tourist and health destination, but his resources were limited.

The main malady the springs were known to alleviate was rheumatism and arthritis. Unfortunately, there was no good way to get to the springs and a bone-jarring ride was endured before the arthritis could be treated. Breathing disorders like consumption (tuberculosis) and the grip (bacterial lung congestion) were “treated” at the springs in the early days. A few testified to their symptoms being improved.

“Chas. Bidinger, the portly barber of the Palace barbershop and bathing institution, became alarmed recently over apoplectic symptoms, on account of his obesity and has gone to Castle Creek Hot Springs to take a course of bathing for the purpose of reducing his flesh,” the paper related. Mayor McGlassen of Phoenix visited the springs to overcome insomnia.

The foreman of the Journal-Miner returned from the hot Springs a complete believer. “If his physical condition is a reflux of the curative powers of the springs,” the paper reported, “they are certainly great, as he he gained so much that he can scarcely recognize himself in…a mirror.”

After being tested, it was found that “the waters are thoroughly charged with borax and lime and many other minerals equally beneficial as medicines.”

The early 1890s brought reports of gold in the area including one Native American who purportedly found 25 pounds of it in a ledge in ’91. Two years later word was published of another large source of gold in the area, but the Journal-Miner was skeptical. George Monroe had been searching the area for years. How did he miss it? Still, both reports brought miners to the area like flies to honey with little result.

Speaking of honey, an incredible stash of the wild variety was discovered “in a barren butte about 300 feet high near the stage road (where) about a dozen swarms of bees seem to be located,” the paper reported. It was estimated that the quantity of liquid gold approached six tons!

Three early accounts of Prescott, AZ from 1864, 1867 and 1871 revealing its growth from a mining camp to an all-American community in seven short years.

It was in early June of 1893 when “Uncle Tommy” was awarded the patent (deed) from the government for his improvements upon it. 

During this time, Holland enforced a strict no hunting policy on the resort grounds, but it was permitted in the area surrounding it. Once a hunting party desired to bag some quail and were told by Uncle Tommy that if they traveled to a certain spot about four miles away, they could hunt all the quail they desired. However, on the way to the hunting grounds, the party found a large covey of quail only a quarter-mile from the primitive hotel. “What was the use of going any further when they could have all they wanted right here?” the paper later reported. “For the next half hour they kept up a continuous fusillade” killing the birds by the dozens. Hearing the close proximity of the shots, Uncle Tom rode to within shouting distance. “Hey there! Great God, ye ain’t shooting them partridges air (sic) ye?—Them’s pets!” he cried.

The head of the hunting party falsely told Tom that no birds had yet been killed and they would quickly proceed to the spot 4 miles away. When Uncle Tom rode back out of sight, the party quickly gathered up the quarry which was, in actuality, about a gross of dead birds.

They took the birds about a mile or so further and then began to shoot “at imaginary coveys…that they might satisfactorily account to (Tom) for the game they were going to take back.”

When they returned, Uncle Tom inquired: “Ye found the wild partridges?” 

“Yes,” was the reply, “and they’re tamer than your pets, Uncle Tom.”

1895 would see Yavapai County’s first crop of oranges. One tree that was planted on the grounds in 1891 began producing. “They are very large,” the paper described, “and in flavor excel the Southern California product.” It was planned to plant “several hundred (more) trees” in 1895.

A window into Yavapai county's surprising agricultural past detailing the wide variety of crops grown.

The middle of July 1897, the springs property was acquired by a company of capitalists headed by former Governor N.O. Murphy. “He saw the value of the property years ago, and determined to bring about its development. But for the hard times which began in 1893 he would've succeeded before now,”  the paper inferred. The Castle Creek Hot Springs and Improvement Company was organized by him in 1895. It was hoped that a spur of the railroad would be constructed and a railroad company had its inception at the same time. Although a line was surveyed, the rails were never laid.

In late September 1897, Holland sold his interest for $32,000, or roughly a thousand times an average man’s weekly pay. “I’ll stay here,” Holland said. “I’ve been in this territory 25 years (and) Arizona’s good enough for me.”

“One becomes attached to Arizona in a quarter of a century,” the paper observed.

There was a tragic accident during this time. CW Brod, bookkeeper for the electric car company of Phoenix accidentally fell. “He had climbed to the top of a cliff above the springs…lost his balance and fell…60 feet.” The accident paralyzed Brod. The following January, he traveled to San Francisco for surgery. It was reported that the operation was “most successful,” but he died ten weeks later. “He had been a terrible sufferer during the past 12 months,” the paper said.

The new company soon built several cottages and the spring water was conveyed to them. “(Uncle Tom's) old stables and corral which for so many years stood opposite the hotel have been removed to a point some distance down Castle Creek,” the paper said. “The slope has been leveled and a temporary hotel building will be erected there. When this structure is completed, plans will be considered for a modern, first class hotel,” but this would not occur before the 20th century dawned. The temporary, 140 foot hotel took a year to build and housed 25 rooms.

Admitting that the bathing facilities were “crude,” the paper noted that “in the near future the bather will be surrounded by every comfort. The water is sufficiently hot to heat the hotel in winter, and there is ample pressure to run elevators, an electric light plant, etc.” 

Another immediate need was for a fine wagon road to be built from the railroad to the resort. The Arizona Republican described the new 22 mile trip as “the most attractive in the entire southwest. The road was constructed at great expense by the Castle Creek Hot Springs and Improvement Company and will bear comparison with the best of mountain roads. A new station building has been erected at the junction (and) a well equipped stage line is now in operation.”

At nearly the exact same time that the wagon road was completed, George Monroe’s own wagon came in. “Lately,” the newspaper reported, “he has been working on a mine of which so little has been known that its name is not remembered by anyone in Phoenix. At a depth of 70 feet he struck an 18 inch ledge which assays $900 from samples taken from across its width.” He had finally struck it rich.

In September of ’98, the company started running regular advertising. This was the first to appear in a newspaper:

The following month, the resort offered discounted rates while the Santa Fe simultaneously offered discounted fares.

In 1899, the owners signed a contract with the WA Watts wholesale liquor dealership for exclusive rights to sell the water for drinking:

A textual ad in early March 1899 told globe-trotting tourists that the springs were a must see. “One may bathe (in the open air pool) at any hour of any day in the year without fear of taking cold.” Just 5 to 10 minutes in the baths gave one “a wonderful feeling of exhilaration. The springs are noted for the relief they give to sufferers from rheumatism, gout, or nervous diseases.” The resort also offered “good horses, good shooting and an attractive mountain region to explore in the finest weather in the world.”

In addition to housing guests, the summer of ’99 was spent improving the grounds. The dining room was enlarged; the bathing facilities improved; and the grounds beautified.

The 19th century closed with the resort hiring its first staff physician—Dr. Rolph, from Dunkirk, NY. “Dr. Rolph spent part of last winter (at Castle Creek) and found a most delightful location, as well as a most favorable climate for anyone having throat, bronchial or lung troubles.”

This step raised the reputation of the Castle Creek resort and the business was well poised as it went into the 20th century. 


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Arizona Republican, 7/8/1897; Pg. 5, Col. 3.
Arizona Republican, 7/15/1897; Pg. 1, Col. 1-2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/20/1892; Pg. 3, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 5/21/1890; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Arizona Republican, 8/19/1890; Pg. 4, Col. 1.
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Arizona Daily Star, 6/4/1893; Pg. 1, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/19/1893; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Arizona Republican, 9/24/1893; Pg. 2, Col. 1.
Arizona Republican, 9/28/1897; Pg. 4, Col. 2.
The Oasis, 1/10/1895; Pg. 6, Col. 2.
Arizona Republican, 9/28/1894; Pg. 8, Col. 1.
Arizona Republican, 3/16/1897; Pg. 5, Col. 1-2.
Arizona Republican, 1/5/1898; Pg. 5, Col. 2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/2/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/20/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 3.
Arizona Republican, 9/11/1897; Pg. 5, Col. 1.
Arizona Republican, 11/10/1897; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Arizona Republican, 11/11/1897; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Arizona Republican, 1/7/1989; Pg. 4, Col. 2.
Arizona Republican, 9/23/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 4.
Arizona Republican, 10/10/1898; Pg. 8, Col. 4.
Arizona Republican, 1/1/1899; Pg. 12.
Arizona Republican, 3/31/1899; Pg. 20, Col. 7.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/23/1899; Pg. 4, Col. 1.
Arizona Republican, 7/31/1900; Pg. 4, Col. 3.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing history! When was the original pack trail built to access the hot spring? It had to have been before the first homestead entry was filed for the hot spring.