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Henry Wickenburg

Posted 2018-12-05 by Pat R
Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ)
Monday, May 15, 1905, p. 1

A Pioneer's Death

Bullet Ends the Life of Henry Wickenburg

The Dead Man Was the Discoverer of the Vulture Mine and One of Arizona's Oldest Residents

Henry Wickenburg, after whom the town of Wickenburg, 50 miles northwest of Phoenix, was named, died yesterday afternoon, presumably by his own hand. His body was found in a grove between his residence and that of J. W. Etter, about 5 o'clock last evening, by the children of Mr. Etter. The news was received here last night by telephone.

The residence named are in the suburbs of Wickenburg and are a hundred yards or so apart. Mr. Wickenburg has been living for some time past with Mr. and Mrs. Holland who, it is said have taken good care of him, though of late he has been subject to attacks of melancholy when he has been wont to look on the gloomy side of life. Yesterday afternoon he left the house about 1 o'clock, the last time he was seen alive as far as known last night.

When found a little after 5 o'clock, there was a bullet wound in his right temple and in his right hand he grasped a 32 caliber revolver. Both the forefinger of his hand and his temple were powder burned, an evidence of suicide. The bullet did not pass through the head there being but a single wound.

Justice of the peace Hector Riggs was informed as quickly as possible after the finding of the body and as acting coroner he empaneled a jury consisting of J. K. Murphy, J. W. Etter, James Munchus, Henry Cowell, D. L. Murray and J. R. Dunn. The jury viewed the body and the surroundings and examined what few witnesses were available at the time, after which the inquest was continued until 9 o'clock this morning. So far as could be learned last night there was nothing to support any theory except that of suicide, though further inquiry will be made today.

Mr. Wickenburg has no relatives here and it is believed his only relative in America is a nephew who is supposed to live in Omaha. It is understood that he had a sister and perhaps a brother in the old country. But he enjoyed the personal friendship of all the remaining pioneers of central Arizona by whom he was held in the highest esteem and of many who have come to this country in recent years and chanced to form his acquaintance. He possessed all the virtues of the sturdy frontiersman, endured with them the hardships attending the settlement of a new country such as desert perils before the advent of railroads, the fighting of bandits on the one hand and bloodthirsty Apaches on the other, oftentimes with a limited food supply and only a fading hope of financial gain to encourage further effort. As he was one of the first to settle on the banks of the historic Hassayampa River, when the Hassayampa club of Phoenix was organized, he was made an honorary member.

Mr. Wickenburg was born in Prussia Nov. 19, 1819. He served in the Prussian army after which he lived in Rotterdam for a year and came to the United States in 1847. In 1851 he shipped as fireman on the steamer Cortez rounding the Horn and arrived in California in 1852. He found employment first in the placer mines of Ophir not far from Auburn. He was quite successful getting together a considerable amount of money. In the early fifties he left the diggings and with others dug at Fresno the first artesian well in California. Shortly after that, was spread the news of the wonderful gold discoveries in the placer fields around La Paz on the Arizona side of the Colorado river, a considerable distance above Yuma. There is today the ruins of an old city there which at one time became quite a populous place and the real port of entry into Arizona from the west. But it is only a ruin and does not support even a post office, being inhabited only by the desert tourist or an occasional prospector going over old grounds. For in those days that whole section of country was turned over in the search for golden sands. And which by the way were found for a time in large quantity.

Mr. Wickenburg joined a numerous party and came to La Paz with an overland train from the coast. Fortune did not favor him in the placer mines and he went up the river to Bill Williams where there was then a small copper camp. He was joined there by a man named Buckskin Smith and another named Morris. They journeyed up the Bill Williams and then up the Santa Maria finally making a more or less permanent camp not far from the present town of Congress, and where mineral prospects seemed to be better. At this point the Indians pointed out to him the mountain known as Rich Hill, and which has been the source of many fortunes. But they were far away from any source of supplies and the camp was broken up some of the members going in various directions, Mr. Wickenburg and others continuing in a southwesterly direction to Tucson. He entered the government employ there, worked his way back to Yuma in charge of an ambulance. He kept in mind the story of the Indians about Rich Hill and as soon as he could, with a man named Douglas, another named P. W. Smith, A. H. Peeples, P. Weaver, and several others, organized an expedition to search for it. To shorten the story, after another side trip to Sacaton for supplies, the Rich Hill placers were found and the town of Weaver was founded. There was a great rush and prospecting parties scattered through other gulches. Mr. Wickenburg headed a party down the Hassayampa and on to the present site of his Wickenburg ranch he found some deserted Indian gardens. His provisions being low he harvested their crop and took possession of the land. This was in 1863 and it has been his home ever since, shortly after a little settlement springing up and being named after him.

Having heard the tale of two men being found murdered at a point west of there with a large amount of gold in their possession Mr. Wickenburg sought for the source of it and in a journey toward the HarquaHalas with two companions named Van Bibber and Greene in October 1863 discovered by accident the outcroppings of the Vulture Mine. His companions had little faith in its value and left soon after for Tucson ostensibly after more supplies but they never returned. In May 1864 he began working the mine with an arrastra. The subsequent story of the mine would make a book of itself and will not be referred to here other than to say it has produced somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty million dollars under the various managements and mismanagements that have been in charge since and was the source of most loose money in circulation in Phoenix in the seventies and eighties. Mr. Wickenburg built a small mill at Wickenburg and it was succeeded by larger ones. He finally sold his interest in the mine for a good figure though less than he should have received for it is related that he was victimized out of a good share of his interest. However he secured enough to provide for him during the remainder of his days, his life being mainly spent in farming and his wants being few. He was probably worth at one time $50,000 though it is believed that most of his fortune has been eaten up by unsuccessful ventures of later days and the expenses of advanced age after his active career was finished. So far as known he never wanted for anything needful nor would he in this land that is largely of his own making, but his estate now practically embraces only his meager property holdings in the town of Wickenburg.

During later years he as been given somewhat to fits of melancholy due probably to old age, a weakening mental vigor and the lack of family ties that bind one more strongly than anything else to this world.

See Also: Find A Grave

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