The Marion 300

In 1894, a fire started in the shafts in the upper levels of the United Verde Copper Mine and eventually worked its way down as far as the 900 foot level. All attempts to control and put out the fire failed because of the caving-in of the ground and the uncontrollable heat which occurred in the ore-bearing sulfide masses. After extensive studies, it was decided that the only way to deal with the situation would be to create an the open pit that we see today. To accomplish this task everything on top of the mine (which consisted of the smelter, business offices, shops, and homes) had to be moved. The smelter was relocated down in the newly built town of Clarkdale and was connected to the mining operations by an underground standard-gauge railroad line known as the "Hopewell Tunnel" system.

In 1918 the Marion 300 steam shovel, which had been built for use on the Panama Canal, was brought into Jerome to help dig out the open pit and load the railroad cars with ore. The shovel had an eight cubic yard dipper, two coal fired boilers, and a crew of four consisting of an operator, a fireman, a craneman, and an oiler. It revolved 360 degrees on a mobile railroad track mounted table.

The earth moving capacity of the Marion was so great that, in 1924, when the miners were forced to use a technique called "tunnel blasting", the Marion became the perfect tool. In tunnel blasting entire shafts were packed with between 25 to 130 tons of dynamite and detonated in a single blast. An entire section of the mountainside would then collapse into thousands of tons of moveable rubble.

This technique worked well until November 23, 1926. On that day the dipper of the Marion struck part of a tunnel blast which had failed to fire. The explosion was instantaneous. The operator and fireman were killed instantly. The two other crew members were injured, and the shovel was transformed into a useless, mangled piece of steel. Large, heavy pieces of the machine were blown as far as a half of a mile away - one chunk actually smashing through the roof of the Connor Hotel on Main Street. Other pieces were found as far away as the Gulch on the other end of town.

Mr. Yee

Mr. Yee and his brothers. Which one is Mr. Yee?

People from all over the world came to work in the mines of Jerome during their heyday. According to Herbert V. Young, in They Came to Jerome, by the 1920's " . . . in a workforce of 2,200 the following nationalities were represented: American, Austrian, Bulgarian, Canadian, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish, Scandinavian, Serbian, Slavic, Spanish, Swedish, and Welsh. There was also a miscellaneous classification."

Falling into this later classification were the Chinese. The Chinese, here from the beginning of the mines, were viewed with mixed reactions by the rest of the predominately occidental townsfolk. The asians did not fall into the usual categories. For instance, few if any ever worked in the mines. They were all self-employed. In the majority of cases, they established restaurants and laundries.

There were other practices that set them apart from the rest of their fellow citizens - some that caused much concern in certain segments of the community. Bill Adams, editor of the Jerome Mining News, took on a personal campaign to have the Chinese run out of town in 1909. Mr. Young says that "Front page attacks were the rule. One man, it was reported, found maggots in his soup while eating at Hong's restaurant. Another report was that cockroaches and bedbugs had been found in the food. The Chinese, shouted Adams, should be barred from Jerome . . ."

Perhaps it was not so much a health issue that bothered Adams and others, but what they might have considered to be a moral one. It was well known that certain members of the Chinese community had imported the vice of opium smoking to the town. Opium dens, much like those of Hong Kong and old Peking, were set up in the basements and backrooms of various Chinese-owned establishments, complete with bunks, pipes, burners, and sticky balls of the poppy extract. These dens were frequently raided by the local police, but like the speakeasys in the twenties, they would reappear a few days later, a few doors down. The majority of Chinese people were, of course, law abiding citizens who worked hard to establish a place for themselves out on the American frontier.

The last of these first generation Chinese to remain in Jerome was a Mr. Yee, who operated, paradoxically enough, the English Kitchen Restaurant. Mr. Yee acted as sole waiter, chef, and dishwasher of the eatery until he died in 1973.

Eating at the English Kitchen was always somewhat of an adventure, because not only did Mr. Yee not speak English very well, but the menu might be different from day to day. Somedays, a customer might not be sure what he was getting until the food arrived at the table. Mr. Yee's specialities were his made-from-scratch fruit pies, the ingredients for which he harvested from the fruit trees around town that the Italians had planted. They included some of the tastiest apricot, peach, and apple pies to be found west of the Missippi.

Mr. Yee was a good example of what hs been called Chinese inscrutibility. Although he lived in Jerome for over fifty years, he apparently never learned to speak English very well. He was almost unintelligible. During the sixties, however, he was observed talking to the proprietress of Jerome's last grocery store - in fluent Spanish.

It was thought by many that Mr. Yee knew much more than he wanted to let on. A local who lived here during that time tells of an encounter with Mr. Yee one spring morning in the restaurant.

"I had developed a habit of going down to the English Kitchen for a cup of oolong tea after my breakfast. As I entered this day, Mr. Yee was sitting under a cloud of blue smoke at a booth in the back, reading a Chinese newspaper of unknown vintage. I took a stool at the counter and waited for him to respond to my presence. Eventually he rose and came over. He was wearing his usual outfit: long skirt-like white pants, black slippers, a calf length stained white apron, and a white coolie/chef's hat. I told him that I would like some hot tea. He stood there for a second, looking quizzically at me with his old yellowed eyes. In back of him was a wall of dark brown hardwood shelves filled with boxes of oolong, jasmine, and Earl Grey tea. Looking at me as if dumbfounded, cocking his head to the side he asked, "Ot tee . . . ot tee?" He paused and finally, with a startled realization, he said "OOOOOOO . . . ot tea!" Then he smilied and laughed - for a long time - like it was the funniest thing in the world."

When Mr. Yee died, the townsfolk drove his hearse down Main Street and tolled the Jerome Bell hanging in front of the Mine Museum in an unusual gesture of love and respect.

Sheriff Johnny Hudgens

Johnny Hudgens was a Deputy Sheriff in Jerome back in its wild and rowdy days just after the turn of the century. We can see, in this excerpt from Herbert V. Young's Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill, that the wild west was with us even into the twentieth century.

When Hudgens's first arrived in Jerome there were certain people who wanted him to leave. They wanted him gone bad enough to kill him. According to Mr. Young one day a mine foreman "stopped at a hardware store on Main Street to make a purchase and found four men there buying forty- five caliber pistols and ammunition. As he left there he met Johnny Hudgens and told him about the men.

Photo from "Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill"

Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hudgens

'All right, Tom,' Johnny said. 'You just clear out, fast.'

The deputy went out to the middle of the street and waited. Soon the men came out, and seeing Johnny they started shooting. Johnny, with a gun in each hand, dropped three of them. The fourth man turned and ran, Johnny in hot pursuit. The fugitive ran through a saloon and started down the hill. He attempted another shot at Johnny as he started down after him, only to be met with a bullet in the head. It had taken Hudgens less than five minutes to kill all four of his attackers.

Another incident, talked of for many a day, occurred when Dave Schreiber, a tough miner with a record of misdeeds had sought refuge in the isolation of this mining camp, tangled with a young barkeeper named Vogel, who worked for his uncle, Hank Vogel, owner of a saloon between the Fashion and the Bartlett Hotel. He had come off shift one afternoon in a foul mood after a fight with his shift boss. He had come off second best and had been fired. He had warned the boss that he would kill him, and he meant to keep his promise.

He stopped in his room at the Montana Hotel, washed the blood from his face, then took a pistol from his valise and concealed it under his coat. Down town he entered the Fashion and had a drinkand waited for the shift boss who usually stopped there for a beer on his way home. The boss didn't show, and Schreiber went looking for him at Vogel's. Young Vogel was behind the bar. As well as being a bully, Schreiber was a cadger, and found no welcome when he demanded whiskey. But a drink was poured.

'Leave the bottle on the bar,' Schreiber ordered.

'No more till you've paid your bill," responded Vogel.

Schreiber reached across the bar, gathered a handfull of Vogel's shirt, and struck him in the face. The bartender reached for a gun he kept under the bar. As he came up with it Schreiber shot him through the heart. The miner glared around at the few other men in the saloon. All were frozen to their stools or chairs. He hurried up to the hotel and stuffed his few belongings in the valise.

In the meantime, Johnny Hudgens, who had been down the hill disarming a couple of ladies at the Cuban Queen's whorehouse who were trying to carve each other up with butcher knives, received word of the killing and followed Schreiber up to the hotel. Ed Kurmeier, the hotel manager, was tending desk.

'Do you know where Schreiber is?' Johnny asked.

'Right behind you,' Schreiber's voice called from the stairway.

As Johnny pivoted, a gun in each hand, Schreiber started shooting. A bullet struck the deputy high on the shoulder. That made Johnny mad. He didn't like anyone to shoot at him, as he had so thoroughly demonstrated during his stay in Jerome, and he liked it less that he should be hit. He emptied both guns at Schreiber, whose gun went off twice more, harmlessly, before he crumpled and rolled down the stairs. He was D.O.A. at the bottom.

'Johnny fired nine shots from the automatic and six from his revolver,' said the old timer, 'One shot must have missed, for they found only fourteen holes in Schreiber's body.' "

The Trees of the Golden Rain

Kenneth Howell

On a brilliantly clear February morning in 1953, John McMillan took off from the Cottonwood airport in his Aeronca Chief single engine plane. His mission: the greening of Jerome. Flying 2,000 feet above the Verde Valley, he approached the nearly abandoned and almost treeless town in the Black Hills. He swooped low, and still sitting in the pilot's seat, McMillan reached over to open the cockpit door. In a moment of biologic history, he poured out part of a ten pound bag of seeds - Paradise seeds, the winged offspring from the Chinese Tree of Heaven. Jerome had experienced its first air raid.

Curving around the barren, craggy cone of Cleopatra Mountain, McMillan dumped out more seeds. Within a half dozen passes over the cliff-hanging village, he had sent about forty pounds of seed on their way to drift on the cool wind before settling to meet their fate in the soil of a wasted landscape. This airbourne Johnny Appleseed hoped that his efforts would result in a bloom of new growth for a town that had lost its original verdure to the unfortunate consequences of human activity.

However, in 1983, McMillan, caretaker of the Phelps Dodge office in Jerome, said, "I can't take credit for all the Paradise trees growing here today. That spring (following the air drops) was so dry that I just don't think many of my seeds could have germinated."

Nevertheless, as any visitor to Jerome will notice, the Paradise trees are dominant and omnipresent. Did they spread so successfully on their own? No one knows for sure, but they did exist here before 1953. Perhaps Chinese entrepreneuring immigrants brought the first seeds from their homeland, where the Paradise originates, as they could have been wisely conscious of shade and leaf sparse Arizona.

Ailanthus, A. Glandulosa , family Simaroubacae, the Golden Rain Tree . . . call it what you wish, this hearty, attractive species is here to stay. After brainstorming the idea of an airdrop with some friends, McMillan hired a bunch of local boys to gather and fill three large canvas bags with the seeds. Although pictures of Jerome from the early 60's reveal a much starker town than today, enough trees existed in '53 to provide the aerial cultivator with his large stockpile.

At the beginning of Jerome's dynamic mining era, all timber on the slopes closest to town fell to axe and saw. Then, the acrid, fume belching copper smelter on the edge of town poisoned and suffocated any remaining plants for twenty years. With the smelter's relocation to Clarkdale in 1917, Jeromites may have breathed easier, but McMillan, who had lived here all but the first three years of his life, remembered that the sulphur smoke from Clarkdale still made life pretty stinky. Yet, who could complain under the shadow of industrial prosperity? Only the plants seemed to mind.

Economic pressures, not the Environmental Protection Agency, finally forced closure of the mines in 1953. Nature had a break, and aesthetic minded McMillan knew the time was ripe for action. Jerome badly needed some eye-pleasing chlorophyll. Enter Paradise - The Golden Rain Tree (thusly named for its ability to dump a gilded shower of seeds upon those risking a walk under it during autumn). Adapted to a wide range of climates, the Paradise trees also seem to follow humans. They do best in disturbed soils, like vacant lots, ruined yards, and eroded slopes - places common to Jerome. Here, the loosened soil drains quickly and the Paradise takes advantage with its astonishingly extensive root system. An unforeseen but most fortuitous side effect of Paradise proliferation is the stabilization of topsoil on the steeper hillsides, which previously threatened to slide away, taking the town with it.

The nuisance element of this controversial plant remains strong. Their probing shoots work into cracks of building foundations, sidewalks, sewer lines, gardens, lawns, etc., etc. Ailanthus spreads by sending out suckers (instead of the more common cross-pollination). In a more optimistic light, Paradise trees don't belong in that category of invading, destructive, exotic plants like the Kudzu vine taking over the Southeastern United States, or the Saltcedar, which chokes out native vegetation in Southwestern river environments. In the artificial ecology of Jerome, however, where the human hand destroyed most of the native vegetation, Paradise trees remain welcome. They provide an effervescent vibrancy to an otherwise emaciated, slagged-out, eroded soil. Their delicate, fern-like leaves shade the sultry spirits and naked ruins.

On any tropic August night, when the mammoth cumulo-nimbus thunderheads bless the secret stairways with negative ions, and the electric, desert moon lends phosphorescence to the shadows, then the real magic of Paradise unfolds as one beholds their silhouettes dancing with the wind.

Thank you, John McMillan

The Old Padre - Father John


Richard Martin


Juan Atucha Gorostiaga

Sometimes buried under asphalt, and sometimes exposed, many of the hilly streets of Jerome are paved with thick limestone blocks. Situated on County Road, one of Jerome's steepest limestone streets stands the more than one hundred year old Holy Family Catholic Church, surely one of the finest houses of worship in all of the Verde Valley. Once attended to by as many as five full time priests busy listening to the confessions of naughty miners and baptizing their babies, for over forty years the church, and it's priest, had basically been forgotten or ignored by its parent church. Today Holy Family is without a Father. Within the last couple of years the Catholic Church from Cottonwood, in the valley below has taken the Holy Family church under its wing. A gift store has been created on the bottom floor, and the living quarters in the rectory have been somewhat modernized. From time to time in the past youth groups from Phoenix, or even further would arrive to hold retreats in the downstairs parish hall where Holy Family's last priest, Father John resided. For nearly sixty years Father John was the character living in the church rectory.

I spoke or visited with the Old Padre nearly everyday for more than ten years as I walked by the red brick edifice on my way to and from my studio at the top of the hill. He was a little man who came to Jerome from the Basque region of Spain, and still had the accent to prove it. The Old Padre could often be found sitting on a low concrete wall, at the front of the church looking down on the business district of Jerome. Always, always dressed in a heavy wool overcoat, covering his priest's uniform, with his long underwear protruding unbuttoned at the neck, his stubbly gray beard covering chin and jaw and a rumpled black hat on his head. Sometimes, I hated to walk by that place, knowing if I couldn't escape the Old Padre, I might have to sit and listen to him repeat his stories about how wicked Jerome had been, and how it would be good if it and it's residents just went away. "Why do you people come here? ... What do you want? ... There is nothing here for you." Occasionally, during a brave moment when I saw that one of Father John's vehicles was gone, I would enter the sanctuary, up the steps, through the vestibule door, and into the sanctuary.

Surprise! There directly in front of you was a waxen, life-sized dummy of a priest staring right in your eyes. Behind him the sanctuary opened up into an area with high vaulted ceilings. Strange light filtered through the crude paintings of religious scenes covering the tall windows, Jesus with the lambs, Jesus trudging with the cross, all illuminating the quiet hall with a beautifully carved altar where several candles were always burning. The walls and high tin ceilings were painted a drab green, with huge ornate paintings on the wall behind the white altar, with a fallen Jesus in Mary's arms. One of the paintings was that of a pyramid with the sparkling sun behind a fully opened eye. The aisles were paved with ancient linoleum. More religious scenes were laid into the floor, cut from a variety of colored linoleum scraps.

Once I made a mistake. Curiosity and reverence had driven me to take another look inside the church. Suddenly the ramshackle front doors of the church swung open and there stood the Father, next to the waxen effigy, glaring at me. He had been downstairs and heard the sound of my feet on the floor. "What are you doing in here!," his Basque brogue filled the room, "stealing the offerings?" I slunk out the door, not to reenter the sanctuary for many years.

Even when the Old Padre wasn't sitting out front of the church, his entourage would be there to greet you. Lobo, Lobillo, and Lobito, two tiny yapping dogs and one medium yapping dog, were always there, all three snapping at your heels. The dogs went everywhere Father John went, usually on the dashboard of one of his many automobiles. He had a white '51 Dodge four door, a white "60 ford Falcon four door, and a host of others that he kept outside of town at a cabin he had located at the current site of the "Gold King Mine".

Painted on one side of that cabin, facing the road up into the mountains was a large sign "DID YOU CALL AHEAD?" On the other side of the cabin was an equally tall sign saying "NO? THEN GO BACK" He and his dogs could often be found slowly cruising out the Perkinsville road to the cabin and back. The two smallest, Lobillo and Lobito would scramble back and forth across the mail strewn dashboard, and Lobo would frantically jump back and forth across the seats. The Padre, in his wool overcoat and black hat slumped low, with the dog slobber covered windows rolled up, would be muttering to himself as the car jerked along, as if propelle by divine guidance. If neither the Dodge or the Ford were running, then Father John could be found with his head inside the engine compartment of one or another, tugging, muttering, and cursing. On a number of occasions he dispatched me to local auto parts stores to acquire parts for the cars.

The local old-timers loved the Padre and his ghost parish, and so did some of the rest of us. A little vintage salsa on the side of the hill. Rumor had that he would baptize the children of the unfaithful, no questions, no confessions asked. He'd taught this one to play the wonderful pipe organ in the church loft. He'd sponsored that one into the role of nun, or priest. Rumor had it that the legions of faithful continued to send him money, even though they hadn't set foot in the church for years.

Not too many people lived in town during those days, and most of them were considered just as curious as the Old Padre. One such fellow was named Glen, who hailed from Oklahoma. He'd hit the hippy highway and settled into Jerome, to live the budget life, hang out, grow a little pot, and maybe develop a few properties along the way. One of Glen's passions was photography. He often hung about, unobserved with his camera. One of his favorite spots was across the street from the Holy Family Church, huddled below the window sill of an abandoned house, capturing candid shots of the Padre doing his Padre things; talking to the dogs, harassing me, futzing with the Dodge, maybe holding his fourteen year old, featherless pet chicken. Rarely did Glen share those candid shots. Once and awhile he would. One morning I had walked down the hill with my friend Nancy, to the Post Office. In walked Glen, a compact fellow with a serious expression. In his hand was a black and white photo taken from across the street revealing Father John deep in conversation with long time Jerome patriarch, Dr. Joe. As the two were speaking intensely to each other, there, captured in the photo for all to see, slipping behind them, was the image of Nancy, hands in her long overcoat coat pockets, looking frustrated as she swung her foot to kick one of the canine pests, snapping at her feet. Glen gave Nancy the photo and the three of us stood in the PO lobby and laughed. The photo was the essence of Jerome. Glen hiding to take a photo, Nancy kicking the dog and the elders lost to the world of conversation, noticing nothing. After Glen left the lobby, Nancy set the photo down to open her mailbox. As we left she went to retrieve it. No one else had entered the building. No one else was there, and the photograph wasn't either.

I had passed by the church, heading up the hill to work on a gray winter morning when I heard the sound of Father John's old Ford Falcon wheezing up the hill to a stop in front of the church stairs. I turned around to see the familiar scene of the Old Padre climbing out of the car, dogs still on the dashboard. The next thing I noticed was that the car appeared to be moving, while the Padre was standing in the street. First slowly, then faster the tired old sedan rolled backward as if to escape, the dogs still dancing on the dash, leaping back and forth between the seats. As it slipped beyond the reach of Father John, he stood in the center of the street, one hand on his hip, the other waving in the air. "Gyett back hyere .... Gyett back hyere!,"he shouted. The car paid no attention whatsoever. Auto blasphemy. Finally zipping across the intersection, rear end first, crashing through the silver painted pipe handrails on the opposite side of the highway below, coming to rest with both rear wheels hanging over a fifteen foot wall, dogs barking, "Gyett back hyere," echoing through the silent neighborhood.

When you live in a small town, it's natural that you keep an eye on your neighbors. In our own way, the three of us, Glen, Nancy and myself, did just that with Father John, Glen from the abandoned house and Nancy and I as we walked by several times a day. Three days went by and no one had seen the Old Padre. He hadn't been out on the church stoop warming himself in the sun, waiting to snag one of us in conversation. The trash, full of oatmeal and milk boxes, hadn't been put up on the street. The dogs were nowher to be seen either. Both cars were there. Nancy questioned me, wondering if I had seen him and told me she hadn't. We both started to worry a bit. We decided that I should investigate. Ever since the Father John had caught me in the act of reveling in the old sanctuary's calm I had been a bit shy of entering the church. After investigating upstairs, I went down to the rectory door and knocked. The dogs barked. I called for the father, but not a word came back. Still afraid to enter I went on down to the police station and summoned the cop on duty. On our way back up the hill we latched onto Glen. This time the policeman knocked on the door and called out. The dogs barked. No Padre. We forced the door open and entered the dim rectory, a large area smelling of urine. Whew. Father John pee'd in jars and left them standing about. Gag. There were more jars. However, these were overflowing with coins and bills. Money everywhere, sticking out of ventilators, in boxes, on the floor. Still no Father. Then I heard a faint rustling sound. We looked through the dim light and saw an old bed pushed out from the wall. As we approached, the dogs barking and dancing around, there was Father John. He'd slipped between the bed and the wall. His left arm was sticking up to hail us. A crazed, stroke induced look, covered his face. He was too weak to help himself to get free. From that point on events moved swiftly. Glen rushed down to the bar and called an ambulance, which arrived quickly. The police and myself started gatherin up the money for safe-keeping. We counted thousands of dollars. Over the next few weeks more than one hundred thousand dollars were reported to have been found in the church ... the money from the faithful. The night after father John was taken away, the yellow cabin and big cottonwood trees next to it burned to the ground, consuming the assertive signs, and Father John's rather odd collection of hundreds of women's right foot shoes and bicycle seats.

I remember watching quietly as the old Padre was carried up those steep steps and lifted into the ambulance. In his broken Spanish/English/Basque he cried with a strong voice "Hospitale No!.... Hospitale No!" He never returned. Nobody was sure where he had been taken. Some folks thought to an old priests home in California. A month or so later, we learned Father John had died, vanished, like the photo taken years before.

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