LOCAL HISTORY AND NATIVE AMERICAN OCCUPATION
In 1912 Arizona was granted Statehood and became the 48th state in the Union. In 1914, the National Old Trails Highway came through Kingman bringing more automobile traffic. By 1926, the National Old Trails Highway was designated as U.S. Route 66 connecting Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.
Kingman Arizona was founded in 1882 by Lewis Kingman, who planned and supervised construction of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (A&P) line between Missouri and the Pacific Ocean. Kingman was nothing more than a water stop for the A&P, however, with post-Civil War western expansion, the railroad became very important in moving goods, people, and precious minerals such as gold and silver from the mid-western U.S. to California. The area around Kingman, prior to and during this time included multiple mining districts that included Beale Springs, Mineral Park, Oatman, and Chloride and included deposits of gold, silver, copper, and turquoise. Mining was the major industry in the Kingman area and continued to thrive into the mid-1900’s. Mineral Park is still operating today as a major supplier of copper ore from northwestern Arizona.
Another well known wagon road that connected Hardyville (now Bullhead City) at the Colorado River to the newly formed City of Prescott and Fort Whipple, was built and operated between 1864 and 1882 with the rise of the A&P Railroad. This historic wagon road was known as the Prescott and Mohave Toll Road (also known as the Hardyville Toll Road).
A toll was charged for the movement of wagons, horses, oxen, horned cattle,mules, sheep, and goats with rates varying between 1/8th of a cent per mile to 1.5 cents per mile. The entire route was a tortorous 150 miles between Hardyville and Prescott. One of the wagon stops along the way was located within the area of the Willow Creek Riparian Preserve. The large cottonwood tree that graces the front yard was known as the “lunch tree” was where weary travelers were fed. It is unclear if travelers stayed overnight in this location or not. The blacksmith shop was most likely located around the area of our garden plot, where oxen shoes and other blacksmith tools have been found.
The Hardyville Toll Road’s traveler’s and goods needed protection from raiding bandits or local Native American tribes such as the Hualapai and Yavapai. In response to this, the U.S. Government placed an Army cavalry camp on the south bank of Willow Creek (within portions of the Preserve) called Camp Willow Grove. During that time, Willow Creek was known as Cliff Creek, but is also designated as Cottonwood Creek on some older maps.
U.S. Route 66 was first pioneered and built by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Edward Beale in 1857. The U.S. Government commissioned the Beale Wagon Road to be an all weather road between Fort Defiance in the New Mexico Territory (now eastern Arizona) and the Mohave River located in Southern California. This route generally followed the 35th Parallel following the well-traveled Rio Grande-Pacific Ocean Trail, an historic trail used for centuries by the Native Americans.
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistidors in the 1500’s and later the European settlers (1800’s), this area was part of the Patayan Nation that dates back at least 12,000 years and included Southern Utah, Southern Nevada, Eastern California, and Northwestern Arizona. The Patayan’s are the ancestors of the present day Mojave, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Yavapai Tribes. The Willow Creek Riparian Preserve and surrounding area were seemingly used extensively by Native Americans as evidenced by the various sign located within and outside of the Preserve. The Preserve and adjoining parcel have two pectographs which can be viewed by visitors. NOTE: All Native American sites are treated with strict respect and reverance.
The Mohave Museum of History and Arts, located in downtown Kingman on Old Route 66, is the best place to learn all about the history of this area. Another great reference is “The Best of Northwest Arizona and the Grand Canyon” written by L.J. Ettinger (2005).