The Early Years
Jerome was built on Cleopatra Hill above a vast deposit of copper. Prehistoric Native Americans were the first miners, seeking colored stones. The Spanish followed, seeking gold but finding copper. Anglos staked the first claims in the area in 1876, and United Verde mining operations began in 1883, followed by the Little Daisy claim.
Jerome grew rapidly from tent city to prosperous company town as it followed the swing of the mine’s fortunes. The mines, the workers, and those who sought its wealth, formed Jerome’s colorful history. Americans, Mexicans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians, and Chinese made the mining camp a cosmopolitan mix that added to its rich life and excitement.
Jerome was the talk of the Territory, a boom town of its time, the darling of promoters and investors. The mines were nourished and exploited by financiers who brought billions of dollars in copper, gold, and silver from its depths. Changing times in the Territory saw pack burros, mule drawn freight wagons, and horses replaced by steam engines, autos, and trucks.
Fires ravaged the clapboard town and landslides destroyed whole sections. Jerome was always rebuilt. At the mercy of the ups and downs of copper prices, labor unrest, depressions and wars, Jerome’s mines finally closed in 1953.
After the mines closed in 1953 and “King Copper” left town, the population went from a peak of 15,000 in the 1920s to a low of 50 people. The Jerome Historical Society guarded the buildings against vandalism and the elements, the Douglas Mansion became a State Park in 1965, and Jerome became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. During the 60’s and 70’s, during the time of the counter culture, Jerome offered a haven for artists.
Soon newcomers and Jerome old timers were working together to bring Jerome back to life. Today, Jerome is very much alive with writers, artists, artisans, musicians, historians, and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.
Visit the Jerome Historical Society to learn more.