Jerome – Copper ghost town and museum

Jerome, Arizona was built on Cleopatra Hill above a vast deposit of copper. The mines, the workers, and those who sought its wealth formed Jerome’s history. They were a brave and raucous mix. Miners, smelter workers, freighters, gamblers, bootleggers, saloon keepers, storekeepers, prostitutes and preachers, wives and children all made Jerome what it was.

Americans, Mexicans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians and Chinese made the mining camp a cosmopolitan mix that added to its rich life and filled its streeets with excitement. Prehistoric Native Americans were the first miners. 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 l883, followed by the Little Daisy claim.

Jerome grew rapidly from tent city to prosperous company town as it followed the swing of the mines’ fortunes. Jerome was the talk of the territory…boom town of its time…darling of promoters and investors. The mines were nourished and exploited by financiers who brought billions of dollars of copper 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 again and again. Jerome was always rebuilt. In 1918 underground mining phased out after uncontrollable fires erupted in the 88 miles of tunnels under the town. Open pit mining brought dynamiting. The hills rattled and buildings cracked… the surface began to shift and sections of the business district slid downward. The sliding jail moved 225 ft. and rests across the road from its original site.

Dependent on the ups and downs of copper prices, labor unrest, depressions and wars, Jerome’s mines finally close in 1953.  Forever? Jerome never knows. Jerome has always been a survivor. After the mines closed and “King Copper” left town, the population went from a peak of 15,000 in the 20s to some 50 persons in the late 50s. A few hardy souls remained, reluctant to leave a lifetime of memories.

The 60s and 70s were the time of the counter culture and Jerome offered a haven for artists who renovated homes and opened abandoned shops to sell their wares. Soon newcomers and Jerome old timers were working together to bring Jerome back to life. 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 l976.

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.




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