Biography of Henry Wickenburg

Henry Wickenburg was a native of Austria, born in that empire in 1820. In 1847 he came to New York. He went to San Francisco in 1853, and came to Arizona in 1862. He remained at Fort Yuma for a time, then went up the river to La Paz. At La Paz, he learned that a party of explorers had left there a few days before* to go through the country to Tucson. Henry took their trail and overtook them at what is now known as Peeples’ Valley, having travelled nearly two hundred miles alone through the Apache country. After leaving Peeples ‘ Valley, the party travelled east to what is now Walnut Grove, then on to Turkey Creek and Black Canyon. Near Turkey Creek one of the party found some white quartz which had coarse gold in it.

His name was Goss. He said nothing of his find to the balance of the party, but the next year he came back, and in company with Timothy Lambertson, worked some on the mine and packed the ore to Walnut Grove and arrastred it. From Black Canyon the exploring company made their way to Tucson. There Henry went to work driving a team for the United States Government. We next find him on a piece of land in Peeples’ Valley in 1863, where he learned through King S. Woolsey of the finding of rich ore in the Harquahala Mountains.

Henry got Van Bibber; a man named Green, and some others, and started for the place Woolsey had described to him. They went down to the Hassayampa River and there made a start for the long stretch across the desert for the place indicated by Woolsey. They were not sure of any water after leaving the river until they reached the pass in the Harquahala where the gold was said to be, which meant a trip of fifty miles and back with what water they could carry with them. Following the low foothills, the party came in sight of the great white croppings of the Vulture Mine. Wickenburg wished to stop and examine it, but the other members of the party refused.

After the party returned from their hunt in the Harquahala Mountains, Wickenburg went back to the big white croppings and discovered the famous Vulture Mine. When Van Bibber learned of the great strike made by Wickenburg, be at once claimed an interest, which, of course, Henry refused. Then commenced a long struggle in the courts, Coles Bashford handling the Wickenburg side of the case, which was finally settled in Tucson. Wickenburg remained at the mine, where he lived until the spring or summer of 1864, when he managed to get a ton of Vulture ore packed to a camp he had established at the present town of Wickenburg, a very poor excuse for an arrastra being built there by July 4 of that year.

At that time C. B. Genung came to Wickenburg’s camp with another man, having been driven in from a prospecting trip by Apaches. Genung having had experience in working ore by the arrastra process, undertook to show Wickenburg what he could about the method, and did remodel the arrastra and assist to grind the ton of ore that was on the ground. From this ore they took seventeen and a half ounces of gold. In less than twelve months thereafter there were forty arastras running on Vulture ore, some with burros, some with horses or mules, and others with oxen, Wickenburg furnishing the ore for most of them, for which he charged fifteen dollars a ton, the buyer mining and sorting the ore himself. During the years 1865 and 1866, there were four mills built within one mile of the present town of Wickenburg – one five stamp mill by Charley Tyson, another of equal size by Jack Swilling, and two others, one a ten stamp mill, and the other a twenty stamp mill. This last mill was run two years, when twenty more stamps were added to it, after which it was run until 1871, or about four years.



Farish, Thomas Edwin. History Of Arizona, Volume 2. Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D. 1915.

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