My uncle, Charlie Brown, was born in Arizona on May 6, 1911…before Arizona became a state.
Charlie’s father was a bit of a dreamer and bought land and claims for the Swallow mine (17 miles outside of Wickenburg) with the idea that he would become rich. That did not happen but it provided him with years of hard work and dreams. Charlie inherited the mine and it became his hobby. While he lived in Long Beach, CA, he would drive over for weekends to work around the mine….like some people golf, ski, etc. For many years, he had men living on the property to protect the assets…their pay was the gold and copper that they could recover and an occasional meal when my aunt and uncle would visit. The original “cabin” at the mine was the original one room schoolhouse serving the families of the area working all the mines.
While the Swallow Mine (and later the Moonlight) was his hobby, Charlie believed in the hard work and dedication of the people who settled the area and mined for many years. These small mines and the people are as much a part of Arizona’s history as the large mines we know today.
Visiting the mine was a favorite activity of many of my friends and my cousins from Canada. Charlie was a wealth of knowledge and to see the mine and equipment in person and hear his stories provided many hours of pleasure. They still think of those visits fondly.
In 1996, Charlie was proud to donate the then unused equipment (stamp mill, pumps, jack hammers, rail, etc.) to the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum. At the time of the donation, this equipment itself was estimated to be worth $9,000. APS and numerous volunteer spent many hours over a five month period relocating the equipment to the current location. Volunteers spent many more hours making the equipment operational and training on the operation thereof. No value was attached to this time and effort but it is considerable.
The Stamp Mill (in particular) provided an educational opportunity for all that view it. People seeing the actual size, hearing the noise, and feeling the power of the equipment provided much more than some simulation can ever provide. They saw the tremendous effort it took to get the metals out of the ground and processed. What a great educational opportunity!
This equipment was already in place and operational….why spend money to move it or change it? Don’t we have better things on which to spend our dollars (tax dollars and donations alike)?
I believe in progress. I believe the people should be exposed to the future of Arizona ….but not at the expense of minimizing or eliminating the past. In the year of 2012, we were supposed to recognize Arizona’s Centennial and celebrate 100 years of history. What better way than to have actual items from that past that people can see, hear, feel, etc. This may be the age of technology but many people still strive for personal experience and this is one that should be there for them and for the future.