Verde Heritage: 1916 - 1937: THE U.V.X. SMELTER
Plans made 100 years ago by executives of the United Verde Extension Mining Company (U.V.X.) changed the Verde Valley forever. Their intention to build a smelter was announced on April 23, 1916, then the search for land began.
The Arizona Extension Railroad was incorporated by James S. Douglas on September 15, 1916. The 2 locomotives of the Arizona Extension Railroad would eventually travel on standard gauge tracks from just east of Clarkdale to the U.V.X. smelter, a distance of 3.1 miles. They would also travel from the smelter northwest (toward Jerome) to the site of the Josephine Tunnel portal, a distance of 3.2 miles. In addition, 6.7 miles of track would be constructed for sidings at the smelter and at different points along the line by March 5, 1918.
The site selected for the new smelter was located east of what is now Main Street in "Old Town" Cottonwood, on what was then ranch land called "The Cottonwoods" purchased from Clarence V. and Anna Hopkins. Grading and construction began there during 1916.
The U.V.X. "directors on December 29th, appropriated $2,500,000 for the erection of a smelter. ... Grading for the new smelter ... has already been started on Hopkins ranch." (Weekly Journal Miner; Prescott; January 17, 1917.)
"Ahead of all other considerations --- and they are many --- will come the erection of the giant smelter for the United Verde Extension. James S. Douglas, General Manager, stated to the representative of 'The Jerome Sun,' during his visit. The question of a townsite, the building of houses anything like permanent in character, the boring of a tunnel from Clarkdale to the mine, and every other matter of great or little importance, would have to take a back seat to the erection and completion of the smelter to the point of placing it in active commission at treating ore." Mr. Douglas explained, "'At first we shall build some frame buildings for the accommodation of our men, bunk-houses, boarding houses and the like, and will do nothing whatever until the smelter is completed and working on ore, toward a townsite or the erection of permanent buildings.'" (The Jerome Sun; Thursday, January 18, 1917.)
Smelter Experts Are Making Plans: "James S. Douglas, President of the United Verde Extension Mining Company, returned to Jerome ... accompanied by George E. Tener of Pittsburg, one of the Vice-Presidents of the company, H. Kenyon Burch, who built the biggest concentrating plant in the world for the Miamo Copper company, and A. G. McGregor, who will direct the construction of the U.V. Extension smelter." They "have spent most of their time since their arrival at the smelter site, on Hopkins ranch near Cottonwood. ... Several buildings are up on the smelter site and some excavating has been done. The company is now sending out calls for quotations on materials of various kinds." (Bisbee Daily Review; February 11, 1917.)
The new Cottonwood Townsite is expected to become the Business District for the new Smelter City permanently. The argument of Cottonwood residents, business men and townsite owners, is that since the United Verde Extension plans to wait until the smelter is completed to build its townsite, a Cottonwood Business District can be built in a hurry and made the business district for both. Thereby, they believe the Extension would confine its townsite to residential purposes. (See: The Jerome Sun; March 22, 1917.)
"Verde is Name of New Town South of Extension Smelter: Arise and salute the city of Verde. For the United Verde Extension's smelter town is to be called just plain Verde, nothing more. The town is to be located just south, and perhaps a little southwest of the Extension company's new smelter, on the Hopkins ranch. ... Verde has not even been laid off into lots but it is understood the work of subdivision will be under way shortly." (The Jerome News; Friday, April 13, 1917.)
The U.V.X. changed the site of their smelter from Hopkins Ranch to land south of Cottonwood, and through a trade acquired several sections of land south of a road graded by the U.V.X., now named Mingus. Grading on the new smelter site began on April 13, 1917.
"Where 3 days ago there was a blank desert, differing only from the prospect as left by nature by reason of a grade recently made by teams and scrapers, it is today a string of flat cars laden with ties and steel rails. These are strung out rapidly and almost as fast as the track goes down and the loaded cars extend their staid procession still further to the south, where the desert never before saw anything so up-to-date --- excepting quite a few autos and auto trucks. The railroad track to the Extension smelter site will be finished tomorrow night. It was finished last evening several hundred yards south of the Mescal trestle, a good crossing put in at the intersection of the road west of Cottonwood, and by tonight it will be completed two-thirds of the distance from Mescal to the smelter. With the coming of the tracks to the smelter site all is expectancy of the large force of men about to be employed. It is stated that their various wants will make times lively in that part of the Verde country. A great deal is expected of this activity, especially by the business interests of Cottonwood, which place is well organized for the handling of trade of the dimensions thus assured." (The Jerome Sun; Saturday, July 21, 1917.)
The United Verde Extension Mining Company smelter was "as modern a smelting plant as there was in the world." The smoke stack, rising 425 feet from its base on a hill, was the tallest in the world and dominated the landscape. (See: Verde Copper News; Wednesday, July 17, 1918.)
Plan to attend the 3rd Annual Cottonwood Historic Home and Building Tour on Saturday, November 12, 2016, from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM. The tour will include most of the remaining U.V.X. buildings, homes, businesses, and the Cottonwood Cemetery.