Mute Testimony

Mute Testimony

Courtesy the Mohave Museum of History & Arts

Dating to 1906, the well worn Sportsman’s Club along Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona is a landmark. With its original bar and other features, the Sportsman’s Club is a tangible link to Arizona territorial history, to the dawning of statehood and to the last major gold strike in the state. It also stands in mute testimony to the many contributions of Henry Lovin, an Arizona pioneer.

Born in North Carolina, Henry Lovin was an ambitious man that always had an eye on the future. After spending a few years in Florida as the manager of a citrus orchard he relocated to the Arizona Territory in 1887, and in partnership with W.W. Ward, established a citrus orchard at Phoenix. Two years later he moved on to Prescott and became the assistant manager for the Phelps Dodge Corporation mercantile store.

In 1893 he again relocated, this time to Kingman and established a small mercantile store. Within ten years he had stores in most every mining camp in Mohave County including Kelvin, Ray, Frisco, Yucca, and Stockton Hill.

His rise to fame and fortune was faster than a jack rabbit on the run from a coyote. Just before the turnoff the century he partnered with John Withers and established Lovin and Withers, a department and grocery store that became one of the largest in northwest Arizona. By 1910 they had branches in Goldroad, Oatman and other mining camps.

The partners also established a freighting business. In 1907 they installed the largest freight scale in northern Arizona at their Kingman yard.

In September 1908, Lovin and Withers again diversified their business. They purchased the store, inventory, and buildings of the Mining Supply Company in Vivian, later renamed Oatman. They razed the buildings and used the materials to establish a store, boarding house, and hotel on the Tom Reed mine property.

In the teens Lovin & Withers entered the construction business in Kingman and began building rental houses in the Bungalow/Craftsman style. They were built using local materials such as stone.

Lovin was also a pioneering rancher. County, territorial, and after 1912, state newspapers published stories about his success as well as innovations on ranches he developed at Francis Creek, Grant Valley and near Chloride. In 1908, in partnership with W.W. Walker he established a hay farm in the Hualapai Valley that was the largest in northern Arizona.

A profile published in 1913 noted that Lovin was, “…one of the men who came West with meager assets and made good. Politically, as well as otherwise, he is today one of the State’s most solid citizens.”

In 1900 he was elected Mohave County Sheriff, a position he held for two terms. It was the beginning of successful political career. He would serve on the constitutional convention committee that was the cornerstone for statehood in 1912. And he would be elected Mohave County’s first state senator. After a few terms in the state legislature, he was elected to the county board of supervisors and served as chairman.

Lovin was often proclaimed the “Friend of the Miner” as he often grubstaked down and out miners and prospectors. But he was also a major investor in mines and mills. He served as the director and vice president for the Carter Gold Mining and Milling Company.  Lovin held stock in mines in Ajo, Stockton Hill, Jerome and throughout the territory. He was also half owner of the fabulously rich Lucky Boy Mine at Chloride.

He grubstaked the prospectors that discovered the richest mine in the Weaver District. But it was the grubstaking of Jose Jerez, a former captain in the Mexican Army, that transformed western Arizona.

Lovin had grubstaked Jerez on several occasions. Sometimes it paid off and sometimes the investment was lost. But in 1900, Lovin grubstaked Jerez $13 and he struck the proverbial mother load on the west slope of the Black Mountains.

Together the two men developed the claim and Jerez sunk a shaft to 15 feet. The ore was some of the richest discovered in the territory. Lovin used his contacts and sold the claim to a group of Los Angeles based investors. Lovin and Jerez each banked $25,000 on the deal.

The discovery sparked a rush into the Black Mountains, the last gold rush in Arizona. Lovin’s and Jerez’s discovery proved to be the cornerstone for the establishment of Goldroad. And the gold rush led to the establishment of a boom town named Oatman, and development of the now legendary gold producing Tom Reed and United eastern mines.

Lovin used the money to build an empire. He invested in the Goldroad based Red Top Mining Company and established the Gold Road Club, a saloon. The riches proved to be Jerez’s downfall. He sank deep into alcoholism. And then in August of 1906 he committed suicide by eating rat poison.

His business interests in Kingman were diverse. He established the City Ice Company and a bottling plant for soda pop. He also established a brewery and built a laundry on Beale Street that was leased to Mrs. O’Dea.

A fire that swept along Front Street west of the Beale Hotel in June 1906 claimed his saloon. The loss was estimated at more than $,200. Built he rebuilt a new Lovin Building of concrete and stone with concrete floor.

©Jim Hinckley’s America

On October 2, 1906, the Palace Saloon opened in the new Lovin Building. It was promoted as the only “fireproof building in the county.” A.P. Jacobs, the proprietor of the saloon, advertised that the finest selection of wines, beers, and cigars was available.

Lovin sold the building in 1909 for $4,000. Over the course of years, the saloon would go by many names including the Deluxe and Sportsman’s Club. It would become a Kingman institution that remained unchanged through the years.

It survived the Great Depression and thrived during WWII as a popular watering hole for airman stationed at the Kingman Army Airfield. With the bypass of Route 66 and the shift of the city’s business district one business after another closed until the historic heart of the city looked like a ghost town. But the Sportsman’s Club survived.

It remains a tangible link to Kingman’s frontier history. And it stands in mute testimony to the vision of Henry Lovin.

This history will be shared in the narrated self guided historic district walking tours being developed by Kingman Main Street. As the project develops my excitement grows. This will be a game changer in the historic district.