The National Old Trails Road in Kingman, Arizona circa 1918. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

Subjugation of the Hualapai people followed a brief war in the late 1860s. And as a result, over the course of the next twenty years the northwest corner of the Arizona territory was inundated with a veritable flood of prospectors, ranchers, miners, investors, crooks, grifters, and outlaws. They poured into the area over the Beale Road, Mohave Prescott Road, and on steamboats plying the Colorado River. And, of course, sprinkled among the new arrivals were also opportunitsts and entrepreneurs such as Conrad Shenfield.

Opporotunity Arrives in Mohave County

In November 1882 news that the track laying crews of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad were entering Mohave County from the east sparked infectious excitement throughout the region. The railroad would change everything. With its completion to the Colorado River, the cost of transportation for people and goods would plummet.

A letter from railroad survey engineer Lewis Kingman published in territorial newspapers fueled the excitment. He noted that it was the company’s intention to reach the Colorado River before the spring in 1883.

And he also gave a glimpse of how northwest Arizona would be transformed with completion of the railroad. Kingman claimed that more than thirty teams of supplies loaded in Williams were leaving for Hackberry, Mineral Park, and the railroad camps west of the track each week.

Meet Mr. Shenfield

To ensure that the railroad reached the river before the summer of 1883, the company employed nearly six hundred men to survey, cut grades, spread ballest, build bridges, and cut and lay ties as well as rails. One of these employees was Conrad Shenfield.

Shenfield was a subcontractor for the Atlantic & Pacific Railraod. His exact duties have been lost to history. But what is known is that he quietly acquired land at carefully selected locations along the railroad at various points. One of those places in a mesquite wooded flats east of Atlantic Springs that was sheltered by bluffs of volcanic tufa stone was initially established as a railroad construction camp.

The grassy Hualapai Valley ideally suited for ranchng was located a short distance to the east. The broad Sacramento Valley that stretched to the Colorado River lay to the west. The forested Hualapai Mountains lay to the south. And in the surrounding Cerbat Mountains, rich deposits of gold, silver, lead and other minerals were fueling a boom. Shenfield recognized the opportunities. He pictured the site as the hub for mining, ranching and transportation once the railroad was completed.

Kingman: Land of Opportunity

And so he began surveying a 160 acre town site at the temporary western terminus of the railroad. Next, he began selling lots in what was dubbed Middleton Siding. As it turned out there was a slight flaw in Mr. Shenfield’s ambitious plans.

Conrad Shenfield told propspective buyers that he had acquired “town site privileges.” But he had only filed for those privileges. It was June 9, 1886 before he ws awarded the deed. But this did not stop him from selling property, or from people buying property in the land of opportunity.

The following advertisement was published in the Alta Arizona weekly, dated January 27, 1883: “For particulars as to prices of town lots in Kingman address C. Shenfield or C.W. Middleton, at Mineral Park. A perfect title given soon as the patent for the 160 acres upon which the new town is located arrives from Washington.”

Within a few months, a tent city quickly sprang up along the tracks and siding, the name was officialy set as Kingman with the filing of a post office application. The initial survey was a large square of 34 city blocks cut in half from east to west by the main line of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. There were two primary boulevards. Front Street ran parallel to the tracks on the north, and South Front Street ran on the south side of the tracks. The center point was land designated for a depot on Fourth Street.

Dawnof A New Era

Well, as they say, the rest his history. In late October 1883 the railroad announced that survey work had commenced for the construction of a warehouse, depot and loading platform. Kingman boomed, Within a few years the county seat was relocated from Mineral Park, and that once promising community faded into obscurity.

Shenfield and the railroad laid the foundation. The National Old Trails Road, Route 66 and then I40 ensured Kingman’s bright and promising future into the 21st century and beyond.


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