Markers at Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona provided historic context for the site.
For the Cerbat clan of the Hualapai people the desert oasis was the source of life giving waters. For travelers following the trade route to the Colorado River, and on to the coast of California the springs provided a welcome respite from the harsh desert. Purportedly Father Garces camped at the site during his exploratory expedition across northern Arizona in 1776.
Numerous American explorers camped at the springs including Lieutenant Beale during the survey for the Beale Wagon Road in the late 1850s. One of his adventures included a camel caravan. As an historic footnote the camel corps was authorized by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederate States of America during the America Civil War.
The springs were an important way-station on the territorial era Mohave-Prescott toll road that connected Fort Mohave and Hardyville on the Colorado River with Fort Whipple at Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona. During this period in the mid to late 1860s steamboats brought all manner of goods to ports on the Colorado River and the trail systems into the interior were vital arteries of commerce. And so during the Hualapai War of 1866 to 1870, the United States Army established a camp at the springs.
Captain Samuel B. M. Young, 8th U.S. Cavalry, the commander of Fort Mojave was tasked with establishing an outpost at the spring on March 27, 1867. By 1871 the camp had become an integral part of the military’s network of outposts and forts in the northern part of the Arizona territory. Aside from subjugation of the Hualapai tribe the troopers were tasked with protecting trade routes and locations key to settlement of the area. At its peak Camp Beale consisted of twelve adobe buildings including a 60′ by 20′ barracks with adjoining camp kitchen. The garrison was a detachment of Company F, 12th U.S. Infantry from Fort Whipple.
In January of 1873, the Beale Springs Indian Agency was established at the site as a reservation for the Hualapai Indians. After the tribe was force marched to the Colorado River Tribes Indian Reservation the camp was officially decommissioned on April 6, 1874. A monument erected by the Hualapai Tribe at the parking lot near the springs commemorates this dark chapter.
After 1874, the former military encampment served as station on the toll road, and a hub fro area development. With establishment of the railroad in western Arizona in 1882, the toll road faded faded from prominence even though it was a key link between Kingman and Colorado River communities. The springs also remained an important oasis for travelers following trails from Cerbat Mountains mining communities and the rail head in Kingman. A hotel was established at the springs, and then in the 1890s, the site became the headquarters for a vast ranching enterprise. The springs were one source for water for Kingman during its infancy. Initially water was hauled by wagon into town but a concrete reservoir was constructed at the site and pipeline constructed around 1910.
Remnants of the historic Mohave Prescott Toll Road at Beale Springs is a tangible link to Arizona territorial history.
Today the site of the springs is maintained by the BLM and is one of the highlights of the extensive Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area trail system. It is easily accessed from U.S. 93, and is less than two miles from historic downtown Kingman and Route 66. As it is located about 100 yards from the parking lot, the springs are ideally suited for picnics or a simple urban getaway.
Much of the trail system in the area of Beale Springs provides a tangible link to Arizona history. Aside from the sites at the springs, there are traces of the historic wagon road that are still evident in places. There are also remnants of the automobile road that was built over Coyote Pass in 1914. Near the summit are concrete crossings of washes, a rock cut and the remains of bridges.
There are an array of markers that add context to the story of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona
The entire trail system is one of the gems that make Kingman special. The springs are the crown jewel. As a bonus in the era of quarantine the trails are an ideal place for social distancing, and for finding a bit of solace in a time of turmoil. So, it seemed a fitting place to kick off something I have been playing with for quite sometime, a new live stream series (added to the YouTube channel afterwards) of programs under the heading of On The Road With Jim.
Shortly after the U.S. Highway 66 Association was established in early 1927, a marketing campaign was launched that branded the newly minted highway as the Main Street of America. It was a brilliant strategy as one of the most famous “named highways” in America, the National Old Trails Road, had been branded the Main Street of America by Judge Lowe of the National Old Trails Road Association in 1913. Linking Route 66 to a road with an established reputation, a road popular with tourists traveling to see the natural wonders of the southwest was the cornerstone for the eventual transformation of this highway into an an icon with an international fan club.
The National Old Trails Road, after 1913, coursed across northern New Mexico and Arizona, and across the California desert to Los Angeles. It provided travelers with access to the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. Near Peach Springs, Arizona a popular side trip was Diamond Creek which is still the only road that allows for vehicle access to the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. These natural wonders were one reason the then twenty-one year old Edsel Ford and his college buddies traveled along this road to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in California during the summer of 1915. Likewise with Emily Post. Attesting to the popularity of the National Old Trails Road in the southwest is the fact that more than 20,000 people attending the Panama Pacific Exposition from outside California arrived by automobile and the overwhelming majority traveled this road.
While much of the National Old Trails Road history is documented there are still secrets hidden in dusty archives, road departments, family photo albums and old travel diaries. One of these mysteries is found on the western slope of Sitgreaves Pass in the Black Mountains of Arizona. Route 66 enthusiasts are intimately familiar with this section of highway that began as the National Old Trails Road. Arguably it is one of the most scenic portions of this storied old highway and Oatman is known throughout the world.
This old road dates to about 1907. It was upgraded to meet the needs of the National Old Trails Road in about 1913. When was it bypassed? When was it realigned to the current course for the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66?
This rare map from the state of Arizona shows U.S. 60 instead of U.S. 66
Much of this morning was spent with an engineer and unofficial archivist at the Mohave County Road Department in search of answers. Instead of what I was looking for, I found new mysteries that need answers as well as rare and obscure historic footnotes. As an example, did you know that originally U.S. 66 was designated U.S. 60? Early 1926 Arizona maps show U.S. 60 and it is also designated the National Old Trails Road in places. This takes us to another mystery. U.S. 66 and the National Old Trails Road shared the same road in much of the southwest. There are postcards that show both designations. When did the first U.S. 66 signs go up? Was the road ever signed as U.S. 60?
I admit it. A great deal of my time is spent giving thought to the lives of long dead people and then meditating on what lessons can be learned from their mistakes, and successes. As an example, can you imagine what it must have been like to sell automobiles in 1905? “Sir, this is a fine automobile that will most likely provide several hundred miles of trouble free service, especially if you drive within the city limits as there really aren’t any passable roads beyond that point. It operates on gasoline that can be ordered from most any drug store. Yes, I realize that price is a bit steep. Yes, I know that you can buy one or two houses for that price but think of the prestige.” If selling a new car was a challenge, can you imagine what obstacles had to be overcome by a used car salesman?
Now imagine what it must have been like to be an automobile manufacturer. Henry Ford pulled it off, on his third attempt and with the help of Horace and John Dodge. David Buick, failed time and time again. To a lesser degree, so did Louis Chevrolet. Walter Chrysler and Charles Nash were the mirror image of Buick, all that they turned their hand to succeeded. Nash started by stuffing cushions for the Durant Dort Wagon Company and within a relatively short period of time, was the head honcho at Buick and GM before launching his own company.
When faced with a promotional challenge I often turn to the infancy of the American auto industry for ideas or solutions. Recently I hit a wall in regards to Jim Hinckley’s America, and as I have a new book due for release in a few weeks, this seemed an ideal time to step back and contemplate how best to market the entire package – me, the book and Jim HInckley’s America as a multifaceted travel network. What have I been doing right? More importantly, what have I been doing wrong?
Often the first course of action when faced with a challenge such as this is to take a very long walk, or two, to clear the head, process thoughts (turning off the cell phone) and come back to the problem refreshed. The process minus the cell phone seemed to have worked well for John Adams. Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison were also famous for taking time away from projects to escape to the north woods of Michigan. All three men seem to have been relatively successful. Wouldn’t you agree?
The Cerbat foothills north of Kingman Arizona are laced with an extensive trail system, and vestiges from the areas rich history.
So this morning I met up with a very old friend who just happens to be an ex-brother-in-law, and we set out for a morning walkabout on the Camp Beale Loop Trail. The Cerbat Foothills in the area of historic Fort Beale, Beale Springs, Johnson Canyon Springs, and Red Ghost Canyon are a scenic wonder. The sense of history here is palpable. The springs here were of tremendous importance to the Cerbat Clan of the Hualapai people. Father Garces purportedly camped at Beale Springs during his expedition in 1776. Lt. Beale and his now famous camel caravan also camped at the springs. Fort Beale was an important outpost on the Beale Wagon Road as well as territorial era Hardyville-Prescott Toll Road. This was also the site of the first internment camp for the Hualapai Tribe.
The loop trail is also another example of the many treasures that abound in the Kingman area. And as a result, they are also a source of frustration as they remind me of what could be if the city had an aggressive tourism office with vision, with passion, and with an interest in building cooperative partnerships within the community as well as in the international Route 66 community.
As is often the case when friends that have more than a forty year history get together, it was also a stroll down memory lane. The scenic wonders of the desert, deeply shadowed canyons, tracking deer into the mountains, easy conversation, and a cool morning breeze was just what the doctor ordered. Now, let’s see if I am going to be a Charles Nash or a David Buick.
Have you had the opportunity to experience the breathtaking landscapes and scenery that embrace the pre-1952 alignment of Route 66 (National Old Trails Highway before 1927) in the Black Mountains of western Arizona? Did you know that this is where the last gold rush in Arizona began?
Photo courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Surprisingly this rugged bulwark of stone that stands as a silent sentinel above the Colorado River Valley is amply peppered with water holes and springs, oasis in a harsh land where summer temperatures often exceed 112 degrees Fahrenheit. That is why the Mohave and clans of the Haulapai treasured these mountains. That is why early explorers followed what is now Sitgreaves Pass over the summit, instead of staying to the south where the desert was flat in comparison.
On the National Old Trails Road, latter Route 66, Ed Edgerton created a gold mine for himself when he set up Ed’s Camp at Little Meadows, a camping location during the Father Garces expedition of 1776. The money that flowed from the pockets of travelers into his made him a very wealthy man. Edgerton wasn’t the only man that struck it rich on this road in these mountains.
Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
N.R. Dunton was, as the story goes, nearly penniless when he arrived in Goldroad during the early 1920’s. Dunton was a man of ambition and vision. He established Cool Springs on the eastern slope of the mountains in 1926, and later a garage in Goldroad, a hard scrabble mining camp. Jack Rittenhouse in his book A Guide Book To Highway 66 noted that Dunton offered a towing service to get vehicles over he steep pass. Dunton would establish Dunton Motors, a Ford agency, in Kingman, Arizona in 1946.
Today the dealership owned by the same family operates as Dunton Motors Dream Machines, a classic car facility. It is also home to the Route 66 Association of Kingman, and Scott Dunton is president. On display, in addition to a dazzling array of vintage cars, is a model of Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner created by internationally acclaimed artist Willem Bor, a co-founder of the Dutch Route 66 Association.
In the 1860’s soldiers stationed at Fort Mohave on the Colorado River whiled away free time by prospecting in the Black Mountains, and on occasion they would find a bit of color or a nugget or two. John Moss even made a very promising discovery that assay reports verified to be a rich strike. But the vein was fractured and so the Black Mountains were forgotten when major discoveries of gold, silver and other minerals were discovered in the Cerbat Mountains to the north.