I spent a lot of the holiday weekend deep in thought. This particular bout of reflection on changing times was inspired by a request from a friend in the publishing industry. After seeing an article about a statue of me being unveiled at Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona on the National Road Trip Day celebration back in May, and a Google search of my name, she claims to have had a revelation.
She thinks that my story might be interesting. She thinks that I need to write an autobiography. Well, I am not sure what you might think about the idea but when she pitched this suggestion my first reaction was concern. Had she been kicked in the head by a mule or suffered from some type of head trauma since our last correspondence?
Just as with the statue, I am honoroed and humbled by the proposal. But this is different. A lot of names would have to be changed to protect the guilty. In times such as these when so many people are chomping at the bit for an excuse to argue, are passionate defenders of wild conspiracy theories, and see paranoia as a virtue or qualification for public office, an unfiltered book about me, my life and times, and my opinions about the ever changing world might upset a whole lot of folk.
And personally I am not as sure as she is that a book about me would be all that interesting. A lot of time has been spent with the mundane tasks that constitute the average life – a boring job or two, keeping the house from falling down, keeping the truck on the road, taxes, etc.
There is one more problem to consider. I hope to have at least one or two more chapters left in me. And judging by the past couple of years, there is the distinct possibility that they may be the most exciting. After all, in just two years I have survived COVID twice, written two books, had my business implode, initiated some lofty plans for the Route 66 centennial that include the acquisition and renovation of a 1951 Chevy panel truck (aka The Beast), and lost a few good friends. I have watched a previously unimaginable assault on our nations capitol, had a statue erected in my adopted hometown, launched a podcast series, and have been in discussion about projects that would require working in foreign lands.
To say that these are interesting times is akin to saying that Amboy along Route 66 in the Mojave Desert gets a tad bit hot in July. Born in the year of the Edsel, I have witnessed one hell of a lot of change over the years. But to the best of my recollection nothing compares to the past couple of years. In a mere blink of the eye, the entire world was forever changed – for better and for worse.
Even though I have lived a somewhate adventurous life filled with lots of opportunity to adapt to changing times, nothing really compares to what we have to do since 2019. As a result, reflecting on years lived leaves me looking to the future with excitement, eager anticipation, and just a hint of trepidation.
Would there be enough material to inspire people, to keep the readers interest? I have had adventures but so has most anyone that has lived five or six decades.
Several years ago I quit the steady job after developing an eye problem. I could see no reason to put up with the owners bs and they couldn’t see any reason to put up with my increasingly poor attitude. And so telling people where to go became the full time job that kept beans and taters on the table. But would this story interest readers?
There are lots of stories I could tell. In 2010, after a series of rather bizarre coincidences, I ended up in Jay Leno’s garage sitting down for a couple of interviews about two books I had written. My dearest friend and I kicked off 2015 with the first European adventure, courtesy Jan and Henk Kuperus, owners of Netherlands based U.S. Bikers.
There were a few European adventures in the years that followed. Let’s see, I spoke about Route 66 in the Czech Republic, helped tow a broken Fiat down the Autobahn with a rope, and had friends surprise us with an anniversary dinner and evening in a German castle built high above the Rhine River centuries ago.
The question remains, is my story all that different from most folks? Would a tale about Jim Hinckley really be THAT interesting?
My thoughtful spot, Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona ©
When Beth and Paul of Kingman Main Street first approached me, I was taking sunrise photos for a project at the desert oasis of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona. They had an idea for a project that would enhance tourism, and that would transform the community through the building of cooperative partnerships.
As it turned out, it was a concept that had been simmering in my mind since 2014 when Carolyn Hasenfratz had introduced me to QR codes during a discussion at the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman. Over time the idea had evolved in my thoughts.
On occassion I had shared the idea during informal conversations with friends, and during my tenure on various committees. But the timing wasn’t right. And obviously I hadn’t been able to articulate the idea in a manner that ignited excitement. Even efforts to sell it to the tourism office had fallen on deaf ears.
I was hooked before they completed their pitch. And that was the first step in transforming the dream of a Kingman, Arizona narrated, self guided hsistoric district walking tour into a reality. Now the dream is to use it as a template for other communities.
But Beth and Paul had another idea. They wanted to link the tour with a public arts project. And that was the bombshell that I had trouble with. That was the component that needed lots of thought and discussion with my dearest friend before I could give it the green light.
Well, that was about 18 months ago. Phase one of the walking tour with 35 points of interest is complete. The first dozen are being unveiled during National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities. The remainder will be installed in a week or so, and then work will begin on phase two.
Depot Plaza in Kingman, Arizona ©Jim Hinckley’s America
Also scheduled for unveiling during the festivities is a bronze statue of me created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. I am honored and humbled. But it took some very deep soul searching to agree to this.
Kingman has association to some pretty legendary names worthy this type of recognition. Front Street, the Route 66 corridor was renamed Andy Devine Avenue in 1955. Devine, a legendary character actor, gre up in Kingman. His father owned the Hotel Beale.
Artist and author Bob Boze Bell claims Kingman as his boyhood home. A display of his work as well as family heirlooms associated with Kingman history are on display at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
So, to see such an honor bestowed upon me is a bit overwhelming. There is a surreal sense of attending my own funeral.
The statue will be the center piece of the newly created Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot along Route 66. The plaza will also include the Route 66 Walk of fame that had been introduced at the 2014 festival, and abandoned a year or so later.
The plaza, seeing the walking tour idea coming to fruition, and the statue is invigorating. But nothing excites me more than the sense of community that has come about through this.
I have been deeply involved in an array of community development projects in Kingman since at least 1994. That was the year, working with Scott Dunton, we established the Kingman Route 66 Association. Some endeavors were successful. Some fell flat. Aside from the 2014 festival, nothing has fostered such a passionate response.
Beth and Paul, and the Kingman Main Street team tirelessly worked to build cooperative partnerships. Organizations and individuals, the city of Kingman and the tourism office, all became passionate supporters. And that bodes well for the future.
One person can change the world. One person can make a difference. But only if they can inspire, only if they can build passionate partnerships united in a common goal. But only if they can give credit where credit is due. Only if they can be leaders that inspire. Only if they can sell the dream.
Author Jim Hinckley, Walter, and Brad Blake on the streets of Oatman, Arizona ©Judy Hinckley
Walter is the honorary mayor in Oatman, Arizona, a ghost town on Route 66 that is often busier than Time Square on New Years Eve. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting him this past weekend during a book signing at Jackass Junction.
I would be remiss if it were not noted that Oatman is world famous for the semi wild burros that roam the streets. For people trying to simply drive through town they are a source of frustration. For me the sight of the donkeys standing on Route 66 in the shadow of the Oatman Hotel that was built in 1902 is somewhat comforting. They remind me that not all the asses are in Washington or state capitals.
Even though his position is an honorary one, Walter is a unique politician. Yes, he is an ass. But unlike many of the folks that profess to be politicians today, Walter unites rather than divides. When he comes to town, people smile.
Now, I knew about Walter but we had never met. And I knew that he was quite popular, but had no idea that he was a bonafide celebrity. He currently has more than 350,000 followers on his Facebook page. That really shouldn’t be a suprise when one considers how popular some politicians are, and, well, as noted most of them have something else in common with Walter.
My association with Oatman dates to the mid 1960s. But as with the awe inspiring section of Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman that twists and turns its way to the summit of Stigreaves Pass and down the other side, much has changed in that old mining town during the past fifty years.
Oatman was a whisper away from becoming a true ghost town when I was a kid. Today it is a quirky destination for legions of travelers, Route 66 enthusiasts, snow birds, and folks from Kingman, Bullhead City, Needles, Laughlin, and Lake Havasu City that are looking for a unique and memorable day trip, or some place special to take visiting relatives.
My dearest friend and I made the drive early Saturday morning, grabbed a bite to to eat on “the patio” at the historic Oatman Hotel. I savored an excellent buffalo burger, some sweet potato fries, and a good cup of coffee, and listened to the excited chatter of visitors.
Then I signed books at Jackass Junction, answered Route 66 questions, and assisted with travel planning assistance using materials provided by the City of Tucumcari, sponsors in Cuba, Missouri, and from other Route 66 locations. We wrapped up the event by the meeting with Walter, and walking down to sign books for April at Fast Fanny’s. Before starting for home we enjoyed a cold bottle of sarsaparilla at the Oatman Hotel, and marveled at the crowds of smiling happy visitors. The old town is but a shadow of what it was in the first decades of the 20th century, but with teeming crowds on the sidewalks it was hard to think of Oatman as a ghost town.
I never tire of the drive to Oatman. But this trip was special as it was my first official book signing in Oatman. Carol and Bill at Jackass Junction rolled out the red carpet and made us feel like old friends. You can bet that we will be back again, perhaps to help celebrate National Road Trip Day in May.
And you can bet the bottom dollar we will be visiting with Walter again.
Research for each point of interest on the narrated self guided historic district walking tour being developed by Kingman Main Street has uncovered some fascinating stories. A few have actually been a little distrurbing.
An article published by the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2010 detailed a discovery that confirmed a local urban legend was in fact true. Quote, “That bodies are buried under a high school football field and adjacent parking lot is more than folklore. Many long-term residents have known that part of the Kingman Unified School District campus was built over the top of the partially relocated Pioneer Cemetery. That was the primary burial ground from 1900 to 1917 for the city, which is about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
Earlier this week they were reminded that some of the bodies are still there. Human bones and suspected coffin fragments were unearthed Wednesday as construction crews dug a trench in an effort to install a new sewer to serve the campus and portions of the downtown area. Fifteen to 20 bones and bone fragments were found in a four-foot stretch of the trench near the football field where games have been played for decades.
The disturbed remains were no longer confined to wood caskets that apparently deteriorated into dust long ago according to Oz Enderby, director of construction for the school district. The Mohave County medical examiner was called to recover the remains and work was stopped as required by law. The coroner, school district representatives and county officials huddled Thursday to determine what should be done with more than 100 feet of trench left to dig across the former cemetery plot.”
This was not the first-time gruesome discoveries had been made on school grounds. During construction of the high school in 1959, human remains were unearthed. These were placed in containers beneath a monument built next to the student parking lot. Then in 1972 during expansion of the Kingman High School, more bones were unearthed.
The football field is the site of Pioneer Cemetery, Kingman’s third cemetery that was used from 1900 thru 1917. After the opening of Mountain View Cemetery on Stockton Hill Road in 1917, most bodies were relocated from the old cemetery for a fee. Bodies not claimed by family or friends, and bodies in unmarked graves, were left behind in the Pioneer Cemetery that was officially abandoned in 1944.
The number of people that were left at the Pioneer Cemetery is unknown. Records were not kept for all burials, or they were inaccurate. Compounding problems associated with identifying graves were the pre 1909 death certificates that seldom noted a burial location or that had misspelled names. And there were also graves used for multiple unidentified bodies over a period of time.
On May 8, 1915, a published detailed a gruesome discovery near Burn’s Ranch in the Blue Ridge Range. Quote, “They found the remains in a deep canyon, and while the bones were somewhat scattered, they were nearly all recovered. Nearly all the equipment of a prospector were found, but the blankets and canvas had rotted. An axe handle and rotted tool bag had the initials W.H.F. It is believed that the remains are those of W.H. Bill Fitch that disappeared from Burns Ranch in August 1905. If so, he would have been about age 73 at his death. The remains will be brought to Kingman and buried in the paupers’ graves at the cemetery.”
The first Kingman cemetery was located at Fifth and Spring Streets. Indications are that this site was used briefly before a more formal cemetery was established along what is now Kier Street on the south side of the railroad tracks.
Work on Mountain View Cemetery commenced in early 1916. A legal notice published in the Arizona Republican dated May 29, 1915, noted that a claim had been filed with the Department of the Interior Untied States Land Office for property to be used as a cemetery. The notice listed Mrs. J. P. Gideon, wife of Sheriff J.P. Gideon, as president of the Mountain View Cemetery Association.
In 1948, the 7th and 8th grade classes were moved to the new Kingman Junior High School near the high school on First Street and adjacent to the former cemetery. The complex has evolved over the years and as a result the historic abandoned cemetery was buried which gave rise to the urban legend.
A persistent part of this legend, however, has not been verified. According to some sources, when the junior high school was being constructed on the cemetery land, headstones that could not be read clearly were bulldozed into a nearby wash or were used as fill. Others were removed and stored at the county barn.
A monument dedicated on May 20, 1963, with a bronze plaque below a representation of an open Bible in marble, encased in stonework, dedicated by the Daughters of the Pioneers Group illustrates the confused history of Kingman’s early cemeteries. The plaque reads:
“WE HUMBLY DEDICATE THIS GROUND THE SITE OF KINGMAN’S FIRST CEMETERY IN MEMORY OF THE FOUNDING PIONEERS WHO WERE INTERRED IN THESE HALLOWED GROUNDS 1861-1920, ERECTED May 20, 1963.”
The cornerstone for Jim Hinckley’s America is our talent for telling people where to go. THe walking tour project has allowed us to do that in a whole new way.
The White Cliffs wagon Trail near Kingman, Arizona
This wagon road was built by F.F. Brawn who was heavily invested in the Stockton Hill Mining District. In May 1889 he had purchased Canyon Station about 15 miles north of Kingman from W.H. Hardy. The station was an important stop on the road over the Cerbat Mountains to Mineral Park and Cerbat from Stockton Hill, and the junction of Stockton Hill Road from Kingman. It was here that coaches and wagons were double teamed to pull the steep grade.
Canyon Station figures prominently in a legend about lost treasure. As the story goes, in October of 1873 a man named McAllen learned that a payroll was being shipped over this road. Near Canyon Station, he and an unknown partner stopped the coach, stole the strongbox, and headed into the rugged canyons of the Cerbat Mountains.
A posse of miners and livery hands set out in pursuit, and soon ran down the bandits. The legend is that in the ensuing gun battle McAllen was killed, and his partner apprehended, tried, and sent to the territorial prison in Yuma. But the strongbox was missing and has never been found.
Brawn had also leased the C.O.D. Mine located between Stockton Hill and Canyon Station. Between 1878 and 1892 the C.O.D. Mine produced $500,000 worth of gold. Silver averaged 160 ounces per ton. Lead was also found in ore bodies.
The mine was one of the largest producers in the Stockton Hill Mining District. Prospecting and mining in the area dates to the 1860s. By 1880 a small community had developed on Stockton Hill and in 1888 a post office was established using the name Stockton. The ebb and flow of the population led to the closure of the post office in 1892, but mining continued intermittently into the late 20th century.
Remnants of Stockton will soon be erased by the spread of suburbia.
The Stockton Hill Road from the railhead at Kingman hugged the foothills of the Cerbat Mountains as it coursed north through the Hualapai Valley. In 1889, it was announced that F.F. Brawn was soliciting investors for the construction of new road to Stockton and Canyon Station. An article published on December 28 noted that he had planned a road through the canyon north of town to intersect the present Stockton Hill Road near J. E. Johnston’s cattle ranch. It was to be about two miles shorter than the original Stockton Hill Road and would avoid the muddy portion of the valley. He estimated that the cost of the new road would be about $500. A section of this road that opened in May 1890 is now known as White Cliffs Wagon Road.
W.H. Taggart of W.H. Taggart Mercantile was a primary investor. He also had a vested interest in Stockon, and other Cerbat Mountain mining camps. At the junction of the Stockton Hill Road and the Beale Wagon Road, Taggart built a road through Johnson Canyon to Cerbat, Mineral Park and Chloride.
Today suburbia is encroaching on the townsie of Stockton. Stockton Hill Road is one of the primary commercial arteries in Kingman and it is lined with manifestations of the modern generic era; Walmart, McDonald’s, stip malls, mini marts, grocery stores and chain restaurants. And the remnant of the old wagon road in the shadow of towering cliffs, once an artery of commerce that represented the future, has been blended into a trail system for hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts. Times change.
The good times of the 1890s would be viewed as hard times today. The frustraitions of the late 19th century businessman was an onry mule, a broken spoke, or a muddy road. In the 21st century it is being locked out of a Facebook acocunt, the internet being down, or issues with on line banking.