Castle Dome Mine District: Ghost Town
Why would anyone want to live in such a remote, desolate, sweltering part of Arizona? Silver! Castle Dome City sprang up like any other boom town, one shanty at a time.
This was the last remaining “brush house” in Castle Dome. It had a roof made of mud, flour sacks, and saguaro or ocatillo branches. A miner could string up his hammock and have shade for himself and his animals until he built a house!
This town was built across three mine patents, the Floral Temple, Floral Temple Extention, and Castle Dome. At one point, in the late 1800’s, this area had about 3,000 residents and was larger than Yuma.
Mining here stopped in 1979 when the price of silver plummeted, and it cost more to mine the silver than it was worth.
Today, visitors exit the highway into the Yuma Proving Grounds. We were greeted by this sign from the U.S. Army, and subsequent signs warning of being in an IMPACT AREA. Quickly, the pavement turned into a gravel road. About 5 miles down this rather rough road, the proving grounds give way to land managed by the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife. At this point you can get out of your vehicle, but you can’t camp overnight or take pictures. About 2 1/2 miles passed this point, is Castle Dome. The not for profit that manages the site doesn’t own all of the property that the 300 mines were on. In fact, several years ago, Fish and Game announced that they were planning to demolish all of the structures on their land and allowed the not for profit 30 days to relocate all buildings and parifinalia related to the mines. As a result, the reconstructed town does not look as it did in the 1800’s. Though the buildings are original, their locations are not.
The town had everything one might need including a mercantile, 5 saloons, a hotel, a barber, dress shop, a bank, and even a school. Class was held on the porch of the teacher’s house! See the long stack of papers next the chair in this dentist’s office?
Those were receipts collected during the time of prohibition. It was legal to sell alcohol during this time if it was for medicinal purposes, and those receipts were the dentist’s proof! After viewing all the buildings that had been relocated, visitors can tour a section of the town where the buildings still sit on their original foundations.
Informational markers attached to the fencing that separates government property from the property owned by the not for profit, indicate sites where relocated buildings once stood.
This section of the tour is dotted with mine shafts. All of them are fenced off, and many of them are labeled with antidotal information.
Castle Dome Ghost Town delivered far more than we were expecting. We ended our visit feeling that this place was just one infamous gunfight or bank robbery away from being another Tombstone.