Henry Wickenburg was a pioneering figure in the American mining industry during the mid-19th century. Known for his role in discovering the Vulture Mine, one of the richest gold mines in Arizona, Wickenburg’s tenacity, and entrepreneurial spirit left an indelible mark on the development of the region and a town which bears his name.
Early Life and Background
Henry Wickenburg was born on November 21, 1819, in the town of Crefeld, Prussia, in what is now Germany. Crefeld is known for coal mines, and he and his brother worked these mines as children. Following the reclamation of the families minueral rights on their land by the Prussian Government, In 1847, Henry Wickenburg arrived in the United States and settled in California during the height of the Gold Rush. He immediately recognized the potential for wealth and decided to try his luck in the goldfields. Wickenburg spent several years working as a miner, gaining experience and honing his skills in prospecting.
The Discovery of the Vulture Mine
In 1862, Henry Wickenburg embarked on a journey that would change his life and the future of Arizona. He led an expedition into the Arizona Territory, hoping to find gold and silver deposits. It was during this expedition that Wickenburg stumbled upon what would later be known as the Vulture Mine, situated in the harsh and rugged terrain of the Vulture Mountains.
The Vulture Mine turned out to be an extraordinary find, with vast deposits of gold. Wickenburg quickly recognized its potential and staked his claim, sparking a gold rush in the region. His discovery attracted prospectors from far and wide, leading to the establishment of the town that would later bear his name, Wickenburg, as a center of mining activity.
Establishing and operating the Vulture Mine was not without its challenges. Wickenburg faced numerous obstacles, including hostile Native American tribes, harsh living conditions, and technical difficulties in extracting the gold. However, his determination and resourcefulness allowed him to overcome these hurdles and develop the mine into a prosperous operation.
The Vulture mine is named “the largest and richest gold in in Arizona.” In 1866, Wickenburg sold 80% interest in the mine the the sum of $85,000.00. A down payment is made in the amount of $20,000 with the balance being maintained with a promissory note. Following the sale, Wickenburg relocated and started a ranch near another town which bears his name.
The Vulture Mine suffered repeated problems caused by its remote location, poor financial standing and mismanagement. Despite being the largest gold mine in the territory, a title dispute caused Henry to be unable to collect on the promissory note.
On May 14th, 1905, Henry Wickenburg is found dead of the gun shot wound to the head. A coroners report ruled the death a suicide and that Henry “had melancholy due to old age”.