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In 1902, a small railway camp sprang up as the Bradshaw Mountain Railroad (part of Murphy’s Impossible Railroad) worked its way to Crown King. This town would later become known as Cleator, Arizona, the halfway point on Crown King Trail.
In 1864, came the establishment of the Turkey Creek Mining district. A small stage station was built west of Turkey Creek. A post office was established here in 1869, however, it only lasted 5 months.
Leverett Nellis, owner of Mayer Lumber Company, purchased this land near the railroad. He named it Turkey Creek Station (after nearby Turkey Creek and after the previous stage station) and built a store, saloon, and ranch and freight company. In 1903, a post office was established, with Nellis as postmaster. It was named Turkey.
In 1905, James P. Cleator, born on the ‘Isle of Man’, came to Turkey. He arrived in America in 1899 and was a somewhat successful miner. Cleator and Nellis became friends and quickly business partners. In 1909, Nellis wanted to try out ranching more, so he decided to give James Cleator the town and keep some land to ranch on. Just four years later, Cleator built his new store right next to the tracks. Nellis retired in 1919 and 6 years later, in 1925, Cleator changed the name of Turkey to Cleator.
But, in 1926, the railroad began tearing up tracks in Crown King. By 1932, the tracks were torn up in Cleator. Cleator’s population greatly declined with only a few locals staying around. This blow on the town of Cleator caused it to never be the same.
One of Cleator’s big industries was mining. The Swastika, Thunderbolt, French Lilly, DeSoto, and Golden Turkey mines were just some of the mines worked close by. Another industry in Cleator was ranching. Ranching near Cleator dates back to 1876, when the Mognett Family moved near Cleator to ranch an impressive 7,000 head of cattle. Ranching has been continuous in Cleator as it changed hands over time.
Cleator today is nothing like it was. It’s no longer a social place for local dances like it used to be, but it is still hanging on. Old buildings still stand and a small saloon is open on the weekends and ran by James’ son Tommy. Cleator is near mile marker 14 on Crown King Road on the way to Crown King.
Wilson, Bruce M. Crown King and the Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History. Chandler, AZ: Crown King Press, 2002. 80-83. Print.
Varney, Philip. Arizona Ghost Towns and Mining Camps. 10th printing. Phoenix, AZ: Department of Transportation, State of Arizona, 1994. 19-20. Print.
Bar and General Store in Cleator