Castle Dome City
First prospected in 1864, this mining area turned museum showcases historic buildings & relics.
Castle Dome City sits tucked in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, far away from civilization. With the gorgeous back drop of the Castle Dome Mountains, this old ghost town is one of the oldest and important in the state. Castle Dome Mine Museum sits on Highway 95 between Yuma and Quartzsite.
Mining in the Castle Dome area dates back to the 1400’s. Both Spanish and French people have mined near Castle Dome. Evidence of this can be seen by their trail markers (slashed cacti) as well as the actual mines themselves. The Spanish Used Indian slaves to mine the minerals. The ore was more often then shipped back to Europe where it was traded.
Political strife and war with the local Indians forced the Spanish to leave. The 1781 Quechan Revolt is a perfect example of this. It was not until the 1850’s when the first American miners arrived. They were Col. Snively and Herman Ehrenburg. Here’s a quick background on Snively: Jacob Snively was born in 1809 in Pennsylvania. In 1835, he moved to Texas and helped fight for independence. Snively led the Snively Expedition of 1843 after opposing troops had been defeated in 1836. Because Snively was held in a Mexican jail after this, his expedition of 1843 allowed him to easily slaughter any Mexican wagons in the territory, part of his mission. This expedition was soon ended and Snively was promoted to colonel and served as a Secretary to Sam Houston, then governor of Texas.
Back now to Arizona, the year is 1852. Fort Yuma was established in Yuma, bringing an increasing presence of military to the rough area. The Quechan and other Indians began getting pushed out as more white men arrived. General William Tecumseh Sherman said, “We had one war with Mexico to take Arizona, and we should have another to make her take it back.” This was changed when Snively entered Arizona and in 1858 found placer gold in the Gila Mountains to the south of Castle Dome. Gila City sprang up but was washed away by a flood four years later.
In 1864, Snively found high grade silver galena near Castle Dome. A small brush house and tents marked the first structures at Castle Dome. The prices of silver rose and more and more came to Castle Dome. A boom town sprang up and Castle Dome City claimed a mercantile, five bars within a mile, sheriff’s office, a jail, a hotel, a doctor’s office, blacksmith shop, barber shop brothels, a school and many houses.
In 1871, mines were patented at Castle Dome, making this the 2nd patented claim in Arizona. The mining district exploded having over 300 mines and the large companies invested in mining, made Castle Dome even more successful. Large capital was supplied by big companies in New York City and San Francisco and some of the biggest wagons in the world were built here to haul supplies.
By the late 1870’s, a stagecoach stop was established at Castle Dome. During this time period, the stage line from Yuma to Phoenix was routed through mining town. One could literally catch the 3-10 to Yuma from Castle Dome. Castle Dome City, like all other boom towns during the time, had its fair shares of trouble. Drunken brawls, fights and murders all to place here during the true ‘Wild West’ time.
Miners from all over worked at Castle Dome because they said some of the best grub staking took place here. Some of the major mines in the area and district included Castle Dome, La Fortuna, Flora Temple, and Buckeye.
By the start of the 1900’s, most of the mines at Castle Dome had played out. During both WWI and WWII however, the need for lead greatly rose. Castle Dome was open once again and shipped out hundreds of tons of ore. The mines at Castle Dome slowed down after WWII and finally, in 1979, shut down because of the rapid decrease in the value of silver.
Many of the buildings at Castle Dome were left for the elements, however today, Castle Dome Mines Museum features an entire, authentic ghost town of Castle Dome City. The owners even got the help of the Yuma Proving Ground’s (which sits near the ghost town) heavy equipment to move the giant well digger to the town to save it. Other buildings were moved from the surrounding areas to their present locations, all of them being authentic. An additional tour option takes you to the site of the original mines, allowing you to see exactly where the town sprang up.
Castle Dome is very interesting and unique. It is said that Snively is claimed as the first citizen in Arizona. In addition, Snively met Jack Swilling here, become good friends with him. Castle Dome is also one of the oldest mining districts in Arizona, as well as one of the first big strikes. Finally, Castle Dome is home to the largest silver-galena bar in the world as well as a pair of Levi’s that are over 100 years old! We highly recommend a visit to Castle Dome and guarantee you will be fascinated by it. For exact directions to Castle Dome Mines, visit our day trips page about it or visit www.castledomemuseum.org for more information.
Armstrong, Allen & Stephanie. Historical Overview of Castle Dome Mining District 1864 - 1979. Castle Dome Enterprises, Print.