One of the more successful mines in the Crown King area, this gold producer began in the 1870s.
Oro Belle is a former gold mining town located the Bradshaw Mountains about three miles south of Crown King. The townsite was once a decent population center as numerous mines were operated on site and in the area from 1880 to the 1920s. Today, most of the buildings have disappeared with the exception of a few ruins scattered around the since overgrown forest.
Mining in the Oro Belle vicinity began in the late 1870s. Miners from the recently boom at the Tiger Mine just uphill from Oro Belle likely first prospected the areas along Humbug Creek. The mine operation was initially known as the Oro Bonito. The small operation had only a few individuals working the claims. The biggest struggle of the mine was access. Located in the steep ravine of Humbug Creek, there was no road access past Crown King & the Tiger. For years, investors and owners would struggle getting milling equipment to the mine.
By the early 1880s, six men operated stream arrastras along the creek. It remained a small operation for now. It wouldn’t be until 1887 when the Oro Bella Mining Company was incorporated that the mine would become highly successful. With the mines worked deeper and supplies for building were hauled in. A wagon road was also being worked on. In 1888, a post office was established which was called Bayard. A mill was shipped from Turkey Creek via Prescott and Minnehaha Flat since that was the only route freight wagons could take. The mine and mill operated until 1889. With road access now completed, water became a major issue. While Humbug Creek provided a reliable source, it wasn’t enough to support the milling efforts. Unprocessed ore sat in large piles awaiting a reliable mill.
Production was limited through 1892 as water was inconsistent. The company incorporated the workings of the nearby Gray Eagle Mine into the operation. A tramway was built between the two mines to allow ore to be hauled to the mill. Work at Oro Bella would quickly fade and the mine sat mostly dormant until the turn of the century.
In 1900, George Harrington and his son James came into ownership of the Oro Bella & Gray Eagle mines. Work started back up and ore was hauled uphill to the Tiger Mill for concentration while the stamp mill at Oro Belle was repaired. Harrington secured funding through none other than the Illinois Retail Grocers Association (IGA) who purchased numerous shares in the Oro Bella operation. In 1904, a post office was restablished at the townsite, but was called Harrington. A better wagon road was constructed (the current road) as Murphey’s Impossible Railroad neared completion in Crown King.
The mine was highly productive in the years following. Oro Belle was home to a school, saloons, a boarding house in addition to a mill and water tanks. Harrington was replaced as the superintendent by an engineer Schlesinger, but due to unpopularity, Harrington was soon brought back. By 1912 the ore was played out. While the mine would be re-worked briefly in 1915-16 and 1926, the area was soon abandoned. The operational history of Oro Belle was rocky to say the least, however in its lifetime, the mine would produce over $700,000 worth of ore. Gold was the primary mineral found -- but silver and copper were also recovered in the mines 8 levels of tunnels. The deepest tunnel reached 1,000 feet long.
Today, not much remains at the Oro Belle townsite. The most obvious remains along the trail before Humbug Creek. Here one wall remains of the former boardhouse. A small building where the safe was once housed remains next to this. Water tanks also remain as you make the turn uphill. Other walls and wooden trestles remain scattered on the hills south of the road. The saloon that once sat here at Oro Belle was moved piece-by-piece by burros sometime in the early 1900s to its current home in downtown Crown King. To access Oro Belle, head south from Crown King roughly 3 miles to the bottom of the hill. Alternatively, the site can be reached via Lake Pleasant along the much rougher Backway to CK trail.
“Oro Belle Mine, Gray Eagle Mine (Oro Belle and Gray Eagle Mine; Patented Claim Oro Bonito Gen No. 154; Patented Claims 12830 & 854; Oro Bella Mine), Tiger District, Bradshaw Mts (Bradshaw Range), Yavapai Co., Arizona, USA.” Mindat.org, www.mindat.org/loc-52541.html.
“Oro Belle.” Oro Belle - Arizona Ghost Town, Ghosttowns.com, www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/orobelle.html.
“Oro Belle Group.” Arizona Geological Survey Mining Data, Arizona Geological Survey, minedata.azgs.arizona.edu/report/oro-belle-group.
Bruce M. Wilson (2002). “Crown King and the Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History”. Crown King Press. Pages 24-26, 48-50, 60-63.