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Chloride, the ‘nation’s most important city’

Predictions that Chloride would rival New York as the nation’s most important city were made with unblushing faces by enthusiastic boosters in 1899. That year, the Arizona-Utah Railroad completed a spur line that connected with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe line at Kingman, some 18 miles south. The town’s promoters convinced themselves that explosive growth was inevitable.
“Visitors from all over the country have been [arriving] since late last night… to see the last spike driven,” reported the Arizona Daily Gazette. For reasons not disclosed, “Miss May Krider, a beautiful young lady” was chosen “to drive the silver spike.” After a few well directed blows, the spike was pounded home and a two-day “gala affair” followed.
No hard evidence fixes a date for Chloride’s founding, but it is known that as early as 1863 miners were chipping away at the Cerbat Mountains. The town’s name was taken from an abundance of silver chloride mixed with what appeared to be an endless cache of other minerals in the area — gold, lead, zinc and generous deposits of turquoise.
There was, however, a formidable impediment to exploiting the areas resources. Hualapai Indians were displeased by Anglo incursion of their homeland, and skirmishes were not uncommon. The deaths of at least four miners were attributed to Hualapai displeasure. By 1870, however, U.S. Army troops were moved into the area, the Hualapais were neutralized, and mining commenced in earnest.
Some claim that Chloride became the Mohave County seat in 1871. The claim is dubious. Apparently, the county seat followed fluctuations in population and, at one time or another, it was Mohave City, Mineral Park, and Cerbat, before locating permanently at Kingman in 1880. But no evidence supports the claim that it was ever located at Chloride.
By 1873, the town’s population was sufficient to warrant a post office and, in March of that year, Robert H. Choate was named postmaster. In quick succession, two postmasters followed him, but in July 1875, the post office was closed. It was not reopened until the winter of 1893. Presumably, then, the intervening years were anything but a boom period.
A momentary boom occurred in 1900, when gold was struck in the Cerbat Mountains. Excitement buzzed throughout the territory, and predictions that this was the West’s new mother lode were circulated far and wide. Hopeful folks seeking a share of the American dream converged on Chloride. Some pundits estimate a surge in population at 5,000; others at 2,000; most at about 1,000. Regardless of which is the more accurate figure, it is fair to say that Chloride posed no threat to New York.
Over the years, mines in the Cerbat range included the Esmeralda, Vanderbilt, Golden Gem, Payroll and others. The most consistently profitable was the Golconda, which produced some $6.5 million in ore, mostly zinc. In Chloride’s latter days, the Tennessee was its most valuable property.
Excitement erupted again when, in 1928, the Magma Mining Company built an airport at Chloride. It was the first “flying field” constructed in Arizona for the sole use of a non-aviation commercial enterprise. The airport did not, however, increase Chloride’s prosperity.
In 1935, the railroad pulled out, and by the close of World War II, most of the mines were played out. When extraction costs exceeded profits, the Tennessee ceased operations and Chloride became a virtual ghost town. Today, the community boasts a population of about 150 and, like many of its counterparts across the state, it promotes the image of a rough and tumble old West mining camp.
W. Lane Rogers. Photo courtesy of author.

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