Jerome was built on Cleopatra Hill above a vast deposit of copper. Prehistoric Native Americans were the first miners, seeking colored stones. The Spanish followed, seeking gold but finding copper. Anglos staked the first claims in the area in 1876, and United Verde mining operations began in 1883, followed by the Little Daisy claim.
Jerome grew rapidly from tent city to prosperous company town as it followed the swing of the mine’s fortunes. The mines, the workers, and those who sought its wealth formed Jerome’s colorful history. Americans, Mexicans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians, and Chinese made the mining camp a cosmopolitan mix that added to its rich life and excitement.
Jerome was the talk of the Arizona Territory, the boom town of its time, and the darling of promoters and investors. The mines were nourished and exploited by financiers, and brought billions of dollars in copper, gold, and silver from their depths. Changing times in the Territory saw pack burros, mule-drawn freight wagons, and horses replaced by steam engines, autos, and trucks.
The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920’s but fire ravaged the clapboard town and landslides destroyed whole sections. Jerome was always rebuilt. At the mercy of the ups and downs of copper prices, labor unrest, depressions and wars, Jerome’s mines finally closed in 1953. After the mines closed in 1953 and “King Copper” left town, the population went from a peak of 15,000 in the 1920s to just 50 people. The Jerome Historical Society guarded the buildings against vandalism and the elements, the Douglas Mansion became a State Park in 1965, and Jerome became a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
During the 60’s and 70’s – the time of the counter culture – Jerome offered a haven for artists and hippies. Soon newcomers and Jerome old timers were working together to bring Jerome back to life. Today, Jerome is very much alive with writers, artists, artisans, musicians, historians, and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.
Learn more about the incredible history of Jerome, Arizona with a visit to the Jerome Historical Society website.
Jerome’s extensive history and mining operations are featured at Jerome State Historic Park, also known as The Douglas Mansion, named after James S. Douglas. This world class museum hosts a collection of artifacts and exhibits where visitors can learn about turn-of-the-century mining and lifestyle of Jerome.