By Mick Woodcock

The hydraulic method of mining was developed in California in 1853 to better exploit gold-bearing gravel deposits. It used a canvas hose with a metal nozzle to direct a high-pressure stream of water to erode dirt along rivers and stream beds. The resulting slurry, gold-bearing mud and water, was then directed through a sluice box where the gold settled out and the rest was deposited at the edge of the river.

In Arizona it was first used on Lynx Creek in 1868 by a company known as Little & Taylor. They purchased equipment in California and had it brought by freight team to their “Excelsior Claim” on Lower Lynx Creek. The first mention of this was in the February 15, 1868, edition of the Arizona Miner. By early May it was reported that three men in five days had taken out $145.50, not quite $10 per man per day. By late May the water level in the creek had dropped so that no mining was possible.

By August Little & Taylor’s claim had been purchased by Cal. Jackson and Company. This was owned by brothers Calvin, Solomon and Zadok Jackson who were Prescott businessmen. In September they purchased mining claims below theirs from S. Z. Pierce thus giving them a large section of Lynx Creek at its mouth. Their company, Excelsior Hydraulic Mining, included partners Solomon Shoupe, Moses Lovejoy, John Shirley and N. S. Griffin, who was in charge of mining operations.

In December 1869 Zadok Jackson bought out his brothers Calvin and Solomon. This gave him half ownership with the other half being owned by Lovejoy, Griffin, Shoupe and the heirs of John Shirley. Shirley made the mistake of going alone on a hunting expedition in mid-November. When he did not return his partners went searching for him. They never found him, but did find where his tracks ended among the tracks of a group of Natives.

The early 1870s saw continued mining as water levels permitted. Wet winters allowed for long runs in hydraulicking. Summer rains provided some additional time to wash out the gravel deposits. Estimates in the newspaper of the amount of gold being taken out were between $10 and $30 per day per man. This was when the United States was on the gold standard and gold was valued at sixteen dollars per ounce.

By 1875 B. C. Smith and a Mr. Marcutt were working these lower Lynx Creek hydraulic claims and initially doing well, but by 1878 it was reported that they were not making enough to cover expenses. It is possible that the payment to the owners of the claim was more than could be covered by Smith and Marcutt’s work.  About that time, the controlling partner, Zadok Jackson, passed away in Santa Rosa, California.

Zadok Jackson’s death prompted his son-in-law, a Mr. Van Buren, to come to Arizona to settle the estate, which included the hydraulic claims on Lynx Creek, as well as two farms in the Salt River Valley. The report was that the interest in the mining claims would be sold cheap. Apparently there was family interest as the January 23, 1880, issue of the Arizona Miner stated, “We are pleased to note the fact that Cal. Jackson, one of our oldest citizens and pioneer prospectors and owner of the hydraulic diggings on Lynx creek, has so far recovered from a long sickness as to be able to attend, personally to the working of his claim – one of the very best in Arizona.”

During the 1880s different men leased the Lynx Creek Hydraulic Works. J. L Fisher was mentioned in the newspapers in 1885 and John McDermott was leasing in 1886. In 1888, Nathan Oakes Murphy purchased an interest in the claims and then sold it in February of 1889 to Diamond Joe Reynolds and F. M. Murphy.

A newspaper article on March 27, 1889, noted that James K. Hall, Sharlot Hall’s father, had come to town from the Lynx Creek Hydraulic Works to purchase supplies. The Halls lived in the area and apparently James Hall was hired to work the claims along with seven other men.

Mining would continue to be good until a new company began to dam the creek upstream and thus cut the flow of water available to the Lynx Creek Hydraulic Works.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.