(This is an excerpt from Ghost Towns of the Southwest: Your Guide to the Historic Mining Camps & Ghost Towns of Arizona and New Mexico. The book is published by Voyageur Press, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, and is available at booksellers and from voyageurpress.com. © Jim Hinckley and Kerrick James.)
Hackberry is one of those Arizona towns where fame and prosperity proved to be quite elusive. Considering the history associated with the town site, this is rather surprising.
A spring near the current town site is the one most likely used by the Father Garces expedition of 1775 as it moved east through Truxton Canyon. Lt. Amiel W. Whipple visited the same spring in 1854 before he turned south to follow the Big Sandy from its headwaters near Hackberry. In 1857, Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale surveyed a route that traveled west and named the spring Gardiner.
In 1871, a party of prospectors found a rich vein of gold ore about a mile west of the spring. A large hackberry tree at the site gave the mine and resultant town its name.
The mine proved rich enough to warrant construction of a five stamp mill, and by 1874, the community was showing so much promise that the territorial legislature discussed making the town the county seat. However, within two years, the primary ore body had been exhausted, and the town began a quick fade that ended with the community balanced precariously on the edge of oblivion.
In late 1881, the town’s spring again became an important commodity with the arrival of the railroad. The track followed the Beale Wagon Road west of town and crossed northern Arizona into eastern California. Hackberry served as a supply center to the railroad, and local ranches and gave the community a new, tenuous lease on life. Hackberry also met the needs of travelers on the National Old Trails Highway in 1914, and after 1926, Route 66 ensured the little town a modicum of prosperity.
The lapse into obscurity was a lengthy one for Hackberry. It began with Kingman assuming the primary role as supply center for ranching and mining in the area, continued with the conversion to diesel locomotives by the railroad, and culminated with the bypass of Route 66 by Interstate 40. The town settled into a quiet existence for a time with a few local ranching families calling it home.
Today a strip mining operation has broken the silence, and Route 66 fans have given the Hackberry General Store a new lease on life. Other vestiges of the town’s history include a Mission-style, two-room schoolhouse, which was the last operated in the state of Arizona; a scenic cemetery; the towering water tanks that once supplied steam-powered locomotives; and a few old cabins.
When You Go
From Wikieup, drive south on U.S. Highway 93 for approximately eight miles, turn right on to Signal Road, and continue 16 miles. The road is rocky and sandy.
Jim Hinckley, a resident of Kingman, Arizona, writes books and magazine articles on classic cars and back roads. Kerrick James, who lives in Mesa, Arizona, photographs the American West, Mexico and the Pacific Rim, and his work, has appeared on more than 200 book and magazine covers.
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