Spanish explorers were the first to discover the mineral wealth in the area. Yet, the rough terrain caused the rock to be hidden for many years.
Then in the 1870’s army scout Al Sieber worked on claims in the area, but he later gave up his claims. In 1876, some American prospectors staked claims, on Sieber’s advise, but they couldn’t raise enough money to make a go of it.
Then Eugene Jerome, a wealthy lawyer and financier came along and offered to back those who would want to mine. Thus, the name of the town and the United Verde Copper Company came into being. However, Jerome never visited the town. The town sits halfway up Cleopatra Hill, which is a part of the Mingus Mountains. In 1882, the United Verde Copper Company began operating and the town went wild. Good and bad times depended completely on the copper prices. By 1884, the cost of hauling the ore to the town of Ashfork had become too expensive and labor problems were becoming difficult. So Jerome put the mine up for sale. He was offering $300,000. Phelps-Dodge wanted it, but thought that they could get it cheaper because Jerome was going through tough times. Phelps-Dodge offered $30,000, which Jerome declined and instead sold it to William Andrews Clark for the full asking price. Phelps-Dodge made a counter offer, but it was a day late. Ironically Phelps-Dodge became the owner, only after much of the minerals had been mined.
In 1892, Clark built a narrow gauge railroad into Jerome from Chino Valley. Clark became extremely wealthy. He would anything in his power to continue to build his wealth. It was also during this time from 1897 and 1899 the town endured three fires. The fires destroyed businesses and homes. Yet, each time Jerome was rebuilt and went on growing.
Then in 1899, Clark decided he wanted to become a senator, so he ran in Montana and won. However, the Senate Elections and Privileges Committee would not seat him. Eventually he gave up after winning two elections. In 1914, Clark built a smelter in the town of Clarksdale at the base of Mingus Mountain, below Jerome. He also established a railroad line to the town.
Jimmy Douglas came to Jerome in 1912. He bought the Little Daisy Mine at the foot of Cleopatra Hill. After two years of trying he finally hit a vein. This became one of the richest ever found in America. The town went crazy. Everyone was making money. By 1929, fifteen thousand people lived in town. Jerome was one of the largest cities in Arizona. Saloons, gambling dens and brothels opened up. It was once reported that Jerome was the “wickedest town in the west”.
Years passed by and the minerals soon started to dry up. The stock market crashed and the Depression began and many of the town’s residents left. The population dropped to 5,000.
William Clark died in 1925 and his fortune was left for his family to fight over. Eventually, Phelps-Dodge bought the operation in 1935. Jimmy Douglas died in 1949, after becoming a multimillionaire and mining out all that was there. During the town’s heyday, the town produced over one billion dollars of copper, gold, silver and zinc during its 70-year active life.
Finally, the fall of copper prices and the closing of the Phelps Dodge Mine in 1953, Jerome became one of the largest “ghost cities”. The town started to disappear. It was during this time only 50 residents lived in Jerome.
Miraculously the town rebounded in the 1960’s, when many retirees, artists and tourists started coming to Jerome. Jerome has endured a lot and has always risen from the dust.