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Arizona Flag - Legends of the High Desert IconARIZONA LEGENDS

Oatman - A Living Ghost Town

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Oatman Arizona, 1900

Oatman, Arizona around the turn of the century, photo courtesy Arizona Images, Phoenix Public Library

 

 

Just across the Colorado River and up the hill from Laughlin, Nevada is the historic town of Oatman, Arizona. Often described as a ghost town, it doesn’t quite fit the category, but close enough, considering that it once boasted over 10,000 people and now supports just a little over 100 people year-round.

Though Oatman is only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this lively "ghost town” that provides, not only a number of historic buildings and photograph opportunities, but the sights of burros walking the streets, as well as costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies strolling.

In its heyday, from the early 1900s to the 1940s, Oatman and the nearby town of Gold Road were the largest producers of gold in Arizona.

Prospector Johnny Moss first mined the area for Gold in the 1860's, staking claims to two mines, one named Moss, the other Oatman, after Olive Oatman who was kidnapped by Apaches, sold to Mojave Indians and released after five years near the current town site in 1855.

 

Gold mining would have it's up and downs in the Black Mountains until the early 1900's. An official town began to form around 1904, complete with a Post Office, when the Vi-vian Mining Company began operations. The tent city called Vivian quickly grew as miners flocked to the area. Between 1904 and 1907 the mine yielded over $3,000,000 and a large gold find at the Tom Reed Mine in 1908 brought in $13,000,000. In 1909 the town changed its name in honor of Olive Oatman.

The Oatman Hotel TodayThe Drulin Hotel, which was built in 1902, did a brisk business to the area miners. This old hotel, renamed the Oatman Hotel in the 1960's, is the only historic two story adobe building in Mohave County. Though guests no longer stay the night here, there is a museum on the top floor and a bar and restaurant on the bottom floor.

 

In 1915, two miners struck a $14 million gold find, providing yet another boom to the settlement. Soon, the town had its own paper, the Oatman Miner, as well as dozens of other businesses.

 

When Route 66 was first built in the 1920s, several supporters worked to have the road parallel the railroad through Yucca, where its supporters lived. However, Oatman was at its peak as a mining community and had more clout. So, even though it made the drive more difficult on those old Model-T’s, the road took the hazardous journey up Sitgreaves pass and bypassed Yucca.

 

In 1921, a fire burned much of Oatman,, but the town was rebuilt. Just three years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good.  But with the birth of Route 66, and other smaller mining operations, Oatman hanged on, catering to the many travelers along the new highway.

 

By 1930, it was estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had come from the mines. The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons and ten stores. There were over 10,000 people living in Oatman "area".

 

 

Continued Next Page

 

tom Reed Goldmine in Oatman Arizona

Tom Reed Goldmine, vintage postcard

 

 
 

Oatman Arizona Main Street

Oatman, Arizona Main Street, April, 2008,

Kathy Weiser.

 

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From Legends' General Store

Route 66  SignsRoute 66 Signs - Dozens of great metal signs to decorate that office or den. Makes a great gift for Route 66 enthusiasts and car buffs.  See them all HERE!

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