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  • 15 Aug 2020 11:13 AM | Anonymous
    With the Election just behind us, this seemed like a good time to share some history about Clarkdale’s first elected female mayor, Dorothy Benatz.   The following article in the archives of CHSM  from the Spectator March, 1986 makes for an interesting read.  Congratulations to Clarkdale's 2020 second elected female Mayor Robin Prud'homme-Bauer. 

    Dorothy was a deputy clerk from April 1960, and she worked in that position until May 1966 when she became clerk of Clarkdale for the next 11 years.  She was sworn in as a council member in 1980 and served for six years as its mayor.  archives


  • 9 Aug 2020 2:32 PM | Anonymous

    According to a source quoting the Verde Copper News, Saint Cecilia’s Mission has been nestled into the low hills of Upper Clarkdale for 100 years, welcoming the faithful to celebrate Catholic Mass.

    St Cecilia's Mission

    The property for the mission was leased by the Bishop of Tucson, Bishop Henry Granjon, in 1920.  The Wm. Simpson Construction Company of Los Angeles, CA began construction shortly after.

    The first Catholic church built in the Verde Valley was Jerome’s Holy Family. Next came St. Cecilia’s.  Both were missions of the Tucson Diocese.  These missions, as well as Cottonwood’s Immaculate Conception, were led by priests of the Claretian Order which was founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1849.  They began their work in Mexico and the US in the early 1900s. A partial list of the Claretian missionaries is appended.

    A partial list of priests serving St. Cecilia’s after the Claretians include:

    Rev. John Atucha (1940-1950s)

    Rev. John Driscoll (mid 1950s)

    Rev. Phillip Rieser (1960s)

    Rev. Anthony Schwartz (early 1970s)

    Rev. Raymond Gillis (mid 1970s)

    Rev. Michael Hurley (late 1970 through 2002)

    Today, St. Cecilia’s Mission is under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Phoenix led by Father Salgado .  It is a mission of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church located on State Route 89A in Cottonwood, Arizona.

    St. Cecilia’s beautiful building appears much the same as it did when first built.  The addition of the Rectory was accomplished by Father Phillip Rieser in the mid-1950s.  Father Rieser, known as “The Builder,” assisted in the construction of many of the Catholic churches in Yavapai County.

    Another St. Cecilia’s priest, Reverend John Driscoll, assisted in the establishment and building of Sedona’s renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross.

    Reverend Phillip Rieser served in the 1960’s.  “Father Rieser had a St. Patrick’s Day carnival every year, “ says Barbara Andre. “It had bingo, a cake walk and one of those little fishing ponds for the kids.  It probably wouldn’t draw people today, but it was a big deal back then!  It brought in a lot of money.”

    The missions were all self-supporting.  No funds came from the Diocese. Each mission, including St. Cecilia’s had to bring in enough money to support the priest and all building expenses, such as heat and water.

    Reverend Raymond Gillis who served in the early 1970s, is remembered as an austere man, very serious and given to such practices as denying himself food and sleeping on the floor.  His replacement could not have been more of a contrast.

    In July of 1977, Reverend Michael Hurley was appointed to lead St. Cecelia’s.  Known as Father Mike, his memory evokes joy from all who relate stories about him. Hailing from Chicago, he enjoyed a drink, a smoke and a good laugh.

    “The best thing about Father Mike: short sermons!” according to parishioner Ruth Wicks.

    “Father Mike was kicked out of a nursing home for smoking while he was on oxygen,” recalls Barbara Andre. “He’d give it up for Lent then go right back to smoking.”

    Ms. Wicks said that around 1985, the Mingus graduation ceremony was threatened by heavy spring rain.  Mingus Superintendent Ron Barber reportedly handed a $10 bill to Maintenance Supervisor Lupe Uribe, a member of St. Cecilia’s, and told him to get Father Mike to use his influence to control the wet weather.  The graduation was mercifully dry, but the skies opened up right after the ceremony. 

    “He was a very kind man,” says Ms. Wicks.

    Father Mike’s retirement in July of 2002 precipitated the closure of Saint Cecilia’s.  Clarkdale’s dwindling population, the lack of available priests and the construction of Cottonwood’s new Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception were all factors in the decision.

    According to longtime organist, Roberta Westcott, Saint Cecilia’s again began celebrating mass regularly about 15 years ago.  The current priest, Reverend Salgado, rolled up his sleeves and evicted the population of rodents that had commandeered the building.  “He put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,“ said Ms. Westcott.

    Today, St. Cecilia’s Mission still welcomes the faithful to a traditional Latin Mass celebrated every Sunday by Father Salgado. Daily Mass and confession are available.

    Photo by Bill Jones of Clarkdale circa 1979

  • 21 Jul 2020 12:13 PM | Anonymous

    The Town of Clarkdale will be establishing a Historic Preservation Commission, which is the last step in gaining Certified Local Government status with the State Historic Preservation Office.  This commission will enable the town of Clarkdale to apply for grants to preserve historic structures, including our museum building. CHSM will draft and present a Proclamation supporting the establishment of a Historical Preservation Commission to the Town Council meeting on July 28th.  

    The commission must be composed of at least five members, all of whom have a demonstrated interest, experience, or knowledge in at least one of the following; history, architectural history, architecture, historic interiors, historic architecture, planning archaeology, historic archaeology, real estate, historic preservation law, or other historic preservation related field.

    Applications for the Historical Preservation Commission are being accepted by the town and may be found on the Town website.  https://www.clarkdale.az.gov 

  • 1 Jul 2020 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum (CHSM) has been awarded an $8,000.00 grant from Arizona Humanities.

    Working under a tight deadline and unable to meet face-to face, the CHSM Board of Directors applied for the grant to offset the cancellation of fundraising activities.

    The money awarded will be used for materials, on-line outreach activities and building utilities expenses. The grant is funded by the Congressional CARES Act Emergency Relief Fund through the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    Arizona Humanities is a statewide 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and the Arizona affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since 1973, Arizona Humanities has supported public programs that promote the understanding of the human experience with cultural, educational, and nonprofit organizations across Arizona. 

    Cares GrantLights, Camera, Action!

    A very exiting project that can be funded by the CARES Grant is the production of videos. 

    Though it is hoped that the first videos will be available soon, new ventures are often tricky, so don’t wait!  Visit the website today and explore the many resources available to you right now.  https://clarkdalemuseum.org

    CHSM will begin producing short videos to include Museum tours, artifact exploration, and historic building tours, which will be posted to the website soon.

  • 30 Jun 2020 1:08 PM | Anonymous

    Nancy SmithWe wish to extend a warm thank you to Nancy Smith for her dedication in furthering our mission to preserve and protect the unique history and built environment of Clarkdale, “Arizona’s first company town and planned community.”    Nancy's perseverance and expertise have produced a lasting contribution to our region’s rich history, economic development and a higher quality of life for our citizens.

    The CHSM Board of Directors and Past Board Presidents honor Nancy's contributions and collaboration over the decades which include:

    • The placement of the Clark Memorial Clubhouse on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982
    • Working as a historian for “A Historic Resource Survey of Clarkdale, Arizona” in 1989
    • Preparing and finalizing the application for the Clarkdale Historic District to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 which resulted in its acceptance in 1998
    • Completing the application and establishment of the Clarkdale Heritage Center as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2003
    • Working to prepare and open the Clarkdale Heritage Center now known as the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum in 2007
    • Serving on the Board of Directors for the Clarkdale Heritage Center.
    • Serving as our featured speaker at the September 2019 CHSM First Friday event
    • Providing accounting services and reporting advice to CHSM

    Nancy's thorough work as the historian for “A Historic Resource Survey of Clarkdale, AZ created a document we use as a primary source for historical relevance and accuracy. 

     left to right Pat Williams, Drake Meinke, and Nancy Smith, circa 2007Nancy Smith

  • 23 Jun 2020 9:38 AM | Anonymous

    William ClarkClarkdale, Arizona is a true historic treasure, having its roots as one of the real formative "play-makers" of Arizona history as Clarkdale established itself as a company town for "King Copper" here in the Verde Valley.. The Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum (CHSM) has become the very soul of local history and historical preservation. The following resolution, read by CHSM President Mike Lindner, formalizes that CHSM role:

    Whereas, the Town of Clarkdale was the first master planned community in Arizona, and

    Whereas, the Town of Clarkdale was the quintessential “company town” where the mining company owned most of the commercial, industrial, retail, residential, and recreation amenities, and

    Whereas, those various structures together comprised a comprehensive and integrated economic, social, recreational and residential system, and

    Whereas, by and large the commercial and residential structures within the historic townsite remain intact, and

    Whereas, the uniqueness of the Town of Clarkdale’s history and physical built environment differentiate it from other municipalities, and

    Whereas, that difference is a window into an important aspect of the history of this region, state, and country, and

    Whereas, that history is of interest to heritage tourism enthusiasts, and

    Whereas, heritage tourism can be a boon to a local economy, and

    Whereas, a strong economy provides livelihood to residents, a critical mass of economic activity that supports other businesses, local availability of goods and services, resources for the local government to provide services, stability, and community pride, and

    Whereas, Clarkdale residents are proud of the Town’s history and heritage, and

    Whereas, the economy, aesthetics, historical integrity, and sense of place in Clarkdale are strongly connected to the embracing of the preservation of Clarkdale’s unique history, and

    Whereas, achieving a balance between private property rights and historic preservation can serve both interests, and

    Whereas, the Town of Clarkdale is currently in the process of updating its General Plan,

    the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum’s Board of Directors recommends to the Town of Clarkdale that the importance of historic preservation be acknowledged and embraced by including a separate “Element” or “Chapter” entitled “Historic Preservation” in its General Plan update to focus on the importance of and challenges to the preservation and protection of the commercial, retail, industrial, recreational, and residential built environment with its uniqueness in architectural design and function within the integrated historic town footprint.





  • 20 Jun 2020 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    Posted by Teresa Propeck on May, 26 2020

    “Arizona’s longest-running nature show,” Verde Canyon Railroad, has long-been an Arizona Treasure, a destination-driver for the entire Verde Valley, and a wellspring of memories for well-over two million passengers who have enjoyed the scenic adventure aboard this historic line since the inaugural run on Friday, November 23, 1990. In November 2020, the Railroad celebrates the 30th anniversary of its beloved “Wilderness Route” which takes passengers across a scenic ribbon of rail running between stunning high-desert red-rock pinnacles and a rare riparian venue along the famous Verde River.

    Product first moved along this historic line, called the Verde Valley Railway, in 1912, with a direct correlation to Arizona shedding its territorial background and becoming the nation’s 48th state. Verde Canyon Railroad’s pedigree also harkens to the early days of train travel when iron horses were the newest and quickest mode of transportation to move goods, service and people across the country.  In 2019, the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, which christened the nation’s first Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory, Utah, served as a reminder that until recently, the U.S., and especially the West, was a land of great distances and few roads. Railroads like the Verde Valley Railway, financed by the United Verde Copper Company, connected Clarkdale, Arizona to the cross-country Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF), bringing abundant copper harvests from Jerome to the world, and in turn, bringing the world to the remote towns of the Verde Valley.

    After the mines closed in 1953, the Verde Valley Railway, nicknamed the “Verde Mix” because it hauled a diverse mixture of people and product, took on a new task of hauling cement and byproducts from the Phoenix Cement Plant in Clarkdale to the new Glen Canyon Dam which created Lake Powell. In 1988, Clarkdale Arizona Central Railroad, owned by Dave Durbano, purchased the railroad from the Santa Fe Railway (once ATSF), sight unseen, based on freight figures alone. After arriving in Clarkdale, Dave was so inspired by the Verde Canyon’s magnificent scenery and the Verde Valley’s mild four-season climate that he and wife Linda were convinced others would want to see this route’s incredible beauty from the comfort of a train.  The notion of an excursion train finally had roots.

    With just a handful of midcentury passenger cars and flatcars, fashioned into open-air viewing cars, the train pulled out of the station in 1990 with every seat full for three straight days. The Durbanos felt that they would move about 15,000 people per year into the canyon via the rails, but to their amazement, 44,000 passengers rode the very first year with only word-of-mouth as their megaphone.

    The railroad has added and upgraded cars over the past 30 years, and the length of the train has expanded considerably. It now clocks in at a cool quarter mile long from the front of the locomotive to the back of the caboose. Car maintenance and improvements are always at the forefront, as passenger comfort is a signature of Verde Canyon Railroad.  The depot complex also has seen its share of upgrades over 30 years, from its modest beginning in a caboose and a boxcar to the 1997 creation of the southwestern-style depot, Copper Spike Café, Boxcar Gift Store and John Bell Museum. Food and beverage options, both onboard and at the depot, are always rising to meet trends and exceed expectations.

    As a cornerstone to Verde Valley tourism, the Railroad always has been a team player in strengthening tourism throughout Northern and Central Arizona communities. “If area businesses work together with a single goal of bringing people to the area for more than just one attraction, one meal, one night’s stay or crowd-pleasing scenery, the entire community can flourish,” said Teresa Propeck, Vice President of Marketing and Passenger Services. In cooperation with other area attractions, chambers, businesses and hotels, Verde Canyon Railroad enhances the visitor experience and the flow of tourism dollars throughout the region.

    As the train’s ridership grew and return passengers came to experience the canyon in different seasons, inspiration for year-round celebrations came to fruition.  Autumn’s Ales on Rails beer-tasting extravaganza, summer’s Grape Train Escape wine-tasting trains, and December’s Magical Christmas Journey™ have added a whole new dimension to riding the rails through a scenic wonderland.

    Another component of the ride for which Verde Canyon Railroad is well known is eagles. As one of the state’s premiere migrating destinations for raptors, including the bald eagle, Verde Canyon Railroad is proud to showcase migrating and resident eagles and waterfowl in this natural environment, only accessible by rail.  The Railroad also is a steadfast and economic supporter of Arizona Game and Fish’s Eagle Watch Program and Liberty Wildlife, Arizona’s premier wildlife rescue agency. Giving back to the community through a kinship with nature has long been a hallmark of Verde Canyon Railroad.

    Over the past three decades, the train has expanded in size, employees and special events, but Verde Canyon Railroad has never lost its commitment to preserving, protecting and presenting to the world the rare red-rock riparian wilderness it calls home.

    Story with permission.

    Video: Arizona Highways.Nov. 10, 2010

    It will always be about the journey!

  • 17 May 2020 7:04 AM | Anonymous

    Verbon Yates

    Oral history interviews in the Museum’s collection provide great insights into Clarkdale life in earlier days.  Many interviews have been recorded, especially in recent years by Dinah and Jim Gemmill.  This summary shares just one of the great stories they recorded in an interview with Verbon Yates at his home in Ajo, Az in 2017 (see pic, below). 

    Verbon's Dad left Alabama for Arizona in 1935 and got a job at the Clarkdale smelter.  Verbon's family lived in 3 different houses on 2nd Street from 1936-1943. In 1943, the Yates family moved to Main St (today, Ruth Wick's house).  Verbon has many recollections including:

    - In the early days, the coal sheds in Lower Town contained a toilet.

    - The Clark Memorial Clubhouse was Verbon's 2nd home the summer, especially the pool where he spent the entire day.  At 13 y.o., Verbon started setting pins on the 4-lane bowling alley.  Verbon remembers the old widowers and bachelors who worked for the Company who would eat dinner at King's Cafe, then go to the Clubhouse and read magazines/newspapers in comfy easy chairs while smoking cigars.  Verbon describes getting a library card which enabled him to use the Clubhouse library; books could be checked out, but had to be used on site.  Verbon played pool at the Clubhouse when he was in High School and won a lot of money. 

    - The Drug Store was where you went to get popcorn for the movie.   As a young child, he would let his buddies sneak into the Clarkdale Theatre via the fire exit door.

    - To earn money for college Yates worked for the smelter’s railroad from 1948 - 1950 as a brakeman, conductor, on the rip track, at the round house and with the fire locomotives.  See pic below from his smelter employment days. 

    - He caddy’ed at the Verde Valley Country Club and skinny dipped for golf balls at Peck's Lake.

    - Near Verbon's residence on 2nd St., burros could often be found.  Verbon lost many a belt after using them for halters. 

    - Many hours were spent playing at the softball field near the grade school (Lower Town).  Verbon describes how Jimmy Stewart and other movie stars played him and a team of local guys, while filming a movie.  Softball games were a regular community event.  Arden Ice Cream from Cottonwood would sell ice cream in insulated bags.  After ball games finished, the 15-16 year old kids would walk down Bitter Creek to Barrigan's Pool Hall in Patio Town which had a beer bar and grocery store. 

    - With hard-earned money, Verbon and Ray Wease bought tennis rackets.  They would play tennis at night when Amy Roberts, caretaker of the Men's Dormitory (today’s Clarkdale Lodge) would turn on the court lights (the court surfaces and score board are still present and front Main St.)

    - When the smelter was shutting down, Verbon and his Dad were told if you want to go to Ajo, you have a job.

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