| Jerome once had the reputation of being the “Wickedest town in the West.” Brothels and taverns lined Main Street and shoot outs were all too common occurrences. But, this condemnation by a New York journalist was refuted by several local residents at the time, who boasted that Tombstone was far worse, and proudly stated that the town had 1 church for every 16 saloons.....
Mining was already occuring in the area when Cleopatra Hill became know as the Jerome camp in 1883. The existing claims came to be known as the United Verde Copper Comapany. Up to 20,000 dreamers migrated to Jerome at the peak of Copper mining, for the promise of 2.50-3.00 dollars a day working at the Jerome camp. Cleopatra Hill earned Jerome the nickname, "The billion dollar copper camp," by 1902. A true population estimate for Jerome at its height is nearly impossible as only caucasian males were counted.
In 1893, William Clark purchased United Verde's lands and claims and constructed a rail line connecting Ashfork to Phoenix. Clarkdale was named is his honor. Clark eventually sold to James Douglas, but not before his mining operations in Montana and Arizona earned him the title of the richest man in the West.
Like most early mining towns, Jerome was literally a "camp," constructed of wood and canvas roofing. Inevitably, in 1898 and again in 1899, most of Jerome burned to the ground. After those fires, Jerome elected to construct buildings with stone, brick or concrete. Unfortunately, this may not have been the best suited constuction type for the area and its mining operations, either. Collapsing areas of town and shifitng buildings lead residents to argue which was worse: heavy rain, or severe drought for making the land shift and heave. Jerome's "Sliding Jail" has traveled at least 225 ft from the original location.
1912 brought statehood to the Arizona territory, which meant big changes for Jerome. Gambling and prostituion were legal in territories, but not in the states. The era of the Madam was over in the last territorial refuge.
The mines in and surrounding Jerome produced an amazing amount of copper before a major decline in pricing worldwide eventually lead the mine to be closed. The Clarkdale smelter was closed in 1951, but the mine kept a skelton crew on hand, hoping the price of copper would increase. By the late 60's, Jerome had fewer than 50 residents, today, Jerome still has fewer than 500 year round residents.
A few small scale gold mines in the surrounding hills are currently in operation, and the increasing price in recent years has renewed interest in the areas resources.
Even though the Jerome produced an amazing amount of copper, some geologists speculate that the mother lode of copper in the area hasn't been utilized, nor even found. Some speculate that the largest lodes of copper and gold may well sit under the present day cities of Sedona Cottonwood or Jerome. It is thought that this area was once home to an under sea volcanic vent and as it erupted over the eons, rich copper and gold deposits collected on the sea floor, and were eventually uplifted into what we know now as Northern Arizona. Jerome is speculated to be just a small corner fringe of the possible deposit that may lie underneath.
As the mine slowly scaled back operations in the early 50's, Jerome became a ghost town, nearly uninhabited. A few squatters, hippies and hermits took over the forgotten ghost town. Over the years, artists, craftsman and writers began to move in, re-civilizing the outlaw refuge, until Jerome became the unique community it is today. In fact, many of the properties in the Jerome area were obtained originally through squatters rights, after the mining company long abandoned the area.
So, if you meet an individual or two in Jerome who seem a bit "out there", well, you must consider the towns long and colorful history, and just be glad they are, who they are, becuase we may not have a Jerome if it weren't for them!! Jerome continues to draw colorful people and those with unique perspectives, hobbies and skills.
About 450 people now live in Jerome (Still a ghost town by most standards) and real estate tends to not change hands very often. Offerings are few and far between, and often, snapped up quite quickly. Be prepared for a lengthier than normal title search! New construction in Jerome is sparse at best and the locals like it that way.
Jerome becomes a boom town DAILY during daylight hours. It is a very popular stop for tourists for amazing vistas, art galleries, and some olde tyme Arizona hospitality at one of the many fine eatieries that have opened there in recent years.
Bikers descend on Jerome on weekend afternoons and line the streets for live afternoon music, after an awesome ride on the S curves that dominate all roads leading to Jerome.
If you are looking for great food and live entertainment, plus a whole lot of atmosphere, Jerome is THE place to spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The people watching is great too… imagine nice, elderly couples holding hands, tourists in Hawaiian shirts, socks with sandals, all winding there way through a sea of Harley’s, Biker Dudes and Hippie Chics on the bustiling streets of Jerome.
Then, there is always the spectacle of a lost motorhome or semi-truck who ignored the "Hey stupid, you're too big to turn here" signs....that always draws a crowd. But then again, so does Jerome!