Old Stone Foundations
And Their Place In The History of Kelvin Az
Kelvin is an old mining town located approximately 25 miles northeast of Florence. The town's history officially began in 1899 when an English company, "Ray Copper Mines Ltd." surveyed the town site located at the junction of Mineral Creek and the Gila River. This article from the Florence Tribune on October 21, 1899 summarized the early beginnings of the town.
While using Google Earth to "fly over" the old townsite of Kelvin, two sets of foundations popped into view that looked interesting. GE measurements of the larger set indicated that the building there had once occupied approximately 6000 sq ft. of space. After a visit to the site to see the foundations in person, I really became curious about their history. Here is what I found......
These are ground level photos of the foundations at location "1" on the GE image. The foundations were heavy duty in their construction. The builders had not used poured concrete, but had gathered field stones that were then stuck together using a cement mortar. From the square corners and the straight edges that were found on many of the stones, it was evident that skilled stone masons had been involved in the construction process.
The foundations at "2" were similar in construction but smaller in scale. The building here had been about 1200 sq ft in size.
A third set of foundations that were not too far away also came to our attention. These were also constructed from stacked field stones, Besides holding up the walls of a building structure, these foundations had also acted as retaining walls to hold back soil at different levels down off an angled slope. This site was obiously an old metal ore concentration facility.
Where the foundations were located in the town of Kelvin:
Around 1908, a panoramic photo that included a "birds eye" view of Kelvin was published by the California Panorama Company. The panoramic image was created by stitching together four individual photos. The view below is from one section of that photo.
With so many physical landmarks visible in the historic photo, we wondered whether a similar view could be created using a Google Earth Image that included the locations of the foundations? Would we be able to "see" where in the town the foundations had been and could we perhaps use that info to learn more about their history?
This was the view that resulted when the Google Earth image was tilted and rotated so that the landmarks in the image were in the same position as those in the historical photo. It was somewhat surprising to see that the foundations seemed to line up with buildings in the historic photo. Foundations "1" and "2" appeared to be associated with two large buildings in the center of the old photo. The mill foundations lined up with structures at the river's edge to the far left of the photo.
A historical photo that was used in a David Myrick book, "Railroads of Arizona Vol II" provided the clues to identify the buildings associated with the 3 foundations. The photo was included in the chapter "Ray and Gila Valley Railroad Company" where Myrick told the history of the narrow gauge railroad line that had been constructed in 1899 to carry copper ore from the mines located on Mineral Creek down to a concentrating mill located on the Gila River. The Kelvin Mill, several other buildings, and a section of the railroad bed appeared in the photo.
To confirm that there was an association of the mill in the Myrick photo with the mill foundations that we had come across, we hiked to a hill that was south of the foundations and snapped a new photo with a similar perspective as the one in the Myrick book. There was a good alignment between the buildings in the historical image and the foundations in the recent photo. An additional landmark that appeared in both images was the raised section of the narrow gauge railroad bed to the left of the mill .
The identifications for the buildings in the Myrick photo were: "On the knoll beyond the mill was the staff house and, to its right, the manager's house. The company hotel is the white building with the balcony, to its right is the company office building."
Excerpts from a December 29, 1899 article in the Arizona Republican noted the construction of the concentrating mill, staff house, and general manager's house. "The company" in the article was the Ray Copper Mines Ltd. Co, an English Company.
The Staff House was mentioned several times in newspaper articles from the early days of Kelvin. Employees who worked in the offices of the Ray Copper Mines Ltd. Company lived in the staff house. The Ray Consolidated Copper Company continued to use the building after it became the owner of the mining operation in 1907. Dignitaries passing through the area could stay at the staff house during their visits. Traveling speakers and other entertainers would often give presentations and performances there. Tennis matches were held on the grounds. This article, which appeared in the October 26, 1909 edition of the Arizona Republican, described a social event that was held at the staff house.
The performance of the Kelvin Mill was key to the success of the English company. Unfortunately, the mill never lived up to expectations. The operators were not able to process the tonnage of copper ore necessary for the company's operation to be profitable. The ore graded out at 2%, 5% had been expected.
In 1907, the company was sold. The new company, the Ray Consolidated Copper Company. employed engineers who were more experienced with the kinds of ores found at the Ray mines. They soon determined that a newer and much larger mill was needed. The Kelvin Mill was closed in 1909. There was no space available in Kelvin to either construct a new facility, or to dispose of a large mill's tailings. A new site was chosen 15 miles to the east. It was around that replacement mill that the new town of Hayden was established. The new mill opened in 1911.
After the arrival of the railroad in 1904, the town served as both a commercial and a transportation hub. Train excursions were often scheduled to the town from the Phoenix area. This announcement appeared in the April 10, 1908 edition of the Arizona Republican..
This photo which was used in the Myrick book, was taken along a section of the town's Main Street. Main Street ran parallel to the narrow gauge railroad line that connected the town to the mines at Ray. The "cottages" that sit in a row at the top left of the photo were constructed in 1908 to provide housing for married office workers employed by the Ray Consolidated Copper Company.
This is the current view of the area once occupied by the Main Street of Kelvin. In 1909, the narrow gauge railroad was torn up and standard gauge tracks were installed. A junction with the Arizona Eastern railroad line that ran to Winkelman was created east of Kelvin and given the name Ray Junction.