Henry Wickenburg was the prospector who discovered and established Vulture Mine and founded his namesake town, serving in several capacities such as school inspector and census taker.
What happened to him, though? A recent presentation by forensic pathologist Caroline Cross at Desert Caballeros Western Museum has caused many to speculate as to his death.
Early Life and Education
An 1862 gold discovery near Wickenburg inspired hardy prospectors and miners from California and Mexico to search for other minerals throughout central Arizona, leaving their marks on many of its landmarks. Their names can still be seen etched into many landmarks of this region today.
Prior to Wickenburg’s boom, several unsuccessful attempts were made at finding gold in the region. Mining activity resumed shortly thereafter in the early 1900s.
Wickenburg is now a popular tourist destination, featuring everything from guest ranches and brand name motels to family-run bed and breakfast inns and unique shops. Its historic downtown district contains more than 25 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places; furthermore, this vibrant community hosts various annual heritage events.
Henry Wickenburg is best-known as the discoverer and founder of Vulture Mine and, later, its namesake town – but this wasn’t just luck on his part; rather his perseverance and entrepreneurialism helped establish him as an influential pioneer within mining industry.
He assisted with developing the area’s mining infrastructure, provided funding for Jack Swilling’s irrigation project and donated land for the inaugural church in Wickenburg. Furthermore, he served as judge, justice of the peace and school inspector.
People speculated that Wickenburg may have not committed suicide but was instead murdered for reasons other than suicidality, which may explain his property being inherited by Helene Holland at his death and later by her descendants – including today!
Achievement and Honors
Henry Wickenburg made an indelible mark on the region and its namesake town. He discovered the Vulture Mine and founded Wickenburg, Arizona; as well as prospecting, he served as postmaster, Justice of the Peace, school inspector, census taker and even donated land for their first church building.
Hassayampa River Valley and surrounding mountain ranges help create its mild winter climate, as does an ample supply of pure mountain water that helps soften desert winds.
It offers visitors an abundance of unique flora and fauna, thrilling tours, and rich Western history – making it an excellent place for exploration at your own pace.
Henry Wickenburg was born in Crefeld, Germany in 1819. As a youth he and his brother worked coal mines before immigrating to America during the California Gold Rush of 1847; naturalizing as an American citizen four years later.
Wickenburg built the Vulture Mine and founded his namesake city. Through his persistence and entrepreneurialism, his mark on Arizona mining industry remains ever present today.
Wickenburg did not commit suicide as reported in two newspapers accounts; rather he died from gunshot wounds to his head. He was discovered lying in a grove between his house and J.W. Etter’s residence with a revolver held tightly in his right hand; powder burns could be seen around his temple and forefinger.
At this point, both the town and mining activity began to flourish simultaneously. A railroad was constructed, which not only revived local mining activity but also helped improve local agriculture, fuel a building boom, connect the isolated town to outside world, as well as spurring on various architectural styles – like Colonial Revival style seen here in School Superintendent MacLennan’s 1925 house (2-7).
Ranching quickly evolved into an important industry. Many larger ranches capitalized on eastern visitors to offer resort-type activities such as tennis, swimming and golf in addition to dude ranch services. When Henry Wickenburg died in 1905 he still was financially secure.