Once known as the “Wickedest town in the West”, Jerome was a copper mining camp, evolving from a few tents and shacks to a roaring mining community of mansions and quaint Victorian homes. Jerome was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory. The population peaked at 15,000 during the 1920’s. The mines later closed in 1953. Today the town is the residence to about 450 souls who promote the hillside community as a historic ‘living’ ghost town.
Men and women from all over the world flocked to Arizona to find work, wealth and a successful life in the West. They brought their families and did whatever it took to feed and clothe them. Some of these pioneers met with tragedies as disease, murder, suicide, and mining accidents. A cemetery was established on a nearby hill that overlooked the town of Jerome, and had spectacular views of the Verde Valley.
Some of these industrious pioneers died all too soon. Night time visitors to the old cemetery startle themselves with their own shadowy dark figures moving between the tombstones that date from 1897 to 1942. Sometimes footsteps are heard as if someone is following close behind you. Folks in town shake their heads and warn visitors to be aware of rattle snakes during the day and wild animals–such as bobcats and mountain lions after dark.
Just driving to the cemetery gate can be quite a feat to those making that first time visit. As you exit Jerome on Highway 89, you must make a sharp left turn on a tiny road called North Street that immediately drops downward at a slanted angle. The dirt road ends at the cemetery gate. You must exit your vehicle to walk through the cemetery gate to visit the worn paths among the old crosses and tombstones.
One evening a group of cemetery enthusiasts were quietly snapping photographs in the dark when they heard what sounded like footsteps just to the northwest end of the cemetery. They stood still in silence in order to focus on which direction the sounds were coming from. Soon a moaning sound filtered through the air.
The group huddled together in the old cemetery for they had no clue what they were about to encounter at the top of the knoll. Slowly they crept up the side of the hill. Just as they reached the top, the pitiful moan filled the night air once again. They quickly whipped their flashlights in the direction where the dreadful wail bellowed in the moonlight. One of the ladies gasped out loud. The beam of the flashlight shone brightly on the culprit—a 50 pound wild javelina!
Please be aware of desert creatures when you explore the wilds of Arizona for your own safety! The town of Jerome is about 90 miles from the city of Phoenix. Enjoy a day into Arizona’s past!