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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : people, places & past May 24, 2016


7/8/2014 3:54:00 PM
Millions of notes later ... Herb Young told the stories of Jerome
Centenary drawing of Verde Valley author Herbert V. Young
Centenary drawing of Verde Valley author Herbert V. Young
Herbert V. Young and two of the books he wrote on Jerome: “They Came to Jerome” and “Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill.”
Herbert V. Young and two of the books he wrote on Jerome: “They Came to Jerome” and “Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill.”

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter


CLARKDALE -- Diane Sward Rapaport opens the first chapter of her delightful, recently published collection of stories of the rebirth of Jerome, "Home Sweet Jerome," with a remarkable question and observation by Herbert V. Young.

"Ever seen an acre of copper? That's what there was in the yards of the smelter in Clarkdale, when Phelps Dodge bought the United Verde Copper Company in 1935. Ninety million pounds of it - nine million ten-pound bars."

Herb Young was there. It was from that kind that depth of personal knowledge by the one-time executive secretary to Jerome's billion-dollar copper camp, the first Town Clerk for Clarkdale, archivist for the Jerome Historical Society and lifelong writer that much of the history of the mining boom of Jerome is told.

Because of Young's consistency in recording the times of the rise and fall of Jerome, nearly every subsequent author of the town's histories will cite Herbert V. Young.

And so, today, in the offices of the Town of Clarkdale is a framed colorful portrait of the man who dutifully and clearly kept all the notes giving the most productive 40 years of his life to the mine, its owners and followers.

The portrait was painted during Young's 100th year. He would die the following year. A note by the artist says, "I left with the impression that he looked back on his life with an amused chuckle for taking it all so seriously. Yet, I also felt, if asked, he would say, 'It is the only way to live it.'"

Two interviews with Young during the 1970s show the humble background which fostered the keen mind that collated millions of notes. This selection takes from interviews by Virginia E. Rice, librarian at the University of Arizona in 1974, and Sarah Bouquet for a local oral history in 1977.

Young wrote two books on the history of Jerome, "Ghost of Cleopatra Hill," which recalls the history of the mining business in Jerome. "They Came to Jerome" recounts the story of the people that came and populated the hillside town. A lesser-known third book, "Water by the Inch," is the story of life of an Arizona pioneer.

"My father was one of the early pioneers of the Salt River Valley. He homesteaded there in 1886. I was born there the following year. The valley was not well developed. Conditions were primitive. My father bought a relinquishment from another man and the best he could find was at the extreme west end of the valley right down on the Aqua Fria River. He had a one-room shack, and had no shade, no trees, just out in the open. He came there by himself, leaving his wife and two children in Ohio. For the next few months he worked hard, trying to get the mesquite and cactus and sagebrush and greasewood cleared off so he could plant crops. He also had to fence 160 acres, building two miles of fence single-handedly."

The property was at the very end of the Grand Canal irrigation and when floods would come, it would wash out the dams and there would be no water until they could reconstruct it.

His father went into the cattle business, clearing the land, fencing. He bought stock and depleted his capital and never had enough to build a house that he dreamed of and that drew plans for.

They never wanted for food. There were too many quail; they would roast cottontails and chickens. Once a year, his father would butcher a young steer and dry the meat strips into jerky since there was no refrigeration. Herbert had the chore of pounding the hard black meat strips so his mother could use them in cooking.

Then in 1897 his father got typhoid fever and died.

The family remained on the Salt River for another year, and then the property was taken up by a cousin for shares, and his mother and children returned to Ohio where the family lived for four years.

But, Young writes, "She had the West in her blood and moved back to California."

The cousin got tired of ranching in the Salt River basin. Herbert's older brother took over the place, and he followed after a year. The brother ran the place for two years before his mother Zelia sold the land. First, she bought 40 acres south of the capitol, and then, traded that for a share in a large fruit ranch along the Verde River here in the Verde Valley.

Herbert began formal school in a one-room schoolhouse, 12 miles west of Phoenix, in what is now the Tolleson district.

"Me and the other children started school at home. My mother didn't feel we had to go 3 1/2 miles to school on horseback. She began to teach us at an early age and we were pretty well grounded in the fundamentals when we started in the school.

"I didn't get a high school certificate. Out schooling was spotty. Going from an Arizona school to an Ohio school was a problem. I went into the eighth grade in Marion, Ohio, and then mother moved us all to California and I entered the old Los Angeles High School as a sophomore. But, when we got the ranch back, my brother wanted me to help. But my efforts were extensive at educating myself.

"I wrote my first short story when I was seven. I got the craze to be a writer. I kept scribbling all the way through school. When I was about 20, I wanted to try to make magazines, starting with old time Western fiction, the cowboy stuff.

"All this is formula. You try to get a narrative hook at the beginning to attract attention. You give a hint of the plot, then you introduce characters with the situations, develop the plot, reach a climax and so on.

"I didn't have any experience as a cowboy. Our ranch was in the middle of the desert. My brother and I would take the cattle out to graze and bring them back. I didn't know any lawmen except in Jerome and Clarkdale later. I considered myself an avocational writer, because I never got far enough along where I could depend on it for a living income. So, I trained myself as a secretary.

"I had taken a six-month night course at the Madison Business College in Phoenix. I had shorthand, typewriting. That is the extent of my business education, but I survived.

"My wife and I were married in 1911, the same year we came up here. We lived on the ranch in the Tapco area. It was a thousand acres of fruit trees; peaches and apples before the smelter got them.

"It was a big green valley at first. We came into Jerome over the little old United Verde and Pacific Railroad, Senator Clark's road to the mine. There was no way in or out except the railroad and the old Cherry Creek Road into Prescott. Where Clarkdale town is now, there was nothing here, just desert land. And that is the way we got to the ranch."

The ranch had an adobe two story house and had been farmed for many years by Ed Jordan.

"We stayed there a year. We were going to have our first child and I decided it would be good idea to get up to Jerome if I could get work to do. So I applied for a job to Will Clark, who was the manager of the United Verde Copper Company, but was not related to the owner.

"I just so happened that I was able to impress him with letters of recommendation from some of the most prominent people in Phoenix. I had worked with the Territorial Fair Commission, the Land Office and Dwight B. Hearst's Office. The Fair Commission was chaired by J.C. Adams of the Adams Hotel. I got a letter from him and that impressed William Clark no end. He said he didn't have anything now but they were starting up the smelter in 1912. As it happened his secretary resigned a couple weeks earlier and they called for me.

"I was as general secretary, but developed into executive secretary for the manager's ­office. I was in the thick of everything."

The mine grew and prospered and was eventually sold to Phelps Dodge.

"I retired the same year the mine closed. I went to work for the company the year that Clarkdale was started and the new smelter built, and reached retirement age the year the mine closed. So I didn't have any periods when I had nothing to do.

"I went to work on my books and then Clarkdale incorporated in 1957, in which I had a hand. I became the clerk/treasurer and magistrate, for the Town of Clarkdale. I held that office for seven years, then I quit and went to work on my books. The first one was published in '64 and the next one in '72.

Young is asked about the transition from writing westerns to writing history.

"The western pulp magazines passed out of existence. And so there wasn't any market for the kind of stuff I'd been writing. I wrote a couple novels, which were not published. They were also westerns, but I went more into character studies than just pure adventures."

Sarah Bouquet wonders, "Did you start to feel responsible for the history of Jerome. That you were he person to collect it and put it down?"

"Yes, I did because I had the job of going through all the ancient files up here before I left the employ of the company. And I was very careful to pick out everything that had been of historical value. And gradually it developed that I was the only one left in the organization, or in the Valley, that had accumulated any such treasure. And then I began to realize if the history was to be written, it probably was up to me to find the history, the one of real value, men with the real true stories of the Valley."

"I first had a desire to write and then a fascination with the history of this Verde Valley. Then, the desire to collect all the information I could from the old timers who were gradually passing away. I don't think there are any of the old settlers left. But I was able to contact many of them like the Wingfields of Camp Verde and Charlie Willard of Cottonwood, before they died.

"When I was a kid, I wrote rhymes. When I was in my 20s, they started to publish everything I wrote. I thought I was a big shot and called them poems. Now I feel when I read them again, I am not a poet. So I am back to calling them rhymes.

"They smelted 15 million pounds of copper a month in this town and they had two 400-foot tall smoke stacks. Then it finally played out on them and when they quit, believe me, they just sold the whole town. I worked there for 40 years."

I left with the impression that he looked back on his life with an amused chuckle for taking it all so seriously.

Yet, I also felt, if asked, he would say, it is the only way to live it.

-- Contact the reporter at jhutchinson@verdenews.com

Taylor Waste

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