Desert Messenger

September 5, 2012

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September 5, 2012 Desert Messenger celebrates the Arizona Centennial with Voices from The Past in Quartzsite, AZ Excerpts from "In the Shadow of Saguaros" by Rosalee Oldham Wheeler The North Star Gold Mine From 1900 until 1911 the North Star Gold Mine experienced a short but very colorful existence. A man by the name of Felix Mayhew played an important role in the history of this mine. Mayhew came to Southwestern Arizona in 1899 to work at the King of Arizona (KofA) Mine. A lady that everyone took to be his wife accompa- nied him. Being a miner was hard work and danger- ous. Mayhew decided he didn't like the grueling work at the KofA and came up with an idea on how to make a lot of money without working so hard. He worked out a contract to fur- nish wood for the KofA and hired eight Mexicans to cut and haul the wood to the mine. When KofA paid for the wood, Mayhew kept most him- self and paid the Mexicans as little as he could get away with. Another of Mayhew's ventures was to open a saloon. He then managed to get himself appointed Deputy Constable at the KofA Mine. Mayhew was a large man who many thought was very handsome and had a way of attracting beautiful women. He easily made friends with Eugene Ives, one of the owners of the "King". At the 1900 Yuma Democratic Convention Mayhew was elected as a convention delegate. Ives was impressed with how Mayhew got four other delegates who couldn't be there to give him their proxy. Mayhew was familiar with the des- ert and the hills around the KofA. He was always on the lookout for water to give the burros used by his Mexicans wood haulers. The KofA's primary water supply had to be hauled from the Gila River 35 miles away. On one of his searches for water he found an outcropping of quartz with a lot of gold shining through. He fi led a claim on the site, calling it the North Star as it was north of the KofA Mine. There are many confl icting stories about who truly discovered the North Star, but the offi cial records show it was Felix Mayhew who fi led the claim and shown as the legal owner. Being a man who preferred easy money, Mayhew fi rst tried to sell the mine claim. Without success he decided the next best thing would be to take on some partners. He promoted the mine and was fi nally able to sell 50% of the mine to fi ve men. Then Dan Breslin, an experienced miner who had actu- ally worked at other mines in the area, told Mayhew that he knew the owners of the Picacho Mine situated over on the California side of the Colorado River, and that the owners might be interested in buying the North Star. The Picacho partners purchased the North Star for $350,000. A clear title to the mine was theirs when they paid Mayhew $166,666. Mayhew's fi ve partners shared the rest. The woman that Mayhew had originally brought with him to the KofA re-appeared and announced she wanted her share of Mayhew's $166,666 as his common law wife. She sued and Mayhew settled out of court for $23,000. Before the out of court settlement, Breslin showed up and took Mayhew to court on the grounds that he had arranged for Mayhew sell the North Star and deserved a 10% commission. In the fi rst trial, the jurors couldn't agree on Breslin's role in selling the North Star. At a second trial, that jury awarded Breslin $ 2,000. Even though it was much less than what Breslin had hoped, it contributed to the reduction in Mayhew's profi t. Polaris, a town named after a nearby prominent mountain, had been built near the North Star where miners who worked at other nearby mines also lived. To attract and keep family men as miners, Mayhew and his partners had built housing for its miners and their families. Like many other mining towns of the era, in 1911 Polaris died a sudden death. As late as 1910 Polaris was still a grow- ing town with nearly 150 residents. At one time the town of Polaris had around 30 buildings. Charles R. Mott was the superin- tendent at the North Star. A widower, he was raising his two little girls after his wife had died shortly after childbirth. Both girls attended the Polaris School. When the mine folded Mr. Mott married the schoolteacher, Miss Ella, and the family moved to Quartzsite. This distinguished looking gentleman al- ways wore a white shirt and tie, quick- ly gained the respect of the Quartzsite townsfolk who elected him magistrate of the local Judicial District. North Star was never a big producer of gold. The owners reported that just a little over one million dollars in gold Page 9 came from the mine. It was not the great moneymaker other mines in the area brought to their owners. In real- ity, the venture probably caused the new owners to loose money because in addition to the $350,000 paid for the claim they took on the expense of maintaining those nice living quar- ters, the mill, and operational costs. The closing of the mine in 1911 left many with an uncertain future. Other mines had already closed where the "pickin's were slim to none." The North Star owners kept on one miner as a worker/caretaker who took up residence in the old school house. As recently as 1995 a caretaker was looking after the mine and working the tailings. The weathered wood sid- ing on the old school house had been covered with new white boards across the front and one side belying the 95+ years of history the old school house represents. Little else is left at the North Star as vandals have destroyed the mill. PHOTO ABOVE: North Star Mine owners L to R; front row, Juan Verdugo, Felix Mayhew, Bill Smith. Back row, Sam DeCorse, Nick Larsen and Charles DeCorse. 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