The story of most ghost towns in America is basically the same: gold or another commodity is discovered, miners move in, the gold runs out, and everyone leaves. We see it time and time again in the abandoned ruins of communities across the West. But, by luck or by determination, some towns managed to escape this fate. Of the few towns that survived, few were closer to abandonment than Jerome, Arizona: for a time, it had fewer than 100 citizens... but it was those 100 people who saved Jerome from total extinction, and managed to grow it into a bustling destionation hotspot! 


The town's history goes back quite far, and like most boom towns, is tied to mining. People haven known about the rich mines in the area since long before the gold rush. Native tribes likely knew of it and mined the deposits for gemstones, and even Spanish explorers in the 1500's made note of its existence. The first mining claims were made in the 1870's, and after several rough years of struggling with transporting the metal by wagon, fires ravaging the downtown area, and low copper prices, the town of Jerome finally found its footing in 1900, when it had grown from 250 citizens to 2,500 in a short ten years. Like most mining towns, its population was largely male (78% to be exact) and since mine was producing money for everyone, gambling, saloons and prostitution flourished; hence the New York Sun declaring Jerome to be "the wickedest town in the West" in 1903.


Another ore deposit was discovered nearby in 1914, and that same year, World War I ramped up, creating an even higher demand for copper. More mining companies moved in, the operations grew larger, and the town of Jerome boomed. Even through the 1920's, Jerome was prosperous, but the Great Depression deeply affected copper prices. Add that to the fact that the environmental effects were taking a toll on the settlement-- erosion and blast vibrations were causing some of the downtown buildings to collapse as mining companies laid off employees and wound down their production of copper. The town's population dwindled down to 100 citizens by 1953.


But those 100 citizens were determined to keep their little village on the map. They opened a museum and a gift shop and aggresively promoted tourism to their hometown-- in the 60's, they were granted National Historic Landmark status, and turned a historic mansion into the Jerome State Historic Park, where they were able to hold festivals, music events, races, and more to attract even more visitors. Today, the little town is thriving, and is home to galleries, museums, restaurants, shops, and more. Despite the fact that Jerome itself looks nothing like it did back in its heyday, you can still visit Gold King Mine & Ghost Town... you know, in case you're craving a little bit of that Wild West wickedness!


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Header via Flickr/David Wilson and Flickr/Ryan Harvey