Trackers Learn Clarkdale History
On a misty day, the Tracker group of the Sedona Westerners hiking club enjoyed an indoor educational event. Tracker hikes, usually held on 1 or 2 Wednesdays per month, may involve short or longer actual hikes, of an educational nature. They are most often led by one of the many accomplished members of the Westerners, or an outside invited expert.
This year’s Tracker Boss Liz Sweeney arranged for a new event, titled “Tour Historic Clarkdale: A Company Town”. We assembled at the Clarkdale Historical Society’s Museum and were met by our 2 excellent docents for the day. Cindy Emmett, who taught school there for 20 years, and Jerry Wombacher, who grew up in Clarkdale, provided us with a comprehensive overview of the founding and development of the lovely town. The Society’s museum and holdings are housed in what had been the town clinic, that had a live-in nurse and a company-provided doctor.
Clarkdale was founded in 1912 by Senator William A. Clark, who had a hugely successful career in gold, silver, and copper mining in Montana. He moved to Arizona to operate the United Verde Copper Company and to establish the Clarkdale smelter. To attract and keep quality workers, Clark built housing and other services needed for families in this remote area. Clarkdale was the first master-planned company town in the state. Copper ore brought from the Jerome mines was processed from 1913-1953, with the smelter producing 2 billion pounds of copper.
Clark, among the richest men in the nation, built houses with 4 class-based districts. The commercial area of town included a bank, general store, theater, town hall, post office and school. The Clark Memorial Clubhouse, built in 1926-27 after Senator Clark’s death, included a gym, swimming pool, and bowling alley.
Our museum tour included exhibits on geology, mining, genealogy, natural history, Native Americans and more about the Verde Valley and its settlements. Then our docents led us to the Clarkdale Library, housed in a small former church. The library staff graciously invited us to view the textile exhibit currently on display. Next we toured the Memorial Clubhouse, with its men’s and women’s club rooms, billiards hall, kitchen and gym. The Clarkdale Historical Society is a non-profit established in 2007, and welcomes visitors, members, and volunteers, and is located at 900 First North Street.
Our second event of the day involved a docent-led tour of the fascinating Copper Art Museum, located just across the square at 849 Main Street. Our docent, Monica Meinke, at this privately-funded museum, in the former Clarkdale School, led us through the various exhibits in the Information Room, Military Art, Art and Architecture displays, Cooking Room, and “Drinking” Room, featuring copper items for water, wine and beer. Each room was packed with copper items from around the world, mostly from the 16th century to current time. Our docent was quite knowledgeable and able to answer the group’s many questions.
In 1935, Clark’s heirs sold his holdings to Phelps Dodge Company, which later sold to Halliburton. In the 1950s, the residents organized to become an independent city, and the houses were offered for sale to current tenants. Clarkdale is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and has retained its historic appearance.
Thanks to the Historical Society and to Clarkdale Heritage Conservancy for information contained in this article.
If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at http://sedonawesterners.org