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Sunday, April 6, 2014

ROAD TRIP - PART TWO - WICKENBURG

Wickenburg, Arizona is a town that takes its Western heritage seriously.  The downtown or Old Town area is the home of half a dozen life-size sculptured characters in bronze by the artist J. Seward Johnson.  They were donated to the town by the DeVore Foundation.


A jeweler in the store which this character stands outside said this was Henry Wickenburg, for whom the town is named.  But my own research revealed that it is just an iconic miner of the 1800's leading his burro.

Wickenburg, incidentally, led an interesting life.  He was a Prussian prospector who came to the United States in the mid part of the 19th century and discovered the Vulture Mine, which became the most important gold mine in Arizona.  Over the years, an estimated 70 million dollars worth of gold came out of it.

But Wickenburg tired of gold mining and sold his 80 percent of the mine for $85,000.  He received $20,000 in cash and a promissory note for the remainder.  The new owners, however, refused to pay him, insisting that Wickenburg had not held a clear title to the property.  He spent the $20,000 on attorneys fees as he fought unsuccessfully to be paid.  In 1905, the now penniless Wickenburg walked into a grove of trees behind his home and took his own life with his Colt revolver.  He was 85 years old.

But he lived on as his tent camp near the mine became the town named after him.



This sculpture stands near the railroad tracks in town and represents a young school teacher newly arrived by train.


This one is Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, the original owner of the Hassayampa Hotel in the late 1800's.



This one stands in front of the Gold Nugget Lounge and is a Mexican vaquero playing his guitar and singing.

Then there's my favorite.  A duet of sorts as a cowboy talks to (and perhaps bargains with) a saloon girl.  These two stand in front of the Bar 7 Lounge.





It is not difficult to see what attracted the cowboy.

There is one other sculpture I missed.  It depicts a felon chained to a tree.  The story goes that when the jail was filled, additional law-breakers were chained to the big tree out in front.

There are a number of smaller sculptures around the streets.  There are four each of Gila monsters, Tarantulas, Roadrunners and Rattlesnakes.  Those might have scared me out of my skin if I had noticed them.

16 comments:

Judy said...

I had fun taking pictures of these sculptures too. I like that they have the recording that you can listen to for the story behind them. Didn't know if that cowboy and dance hall girl had one but I see the button in your photo. Now I'll have to go back to see what it says. Fun post, as usual!

Phil Perisich said...

I see a resemblance between the school teacher aned the dance hall girl. Maybe the school teacher switched professions after a year in Wickenburg.

Catalyst/Taylor said...

LOL! If so she must have dyed her hair and put some flash in her make-up!

Stephen Hayes said...

How interesting to see these sculptures on the street. They look wonderfully maintained, no graffiti or vandalism.

Should Fish More said...

What is the material used in the sculptures? It looks like either ceramic or plastic. Nicely maintained, it looks like.

Tom Cochrun said...

Fun stuff. Do you think the saloon girls were really so glamorous or well kept?

Catalyst/Taylor said...

They're glazed bronze.

Catalyst/Taylor said...

I doubt they were that glamorous but some of them were well kept. ;-/

Lowandslow said...

I love the interesting stories that old places/towns can tell. Near me there is a plaque commemorating a former mayor who was responsible for hustling a big shopping mall for our city. Big Whoop!

S

Should Fish More said...

No kidding. Wow, so few things are done in bronze anymore. Do you know if the artist paints over the glaze, or is it done before the finish? It's nice detail.

Catalyst/Taylor said...

I'm sorry. I have no idea.

Steve said...

Great post Bruce. Let's go prospecting.

Sharon Anck said...

I did see the tarantula and it did startle me! I'm not fond of big hairy spiders. Did you happen to visit the lower level of the museum? They have quite a lot of memorabilia and history displayed down there.

Catalyst/Taylor said...

No, we were hungry and left for lunch, then didn't return. But, another day.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I love the colorful figures! And your road trip sounds like fun but you really should have taken it in a covered wagon.
Scary black beast on your new header!

The Bug said...

Fascinating!