The History of Cave Creek

Cave CreekCave Creek has a great little history museum that you can find linked here.  The following comes from some of the Cave Creek history found at the museum....

 - Cave Creek is the small stream that rises in the hills to the northeast and flows southwesterly for 25 miles before reaching Paradise Valley. The stream, in turn, was named from a high, overhanging bluff along its west bank that forms a wide, open cavern about two miles north of the present day Cave Creek. People have taken shelter there for centuries. A bloody skirmish occurred within the cave between Apache Indians and U.S. Troops in 1873.

Ancient Hohokam Indians stayed in the area from around 800 A.D. until 1400 A.D. Many reminders of their living in the area still remain. Stone huts, pit houses, terraced field and irrigation ditches were left behind. There are also many petroglyphs that were carved by the Indians. The Cave Creek area has a rich archeological foundation. Dozens of prehistoric sites have been discovered. However, many more remain undisturbed.

During the 1400's, bands of Apache Indians began drifting into the area. Soon, the Apaches spread throughout the State. They brought with them different lifestyles than the Hohokams. Instead of farming, the Apaches lived by hunting, gathering, and raiding.

The 1500's saw the arrival of Spanish explorers. The Spanish found the desert to be very inhospitable. On their maps, central Arizona was labeled as "deplobado" meaning, "desolate wilderness."

Mining began to become a focal point in central Arizona history in 1863. The call "Gold in the Bradshaws" rang out. Fabulous rich gold outcroppings were found in high peaks such as Antelope Hill. In 1864, Henry Wickenburg uncovered the richest strike, the Vulture Mine. Miners were sure that the Aqua Fria River, New River, Cave Creek and the stream of the Tonto were also rich with gold. A few miners tried to find the treasures, but met the Apaches who ran them out of the area. The Tonto Apaches controlled the area, so for the time being, mining had to wait. Ranchers and farmers followed lured by reports of mild climate, plentiful water, tall timbers and lush grass. All of the reports failed to mention that hostile Indians surrounded the area.

Of all the tribes in the area, the Tonto Apaches were the most feared. They ate animals they captured including horses, mules, oxen, and burros. The Tontos were highly mobile, unpredictable, and difficult to capture.

New comers to the State appealed to the Federal Government for assistance. The Civil War was demanding the need for every soldier. Washington leaders decided they did not want to lose the potential gold production capabilities of Arizona. In 1863, Arizona was declared a new and separate territory, splitting off from the territory of New Mexico. A Governor was sent to Arizona along with a small force of troops to Fort Whipple in Prescott.

In 1865, the army sent a small force of 300 volunteers from California to establish Fort McDowell. Fort McDowell was located 18 miles east of Cave Creek. One year after the Californians arrived, a regular army infantry unit settled into Fort McDowell. For 15 more years, skirmishes, ambushes, and bloody confrontations raged between the soldiers and the Tonto Apaches. On December 1, 1873, Lieutenant Walter S. Schuyler, of the 5th Cavalry, led a scouting expedition out of Fort McDowell that resulted in the first skirmish along Cave Creek. After weeks of searching for Indians, Lt. Schuyler and his troops found a band of Tontos held up on the West bank of Cave Creek. On Christmas morning the troops attacked the Tontos, killing 9, including one of the most fearless leaders named Nanotz.

Just North of Cave Creek, the area of Bloody Basin was the site of a bitter skirmish on March 27, 1873. Army scouts trailed a group of Apaches to the top of Turret Peak. The scouts crept up the peak during the night. At dawn they captured or killed nearly all of the Apaches.

The pressure on the Tonto Apaches began to have its effects. With the army destroying any discovered food storage areas, the Apaches were beginning to suffer. Hunger drove the Apaches to surrender. By 1877 about 5,000 Indians from various tribes shared the San Carlos Reservation.

The Battle of Turret Peak proved to be a major turning point. The time of the Tonto Apaches along Cave Creek was over and a new era of mining was coming to Cave Creek.


The Golden Reef Stamp Mill

stamp millA mining boom in the early 1900s motivated a group of Chicago investors to capitalize a new mining operation, the Golden Reef Mine. A new 10-stamp mill was purchased for operation on Continental Mountain. It was shut down due to a fire in 1913 and rebuilt in 1917. The mine was put up for sale and eventually abandoned. This historic stamp mill now resides at the Cave Creek Museum and recently underwent restoration.

stamp mill 2


A historical tidbit

ok corralMarch 15, 1881: The attempted robbery of the Tombstone Stage to Benson resulted in the deaths of driver Bud Philpot and a passenger.

This was one of the major incidents that ignited the bloody feud between the Earp’s and the cowboys that led to the gunfight near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona



What most people call arrowheads, archaeologists typically call projectile points because stone, wood, bone, antler, copper and other raw materials were used to put sharp points on the ends of all kinds of projectiles – not just arrows. The projectile points were used for hunting and warfare.

arrow headsIn the Cave Creek-Carefree area, most projectile points found are fashioned from local stone, like quartz and chert. So, what’s the difference between an arrowhead and a projectile point? Archaeologists believe that ancient people first developed the throwing spear and finally, the bow. Some assume smaller points were used for hunting smaller prey, such as bird and rabbits, while larger beasts, like long-horned sheep or bison, required something larger. However, scientists now think size had to do with how the point was used – was it thrown, flung or projected?

Most scientists believe the larger, finely made points are older and called spear points, used as the working ends of spears. The middle sized, fairly thick points are called dart points; these are in-between arrows and spear points. Tiny points are the most recent, used at the ends of arrows shot with bows. So, they rightly can be called arrowheads.


Rancho Mañana – One of Arizona’s original dude ranches

rancho mananaRancho Mañana in Cave Creek, Arizona once was home to American Indians. However, the desert foothills oasis also became an ideal stopover camp for U.S. Cavalry en route from Camp McDowell in Phoenix to Fort Whipple in Prescott. They were the first non-Indians to settle in the area and fought ferocious battles with the Tonto Apache tribe.
During that time, General Crook, a shrewd soldier who led by example, led skirmishes beginning in 1871. The Cavalry gave the Apaches no rest, using Indian guides to root out their locations. Later, the military secured the land for miners and ranchers to create a new community.

By the 1940s, tenderfoots looking to recapture what had become a romanticized notion of the cowboy-Indian past arrived at dude ranches in the area. China and Ted Loring of Chicago, Illinois and partner Romaine “Romy” Lowdermilk, a cowboy musician and author, took over the Howard Ranch in the mid-1940s and renamed it Rancho Mañana dude ranch. It became the largest and most prestigious in the state.


Spur Cross Park

Maricopa County's Parks and Recreation Department now features the nation's largest county park system, with 10 regional parks totaling more than 120,000 acres. spur crossThe park system began in 1954 to preserve the mountain areas for future generations to enjoy. A federal act in the 1970 called the Recreation and Public Purposes Act allowed Maricopa County to acquire thousands of acres of parkland from the Bureau of Land Management at $2.50 an acre. A combination of leased and purchased land has allowed this department to develop a regional park system that preserves open space and will forever provide the residents of Maricopa County with an opportunity to visit "Natural Arizona."
In 1992 Maricopa County entered a 50-year management agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to manage the newly enlarged Lake Pleasant. At 10,000 surface acres Lake Pleasant is the second largest lake entirely within the state and far and away the largest lake within easy driving distance from central Phoenix. Today, more than 1.2 million park visitors each year enjoy affordable recreation available year-round.
Each county park has its own unique characteristics offering recreation to Valley residents and visitors alike. Some parks offer boating, picnicking, golf, archery and shooting ranges. Others have camping and recreational vehicle camping facilities. Most offer hiking, picnicking and mountain biking.
- Maricopa County  Parks & Recreation

Harold's History

Harold's Historys

As Cave Creek’s original “Wild West Saloon and Restaurant,” Harold’s is a landmark and popular stomping ground for both locals and tourists. Celebrating over 70 years of history and good times.

If it happens in Cave Creek, it happens at Harold’s. Johnny Walker opened the Corral Bar in 1935 to serve the workers who were building Bartlett Dam. It became Harold’s Cave Creek Corral in 1950 when local character Harold Gavagan purchased it. It has spawned a million crazy stories – from lions and tigers caged in the back to Harold himself along with his flamboyant friends, movie stars, (real) cowboys and other colorful characters. Gavagan’s flamboyant ways helped to turn it into the local landmark that it is today.

Harold’s features seating for 600 inside, 200 on outside patio, 2 bars, a large stage and dance floor, free Country Dance Lesson on Friday’s from 7:30pm to 8:30pm and Live Entertainment by some of the BEST bands in the valley Wednesday through Sunday.

Harold’s features the finest Choice hand carved steaks and daily delivered fresh seafood. All our BBQ meats are smoked on premise using mesquite wood to provide a traditional southwest flavor. Our wide variety menu features everything from Salads, Steaks, Seafood, Italian & Mexican dishes, to the best Hamburgers in Arizona.

Harold’s Corral is the official home of Heinz Field West at Pittsburgh Steelers Club. It is the place for all faithful of the Black & Gold to meet on Sunday, watch their beloved Steelers and down a couple of Iron City beers.

There is always something happening at Harold’s. Whether you come here for one of our annual events such as Fiesta Days, 3rd of July Fireworks, Bachelor & Bachelorette Auction, Gong Show, Hawaiian Luau, Wild West Days, Harold’s Anniversary Party or one of our many charity events. Harold’s Corral is the place where the festivities begin and end.

Long time Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia says “We all end up at Harold’s at some point. Sedona may have it vortexes, but Cave Creek has Harold’s and it’s the center of the universe.”


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