Saturday, December 26, 2015

Arizona remembers silent movie star Tom Mix

Tom Mix's horse, Tony, tops the memorial
Silent movie star Tom Mix was born in Pennsylvania and died in the Arizona desert. His love of fast cars led to his death.

Mix was speeding in his Cord Phaeton on Highway 80 (now Highway 79) between Tucson and Phoenix. He failed to stop for barriers warning of a washed out bridge, and went through them into a ravine. A heavy suitcase came loose, hit him on the head and broke his neck. The ravine is now known as Tom Mix Wash.

Tom Mix memorial
A simple memorial to Mix can be found about 20 miles south of Florence near where he died on October 12, 1940. The memorial features a two-foot high statue of his horse, Tony, that he rode in the movies and his circus acts after he left the film industry. The inscription on the memorial plaque reads, “TOM MIX January 6, 1880 - October 12, 1940 Whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the old west in the minds of living men." He was 60 years old.

Tom Mix worked at a variety of jobs, including bartender and ranch hand, before becoming a megastar during the silent movie era. He was the first cowboy star to achieve this status. He starred in around 370 films from 1905 to 1935; a few of the movies were talkies. Along the way, he served as a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

Mix, who was married five times, was a deserter from the Army in the early 1900s. He kept this a secret, which only came out after he died. He was never court martialed. Because of his immense popularity, the Army did not object to his having a military funeral. Rudy Vallee sang at the services.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Goldfield: Once Nevada's largest city

With a courthouse built in 1907, Goldfield is
 the county seat for Esmeralda County.
Some say Goldfield, Nevada, is a ghost town.  Tis true, it’s past its prime, but there’s still some life kicking in this old mining town.

Goldfield’s prime was 1905 to 1910 when it was roaring with activity due to gold mining operations. According to the Goldfield Chamber of Commerce, the town had everything a resident could want, from restaurants to saloons, from theatres to red light districts, and from casinos to athletic clubs. It even had a church. It was the largest city in Nevada.

Today, it has a few cafes, a church, gem and gift chops, and a saloon or two, including the Santa Fe Saloon and Motel. The saloon was established in 1905 and is one of the oldest continuously operating saloons in the state. It also has lots of abandoned buildings.

Gold was discovered here in 1902, with major mining operations taking place until about 1940.  During this time, about $86 million worth of gold was mined, leading the Goldfield Historical Society to describe Goldfield as the “world’s greatest gold camp.” The town quickly reached a population of 20,000 and just as quickly dropped to under 5,000 souls in 1910. Today, it has less than 300 people, which is probably why it’s referred to as a ghost town.
Antique mining equipment on display in Goldfield
During its heyday, some famous people lived in Goldfield, including Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Mark Twain.

The historical society offers a brochure outlining a walking tour of the old town. Mining equipment also can be viewed on city streets.

Goldfield is located on U.S. Highway 95 about 26 miles south of Tonopah, which is the nearest gas station.