Friday, May 25, 2018

Fort Tyson & Water

The town of Quartzsite is located on the site of old Fort Tyson, a privately owned fort built in 1856 by Charles Tyson for protection against Indians. Because of the water which existed at this place, Tyson's Wells soon became a stage station on the road from Ehrenburg to Prescott. In 1875 Martha Summerhayes described this place as being the most melancholy and uninviting that she had ever seen, saying that it "reeks of everything unclean, morally and physically..."
Fort Tyson ruins on corner of Main Street and Moon Mountain Road in Quartzsite
Charles Tyson was an early settler who saw the mining potential of the region in the La Posa Valley. In the early years of the American gold rush, pan handlers began to arrive in Arizona searching for the precious metal. Gold deposits were discovered in the desert mountains of Plomosa and Dome Rock in the area and a boom in the mining industry followed. The key was water. The water supply in the area became the target of the Yavapai tribe (a.k.a. Mohave-Apache) who resented the arrival of the Anglo-European settlers on their land and raided the early settlements.
Fort Tyson ruins
The settlement was also known as Tyson’s Wells, because of the well dug there in 1864 to reach the underground water.
Tyson's Well Old Stage Station historic marker

Tyson then built a stage station in 1866, which originally served the stage coaches that traveled from the towns of Ehrenberg and Prescott. Prescott at the time was the capital city of the Arizona Territory. The California and Arizona Stage Company began transporting passengers which included prospectors, since gold had been discovered in the mines of Wickenburg and Prescott, and made stops at the station. The Wells Fargo Express also stopped by the station en route to Ehrenberg and Wickenburg from California. Tyson’s Well Stage Station was located on the famous Butterfield Overland Mail route between Prescott, Arizona and Riverside, California.

When the railroad came, most stagecoach travel ended, leading to a major slump for Tyson’s Wells.
Replica of 1900 Oasis Hotel in Quartzsite
In 1897, the development of mining in the area resulted in a small boom. It was reported that Tyson's Wells had three stores, two saloons, and a short-lived post office. Apparently when it became necessary to re-open the post office because of renewed mining activity, a new name had to be found since the post office did not permit offices to re-open the post office under formerly used names. Therefore, George Ingersoll suggested the name Quartzite, since quartzite is actually found in the vicinity, but quartz is not. However, the post office in error apparently added an "s" to the name. The resulting "Quartzsite" erroneously implies that quartz is found locally. Actually Quartzsite is approximately nine miles east of the old Tyson's Wells which lay nineteen miles from Ehrenberg. Therefore, a different name was a better suited.

Quartzsite also became associated with the camels that were turned loose in the region about the time of the Civil War after the U.S. Army abandoned their camel program. Many lived in the La Posa Valley for years.


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