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The William Tell Mine Revisited

Ithaca Peak beads. Photo Arland Ben.

As turquoise historians we strive to achieve a rigorous level of authentic research. Yet there is always more to learn and new information often comes to light. In Turquoise in America Part One, The Great American Turquoise Rush 1890-1910 in Chapter 6, Mineral Park, we tell how different turquoise mining companies competed for the claims on Ithaca Peak. One of these was the Arizona Turquoise Company formed in 1908 by George Bell and Frank McCracken with offices in Denver, where Bell was located, and also New York. Their principal mine was the William Tell which they purchased for $6000 ($150,000 in todays dollars) from the Los Angeles Gem Company. Although the turquoise boom ended by 1910-1915, Guy Atlee, who worked the claim for the Arizona Turquoise Company has his story told, in Turquoise in America Part Two 1910-1990, by his son, Richard Atlee who recalls, as a very young boy, working the claim with his father.

Recently I had a conversation with Zan J. Zak III who provided an interesting update to the story of the William Tell. His grandfather had immigrated from Prague in the early 1900’s and was involved in the gem business in New York. After moving to Los Angeles, he became involved with the cosmetic company Max Factor and went into the hair goods business. Possibly due to his activity with the Shriners he met Frank McCracken who lived in Los Angeles. In September 1929 Zan and his wife Florence purchased the William Tell from McCracken and Guy Atlee for $8,000. In today's dollars that would have been in excess of $114,000.

Zan speculates that Atlee continued to work the claim for his grandfather because his father Zan Zak II remembers going to Kingman as a child and being at the mine. This would also fit with the story of Richard Atlee in Turquoise in America Part Two 1910-1990 who recalls working at the mine with his father as a young child which would have been during the 1940's. It is understandable that he would have thought that his father owned the mine. Zan’s dad remembers meeting with Leonard Hardy as a young man and they would carry on as young men will do. In 1961 Zan Zak II sold the claim to the Duvall Corporation who were consolidating the claims on Ithaca Peak in anticipation of beginning open pit mining. The price was $100,000 which would equate in today’s dollars to over $600,000. Chuck Colbaugh would obtain the turquoise concession from Duval during the 1960's and recover much turquoise from Ithaca Peak much of it presumably coming from the old William Tell claim. Later Leonard Hardy would work a similar concession at Kingman.

These are the stencils used on the boxes of turquoise shipped from the mine to New York. Nevada Gem Collection. Photo Mike Ryan II.

In the first photo we see the various claims on Ithaca Peak. We see that all of these claims have been patented meaning the owners not only have claim to the mineral rights but also the surface rights and fully own the property and it is recorded on the county tax rolls. It is also interesting to note that during the earlier period of turquoise mining covered in Part One The Great American Turquoise Rush 1890-1910, the turquoise was identified by the name of the company mining it. By the time we reach the period of Part Two 1910-1990 we find turquoise mines branded by the name of the mine, the district or the name of the miners. In Arizona, where turquoise was found in the large copper mines the turquoise is identified primarily by location as in the case of Bisbee, Morenci and Sleeping Beauty. Kingman is different in that the turquoise is known by location, Kingman, but also by the two mountain sources of Mineral Park, Ithaca Peak and Turquoise (Aztec) Mountain rather than the actual claim names. This is due to the fact that the turquoise on Ithaca Peak was extracted from the overburden dumps created by Duvall Corporation while they were demolishing the mountain extracting the copper. The second photo, taken by D.B. Sterrett around 1912, shows the difficult mining conditions on Ithaca Peak.

Today Ithaca Peak is Ithaca Pit and there is no turquoise coming from that area. Kingman turquoise, operated by Marty and Josh Colbaugh grandson and great grandson of Chuck, continue to extract turquoise from the area known as Turquoise Mountain. The history of turquoise continues and we hope to have many more updates to the stories.

Mike Ryan II

Santa Fe

September 2021


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