Working every Friday from October to April for the past three years, more than a dozen volunteers from Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Canada re-roofed miners’ boarding houses at the Swansea Townsite and Mine about 25 miles east of Parker, Ariz.
“The greatest challenge we had with the roofing project was finding vehicles to get the materials and people to the site,” said Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Volunteer Archaeologist Mike Riddle. “The project started in 2005/2006 when the National Park Service re-roofed six of the buildings, and BLM volunteers did the rest.”
Prospectors began working the area in 1862. Results were slow until 1886 when three miners struck a silver-lead ore on the Ruby Silver claim. Soon the silver ran out leaving only a “worthless” copper deposit. John W. Johnson eventually sold his mining claims in 1904 to the Signal Group. The new owners found the key to fully developing the copper mine lay with the Arizona & California Railroad’s new line from Wickenburg to Parker.
By 1909, the town grew to 500 people and included saloons, a general store, post office, and boarding house. The first train arrived on the new Swansea Railroad in 1910. The mine went through several owners and transitions until it fell victim to the Great Depression and a declining copper market. The last milling was reported in 1944.
The BLM Lake Havasu Field Office began managing Swansea Townsite as an historical site in 1976. The site is very popular with tourists, recreationists, and school groups. In 2010, a Stimulus Project contract was awarded to Caymus Corporation of Tempe, Arizona for $180,000 to construct two bat friendly gates for adit closures, nine bat friendly cupolas for mine shaft closures, and filling in nine test pits/shafts to reduce public safety risks and protect sensitive wildlife habitat and cultural resources. The work was completed in August 2010.
Riddle added that the value of the volunteers’ labor is well over $100,000. The next step will be to continue stabilizing and repairing the adobe walls of all 12 buildings. Doors and window frames will be re-installed to make the wall sturdier.
Guided tours of the Historic Swansea Townsite will be held every Tuesday in March. For more information, call the BLM Lake Havasu Field Office at (928) 505-1200.