Swansea, AZ, was once a boom town in the middle of the Arizona desert. It was literally in the middle of nowhere but that was where they found the copper ore.
Estimates of how many people lived in Swansea vary, but it seems safe to say that, at its peak, about 750 people called the town home. There were enough people to support all the conveniences of a modern town of the day. It even had its own “electric light” company and, in some homes at least, indoor plumbing. After the town became home to families with children, a school was built and a teacher hired. The town even had its own newspaper, “The Swansea Times”. Not too bad for the middle of nowhere...
All of this was made possible by the copper mines and the confluence, in 1909-1910, of a railroad, a copper smelter, a U.S. Post Office and George Mitchell.
But first, in 1904 ‘progress’ came to the western range of the Arizona Territory when the Arizona & California Railroad began laying tracks from Wickenburg to Parker.
Seeing an opportunity, two miners, Newton Evans and Thomas Jefferson Carrigan, found investors and began to develop a copper mine at what would become Swansea. Within a few years, the two miners formed the Clara Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining Company, installed a large furnace, laid a water pipeline to the nearby Bill Williams River and installed hoists for five mine shafts.
Enter George Mitchell.
Originally from Swansea, Wales, Mitchell was a trained metallurgist who made his way to the United States in his early twenty’s and worked for various mining companies. In 1908 he became Clara Consolidated Mining’s president, chief operating officer and head cheerleader. His job was to glad-hand potential investors and manage the enterprise. The former he did well; the latter, not so well.
Mitchell expanded everything… the town, the mine, the ore processing, everything. Mitchell even changed the name of the town. When he arrived, the town was known as Signal and it was very small. But with Mitchell at the helm, the town grew at break-neck, boom town, that-wasn’t-here-yesterday speed. In the year after Mitchell’s arrival, the town boasted a population of 500, had a new name, and a U.S. Post Office that literally put Swansea on the map.
Soon after all this, the Arizona & Swansea railroad began operations, connecting Swansea to the outside world through its tie-in with the Santa Fe system.