The Museum’s Historic Collection is made up of the Pioneer Wing and auditorium exhibits. The Pioneer Wing features artifacts from Cave Creek’s mining, military, settler and ranching days. The auditorium display includes textiles, oil paintings, jewelry and sculptures.
During Cave Creek’s early Pioneer period, easterners and Europeans were drawn west in search riches, individual freedom, adventure and prosperity. Mining, military service and ranching shaped those early Pioneer days.
Mining, especially for gold, became a focal point of central Arizona history. In 1864 Henry Wickenburg discovered what proved to be the richest strike in Arizona and formed the famous Vulture Mine. Prospectors, buoyed by discoveries, began to venture eastward and set up mining camps all the way to Cave Creek.
The creation of mining camps and small supply stations in Tonto Apache territory led to conflict. In response to mounting tensions and incidents, the U.S. Army established Fort McDowell near the Verde River in 1863. In 1870 the military built a wagon road from Ft. McDowell to Ft. Whipple which was located near Prescott. In 1873 Cave Creek Road was built to connect the small settlement of Phoenix with the army’s road.
All this activity led to more permanent settlements. By 1877 a Missouri cattleman named Jeriah Wood built a homestead next to the creek which was called Cave Creek Station. He sold beef, milk and other supplies to the miners. In 1900 James D. Houck purchased Cave Creek Station and developed it into a sheep shearing ranch. Drought, overgrazing and the creation of the Tonto National Forest posed challenges to all ranchers. Many, including Houck, failed. However, the Cartwrights, who established their ranch in the 1880s, continued ranching up to 1980.
We welcome you to visit the Museum to see these exhibits and to learn more about the Pioneer days and spirit that still lives on in Cave Creek today.