William B. Hellings, at the age of 26, was extremely ambitious, strikingly handsome, and the “post-sutler” or storekeeper of Camp McDowell. Camp McDowell was one of eleven military posts in the new Arizona Territory. He was aware of the high cost of bringing fodder from Mexico and California to feed the hungry Cavalry horses. Hellings was also aware that Salt River Valley soil was the richest and most productive soil in the southwest. With the Hohokam canal-system dormant, it could be revitalized to irrigate this fertile soil. Within a few years Hellings was farming 1,280 acres (two sections), built a flour mill and started a lucrative business. William B. Hellings & Co. sold flour, hay, alfalfa and other farm products to the pioneer-protecting Cavalry.
Hellings also had interests in the mining business north of Phoenix. After privately funding and building the first wagon road from Phoenix to Cave Creek, he purchased the Golden Star Mine on Continental Mountain. Cave Creek historian, Frances C. Carlson, tells us that the Golden Star Mine eventually became the Golden Reef Mine. Always thinking in grand style, Hellings enticed four California investors to create the Golden Star Mining Corporation; capitalized with ten-million dollars (stocks sold at one hundred dollars a share). This was the first large-scale mine in the Cave Creek area – complete with an assay office, store and saloon. And, with this new-found capital, the first ten-stamp mill, in the Cave Creek area, was purchased for $35,000! (This is not the Museum’s stamp mill.)
The next chapter of the Golden Star Mine was fraught with problematic real estate issues including bad deeds, lawsuits and finally bankruptcy. Cleverly, Hellings maintained ownership of his mine by creating the Gold Hill Mining Company. However, by 1890, his enterprise folded. Hellings relocated to Globe and eventually left Arizona with his presumed fortune.
By the 1890s the Golden Star was now the Golden Reef Mine. The Golden Reef was now owned by W. A. Bondurant. A mining boom in the early 1900s motivated Bondurant to seek a group of Chicago investors to capitalize a new mining operation. A new ten-stamp mill was purchased and this one now resides at the Museum, just 5.2 miles from where she toiled so gallantly on Continental Mountain.
The Golden Reef Mine was back in business on the same spot as Hellings’. Twenty miners working double shifts kept “our” stamp mill humming until it was silenced by a fire in 1913. The stamp mill was rebuilt in 1917 and after failed attempts to sell, the mine was abandoned.
Join me and other museum supporters for our stamp-mill extravaganza “Miners’ Dinner” November 13. The Golden Reef Stamp Mill will be standing proudly I assure you, if we don’t see you at this special event…we’ll be crushed!