History Wing

The Museum’s Historic Collection is made up of the History Wing and auditorium exhibits, displaying artifacts from Cave Creek’s mining, military, settler and ranching days.

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 1863 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.

“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.”

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.

Did You Know?

Here are some history highlights from the Cave Creek Museum.  Click on the title to read the full article.

CATTLE KATE – Jan 2014

Cave Creek had its own version of Annie Oakley.  Her name was Catherine J. Jones.  She was about five [...]


The prehistoric Hohokam, the ingenious, canal-building farmers, developed “polycropping;” that is planting maize (corn), beans, and squash together.  This [...]

JOHN A. GURLEY – May 2014

Arizona became a United States Territory on February 24, 1863.  President Abraham Lincoln appointed the first three territorial governors: [...]


The fort originally known as Camp McDowell and later as Fort McDowell was established by President Abraham Lincoln and [...]

FORT McDOWELL – Feb 2016

After the end of the Civil War in April, 1865 and about two-and-a-half years after Arizona became a territory, [...]

ONYX – July 2017

The Cave Creek mining district, one hundred and forty-four square miles, was known for gold, silver, and later “red [...]