I must have driven State Road 79 to Phoenix a dozen times. On each of those travels I’d pass the Tom Mix Wash and, in passing, wonder who Tom Mix was and what he did to be famous enough to have a wash named after himself. It wasn’t until his name came up in connection with a certain Santa Rita Hotel that I remembered the name “Tom Mix” long enough to look him up. That’s when I learned that Tom Mix Wash was where silent film star Tom Mix spent the last moments of his life.
The names Clint Eastwood and John Wayne have been synonymous with western film for as long as I’ve been alive. What I didn’t know was that there was another name that had made the genre popular long before I was born. That fellow was Tom Mix.
Arizona is full of abandoned mining towns from the turn of the last century, when western expansionism was at its height. Most of these old mining towns are now derelict shadows of a place that once had prospects of a bustling city and the promise of a “good life”. These places have been christened as “Ghost Towns”.
It’s usually not just one thing that kills a town, it’s many things that kill it. When the people living in an area have enough reasons to leave, they pack up and they don’t come back. In the desert a lack of water could kill a town just as easily as the shutting down of the mining industry. A plague or disease can rip through a small town and destroy it. A lack of railroad and commerce can also kill a town. What makes Kentucky Camp so interesting is that it had healthy people, crisp and clear water, a nearby railroad and plenty of ore. So why did this little mining town fail?
It failed because of one man’s mysterious death. Continue reading