Slabs of wood, a bazillion rusty vehicles and machinery, a donkey and a colorful old coot named Don Robertson all have one thing in common: they reside at the Gold King Mine Ghost Town. One of the most popular ghost towns in the U.S, Gold King is located about a mile north of Jerome, Arizona. The once abandoned town has now swelled to seven residents. It is a treasure trove of photo ops for rust lovers, gear heads, and browsers of unusual artifacts. In fact, every time I go there, I think that this must be the place where all old stuff goes to retire,. Yep, the collection is that HUGE. The ghost town is about 6 acres in size, but Don says that he has about 20 acres of goodies packed into it. I would say, more like 40 acres!The mine was originally owned and operated by the Haynes Copper Company in 1890. The company set up camp atop one of the riches copper deposits in history. They sought copper and should have hit it with the sinking of the first shaft , but it was not to be. Instead they found GOLD! Not a bad consolation prize.
Don Robertson is such a grizzled, “old miner” looking character that I didn’t know if I should be happy for his approach or run to hide behind one of the rusted relics. It turns out that he is soft spoken and as friendly as can be. He seems to genuinely enjoy his visitors and is adept at keeping them entertained.
About 32 years ago, Don Robertson stumbled upon this decrepit, abandoned town and “knew that he was home”. He bought the place and brought it back to life with his museum of rust. Even though the lot is seemingly filled, the collection of antique vehicles is still growing!
There is so much “stuff” there, that Les asked Don if he would be interested in selling a few of the cool, rusted gears. The answer was a polite, but unequivocal “No.”
“People tell me all the time I could sell everything and get rich.” says Robertson. ” But I’m already rich. This is what I want my fortune to be. What good is having money in the stock market or real estate? There’s no fun in that. I get to play with my fortune every day. I’m living my dream.” His collection includes items that are not to be found anywhere else in the world such as the world’s largest gas engine.
Don is an amicable fellow and loves to tell you about his operation. So, if you are interested in learning everything there is to know about the place and the surrounding area, ask Don. He can usually be found walking the property and talking to people. Several of the two dozen or so structures on the property were built by Robertson. Others he moved there, including a one-room schoolhouse transported from Flagstaff. The clapboard house on the hill is an original building from 1890 Haynes, as the town was initially named. There is also a dentist’s office filled with antique dental tools. Peeking into the historical building, you just KNOW that going to the dentist in the late 1800s had to be …well, not where you wanted to go.Les started chatting with one of the locals who told him about the “newer” buildings that they made on site. The guy that Les was talking to offered to show us the “bunker” that was dug out beneath one of the houses.
I passed. Nuh-huh….No way was I stepping foot into that black abyss. My immediate thought was that I didn’t want to be one of the resident ghosts, but Les happily traipsed right in. It was only the length of the house, but Les had a fun time exploring because his guide made it really interesting.ummm…on a side travel note: if you do anything extra like this, know that tips are greatly appreciated. They aren’t rude about it and it’s not mandatory, but there is a huge sign on the property saying that, “Tipping is not a city in China.” So, I guess it is kind of expected and it was worth it to Les.The old 1914 saw mill still operates, churning out slabs of wood filling orders for builders and artisans making handcrafted furniture. The hosts are happy to give demonstrations and to fill you in on all of the details of this still running work horse. The wood is for sale to the general public as well. If you are interested in purchasing, just ask Don. He will give you a fair price for this gorgeous lumber.I have to confess that, after a few hours, I did get a little bored with looking at old vehicle after old, rusted vehicle, so I started taking selfies. LOL.I used to laugh at selfie sticks, but now I can see that one’s nose looks HUGE when the camera is only as far as arm’s length. Now I need one for sure!
Les was in photographer’s heaven. Not to be overly sexist, but Gold king Mine is definitely a guy’s paradise. Ladies, take your fellow there and he will love it and you (even though you are busying yourself with selfies. :)) Les is already talking about going back soon.
Gold King Mine and Ghost Town opens at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. in winter) and closes at 5 p.m. every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. A very small admission is charged – only one dollar per person at time of this writing. It is located on the Perkinsville Rd. one mile north of Jerome. Follow the signs starting at the road next to the Jerome Fire Station. 928-634-0053