Kingman Area History

Atlantic and Pacific Railroad route created Kingman. Located in Northwestern Arizona, nestled between the Cerbat and Hualapai mountain ranges, Kingman has served as the Mohave County seat since 1887.

Kingman was founded by explorer Lewis Kingman in the early 1880s as he traveled through the area to locate a route for the Santa Fe railroad, but the area had seen plenty of life before that time.

Native American tribes, including the Hualapai Tribe, who considered the land a sacred gift from their creator, first settled the area. The Hualapais lived off the land for centuries before military conflicts forced them out of their home.

The first “white man” to travel through Kingman and the surrounding area was father Francisco Garces, who came through in 1776. Mountain men and trapping parties soon followed in his footsteps during the 1820s and 1830s.

The 1859s brought the first military explorations as they surveyed for future roads and railroad lines.

“It was a series of explorations and road building from 1857 to 1860 that would first put the Kingman area on the map,” historian Dan Messersmith explained in an essay for the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce.

Possibly the most famous, and oddest, trek through the area was the exploration of the 35th parallel by Lt. Edward F. Beale.

In 1857, Beale embarked on a mission to survey a new wagon road from Texas to California. While the wagon road was successfully surveyed, his companions, 75 camels, proved an interesting sight.

“As strange as it now seems, the importation of 75 camels in 1856-57 proved that camels were perfectly adaptable to American terrain and climate and that they had especial (sic) value for military purposes. Only the Civil War killed the project,” said U.S. Navy Commander Malcolm W. Cagle. The Camel Corps did not survive Beale’s expedition, but the memory lives on in the towns he went through.

During the 1860s, hostilities between the local Hualapai and Mohave Indians brought about military intervention. The fighting between the tribes continued throughout the 1870s.

Soldiers who re-established Fort Mojave 50 miles away started mining for gold in the area in their spare time. By 1866, the military settlers and the Hualapai tribes were engaged in heavy combat.

“In 1871, Camp Beale’s Springs was established as a temporary reservation and feeding station. It was closed in 1874 when the Hualapai were forced to move to the Colorado River Indian Tribe’s reservation near present day Parker. Beale’s Springs would continue to be an important part of the establishment of this area well into the 20th century,” Messersmith said.

Kingman’s trade moved to cattle ranching in the 1870s, and mining established several communities near the Cerbat Mountains.

Settlement continued to boom as the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad built a line along the well-explored 35th parallel route in the 1880s, which established Kingman in 1882.   “With the first train rolling into Kingman in March 1883, the community quickly established itself as the primary supply center for all the surrounding mining communities,” Messersmith said.

Kingman saw a major economic depression in 1893 with the drop in silver prices. It quickly rebounded, however, when a new process for the separation of gold was introduced in 1895. An even greater economic boom was seen when miners discovered rich veins of gold in the Black Mountains in 1900.

The 1920s and 30s brought U.S. Route 66, as well as the Great Depression, to Kingman. Thousands of people impacted by the Depression back east traveled along Route 66 in hopes of finding greater prosperity in California.

“World War II and the building of the Kingman Army Air Field would forever change the face and future of Kingman,” Messersmith said. “A goodly number of the thousands of military who would come through the area would return after the war to make Kingman their home, and the old air field would become a thriving industrial park for the town.”

Kingman boasted a population of approximately 1,900 people by the time Arizona became a state in 1913. Today, more than 28,000 people call the city of Kingman home, with another 33,000 living just outside the city limits.

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