A couple of prospectors who in 1875 had made a cleanup of placer gold in a desert wash punched their burros into Prescott and, forgetting their good resolutions, proceeded to paint the town red until they had exhausted both themselves and their gold supply. Then, to recoup their strength and maybe find a good mine for another stake, they loaded their burros with grub and tools, secured on the “face” and set out for the Castle Creek Hot Springs to “boil out.”
Not too familiar with that section of the country, Bill Corning and Jack Moore planned to follow the Black Canyon-Phoenix road to the Agua Fria River, thence down it to the mouth of Castle Creek and then up Castle to the hot springs. However, when they arrived at the old Jack Swilling ranch on Agua Fria they learned there was an Indian trail through the foothills that was short cut to the hot springs.
Jack and Bill were all-around prospectors and as they made their way along the old trail they watched for float closely and examined a number of ledges. They found nothing of interest until they topped a ridge and started down into Cottonwood Creek. Here the formations bore many interesting veins. At an outcropping beside the trail they knocked off a few samples which they knew were rich in silver. They camped that night on Cottonwood and the next morning returned to the ledge where further prospecting proved to them they had struck it rich. “She’s a tip-top silver mine,” declared Jack. “You said it, Jack,” responded Bill, “and that’s what we’ll call her – the Tip Top.”
The famous silver mine that produced $3 million or more was discovered and a rich silver district opened up that was worked for many years. Jack Moore and Bill Corning camped on the Cottonwood while they prospected further and located several adjoining claims.
When the claims were posted and the location work was done they were about out of grub so Bill took the burros and headed for Prescott to file on the claims, have assays made and replenish the larder. Jack stayed with the claims to hold them down.
It took Bill about a week to make the long trip to Prescott and return, but when he showed up he had a grin on his face like a quarter moon. “Hell’s bells Jack,” he exclaimed, “we’re rich! That damn surface rock ran like a house afire. Three of them samples ran around a thousand ounces, and not one of ‘em less than five hundred.”
(Source: State of Arizona Department of Mines & Mineral Resources)
The float was traced up hill and the out crop of the ledge from which it had come was located. Three claims were staked out, the discovery work done, and some of the high-grade specimens taken to Prescott. At Prescott they took in two partners and returned to work the property. Within a year’s time, they took out and shipped about $80,000 in high-grade silver ore.
The ore was packed by mule back to the claim and wagon to Ehrenburg, on the Colorado River, where it was shipped down stream to the Golf of California and from there to the smelter at San Francisco.
These shipments of high-grade ore, which ran from 500 to 1,000 ounces silver per ton, attracted the attention of Haggin, Head, and Hurst interests in San Francisco. After looking it over they purchased the property for $60,000 cash and worked it from 1876 to 1884. An inclined shaft was sunk to a depth of 500 feet and levels were driven on the ore every 100 feet, opening up an ore body 600 feet in length. A 10 stamp chlorination plant was erected in Gillett, on the Agua Fria Rivers, a distance of about six miles from the mine. The ore was packed mule back part way by a receiving bin from which it was hauled by wagon to the mill. During this time a production of between $2,500,000 and $3,000,000 in silver was claimed.
The ore body ranked to the northeast and in spite of the shaft and lower workings did not develop the high-grade bonanza ore which had been found about the 500’ level. The mine and mill were shut down and the property abandoned in 1884. The owners did not keep up any assessment work and the property was relocated by Dan Wright and Tony Beauchamp in 1885- 1886. They also took in two partners and continued in the workings above the 200’ level for about a year’s time. The property was then sold to St. Louis interests for $15,000 and a company organized called the St. Louis-Yavapai Mining Company. The four men who had sold the property received a lease on the ground above the 200’ level and they worked continuously up to 1893, taking out about $85,000 in ore.
The St. Louis-Yavapai Company dismantled the mill at Gillett and moved and re-erected it at the mine. The inclined shaft was sunk to a depth of 830 feet and a level made at 800 feet. The ore shoot had passed out of the shaft due to its rank, at about the 800’ level so a drift was driven to the northeast and the ore packed up again. About 100 feet from the shaft a winze was sunk 50-feet deep on the ore and it continued to the bottom. Ground between the 500 and 800’ levels was partially stoped.
No figures as to the production at this time are available, and the company shut down in 1888. The leasers continued to work until 1893 when the price of silver dropped and the camp was practically deserted. In 1895 the property was again relocated, this time by Frank Wager and his brother who held it until 1920, when it was taken over by Frank L. Carlisle of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on a mortgage.