History of Jerome Junction, AZ


Jerome Junction was a little town that came into being in 1895 at the junction where the newly built narrow gauge railroad, the United Verde & Pacific, met the standard gauge railroad in Chino Valley. It was located a little over a mile east on Perkinsville Rd. from what us now highway 89. But before that there was a lot of wrangling, politiking, and planning to make it all happen.

In 1882 the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad crossed AZ Territory along the 35th parallel through Ash Fork.

Soon the people in Prescott and Jerome realized the boon that would come to them if they were connected to the A & P Railroad by a line south to Prescott. Also, the United Verde Cooper Co, in Jerome needed a cheaper and faster means of transporting coke to the mine and copper to the manufacturing centers in the east.

Two companies competed for the chance to build the line. Thomas Bullock, and his Central Arizona & Pacific RR up the Big Chino Wash to Seligman. completed construction on December 31, 1886. After the initial excitement died down it became apparent that the RR wasn’t operating very professionally, the engines were too small, the track was in a constant state of disrepair, timetables were not followed, and shipments were almost always late.

Meanwhile the other group led by Frank Murphy still wanted to compete a line south past the mines at Congress and on to Phoenix; and later, an improved line north to Ash Fork.

After much tussle between the companies, various business leader and politicians, on May 27, 1891 the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix RR was incorporated. They first began work on the southern route to Phoenix. Then in January 1892 they began construction on their northern route from Ash Fork.

After more than a year of arduous and dangerous construction the first train left the Prescott depot for Ash Fork on April 24, 1893.

Prior to the completion of the UVP&P the United Verde Copper Co. sent its ore to the Granite station.

In 1894 the United Verde Copper Co. began construction of the United Verde & Pacific RR. On January 24, 1895 the first train carrying commercial freight left Jerome Junction and arrived in Jerome.

Jerome Junction began to boom. A hotel was built, various RR buildings went up, a brick yard opened that would supply Jerome with brick for the its new buildings.

Jerome Junction had a coke and coal chute, depot, hotel, post office, store, saloon, dance hall in a barn, and an engine house of the United Verde Railroad. Alex Duff ran the store and Henry Peters worked for him. Mr. Peters later had the first store in Chino Valley at the present site of the closed Buckaroo market. Jack Nelson ran the saloon, where poker was a popular diversion. Alex Duff would hunt deer and sell the meat. He was married to an Indian woman with whom he had a son, George Duff.

There were also quite a number of houses where the employees of the railroad lived. The office force at the depot was seven and the depot was open twenty-four hours. Approximately sixty men worked in the railroad yards and the population was estimated to have reached three hundred at one time.

All the freight for Jerome that came in on the Santa Fe train was transferred to the narrow gauge railroad at Jerome Junction for the trip over the mountain.

The narrow gauge train that ran from Jerome Junction to Jerome ran one freight train and two mixed trains, each way, daily.

In addition to the freight cars there was a parlor car in the rear with large plush chairs and divans and there was a thick carpet on the floor. There was an observation room at the rear of the train, and as one early resident said, it was about as luxurious as could be found.

At this time there were quite a number of homesteaders in Lonesome Valley and large herds of cattle in Big Chino. The farms of little Chino, as we know it, had not come as yet and that area was only unfenced grazing land. They loaded their cattle at Jerome Junction, and later at Del Rio, using cattle chutes, some of which still stand today.

Between 1895 and 1920 Jerome Junction thrived as the community in the area. Dozens of workers made their living during this quarter century trans-loading shipments between the narrow gauge and the standard gauge railroads.

Among those whose lives centered around Jerome Junction were the Rees’, Aikens, and Swigers, long time Chino Valley families, As well as Alex Duff the store keeper whose house is still standing and is the oldest house in CV.

In 1904, Marion Aiken brought his family to Jerome Junction. Marion worked in the rail yard and pumped water for the railway and for the small community of Jerome Junction.
His son Ray Aiken was about twenty years old when he went to Jerome Junction where he worked for the railroad transferring freight from the Santa Fe line onto the little narrow gauge that wound its way over the mountain to Jerome. Miner Swiger was his boss and Ike Spears worked with him. Ray and Claud Aiken both worked as pumpers for the railroad.

In 1910 Miner Swiger homesteaded east of Jerome Junction on land that is now a little south of the Old Home Manor Ranch.

When he realized dry framing was not working he went to work for the narrow gauge railroad, the United Verde and Pacific, in about 1912. It was his responsibility to look after and be responsible for the transfer of goods from the Santa Fe main line onto the smaller cars of the narrow gauge train. The latter would deliver them to Jerome, some twenty-six miles away. He later became a baggage clerk. He left about 1919.

Dozens of workers made their living during the 25 years Jerome Junction was in operation.
Some of the others who lived in the area in those early days were: the Rees family who lived at the spring about a mile north; the Rhodes family across the road; the Swigers,–he was freight agent and drove a horse and cart to work; Arthur Wood family who had a chicken ranch close by; Mrs. Blalock was the Postmaster; F. Baldwin was yard master and Clarence Bailey was the Railroad Section foreman; Mr. Robinson was night operator; and later, Jack Cumming ran a taxi from the Junction into Prescott after meeting the trains from Jerome.

The United Verde & Pacific Railway station burned in 1911
Although the station burned the rail yard continued with it’s activity, until…

In 1920 a standard gauge extension of the railroad through Drake to Clarkdale was completed and the need for the little narrow gauge no longer existed and the town soon was abandoned. Many of the buildings were moved from that site to the present Chino Valley area. “Part of the old Jerome Junction Post Office was moved to what was the Dave Stewart property on Highway 89. Likewise, one of the buildings was moved to what was then the Lowell place; the old house on the Dobler place was from Jerome Junction. (It was moved to the Audis property when the new house was built.) Also the house torn down on the former Carl Rees place (south corner of Highway 89 and Perkinsville Road West) was from Jerome Junction. (not sure how many of these are still around) “A portion of the Walter Echols house on West Road 5 North was also moved from there.

The hotel from Jerome Junction has been restored and reportedly it was the one on the grounds of Knott’s Berry Farm in California.

The station was renamed Copper and continued to be used by the Santa Fe for a number of years.
By now most of the activity of our town was along highway 89. But that’s another story!