The hamlet of Cherry is located in the mountains above the Verde Valley surrounded by the Prescott National Forest at an elevation of 5143 feet…about a mile high.
Gold prospectors started to explore the Black Hills close to Mingus Mountain just after the Civil War. In 1865 the only home in the area belonged to the manager of the stage stop for the stagecoach route between Fort Verde (Camp Verde today) and Fort Whipple (Prescott today).
Around 1880 a tiny gold mining boomtown sprang up along the creek. Most sources seem to agree that both the creek and the town were named for the wild cherry trees growing there. The original Native Americans called the creek “upside down” because much of it runs underground.
A post office was established in March of 1884 and a grammar school opened in 1898. By 1929 Cherry had about 400 residents – mostly miners and ranchers. The town had a general store, a couple of clapboard and tent saloons, a cemetery and – in the mid 1930’s – a campground built by the Civilian Conservation Corps at nearby Powell Springs.
For over four decades thousands of tons of low grade gold ore was mined, crushed and transported by wagon to the smelter in Clarkdale until the mines began to play out.
In it’s heyday the Cherry Creek Mining District had six mills in operation with more than 40 mines in the vicinity.
The town site – carved out of 300 acres of homestead land – never incorporated and never had a church, so “official” history is scarce, but old timers say it was a rough and tumble place.
The outbreak of World War II marked the decline of profitable mining for much of the West including Cherry.
Cherry’s school closed in 1943 – the same year as the Post Office was discontinued.
Cherry finally got electricity in the 1950’s when Arizona Public Service built power lines up the hillsides from Cottonwood.
In 1982 the last operating mine – the Golden Idol – was declared unsafe and closed. By that time there were about four dozen people left in the area.
Ten years later the Cherry Antique Store closed. That ended the last retail operation in the area.
Today Cherry boasts about 75 full time residents and a few dozen part-timers.
“Downtown” Cherry is a dusty tree-lined lane featuring a charming bed and breakfast, the community’s historic cemetery and the Volunteer Fire Association.
Story courtesy of Bud Gindhart