It was back in 1863 that gold was first discovered in an area called the Black Hills of Arizona. Back then it was still unsettled wild country and Indians still wandered about. This made a lot of folks nervous about going out and exploring the area. Short time later Fort Mojave was built and this gave settlers and prospectors some comfort in going about the area. Then in 1900 prospector Ben Taddock was in the area and discovered a new vein of gold ore.
Ben sold his new discovery claim to a judge whom later sold it to the Vivian Mining Company. Over the next few years the mine produced over $3 million worth of gold. Once word got out more miners and prospectors arrived in the area. Then another two years later in 1904 the Tom Reed vein was discovered and this vein became known as the Tom Reed Mine and was run by the Tom Reed Gold Mining Company.
Then a group of investors and skilled miners bought the Tom Reed claims and in 1908 began production of high grade ore. At first the mine was quite successful producing millions of dollars in gold and silver ore. Because of this success, the company invested a lot more money and set up a stamp mill at the mine site which was powered by water that was piped for over four miles from a nearby canyon. Electricity was then generated for the mine and the extra power was then sent to the town of Oatman. By this time Oatman had several thousand people living there.
The town of Oatman was at first called Vivian for the first mining company that was there. Later the name was changed to Oatman for Olive Oatman. Olive Oatman and her family were attacked in 1851 by Apache or Yavapai Indians. Only three of the children survived, however one died in captivity. Lorenzo survived and with the help of a another man was able to free Olive five years later.
After a few years the Tom Reed vein became hard to follow and production became very sporadic. Then another group of men who knew geology and mining formed a new compnay and called it the United Eastern Mining Company. These men put down and new shaft on another area. They then surveyed the area out underground and started mining a new vein and were soon mining all kinds of gold and silver. Then still another mine started on the Tom Reed Vein. It was the Big Jim Company and soon these three mines became the largest and wealthiest, producing almost $36 million worth of gold.
Of the three big mines in Oatman, the United Eastern produced $10.8 million and the Big Jim, produced $3.8 million in gold. The Tom Reed however was the greatest producing more than $13 million in gold and silver. In one year, 1909 the Tom Reed produced over 1 million worth of gold from just 40,000 tons of ore. The United Eastern Mine and Big Jim Mine closed in 1924. Then the depression of the 1930's made operation of the larger mines unprofitable. The Tom Reed Mine closed in 1932.