America’s first gold rush started in North Carolina in 1803 when a very large gold nugget (at least seventeen pounds) was found on the property of John Reed in Cabarrus County. The Reed Gold Mine was the top producing gold mine in America until January 24, 1848, when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma, California. This discovery eventually brought about 300,000 miners to California; they were the forty-niners. Closer to home, in 1874, the Cave Creek Gold Rush populated the surrounding mountains and streams with fortune seekers which positively secured the evolution of Cave Creek.
William Rowe was a middle-aged rancher with a wife and children who also operated a Station (like Cave Creek Station, a place for respite and supplies) on the north side of the Salt River near future Mesa. It was a fairly secure area because the Fort McDowell Cavalry (garrisoned near today’s Fountain Hills) patrolled the area because it was an important river crossing. Phoenix was officially recognized in 1868 (founded in 1867) with original east/west boundaries between today’s Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. Because of this location, a closer river crossing, near this Phoenix location, was established leaving Rowe’s ranch and Station unprotected because the Cavalry patrols focused on the new location. The fierce Tonto Apaches and the Yavapai took advantage and started killing and stealing Rowe’s livestock. Rowe had to close his Station and his
ranching endeavors were now tenuous. He needed substantial income to support his wife and children, so off to Cave Creek to join a few miners who were working in the area.
Rowe started mining on Continental Mountain but soon moved farther east to an area which would later be known as Desert Mountain Golf Community. He was hiking over a thumb-shaped butte when William discovered a rich deposit of gold. The late Cave Creek historian, Francis C. Carlson, called it “beginner’s luck.” The Arizona Weekly Miner (Prescott) reported this discovery on October 23, 1874. William Rowe named his mine, the Lion Mine, the butte became known as Gold Hill. Historian Carlson states the following, “Tales of Rowe’s rich mine and the resulting booming camp on Gold Hill drew other prospectors to Cave Creek. Soon makeshift camps sprouted on every hillside and placer [stream/panning] mines lined every promising wash.”
In 1877 (Cave Creek Station was established), Mr. Rowe was involved in a heated discussion with an armed fellow who shot William Rowe dead. This was reported June 3, 1877, by the same Prescott newspaper that touted his gold discovery earlier. His son Frank worked the mine until 1882 when he sold his father’s legacy. Rowe Wash (not Rowe’s Wash) which meanders through Cave Creek today is named for William Rowe.