Jerome is about 100 miles (160 km) north of Phoenix and 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Flagstaff along Arizona State Route 89A between Sedona and Prescott. Other nearby communities include Clarkdale, Cottonwood, and Prescott Valley, all along Route 89A.
Jerome is in Arizona's Black Hills and within the Prescott National Forest at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Woodchute Wilderness is about 3 miles (5 km) west of Jerome, and Mingus Mountain, at 7,726 feet (2,355 m) above sea level, is about 4 miles (6 km) south of town. Jerome State Historic Park is in the town itself. Bitter Creek, a tributary of the Verde River, flows intermittently through Jerome.
Most of Cleopatra Hill, the rock formation upon which Jerome was built, is 1.75 billion (1,750 million) years old. Created by a massive caldera eruption in Precambrian seas south of what later became northern Arizona, the Cleopatra tuff was then part of a small tectonic plate that was moving toward the proto-North American continent. After the eruption, cold sea water entered Earth's crust through cracks caused by the eruption. Heated by rising magma to perhaps 660 °F (349 °C), the water was forced upward again, chemically altering the rocks it encountered and becoming rich in dissolved minerals. When the hot solution emerged from a hydrothermal vent at the bottom of the ocean, its dissolved minerals solidified and fell to the sea floor. The accumulating sulfide deposits from two such vents formed the ore bodies, the United Verde and the UVX, most important to Jerome 1.75 billion years later.
These ore bodies formed in different places along a ring fault in the caldera. About 50 million years after they were deposited, the tectonic plate of which they were a part collided with another small plate and then with the proto-North American continent. The collisions, which welded the plates to the continent, folded the Cleopatra tuff in such a way that the two ore bodies ended up on opposite sides of a fold called the Jerome anticline.
No record exists for the next 1,200 million years of Jerome's geologic history. Evidence from the Grand Canyon, further north in Arizona, suggests that thick layers of sediment may have been laid down atop the ore bodies and later eroded away. The gap in the rock record has been called The Great Unconformity.
About 525 million years ago, when northern Arizona was at the bottom of a shallow sea, a thin layer of sediment called the Tapeats Sandstone was deposited over the Cleopatra formation. Limestones and other sediments accumulated above the sandstone until about 70 million years ago when the Laramide Orogeny created new mountains and new faults in the region. One of these faults, the Verde Fault, runs directly under Jerome along the Jerome anticline. Crustal stretching beginning about 15 million years ago created Basin and Range topography in central and southern Arizona, caused volcanic activity near Jerome, and induced movement along the Verde Fault. This movement exposed the tip of the United Verde ore body at one place on Cleopatra Hill and moved the UVX ore body to 1,000 feet (300 m) below the surface. Hickey Formation basalts, laid down between 15 and 10 million years ago, cover the surface beneath the UVX headframes and Jerome State Historic Park.
In the 21st century, the natural rock features in and around Jerome have been greatly altered by mining. The town is underlain by 88 miles (142 km) of mine shafts, which may have contributed to the subsidence that destroyed the downtown Jerome structures that slid slowly downhill during decades of active mining. The United Verde open pit, about 300 feet (91 m) deep, is on the edge of town next to Cleopatra Hill, which is marked with a large "J". The side of the pit consists of Precambrian gabbro. Mine shafts beneath the pit extend to 4,200 feet (1,300 m) below the surface.
Since the United Verde ore body at Jerome was partly visible on the surface, it is likely that native peoples had long mined it for the colorful copper-bearing minerals malachite and azurite. Later, in 1585, a Spanish exploring expedition made note of the ore. In 1598, Captain Marcos Farfán de los Godos, hired by Juan de Oñate to explore the land, staked out claims of copper mines in modern-day Jerome.
The first mining claims in the Verde District were filed in 1876. In 1880, Frederick Augustus Tritle, a governor of the Arizona Territory, and Frederick F. Thomas, a mining engineer from San Francisco, bought these claims from the original owners. In 1883, with the aid of eastern financiers including James A. MacDonald and Eugene Jerome of New York City, they created the United Verde Copper Company. The small adjacent mining camp on Cleopatra Hill was named Jerome in honor of Eugene Jerome, who became the company secretary. United Verde built a small smelter at Jerome and constructed wagon roads from it to Prescott, the Verde Valley, and the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad depot at Ash Fork. However, transport by wagon was expensive, and in late 1884 after the price of copper had fallen by 50 percent, the company ceased operations.
William A. Clark, who had made a fortune in mining and commercial ventures in Montana, bought the United Verde properties and, among other improvements, enlarged the smelter. He also ordered construction of a narrow gauge railway, the United Verde & Pacific, to Jerome Junction, a railway transfer point 27 miles (43 km) to the west. As mining of the ore expanded, Jerome's population grew from 250 in 1890 to more than 2,500 by 1900. By then the United Verde Mine had become the leading copper producer in the Arizona Territory, employing about 800 men. Over its 77-year life (1876 to 1953), this mine produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The metals produced by United Verde and UVX, the other big mine in Jerome, were said to be worth more than $1 billion. Taken together, the copper deposits of Jerome amounted to "some of the richest ever found on Earth".
Jerome had a post office by 1883. It added a schoolhouse in 1884 and a public library in 1889. After four major fires between 1894 and 1898 destroyed much of the business district and, in 1898, half of the community's homes, Jerome was incorporated as a town in 1899. Incorporation made it possible to collect taxes to build a formal fire-fighting system and to establish building codes that prohibited tents and other fire hazards within the town limits. Local merchant and rancher William Munds was the first mayor.
By 1900, Jerome had churches, fraternal organizations, and a downtown with brick buildings, telephone service, and electric lights. In addition to banks, hotels, and stores, among the thriving businesses were many associated with alcohol, gambling, and prostitution, serving a population that was 78 percent male in 1900. In 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be "the wickedest town in the West".
Jerome, which was legally separate from United Verde and supported many independent businesses, did not meet the definition of a company town even though it depended for decades largely on this one company. In 1914, a separate company, the United Verde Extension Mining Company (UVX), led by James S. Douglas, Jr. (Rawhide Jimmy), discovered a second ore body near Jerome that produced a bonanza. The UVX Mine, also known as the Little Daisy Mine, became spectacularly profitable: during 1916 alone, it produced $10 million worth of copper, silver and gold, of which $7.4 million was profit. This mine eventually produced more than $125 million worth of ore and paid more than $50 million in dividends. Total production amounted to four million tons, much less than the United Verde total, but uncommonly rich, averaging more than 10 percent copper and in places rising to 45 percent.
Starting in 1914, World War I greatly increased the demand for copper, and by 1916 the number of companies involved in mining near Jerome reached 22. These companies employed about 3,000 miners in the district, and Jerome's population rose to an estimated 10,000 by 1917. Meanwhile, United Verde was building a large smelter complex and company town, Clarkdale, and a standard gauge railway, the Verde Tunnel and Smelter Railroad, to haul ore from its mine to the new smelter. After the new railway opened in 1915, the company dismantled the Jerome smelter and converted the mine to an open-pit operation. The switch from underground to open-pit mining stemmed from a series of fires, some burning for decades, in the mine's high-sulfur ores. Removing the overburden and pouring a mixture of water, waste ore, and sand into rock fissures helped control the fires. By 1918, UVX also had its own smelter in its own company town, Clemenceau, a part of Cottonwood.
In 1917, two miners' strikes involving the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which had been organizing strikes elsewhere in Arizona and other states, took place in Jerome. Seen as a threat by business interests as well as other labor unions, the Wobblies, as they were called, were subject nationally to sometimes violent harassment. The labor situation in Jerome was complicated at the time by the existence of three separate labor unions—the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers (MMSW); the Liga Protectora Latina, which represented about 500 Mexican miners in Jerome; and the IWW. The MMSW, which in May called a strike against United Verde, regarded the rival IWW with animosity and would not recognize it as legitimate. In response, the IWW members threatened to break the strike. Under pressure, the MMSW voted 467 to 431 to settle for less than they wanted.
In July, the IWW called for a strike against all the mines in the district. In this case, the MMSW voted 470 to 194 against striking. Three days later, about 250 armed vigilantes rounded up at least 60 suspected IWW members, loaded them onto a railroad cattle car, and shipped them out of town. Nine were arrested and jailed temporarily in Prescott though never charged with a crime; others were taken to Needles, California, then to Kingman, Arizona, where they were released after promising to desist from labor agitation.
Following a brief post-war downturn, boom times returned to Jerome in the 1920s. Copper prices rose to 24 cents a pound in 1929, and United Verde and UVX operated at near capacity. Wages rose, consumers spent, and the town's businesses—including five automobile dealerships—prospered. United Verde, seeking stable labor relations, added disability and life insurance benefits for its workers and built a baseball field, tennis courts, swimming pools, and a public park in Jerome. Both companies donated to the Jerome Public Library and helped finance projects for the town's schools, churches, and hospitals.
In 1930, after the start of the Great Depression, the price of copper fell to 14 cents a pound. In response, United Verde began reducing its work force; UVX operated at a loss, and a third big mine, Verde Central, closed completely. The price of copper fell further in 1932 to 5 cents a pound, leading to layoffs, temporary shut-downs, and wage reductions in the Verde District. In 1935, the Clark family sold United Verde to Phelps Dodge, and in 1938 UVX went out of business.
Meanwhile, a subsidence problem that had irreparably damaged at least 10 downtown buildings by 1928 worsened through the 1930s. Dozens of buildings, including the post office and jail, were lost as the earth beneath them sank away. Contributing causes were geologic faulting in the area, blast vibrations from the mines, and erosion that may have been exacerbated by vegetation-killing smelter smoke.
Mining continued at a reduced level in the Verde District until 1953, when Phelps Dodge shut down the United Verde Mine and related operations. Jerome's population subsequently fell below 100. To prevent the town from disappearing completely, its remaining residents turned to tourism and retail sales. They organized the Jerome Historical Society in 1953 and opened a museum and gift shop.
To encourage tourism, the town's leaders sought National Historic Landmark status for Jerome; it was granted by the federal government in 1967. In 1962, the heirs of Jimmy Douglas donated the Douglas mansion, above the UVX mine site, to the State of Arizona, which used it to create Jerome State Historic Park. By sponsoring music festivals, historic-homes tours, celebrations, and races, the community succeeded in attracting visitors and new businesses, which in the 21st century include art galleries, craft stores, wineries, coffee houses, and restaurants.
July is typically the warmest month in Jerome, when highs average 90 °F (32 °C) and lows average 67 °F (19 °C). January is coldest, when the high temperatures average 49 °F (9 °C) and the lows average 33 °F (1 °C). The highest recorded temperature was 108 °F (42 °C) in 2003, and the lowest was 5 °F (−15 °C) in 1963. August, averaging 3.03 inches (77 mm) of rain, is the wettest month, while as is typical for Arizona the spring months of April to June generally do not have significant rainfall.
Although most precipitation arrives as rain in Jerome, snow and fog sometimes occur. On average, about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) of snow falls in Jerome in January and lesser amounts in February, March, April, November, and December. Even so, the average depth of snow on the ground in Jerome between 1897 and 2005 was so close to zero that it is reported as zero. Jerome is often windy, especially in spring and fall. Summer thunderstorms can be violent.
The makeup of early Jerome differed greatly from the 21st-century version of the town. The original mining claims were filed by Whites, but as the mines were developed, workers of many nationalities arrived. Among these were people of Irish, Chinese, Italian, and Slavic origin who came to Jerome in the late 19th century. By the time of World War I, Mexican nationals were arriving in large numbers, and census figures suggest that in 1930 about 60 percent of the town's residents were Latino. This statistic is supported by mining company records showing that about 57 percent of the UVX workers were Mexican nationals in 1931 and that foreign-born and Spanish-surnamed workers accounted for about 77 percent of the UVX work force.
The ratio of females to males also varied greatly over time in Jerome. Census data from 1900 through 1950 show a gradual rise in the percentage of female residents, who accounted for only 22 percent of the population at the turn of the century but about 50 percent by mid-century.
As of the census of 2000, there were 329 people, 182 households, and 84 families residing in the town. The population density was 462 people per square mile (179/km2). There were 215 housing units at an average density of about 302 per square mile (117/km2). The racial makeup of the town was about 92% White, 0.30% Black or African American, about 2.5% Native American, 0.30% Asian, about 2% from other races, and 3% from two or more races. About 8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. At the 2010 census, the population of the town was 444.
In 2000, there were 182 households out of which 17% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29% were married couples living together, 10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54% were non-families. About 42% of all households were made up of individuals and 8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.81 and the average family size was 2.37.
In the town, the population was spread out with about 13% under the age of 18, 7% from 18 to 24, 27% from 25 to 44, 41% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 103 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98 males.
As of 2014, the median income for a household in the town was about $32,000. About 10% of families in Jerome were below the poverty line in 2014.
Children from Jerome in kindergarten through eighth grade attend the Clarkdale–Jerome School in Clarkdale. Older students from Jerome are enrolled at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood. Each of these communities had its own schools during the first half of the 20th century, but declining populations and shrinking tax revenues led to consolidation.
Jerome has a mayor-council government. The five seats on the council are filled by public election once every two years. Traditionally, the council member receiving the most votes in that election becomes the mayor. Nikki Check, who got the most votes in the 2012 election, is the mayor through 2014.
The town is in the Verde Valley Precinct of the Yavapai County Justice Court system. Along with Clarkdale and Cottonwood, it is in Sector Two of the Eastern Area Command of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
Jerome is referred to in the Barenaked Ladies album, All In Good Time, released in 2010. It is the title of Track 9 with references to Mingus Mountain, from which Jerome can be seen. Folksinger Kate Wolf wrote and recorded a song, "Old Jerome", first released on a posthumous album, The Wind Blows Wild, in 1988.
John Olson's model railroad, the Jerome & Southwestern, was originally developed as a series of articles in Model Railroader magazine and later released in book form. The railroad was set in and around Jerome, and referred to other local sites such as Clarkdale, Cleopatra Hill, and Mingus Mountain.
The novel Muckers (2013) by Sandra Neil Wallace, a former sportscaster for ESPN, is a historical novel for young adults that is based on the Jerome High School football team of 1950. The team went undefeated that year, shortly before the copper mine closed and Jerome's population dwindled. Jerome is also the setting for the Witches of Cleopatra Hill novels by Christine Pope.Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of the band Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer.
Katie Lee, folk singer
Fred Rico, major league baseball player