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About Frank Compton

A Brief Biography Of Frank Crampton With Emphasis On His Wickenburg Area Experiences In The Early 1900s.

Who was Frank Crampton?

Frank (Francis) Asbury Crampton was the author of a fascinating book entitled, Deep Enough: A Working Stiff in the Western Mining Camps. After reading references to this book in “Photo Jeeping off Constellation Road” by Maria Langer, Wickenburg-Az.com. January 2009, with comments by Allan Hall, I obtained a copy, and learned about Crampton’s adventures, especially in the Wickenburg area.

Deep Enough Cover
Figure 1. Cover of Deep Enough by Frank Crampton (1).

This book narrates Frank Crampton’s many human interest adventures and gives first-hand insight into the mining industry, characters, and circumstances of mining ventures around Wickenburg and other areas. Many of these mine shafts, adits, tailings piles, and some buildings can be seen by a drive and a hike off Constellation Mine Road. He traveled by foot, rail, horseback or leading burros, and later by Model T Ford.

The expression “Deep Enough” used for the title probably originated in Cornwall (S.W. England) and came to the United States with Cornish miners. It first referred to a drill hole in which powder was placed for blasting. When the hole had reached the desired depth, it was “deep enough.” Later, the term was broadened to include anything one did not like or wanted nothing to do with it, such as “I don’t care” or “that’s that” or “I’ve had it!” Crampton used the phrase continually throughout his book.

Frank Crampton began writing Deep Enough in 1952-1953. In Fall, 1951, Colonel Mike Blew, from the Army Corps of Engineers, listened to Frank’s tales about his adventures in various areas of California, Arizona, and Nevada that they traveled through to inspect Sixth Army installations. Mike urged him to write about his life and experiences. Crampton sent several “dictabelt tapes” to his family in California recording his reminiscenses for the book.

Brief Biography and Time Line of Frank Crampton’s Life, with Emphasis on His Adventures in the Wickenburg Area

Although Frank Crampton’s narrative gives some biographical details, they were sketchy and incomplete. I turned to the expert help of my friend and neighbor, Mrs. Kathy S. Underwood, for finding genealogical information. Pat Ryland also contributed some facts. Allan Hall generously offered a photo, a map, plus technical help and advise. The following combines recollections from Crampton’s narrative, and materials from other sources

Although he was rebellious as a child, Frank Crampton’s adult personality has been described as being practical, tough in situations demanding tough decisions, intelligent. He was capable and self-taught in assaying, mineralogy, geology, surveying, and mining terminology such as dips, spurs, and angles. To his miner friends, he was loyal and honest.

He occasionally displayed a callousness towards animals. En route to Big Stick Mine, the mule skinners disciplined stubborn mules by hobbling them on the ground with their heads tied down near their legs, then beating them with chains until they screamed. At Big Stick, miners were paid two bits apiece for shooting over three hundred feral cats, leaving a few behind to control rodents. In Colorado, a captured semi-tame grizzly bear cub successfully won a staged fight with an English pit bull.

A 1917 Draft Registration Card describes 29-year-old Crampton as short, slender, with grey eyes and brown hair. By time of WWII, when he was 54 years old, the 1942 Registration Card says he had blue eyes, gray hair, light complexion, was 5’6″ tall, weighed 150 pounds, and had a scar on his right hand. Photos of him throughout Deep Enough show him with various machinery, animals. people, and places, corroborating this description. The front cover sketch of the book shows his general appearance.

February 29, 1888 (Leap Year.) Francis (Frank) Asbury Crampton was born in New York City in a Park Avenue Mansion, on the day of a great blizzard, to well-to-do, socially prominent parents. Jacob Miller Crampton and Susan Francis Lewis Crampton. His father was a prominent businessman. His mother attended Wells College. A photo in Deep Enough shows his mother surrounded by various famous people of the time, including President Grover Cleveland.

1890 – Brother Theodore M. Crampton was born. Ted was his partner in many ventures.

1896. Frank Crampton’s father died when he was eight years old. Two years later, Crampton’s mother secretly married Samuel D. Rockwell. By the time of the 1920 census, Crampton’s mother was married to her third husband, a cousin named Chester C. Waring, a widower who had lived in her household when she was married to Samuel.

1900. Frank Crampton entered a military academy, and despite being disciplined for many pranks, graduated in Spring, 1904.

November, 1904. Crampton ,16 years old, was “busted” from an Ivy League College after one month of attendance. He ran away from home and followed Horace Greeley’s famous axiom: “Go West Young Man.” He took a train to Albany, New York, and further points west.

Frank Crampton met two “stiffs” at a Chicago depot on the way to Cripple Creek, via Denver. These men, John T. Harrington (John T.) and Michael Sullivan (Sully), became lifetime friends, mentioned often in his book. They taught him how to “ride the rods”. He took a freight train to his first job in the Portland Mine in Cripple Creek, Colorado. There he started to learn hard rock mining. He joined, and supported, the International Workers of the World and The Western Federation of Miners. “Sully told me to join and I did. It was something I never regretted, and for years after I had left Cripple Creek, I paid my union dues regularly.”

Crampton and friends moved on to Goldfield, Nevada. He worked in the Combination Mine and met many miners, including famous Shorty Harris and Walter Scott (Scotty) of Death Valley.

May, 1906. After experiencing the San Francisco Earthquake, Crampton returned to New York for an uneasy reunion with his family that lasted two months. He drifted west to Tonopah, Nevada and worked at the famous Belmont Mine. Later that year he returned to Goldfield, won a drilling championship, and bought a survey and assay office. After various adventures there, he came down with “black pneumonia”. He spent two months in a hospital in Oakland, California.

January, 1907. He traveled to various areas of Northern California, helping Ernest Locke look for a quicksilver mine for investors. He entered more drilling contests. Then, he worked in a very dangerous mine at Utah Copper, experiencing the mine owners’ attitudes that “men are cheaper than timber.” This was reinforced in the most chilling event in his narrative. Twenty men, including Crampton, were trapped for ten days in a mine when timbers collapsed and caught them in a tunnel. They were mostly sitting in wet darkness with little food. One of the “bohunks” (miners from the Old Country) panicked and fell to his death. Other miners died in different parts of the mine. Crampton’s mining friends came from all parts to assist in the rescue.

AZ Map
Figure 2. Map of Arizona Showing Sites of Frank Crampton’s Adventures in Arizona.

1908. Crampton came to Chloride, Arizona, an historic mining area north of Kingman. He set up camp there and had some humorous times. One involved a dude (an Easterner) nicknamed “Sweet Caporal” and tricks played on him with a badger. In November Crampton closed the assay office in Goldfield and spent an interesting Christmas in Kingman at the Hotel Beale.

January 1909.N.W. of WICKENBURG. Big Stick Mine. Crampton returned to Chloride, then with friend Tom reopened Big Stick Mine, which had been closed for six years. It lies just north of the South Fork of the Santa Maria River. He formed a mining and metallurgical company called “Crampton & Crampton” . Ted, Crampton’s younger brother, came from New York, to do assaying at Big Stick Mine. They found the skeleton of the Big Stick Mine prospector on a mine dump. His skull had been broken from back to front, hit from behind by a steel drill. He’d probably been murdered for money received from a shipment of his high grade silver ore. In cleaning up the trash below the mill ore bin, Crampton and his brother found four sealed five-gallon tins of zinc-gold preciptate that Ted processed into gold bars worth almost $15,000. Crampton called it “deep enough” on the Big Stick Mine in 1911 and shut it down.

Wickenburg Area Map
Figure 3. Map showing sites described in Deep Enough off Constellation Mine Road. Map courtesy of Allan Hall.

Crampton’s Wickenburg Area Adventures off Constellation Mine Road

February 1909. WICKENBURG. Copper Belt Mine.

This mine had been purchased by a P.W. O’Sullivan for New York investors and Crampton was to manage it. He didn’t have time to go underground at first, when he arrived to inspect it, but thought the buildings were too large for a small mine. There were all the tools and equipment needed to start work. All he and his friend needed were food, supplies, and powder. It was considered one of the best looking prospects in the district, along with the Monte Cristo mine. But when Crampton examined the shafts and veins, it appeared that the mine was one where “promoters had mined the sucker-investors instead of ore.” Eventually, dangerous old cases of blasting powder had to be removed and detonated near the town of Constellation. In October 1909, Crampton told the owners, headed by a man named Dilthey, that the mine was a “prospect” and that the mill was ” an empty shell.” After arguments about the mine, in which Dilthey argued that all that was necessary to make the mine pay dividends was “to take ore from the shaft and run it through the mill”, Crampton had enough and resigned.

1909. WICKENBURG. Wren Mine.

The Wren Mine, S.E. of Constellation, was discovered when dangerous old blasting power removed from the Copper Belt Mine was detonated on an outcrop on claims presumed to be owned by Wren. Ah Yat, Wren’s Chinese helper in Constellation, immediately ran to the hole, which opened a three foot vein of rich copper ore. He insisted on buying into the claims. Crampton had initially thought these claims, that Wren had wanted to sell, were worthless. The Wickenburg Miner later ran a story about the blast, headlined, “Old Powder Makes Good.” Ezra Thayer, the owner of the Monte Cristo Mine, displayed not only ore from the Monte Cristo Mine, in two mine ore carts filled with high grade silver ore, at his Phoenix hardware store, but also an Irish buggy filled with Wren copper ore. The Wren mine was closed in 1911 after an ownership dispute between Wren and Dilthey. Crampton, his brother, and John T. took “every pound of ore we could mine, gutted the hole, caved in the mouth of the tunnel, and called it deep enough.” Crampton returned 25 years later to find the tunnel mouth still caved in.

Late 1909. WICKENBURG. Monte Cristo Mine.

This silver mine, owned by Ezra Thayer, had its camp less than a mile away from the adjoining Copper Belt Mine. The Monte Cristo Mine was originally mined by Mexicans, who were driven off by prospectors after learning they weren’t American citizens. The Mexicans had hidden the main source of ore. Crampton found the veins and tunnel for Thayer, who successfully mined high grade silver ore that was taken by wagon to Phoenix, on the old Constellation Mine Road. By 1915, after Frank Crampton had left the area, Thayer had 20-30 men putting in three shifts a day. They built a shaft that went down 1,500 feet, along with 3 miles of drifts. They found a 6-foot-wide gold vein, but Thayer blocked them out, believing that his money was safer underground than in a bank! He sold the mine in 1926. Today, ruins of this mine, which has been reopened many times, can be seen along Constellation Mine Road. Some believe there are still good deposits of gold and silver bearing ore there. A good history of the mine can be found on: www.4wheelingaz.net/montecristo. Also, see Maria Langer, “The Mines of Constellation Road,” wickenburg-az.com. March, 2001. Later in his narrative, Crampton complains that as news of Thayer’s strike at the Monte Cristo Mine spread, tenderfoots and promoters drifted in “to make themselves nuisances and to clutter up the landscape looking for high grade outcrops and veins.”

Monte Cristo Mine
Figure 4. Ruins of Monte Cristo Mine. Photo by Kathy Block.

1909- WICKENBURG. Constellation.

Frank Crampton spent some time in and around Constellation, which was a shipping and supply center for area miners and ranchers. Constellation’s post office had opened on April 29, 1901. Most of the establishments in town were owned by Powhattan S. Wren. They included a two-story saloon, a gambling den, dance hall, store, and another saloon. There was stagecoach service. Crampton tells many anecdotes about people and events in Constellation. Wren, a colorful man who was five feet three inches tall, had converted part of a two-story stage station into a dance hall and “rest home” for “business” girls from Phoenix. He also had a store-post-office saloon. Ah Yat helped run Wren’s businesses. Crampton notes that none of the nearby cowhands or goat ranchers would remain in Constellation any longer than necessary to pick up mail and buy supplies. There was animosity between the mining “stiffs”, “rest home girls” and these ranchers. Miners believed that goats milling around holes they were working in would loosen rocks that fell on the miners. Also the cowhands and goat herders didn’t socialize with the “rest home girls.” At its peak, in the early 1920s, Constellation had a population of about 250 people. Mining in the area declined and the post office closed January 31, 1939. A comprehensive article on Constellation, by Neal duShane, includes many historic photos and can be found on: www.apcrp.org.ghost towns.constellation.

Figure 5. Site of Constellation. Photo courtesy of Allan Hall.

1909. WICKENBURG. Cavanass Goat Ranch.

This goat ranch was slightly southeast of Constellation. Frank Crampton’s most humorous anecdotes center around this goat ranch and its inhabitants. He and his friend John T. began visiting various goat ranches, between work at the Monte Cristo Mine and prospecting. One ranch owner, in particular, had two attractive, unmarried daughters. Then, when John T. was guarding a load of high grade silver ore being taken to Phoenix, a goat herder named Bill Durfee came to camp at Copper Belt. He’d been bitten by a rattlesnake. Frank and his brother Ted poured raw whiskey into Bill, and Ted rode into Constellation for more. They took Bill back to the goat ranch. When Frank returned to the ranch the next day, he learned Bill had ” taken a bad turn” and was being transported to Wickenburg in a buckboard and wagon. About to leave, Frank heard “moans coming from the ranchhouse.” Alone, uncertain, and inexperienced, Frank ended up delivering a baby girl to Bill’s wife Dorris. After some harrowing moments, the baby and mother were alive and okay. He commented, “Nothing I had studied in mining or anything that I had ever heard about prepared me for what came next, nor did I know that the birth of a baby was not the end. Somehow the thing was managed with Dorris holding her baby and looking as if she were a Madonna while I sweated and hoped she would live.”

Later Life

October 1909. Frank Crampton returned to New York to meet with the company that owned Copper Belt Mine. After resigning from his position as manager, he went to Boston. There he met a politician named Herman Horman who engaged Crampton and his brother Ted to look for a family missing since 1878 about 30 miles north of Ely, Nevada, near Cherry Creek.They traveled in a new Ford over rough tracks. Using old letters from the Joshua Ward family, Frank and Ted eventually located their cabin. They found the skeletal remains of Joshua Ward and his wife and two daughters inside the cabin. They had been killed by Indians some thirty years before. A wagon load of rich silver ore was in front. The source of the silver ore had not been found, and legends of “The Lost Joshua Ward Mine” abound. While stranded in Cherry Creek by a blizzard upon return from the cabin, they set up a brothel to entertain miners there! In 1910 Crampton returned to the area to unsuccessfully look for the lost mine.

1911-1914. Crampton worked for the Colorado Geological Survey, researching clays, and building furnaces to process clay. At a mine near Telluride, Crampton “ran into trouble and was so badly injured that I had to give up and let the doctors take me over. It had almost been undertakers, who were cheated by a split of a split-second.” He got caught in a cuff of his overalls by a set-screw on a shaft collar. Before it could be stopped, “the only clothing I had left on were shoes and a few ribbons.” His hands were badly cut, “with little flesh on the palms of my hands to hold on with.” This was one of the worst injuries Crampton suffered in his long mining career, except for his harrowing experience in the Utah mine cave-in. Later, in Colorado, he became involved in a bloody coal miner’s strike near Walsenburg and Trinidad, Colorado, that became known as the “Ludlow Massacre”, where strikers were fighting militia and the National Guard. One effect of the strike was that Crampton & Crampton’s business slacked off, because small mine owners slowed down activity in fear of further strikes.

1918. World War I. Frank Crampton enlisted in the Army from Santa Monica, California. He listed a wife as a dependent. His occupation was given as “President and Manager of Mining Company, operates for self.” He spent the war years designing gas masks.

After World War I, Crampton had various adventures in California. In 1919 he found the bodies of an eccentric named John Lamoigne and Shorty Harris near Furnace Creek, Death Valley. In November, 1919, he rescued author Zane Grey from a fall through an alkali crust in a dry pond in the Amargosa Desert near Furnace Creek.

In the mid-1920s, Frank Crampton made at least three trips from Japan to San Francisco, as shown on California Passenger and Crew Lists for the Korea Maru. Between mining ventures, he served as an advisor to both Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-Shek before World War II.

New Year’s Day, 1934. The Glendale-Montrose flood completely destroyed Crampton’s home, in the L.A. area. After a two- month effort, three photographers were able to recover prints and negatives to use in his book.

In October 1942, Crampton enlisted in the Air Force from Nevada City, California, apparently working with the U.S. Engineer Department in Panama. After the war, he was a water resource engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation in California. In 1952-53, he was in Korea as a mining advisor to Syngman Rhee. He served as a consultant to the California legislature and was endeavoring to find the time and capital to reopen a mine near Wickenburg. In 1958, he was 70 years old, but proudly was able, by himself, to drill a 22″ hole in solid rock using a 4 pound single jack hammer!

August 24, 1961. Francis (Frank) Asbury Crampton died. He is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno, San Mateo County, California. He was survived by his wife Esther and two daughters, Jacqueline and Edith. Many of his papers, and a handwritten draft of Deep Enough, are in the archives at the University of Wyoming, donated by Esther Crampton.

Directions to Mines Mentioned Above

Here are the directions to mines described by Frank Crampton in Deep Enough off Constellation Mine Road in Wickenburg.

Take El Recreo Road north from Highway 60 two blocks east of the Hassayampa River Bridge. This road becomes Constellation Mine Road. (Turn is to east of McDonald’s).

After the paved road passes the Rodeo Grounds on the right, it becomes dirt at the Yavapai County Line. Drive 11.6 miles and Monte Cristo Mine ruins will be on your right.

Continue on Constellation Mine Road approximately one mile.. Cross Slim Jim Creek (road goes over a large culvert) and park. Walk up Slim Jim Creek to your right. About 250 yards up from the road, on your left (east) is the site of Copper Belt Mine. Continue for about 1.2 miles and you will reach the site of Constellation. Nothing much is left, except some broken glass and level areas.

The other sites may be reached by jeep roads, see map, Figure 2.

Big Stick Mine is about 40 miles NW of Wickenburg, off Highway 93, and is not included in the Wickenburg area map.

(1) University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, New Edition copyright 1982, University of Oklahoma Press. First paperback printing, 1993. Library of Congress Catalog Card No.81-43639, ISBN: 0-8061-2529-2. The original hardcover edition was published by Sage Books, Denver, Copyright 1956 by Esther L. Crampton.

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