Bumble Bee, Arizona - Established 1864
One of the first questions a visitor usually asks is, "How did Bumble Bee get its name?" There are several tales, among them a story that soldiers camped along the creek in the 1860's reported the Indians to be "as thick as bees in a bee hive". At the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, however, several records favor a different account. C.J. Putsch, a forest ranger, wrote a letter that "Uncle Tom Saunders told me that in 1863, he and some other prospectors found a bumble bee's nest full of honey in the cliffs along the creek. Several in the party were badly stung, so they named it Bumble Bee Creek." The original name of Snyder's Station was changed to Bumble Bee.
The original town of Bumble Bee was in fact located along the creek, among the trees that can be seen to the east of the present day bridge. It began as a stage station on the route that was known to 1870's Prescottonians as "the Phoenix Road". This was the main thoroughfare between Phoenix and Flagstaff, via Prescott, up until the construction of Interstate 17 in the 1950's. The April 6, 1877 edition of "The Miner", Yavapai County's official newspaper at that time, reports that the stage station was located on what was known as the "Bumble Bee Flat". The story recounts that "the owners, Poulson & Besler are making preparations to build every accommodation for a first-class station."
By December 1877, however, the station had a new owner. According to the December 12th "Miner", "at Bumble Bee Station, Mr Bobo is making improvements. There are some good mines near this place, and good prospects. Mr Banta is running "rastras on $40 ore, and making money. Bobo invites miners to go out, and he will do all he can for them." A list of Arizona stage stations from 1880 also lists "James Bobo, keep and postmaster" for the Bumble Bee Station.
Mining was certainly the industry of choice around Bumble Bee, as well as throughout the region, although cattle ranching and sheep or goat herding were also present. Rich mines were active in and around the Bradshaw Mountains up until the beginning of World War II, supporting the economics of little towns such as Bumble Bee, Cleator and Crown King. Bumble Bee is clearly marked on a map of the Arizona Territory included in the 1907 edition of the encyclopedia Britannica, as are many other small mining towns in the Bradshaws. Some of these towns no longer exist, having closed down along the mines they were associated with.
By the 1930's, Bumble Bee had been moved to its present location. Vernon Martin, a Bumble Bee native, tells how his father, Jeff, bought Bumble Bee and a thousand head of cattle that went with it just before the depression. During the depression, Jeff Martin was forced to choose between Bumble Bee and his property in present day, Black Canyon City, so he chose Bumble Bee. It was Jeff, with help from Vernon, who in the 1930's built the cabins, house and store that still stand here today. The schoolhouse, now a residential home, was built in 1936 by the WPA. The town well, located northeast of the town site, was built by the Highway Department in 1938. To the south of the old schoolhouse, foundations of the houses where the Highway Department employees dwelled can still be seen.
1970's Crazy Ed built an old movie set to attract tourists to sell T-Shirts and beverages. It was even used in an old B western movie. Sadly, I don't know the name of it. The tourist trap is now on the internet as a ghost town and many come looking for it. In the early 2000's, the old movie set/ghost town was taken down. People were stealing the barn wood off of it and they were collapsing, and bees where making them their homes. So, if you are reading this......there is NO GHOST TOWN in Bumble Bee. You can still enjoy the trip out and say hello, but the ghost town you are looking for is gone.
1998, Bumble Bee Ranch Adventures, LLC purchased Bumble Bee Ranch from former owner, Jerry Collings. The ranch was purchased to be a working guest ranch which it still is today. I was told at one time Bumble Bee's private land use to be enormous. Today, it has been shrunk down to 201.4 acres. The break down is this:
180 acres (Bumble Bee Ranch Adventures, LLC)
10 acres (Kelly Powell - Ranch Manager for Bumble Bee Ranch Adventures)
10 acres (Jerry Collings - He also owns the cattle leases for the Double FF cattle)
1.4 acres (Virgil and Elissa Fulton - aka the School House)
The town of Bumble Bee has had many changes. Originally, the old Bumble Bee store provided groceries, supplies and gasoline for the population in the surrounding area. Since that time it has been operated as a bar, and now serves as an employee clubhouse for the Bumble Bee Ranch Adventures' staff. The old schoolhouse also functioned as both a church and a dance hall. Vernon Martin (1940's) remembers playing guitar while his uncle played fiddle at the dances, when the women would bring cake and sandwiches, coffee was brewed outside, and they danced all night.
Nowadays, the area around Bumble Bee is still divided into mining claims on BLM Public Land and the Double FF has the cattle leases. Although most of today's mining is recreational, the gold that lured the first prospectors here can still be panned out of the washes, but don't plan to make it rich and make sure you are not on someone's claim. That tends to make miners cranky and you may get a shotgun in your face. Remember, it is still the Wild West out here!