Footbridge and other improvements at historic Camp Beale's Springs site
Long-time Kingman resident and historian Loren Wilson believes that Camp Beale's Springs may be the most historic place in Kingman.
Beale, a Naval officer in the service of the U.S.
Army Topographical Corps, was ordered to build a wagon road across the 35th Parallel as a route from the East to the West.
Any "reel" adventures of pioneering heros of the old West pale in comparison to the real-life adventures of Beale, a larger-than-life hero who led a camel brigade through what is now Kingman in 1858.
As a young naval officer Beale made 12 trips to the Pacific Coast from the East by the time he was 28.
Beale and Kit Carson were picked by President James Polk to return to the Pacific Coast in an attempt to locate a new path to the West.
It was on one of these trips that Beale camped at a spring located on what is now the western outskirts of Kingman.
Reference to springs in the area – Bishop's Spring, Atlantic Spring and Saavedras Spring - is found in Beale's journal, according to "Camp Beale's Springs," a historic pamphlet written by Dan Messersmith.
Bishop's Springs was renamed Beale's Spring when William Hardy helped build and operate a toll road through the area in 1864.
A way station called Beale's Station was also established at the location, Messersmith wrote.
During the time of the Hualapai War – 1866 to 1870 –the springs served as a temporary outpost for soldiers from Camp Willow Grove and Fort Mojave.
Later Fort Beale was built at the site, and the Beale's Springs Indian Agency was established at the camp as a temporary reservation and supply distribution center for the Hualapai Tribe, Wilson said.
The camp remained active until 1874 when the Hualapais were forced to march to a reservation at La Paz.
Many of the buildings, including the officers quarters, company barracks, bakery, storehouse and ranch building remained standing.
After 1874 the springs again became a campsite and way station on the toll road, according to Messersmith.
The Beale's Springs site became a water source for the city of Kingman when a reservoir was built, Wilson said, but in the decades since the site has become just one more forgotten chapter in Kingman's past.
"Desecration has been heaped upon desecration.
Roads, utility lines, cattle guards, rusting water pipes, and other 'improvements' of similar ilk, have violated the site and … rendered it unattractive to the casual observer.
"But for those who know what happened there, it is but a jewel with a light coat of dust…" Messersmith wrote.
Wilson said renewed interest in restoring the historic significance of the area has taken place in the last few years.
Leased from the city by the Museum of History and Arts, Camp Beale's Springs became the focus of an extensive cleanup campaign, and the Kingman Clean City Commission began discussing plans to preserve and improve the area.
Contributions for the project came in the form of an $8,000 grant from the "Water Matters" program of Cargill, North Star Steel's parent company and an additional $5,000 from North Star.
Other donations from the city of Kingman, the Clean City Committee, the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, the Bureau of Land Management and International Mill Service brought the total amount of contributions to $26,500.
On March 4, 2002 the museum relinquished the lease and Camp Beale's Springs was given back to the city of Kingman.
Restoration of the historic site will be ongoing, Wilson said.
"Loren Wilson and a group of others have shown an interest in building a footbridge across a little spring that can't be crossed easily, especially by anyone in a wheelchair," Darel Fruhwirth, the city of Kingman parks and recreation director, said.
"We want to make Camp Beale's Springs assessable to everyone."
A probationer work crew, under the supervision of Richard Bethel of the Mohave County Probation Department, will build the bridge next week.
Wison said plans are in the works to place stone picnic tables and benches at the site, which will be open to the public.