Congress Junction has been called town so tough that even the women strapped on six guns and shot it out. It was the site of the rich Congress Gold Mine and supply center for the nearby towns of Stanton, Weaver and Octave. The four towns combined made up a center for practically every incorrigible who ever wandered into Arizona.
Today, only their ghosts remain; ghosts of men who defied the Apaches to wrestle a fortune of gold from the ground—or steal it.
Some say the fighting has never ended. They insist that on dark nights, the Apaches smear their faces with war paint and come howling out of the nearby hills. They claim the ghostly outlaws still ride drunkenly down the debris-littered streets. On particularly stormy nights, when the clouds are clasping with thunder, one may even see a detachment of Cavalry troops come charging from the Old Date Creek Army Camp.
According to legend, a flood in 1890 in the Hassayampa River washed away a mining camp, carrying downstream a safe containing a small fortune in gold. Another story tells of three Italians who befriended an Indian and was led to a rich gold deposit. The three men loaded themselves down with gold, but were attacked by other Indians before they could reach civilization. The story was told by one of the men who survived the attack, but died before he could draw a map to his treasure. His pockets were filled with gold when he died.
This was in I860. Three years later, the town of Weaver was founded by prospectors who picked thousands of dollars of loose gold from the ground. Octave came to life that same year when placer mining yielded over a million dollars worth of gold. Later, the Octave mine produced $8,000,000 worth of ore. The Congress mine also produced a similar amount, not to mention the millions that were scooped from the sand.
Nearby Stanton was a placer camp, originally called Antelope Springs. A mean hombre named Charles Stanton hired a bunch of Mexicans to murder the town’s leading citizens. Then he renamed it Stanton. But whatever his profit, it was short lived. He was soon murdered by a bad guy from Weaver.
Abandoned in 1896, Weaver became a den for outlaws whose apparent aim in life was to shoot the daylight out of other outlaws who had taken over Congress.
One of the most popular tales concerns a gang who robbed a gold shipment and then returned to Weaver to boast of their accomplishment. That night the robbers went to bed in a drunken stupor. They were murdered and their gold never found. It seems they hid it somewhere between Congress and Weaver.
The area is a maze of staggering foothills, bordered to the north by high, coniferous forest-covered mountains. Between the foothills small gullies are remaining evidence of the floods that swept gold from the mountains. A few miles to the south a prospector is reported to have picked up $30,000 worth of gold nuggets in one day.
There are not too many areas that can boast a background similar to the 25 mile radius surrounding Congress Junction. There are restaurants, service stations, and several families in Congress. It’s quiet and peaceful, a marked contrast to what it must have been during its heyday. It’s kept alive by the tourists traveling Highway 89 from Prescott to Phoenix. But for every occupied building there are several that are deserted, mute evidence of what the town had once been.
A dirt road to the west a few miles north of Congress leads towards the old army camp. This dirt road crosses the highway and continues east to Stanton, Weaver and Octave, in that order. These three towns can be reached in a passenger car. It’s rough, but a cautious driver can make it. It takes a four-wheel-drive rig to reach the army camp. This seldom visited site is across a sandy gully at the end of a rough, washed out dirt trail. This old camp site has numerous old dumps of interest to bottle collectors. The camp was occupied from 1867 through 1874 so any bottle would be a collector’s item.
Beyond Weaver the road gets a bit rougher. The hills get steeper and there are more and more deserted miners cabins along the way. Octave consists of crumbling walls and a dump site that covers the entire side of a hill. A part of this dump has been explored. There are broken, purple bottles all over the place. The heart of the dump is many feet deep.
The Congress-Octave area is a fading part of history, and as one rambles through the area he is overcome by the presence of the ghosts who contributed so much and left only a few tales of lost fortunes and violence.