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Mojave River Valley Museum
La Paz, Arizona
The town of La Paz grew up in 1862 to serve the miners washing placer gold in the vicinity. Mountain man
discovered gold in the vicinity in January 1862, and the district produced about 50,000 troy ounces of gold per year in 1863 and 1864. La Paz had a population of 1,500 and was a stage stop between Fort Whipple, Arizona and
California. The town was the county seat of Yuma County from 1862 to 1870, and was considered for the Arizona territorial capital. The placers were largely exhausted by 1863, but the community hung on as a shipping port and supply base until the Colorado River shifted its course westward in 1866, leaving La Paz landlocked. The shipping business was taken over by a new river town, Ehrenberg, six miles south, and La Paz became deserted and as peaceful as its name. Today nothing remains of La Paz except a couple of crumbling stone foundations and a historical marker.
Boom Days in Old La Paz
History of Ehrenberg
It is difficult to imagine the cramped and doubtless dusty adobe building that first housed the J. Goldwater & Bro. Mercantile in Ehrenberg. Opened by Michael Goldwater, grandfather of Arizona Senator and 1964 Presidential candidate Barry M. Goldwater, the store was first established in La Paz, six miles upriver from Ehrenberg. When La Paz floundered about 1869, Goldwater moved to energetic Ehrenberg where business thrived along the banks of the
Colorado River. Before
the railroad to Yuma was built in 1877, Ehrenberg was initially serviced by
grinding their way up and down the Colorado. For people with some means, life in Ehrenberg—while not always comfortable was tolerable because the Colorado River provided an umbilical-like lifeline between burgeoning San Francisco and settlements downstream such as Ehrenberg.
Rather than spending hard earned cash on Ehrenberg's imported "niceties," raw-boned miners preferred to dull their senses with a bottle of whiskey and one of Ehrenberg's plentiful florid saloon girls. In fact, there were so many saloons that when one faltered it became a makeshift school. Ehrenberg continued to bloom until the gold ran out and the new railroad choked life from the little river port.