Remembering Jesse Earl Baxter; Accidentally Electrocuted at the Humboldt Smelter

By Elizabeth Bourgault

Consolidated Arizona Smelting Co., Humboldt, AZ, c.1910-1919 (SHMRC 1600.0277.0000)

Yavapai Cemetery Association (YCA), a volunteer group formed in 1995 to restore and manage Citizen’s Cemetery on E. Sheldon St. in Prescott, created an “Adopt a Grave” program in 2013. YCA worked with the public to not only “adopt” graves which the adopter would then care for, but to also purchase markers for any of the hundreds of graves without them. This effort resulted in about 125 new markers added to graves. Betty Bourgault adopted the grave of Jesse Baxter and purchased a new marker for it.
 
Jesse was born on June 24, 1892, in Mountainburg, Arkansas, to Louis Scott and Cynthia Wells Baxter. On June 3, 1914, in Alma, Arkansas, Jesse married Jennie Warner who was born in Yavapai County, Arizona Territory on July 22, 1897. Jennie’s family was living in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the time. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Arizona so Jesse could work in the mines. They had two children: Mary Caroline born August 24,1915 in Prescott and Carl Virgil born November 25, 1916, in Humboldt.

Wedding photo of Jesse Baxter and Jennie Warner, June 3, 1914 (Courtesy of the Baxter Family)

Jesse worked for the Consolidated Arizona Smelting Company in Humboldt as a laborer in the copper smelter. The original smelter, the Val Verde, and surrounding buildings burned down in 1904. In 1906 the Consolidated Arizona Smelting Company built a bigger and better smelting plant which produced 1,000 tons of ore per day where the Val Verde once stood. The plant location was ideal as it was on a branch line of the Santa Fe Railroad. The Weber Chimney Company of Chicago built the 180-foot stack. The smelter was expected to produce at least 25,000,000 pounds of copper and roll up earnings of $2,500,000 by 1917.

On January 11, 1917, Jesse Baxter, 24, was accidentally electrocuted at the smelter while performing his duties as an unloader of trolley cars carrying ore. According to a coroners’ inquest held on January 12, 1917, at the site where the accident occurred, above the track where the trolley cars were loaded with ore from railroad cars was an electrical trolley line known as the “High Line” by smelter employees. The line was easily reached by an ordinary-sized man standing on the floor of an unloaded car. A loaded car brought the man even closer to it. According to the witness who was in the car with Jesse unloading ore, “Jesse lost his hold on his shovel and he stepped up on the ore, reached over and got hold of the handle of the shovel and in stepping back, raised up so that the trolley line struck him on the back of the head or neck and he fell.” On the evidence submitted, the jury found that “said J. E. Baxter, deceased, came to his death by coming in contact with a naked trolley wire while in the performance of his duty as unloader of cars”.

Jesse Baxter’s grave marker (Courtesy of the author)

The cost of Jesse Baxter’s burial in 1917 is interesting compared to today’s costs. The total bill was $157.50, and it was paid by his father-in-law Edward H. Warner of Mayer, even though the bill was also submitted to Consolidated Arizona Smelting Company. Itemized costs were: preservation of remains $25.00, casket $75.00, hearse $10.00, two carriages $10.00, suit $12.00, white shirt, underwear and socks $3.00, trip to Humboldt $10.00 and cemetery charges $12.50.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) recently dismantled the historic Humboldt brick smokestack and attached brick converter flue chamber building. They had been deteriorating over the years, were a safety hazard and had been contaminating the soil with metals. ADEQ urges the public to avoid the site.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to dayspast@sharlothallmuseum.org Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at archivesrequest@sharlothallmuseum.org for information or assistance with photo requests.

You may also enjoy: