Designed by Domingo Marcucci the side wheeler steamboat Uncle Sam was delivered in pieces to the Colorado River Delta by James Turnbull, a contractor who provided supplies to Yuma, in 1852. It marked the dawning of a new era on the Colorado River.
The 65-foot long steam boat with its 20-horsepower engine could carry 35 tons of supplies on a 15 day, 120 mile trip up the river. But its contributions to the opening of the Arizona Territory was short lived. In the spring of 1853 after an accident it sank at its dock below Fort Yuma and was washed away by a flood.
Within a few short years there were five steamers transporting supplies and people along the Colorado River below the confluence of the Virgin River. The largest was the Cocopah launched in 1859.
Built in San Francisco specifically for use on the Colorado River and launched in August 1859, this steamboat was 140 feet long, 29 feet wide, and had a shallow draft of 19 inches. It was ideally suited for the muddy Colorado River with its ever shifting sand bars. It was capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo.
As steamboats began plying the river as far north as El Dorado Canyon, to protect the ever increasing Colorado River traffic as well as overland routes into the territory, in 1859 Fort Mohave was established a few miles down river from the present site of Bullhead City. The assurance of safety provided by the military presence led the California Volunteers to establish Mohave City in 1863.
Mohave City served as the first Mohave County seat. But the small village had already began to fade by the time Fort Mohave was expanded in 1869 and all civilians were ordered to leave within 30 days.
Many of these people moved about five miles north to the steamboat landing and crossroads town of Hardyville that had been established in 1864. This frontier outpost had eclipsed Mohave City with establishment of a ferry that linked the Mojave Road and Mohave Prescott Road, a primary overland route that connected Los Angeles with the territorial capital of Arizona.
The town had also been given a boost when the George A. Johnson & Company, a major steamboat company on the Colorado River, established a landing to serve the rapidly developing mines in the San Francisco Mining District. Exemplifying its prominence Hardyville was designated the county seat on on January 21, 1867.
For more than 150 years this oasis on the Colorado River in western Arizona has been a destination for visionaries as well as those in search of opportunity. With the recent announcement that Bullhead City is counted among the top 10 medium-sized cities for remote work according to an InMyArea study the city will continue to be a destination for years to come.
For more information about relocation and recreation in Bullhead City contact the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America