The City of Prescott had its beginnings in the Spring of 1863 when a party of explorers and would-be gold miners led by the famed Joseph R. Walker arrived near the headwaters of the Hassayampa River. On May 10, 1863, at a location some six miles south-southeast of this Plaza, twenty-five members of the Walker Prospecting and Mining Company adopted "Laws and Resolutions" governing members of the first mining district in what would later become Yavapai County. The rules for the "Pioneer Mining District" provided a foundation for the establishment of mining law in the central Arizona highlands, and can be considered Prescott's birth certificate.
Thus began a gold rush that sparked the settlement and development of central Arizona, and the choice of Prescott as the first Territorial Capital. Before then, this area was almost totally unknown to white men, and gold mining prospects had been known only along the Colorado and Gila Rivers.
Joseph R. Walker led this group of explorers and miners on an expedition that started in California and went through portions of Northern Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico before ending here two years later. John W. (Jack) Swilling joined the party in New Mexico and then guided them to where he had seen significant indication of gold three years earlier.
The other twenty-three members of the "Original Prospectors" listed in their organizational document were: Joseph R. Walker, Jr., John Dickson, Jacob Linn, Jacob Miller, James V. Wheelhouse, Frank Finney, Sam Miller, George Blosser, A. C. Benedict, S. Shoup, T. J. Johnson, Daniel Ellis (Conner), Abner French, Charles Taylor, H. B. Cummings, William Williams, G. Gillalan, Jackson McCrackin, Rodney McKinnon, Felix Cholet, M. Lewis, James Chase, and George Coulter.
When the company was officially disbanded six months later, Captain Walker noted with satisfaction that: "We opened the door and held it open to civilization and now civilization will do the rest."
Jack W. (Jack) Swilling (1830 - 1878) led the first party of non-Indians to explore the Hassayampa River in January 1860 where he and his companions declared that "this new region has the finest indications of gold of any they have ever seen." In 1867 Swilling began the first canal building company in the Salt River Valley, leading to the beginnings of Phoenix and surrounding communities.
Joseph R. Walker, (1798 - 1876) played a dramatic half-century role in the opening of the American West; beginning as a fur trader and trapper, then as an explorer and guide, he was one of the great pathfinders across the unknown portions of the United States. This famous frontiersman was on his last great adventure "into the only unknown section of the United States" when he led a party of fortune seekers to this undeveloped area.