Tom Childs

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Tom Childs, Jr. was an Arizona miner and rancher. The Papago knew him as "Muta" ("Woodpecker's nest inside of a Saguaro"). He was born in Yuma, Arizona, United States, on June 10, 1870.[1]


Tom Childs, Sr., was born in 1832 in Mississippi. As a small boy he came west with a Mormon family. They finally settled on Lytle Creek near present San Bernardino, California. When he was 18 years old he joined a party heading for Sonora. After following the "Camino del Diablo" to Sonoita, Sonora, on the U.S.-Mexican border, the party went on to the Cubabi mines where they split up. In the years that followed, he did everything from running a sawmill in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona, to digging for silver at the famous Planchas de Plata below Nogales, Sonora.

Early life[edit]

In 1875, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to start the children in school. After Mrs. Childs died, they moved to Ajo, Arizona. The elder Childs had wandered by there in 1850 while looking for the copper deposits that Mexicans in Sonora had told him about. The family went to Ajo to get a start in the cattle business but never got far away from mining.

The elder and younger Childs located the first mines at Ajo, Arizona in 1887. At first they were in partnership with the Shotwell-Calado Company, but their money soon gave out. After another try with the St. Louis Copper Company they decided to handle it by themselves. In 1912, they sold out their holdings to the Calumet and Arizona Company. Later this firm became a part of the Phelps Dodge Corporation.

During this time Tom began to take an interest in his Papago neighbors and later ended up marrying a Papago, Martha, with whom he had twelve children. One of his daughters, Fillman Childs Bell, became a published author and respected historian.