Forty years after Francisco Coronado failed to discover the great treasures of the New World, another Spanish explorer, Antonio Espejo, became the first in his kingdom to see the Verde River. Searching for rich ore along its banks, what he was shown by Hopi guides in1583 was a blue-green outcropping and other precious minerals. One day they would become the world-famous copper mines of Jerome.
Despite promise of mining opportunities, additional Spanish expeditions to the Verde did not occur until after 1598. Finally, the Governor of the Nuevo Mexico Colony, Don Juan Onate, directed Captain Marcos Farfan to lead them. The presence of silver and the intriguing blue-green ore were confirmed. Yet, the Spanish Empire failed to exploit the mineral resources of the area. It was not the Spanish who discovered gold near Prescott in 1863, nor Spanish-owned mines of blue-green ore that ultimately led to the designation of Arizona as the “Copper State.”
Historians consider Don Juan Onate, conqueror and despotic Governor of the Spanish Colony, Nuevo Mexico, a failure. His brutal treatment of the colonists and indigenous people alike drove them to rebellion. The killing and enslavement of hundreds at Acoma Pueblo brought unrelenting strife and the increasing hostility of many tribes in the region. In 1609, Don Onate was banished from New Mexico, convicted of maladministration, disobedience of orders, and cruelty to his people, though he was acquitted instead of being put to death. Documented Spanish exploration in the Verde Valley eventually ceased around 1744. It is said that only ghosts remained of the soldiers searching for gold.