In 1900 rancher Lew Turner filed a claim for the waters of Fossil Creek; a year later, he filed a claim to the spring and headwaters that fed it. Among the possible uses he listed was the production of electric power. With a constant flow of over a million gallons of water an hour coursing down a 1,600 foot drop in 10 miles, the creek, located in rugged mountain terrain approximately 70 miles southwest of Jerome, was ideal for the production of hydroelectric power.
Turner drew in three partners to help him in the venture and formed the Arizona Power Company (TAPCO). By 1907 a bond issue had raised $1.5 million, and construction was begun to build a 40-mile road from the nearest rail siding near Meyer, Arizona, to Fossil Creek. Childs plant was constructed and began operation in 1909. It consisted of three turbine-driven 1,500-kilowatt generators producing a total plant capacity of 4,500 kWh. The Irving plant was added in 1914 in response to the United Verde Company's decision to construct a new smelter in Clarkdale.
The Childs and Irving plants were electrically linked on a grid that supplied first Jerome and then much of central Arizona. In 1918 a third plant, this one a steam turbine type, was added at Clarkdale. The entire system delivered most of central Arizona's electrical power for many years. In the mid-1920's, for
a brief time, the system delivered up to 70 percent of the power to Phoenix as well.
The Childs-Irving portion of the system was so well constructed and efficient in design that it was only taken off line in 2004 as result of environmental considerations. The systems contribution to the development of central Arizona and particularly to the state's mining industry in delivering inexpensive power was incalculable. In 1976 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated it a National Engineering Landmark, one of only two in the state of Arizona.