December 27, 2015

1894 Gold Heist Foiled

James M. Dodson

While gold was stored at area mines, it was well guarded. But when it came time to ship the gold to one of the banks in Prescott, it was at its most vulnerable to robbery.

News of any gold shipments from the mines was impossible to keep secret. Newspapers would report on it. So when a gang of desperadoes from New Mexico suddenly showed up in town, the owner of the Little Jessie mine, John Jones, decided to take precautions for his upcoming gold shipment to the Prescott Bank.

He hired former Prescott marshal (effectively chief of police), James M. Dodson to escort and insure the safety of the gold shipment from the Big Bug area mine.

Soon, "Dodson's skill as a sleuth uncovered an advance plot." (*1) He learned that the gang of would-be-robbers had recruited the driver of the gold shipment!

However, instead of changing drivers, Dodson decided to hatch a ruse to foil the robbery.

December 13, 2015

Crafting Toymaker Brought Joy to Kids

When it came to making miniatures, Koerner Rombauer showed signs of genius. He was commissioned to make models of the Iron King Mine (showing both inner and outer workings,) as well as the Ajo Open-Pit Mine that was featured at the Yavapai County Fair.

But his greatest joy was spending all his extra time making toys for the children of Prescott.

December 7, 2015

The Great Blizzard and Flood of 1916

If there was any question of whether the winter of 1916 would be a wet one, the answer was received on New Year's Eve of 1915. "Storm is Greatest Town Ever Experienced," the headline read. (*1)

"Depth of 32 inches of snow on the plaza establishes record," it continued. (*1)

On the surrounding mountain passes, the snow was a whopping 6 feet deep. Flagstaff received 62 inches on this single day. (*2)

Two weeks later, another hefty blanket of snow would cover the area. (*3)  But on the 18th, a warm rain started falling all over the region and disaster was immanent.

November 17, 2015

The Indian Raids on the Bully Bueno Mine

The strategy of Native Americans during the Indian Wars was more nuanced than simply "collecting scalps."

Their preferred method was to utilize a strategy this author would describe as "guerrilla attrition."  Instead of starving out their opponent with a siege by surrounding them, Native Americans would uniquely use guerrilla raids to attack the provisions, animals and supplies necessary for the survival of their foes.

One of the more successful and best examples of guerrilla attrition by the Native Americans was their raids on the Bully Bueno Mine.

October 23, 2015

Part 2: 6 Crypt-id Monsters That Live In Northern Arizona (Plus 3 More from South. AZ)

Artist's conception of the Aswang

(Part 1, "Land Dwellers" can be found by clicking here)

The Crazy Cave Creatures of Route 66:

The last three monsters on the list are cave-dwellers.  Due to the 600+ known volcanos in the area, there must be hundreds of square miles of undiscovered caverns, lava tubes, and caves in northern Arizona and the creatures that purportedly live in them are easily the strangest and most bizarre.  Why sightings seem to occur mostly around historic Route 66 may simply be because that's where the humans are present to see them. All of these cave-dwellers are nocturnal and sightings are rare. (*13)

October 7, 2015

6 Crypt-id Monsters That Live In Northern Arizona (Part 1: Land Dwellers)

Most locals have heard of the Mogollon Monster, but descriptions of exactly what kind of creature it might be has changed over the years. A rash of sightings of a particular type of creature would make that animal a sort of "Mogollon Monster du jour."

As a result, this author will not give the title of "Mogollon Monster" to any of the forthcoming six.  Instead, it is hoped that people who have seen these strange creatures and are afraid of coming forward might learn that they are not alone in their experience.

Some of these monsters are truly bizarre, but every one of them has been seen in other locations on our planet.

Part 2 of this duplet will focus on "The Cave Dwellers;" this article focuses on "The Land Dwellers."

September 29, 2015

The Colorful, Short Life of Mayor Buckey O'Neill

Mayor William Owen "Buckey" O'Neill, 1860-1898

Even renowned western fiction authors could not dream up a more interesting character than the real-life story of Buckey O'Neill.

Although modern spellings of his nickname drop the "e", William Owens "Buckey" O'Neill was a gambler, lawyer, newspaperman, miner, Sheriff of Yavapai County, Mayor of Prescott, and finally, a Captain in Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders.

Buckey got his nickname from his days as a gambler.  He enjoyed the poker game "faro" where going against the odds was called "bucking the tiger."  Buckey had a penchant for going against the odds, but ultimately it would cost him his life at age 38.

September 21, 2015

Teddy's Rough Riders Originated in Prescott

When news arrived of the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine, William "Buckey" O'Neill was Mayor of Prescott. Buckey, (that is how O'Neill spelled it,) like most Americans, was infuriated by the disaster and hungry to to join the fight.

While discussing the situation with Alexander Brodie and James McClintock, an idea occurred to them to raise up a volunteer calvary from the Arizona territory.  Buckey wanted to raise a regiment of hardcore Arizona frontiersmen. Men who were already able to survive under harsh, dangerous and deadly conditions would make excellent soldiers.
William "Buckey" O'Neill

They would come to be known as "The Rough Riders." And the men they would recruit would become the origin and core of the First US Volunteer Cavalry which would win great fame and glory under Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War.

September 6, 2015

1928: Famous Record-Breaking Airplane Crashes in Prescott

Less than 12 hours after this picture was taken, the Yankee Doodle would be reduced to "confetti" in the Bradshaw mountains:

On November 3rd, 1928, the Prescott Evening Courier printed an Associated Press story about a record-holding, Lockheed Vega monoplane named "Yankee Doodle." It would be attempting to break its own non-stop, transcontinental record flying from L.A. to New York, taking off that day. (*1)

The Courier could never have known that later that very night, the Yankee Doodle would crash into the Bradshaw mountains desperately searching for the Prescott airport.

August 20, 2015

The Miller Bros. Saved Prescott From Starvation

Sam and Jake Miller were two of the very first whites to lay eyes on the Prescott area when they arrived with the Walker Party in 1863.  But unlike the other members of that party, the Miller brothers stayed.  Had they not, the history of Prescott would have been much different and much shorter.

Imagine if "Prescott" was remembered only as an attempt to settle the area; an experiment that failed after only one year due to starvation and an Apache blockade of the town.

This could have very well been the case had it not been for the Miller brothers' nerves and the business they started in Prescott's earliest days.

August 12, 2015

POTUS Visits Prescott, Statehood at Stake

The POTUS (President of the United States) William Howard Taft

It was 5:51pm October 13th, 1909.

President Taft's special train was "drawn by two engines looking as proud as shining machines of brass and steel can look."  As the train pulled into the Prescott depot,  "there was tremendous cheering while the band up the street vigorously played "Hail to the Chief."

Prescott planned long and hard to make it the perfect visit and the Queen City of Arizona accomplished just that.

August 2, 2015

1877: Early Prescott Super Stores

1877 Goldwater "Super Store" was located
where the Prescott City Hall is now.

There was much talk and excitement when Goldwater & Bro. first started building their new store in 1875.  It would take two years to complete the two-story brick building.  But in a time when most business establishments were 500 to 1200 square feet, this new "mammoth" store was 3600 square feet.

Attached was a frame warehouse for bulk items that provided an additional 1200 square feet making the 4800sf establishment four times bigger than most other stores!

The Goldwaters' were successful general store proprietors for 15 years in Arizona before they opened the new store.  The Arizona Weekly Miner of January 19th, 1877 predicted "the future financial success of this enterprising firm."

Indeed, the Goldwaters would operate a store in Prescott for many decades to come.

July 27, 2015

The Great Date Creek Train Wreck

The Date Creek Wreck the next day.

It was the night of August 26th, 1915.  Oscar and Frank Pemberton were sitting on their porch watching a violent storm move from the mountains to engulf them and their surroundings.  In the distance, the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad train was approaching a bridge three miles south of Date Creek station.  As they were watching the engine make its way, the lights on the engine suddenly disappeared.  More ominously, the steam whistle was left open sending a scream of mourning across the valley.

The two men quickly saddled up to ride out to the scene at full gallop.  At best, it was a simple derailment; at worst, people were dead and dying.

As the fierce rain pelted both man and horse, the pair rode up upon the worst train wreck to date on the SF, P&P.

July 20, 2015

1870 Indian Conflicts: Outskirts of Prescott Sit Helpless

After suffering losses going head to head with American troops, Native Americans turned to guerrilla tactics of warfare, raiding small parties.  Sometimes these raids involved taking the anglos' necessities.  Sometimes they meant to kill them outright.

In the summer of 1870, nearby Fort Whipple had an extreme shortage of men.  In order to keep a skeleton crew guarding the fort, they could only send out around half a dozen soldiers at a time. (*1)

When the local Native Americans learned this, the surrounding settlements around Prescott quickly found themselves in serious trouble.

July 7, 2015

22 Undiscovered Buried Treasures Near Prescott *UPDATED*

There are no less than 21 lost treasures of cash and gold waiting to be found in the Prescott area in Yavapai County.

These could be categorized by four motives: treasure buried by miners for safe keeping; gold reburied by the Indians to keep it away from the whites; the ill-gotten gain of thieves; and those who did not trust banks.

Gold Hidden by Miners:

July 2, 2015

The Whacky 1910 Prescott to Phoenix Automobile Race

They were racing for the premiere awarding of the Arizona Gazette Cup in a contest organized by the Prescott Auto Club.

Nineteen cars would attempt the trip.  When it was all over, only one was able to drive back to Prescott.(*1)

June 22, 2015

1866: Mexican Volunteers Fight the Battle of Five Caves

Fort Whipple

The Buffalo Soldiers were not the only segregated minority group fighting in the Indian Wars.  Companies E and F of the Arizona Volunteers were made up of Mexicans.  Although they spent much of their time in the Verde Valley at Fort Lincoln (later Fort Verde), they were initially stationed at, and finally mustard out, at Prescott's Fort Whipple.

Many openly questioned the effectiveness of using Mexicans to protect area settlers.  However, once tested in battle, the office of the Governor of the Arizona territory stated: "Those who doubted the ability of our native troops to do good service are now convinced of their error." (*1)

It started on the evening of February 12th, 1867 and Company E was preparing for its most lauded victory in what would become known as "La Batalla de Cinco Cuevas" (The Battle of Five Caves).

June 9, 2015

The Christening of the U.S.S. Arizona had Prescott Ties

It was the afternoon of June 19th, 1915 in New York.  Battleship 39, one of the greatest super-dreadnaughts the United States had ever built, was to be named after its three-year-old state, Arizona.

"Amid the shrieks of 10,000 whistles and the cheers of 40,000 American citizens, the great battleship Arizona slid" into the East River, the Journal-Miner reported.

Prescott's tie to the interesting story of the christening of the USS Arizona involved the choosing of her sponsor, Prescott belle Esther Ross, to christen her.

June 1, 2015

Glassford Hill's History Included Many Names

Many Changes:
On this 1905 map, Glassford Hill is labeled as "Bald Mountain."  The east-west railroad tracks just north is the Iron King recreational trail today, while the north-south railroad is now the Pea Vine recreational trail.  "Point of Rocks" is better known to us as the Granite Dells.

It was a day 12 million years ago.  Antelope, camels and early horses were peaceably grazing when lava and super heated ash started thundering toward the surface.  Suddenly, the earth shook violently and a volcanic eruption blew through a hill. "Clouds of fiery ash buried (the animals) that roamed the flanks of the hill," according to Beverly Morgan, geologist for the Prescott National Forest. (*1)

Standing at an elevation of 6177 feet, what we now know as Glassford Hill was born.  However, over the years, this mountain in the middle of the valley has had several names.

May 25, 2015

An 1871 Journey to Prescott was Long, Difficult, Dangerous and Expensive

It was November of 1871.  For W.H. Meacham, "the destination was Prescott, Arizona" where he was "bent on the pursuit of health, wealth and happiness--to grasp a goodly portion of Arizona gold dust, which (he) had been led to believe could be scooped readily for the pains."

Meacham had high hopes, but he couldn't have foreseen going through truly hostile, lawless Indian country where killings were common; in a stagecoach that had sun shining through recent, deadly bullet-holes; and with no promised soldier escort!

Describing himself as a "tenderfoot,"  Meacham's knuckles must have grown white as he tightly clutched his borrowed Colt revolver during the harrowing trip.

May 14, 2015

Prescott was Hollywood for Silent Westerns

(Tom Mix with an unknown starlet in an unknown film.)

What do these movies : "Creepshow 2;" "Universal Soldier;" "Arizona Summer;" "Transamerica;" "Jolene;" "How the West Was Won;" and "Billy Jack;" have in common?

They are part of 16 modern movies that were all filmed, at least in part, in Prescott, Arizona. (*1)

But when it came to silent western movies, Prescott was a real "Hollywood."  Incredibly, in the three years of 1913-15, over a hundred silent westerns were filmed in Prescott and the surrounding area.

The first movie ever made in Prescott was The Cringer.

April 30, 2015

The Birth of Watson Lake

Nestled along the Granite Dells, Watson Lake makes for one of the most picturesque scenes in Prescott.  Watson is a man-made lake created in April of 1915 with the completion of the Granite Creek dam by a company from Indiana.

Needless to say, water is extremely important in the desert and the anticipation of a new lake close to the city brought the biggest celebration Prescott saw in many years.  

There were notable speakers, free barbecue, Prescott's band and a special train to get to the celebration as the four-ton steel gates would be closed to store the waters of Granite Creek.  "Acting Mayor AJ Head...issued his proclamation declaring a general holiday from 1 o'clock until 5 on that auspicious day," the newspaper noted; even the courts were closed. 

April 15, 2015

There Were Cars in the Prescott National Forest Before There Were Whitetail Deer


Anyone who has spent any length of time in the Prescott National Forest is well aware of the large population of whitetail deer who call it home.  It seems they've been there forever.

But few locals and sportsmen are aware that the whitetail deer did not exist in the forest until the spring of 1915--a full half-century after the city was founded!  There were automobiles in the forest before the white-tail deer ever showed-up! Their arrival came in large numbers and was a complete surprise.

April 4, 2015

Skull Valley Earned Its Gruesome Name Twice

It would be a strong statement to say that a piece of land is "cursed"; something this author would rather avoid.  Yet it seems that some spots in the world are painfully familiar with the angel of death.

Skull Valley, AZ (a half hour west of Prescott,) is one such place, having earned its gruesome name not once, but twice.  Both times involved a large loss of life to the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe.

It's been said that "Ploughing-time down [in Skull Valley] means, among other things, grave-exhuming time – the annual harvesting of dead men’s bones.  And the supply of these grisly evidences...of long ago appear to be inexhaustible." (*1)

March 28, 2015

1932: Prescott Police Chief Demands Gun Control (and the Shocking Reason Why)

Prescott Police Chief Worth Rybon just dug a .22 caliber bullet out of a living room chair.  It had passed through a pane of glass from outside the house.  The Chief had had enough.

Mrs. Emma Franks, owner of the house, was relieved that she was not at home at the time.  Two Prescott women had already been shot in the head from such gun-"play".

It seems that when adolescents and young boys are given guns, they eventually just HAVE to shoot them at something!  Within city limits, this became a dangerous problem.

March 17, 2015

The Death of Mangas Colorado: "The Greatest Wrong Ever Done to the Indians"

Mangas Colorado was an important Apache warrior/leader who fiercely fought to protect his people's land from encroaching Mexicans and Anglos.  His capture by the first whites to eventually settle in the Prescott area on January 17th, 1863 would start a series of events that would produce a bitterness that kept murderous hostilities brewing in Arizona for almost an additional quarter of a century.

March 8, 2015

Horses, Autos & Primitive Traffic Laws

The teen years of the 20th century brought an awkward adolescence when it came to street traffic.  Animals and autos didn't mix well on the same path.  Car clubs suggested rules that were eventually adopted nationwide.  Yet when it came to issues specific to individual towns, some of these primitive traffic laws are sure to bring a smile to today's reader.

In Prescott, the major issue was the interaction of mechanical automobiles and beasts of burden (mostly horses and mules).  Traffic was becoming crowded and dangerous for everyone.  And as far as Prescott was concerned, it was the animals that should take all priority.

March 3, 2015

Entertainment In Prescott a Century Ago

In later January 1915, nothing much happened in Prescott according to the Journel Miner newspaper.  Heavy snows made all travel but train nearly impossible.

The resulting slow news stories were charming:

* A couple of hundred words were given to the story of two boys who "shot the lock off the pump house (and)...After a stern lecture and cross-your-heart promises," the boys were released...

* It was observed that the mail-posts in downtown had received "so many degradations from local canines" that replacements were needed swiftly...

* It was reported, in detail, how a local woman slipped and fell on the ice. (No hospitalization was needed--simply bedrest)...

All of which gives the author an opportunity to talk in general about entertainment in Prescott a century ago...

Meet the Father of Prescott's Current Identity

On January 31st, 1940, the current identity of Prescott, Arizona was born. The drive to move Prescott from an old mining town and former capitol to a tourist-based city would begin.

At a meeting held at the local superior court, Paul B. Murphy, secretary of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, outlined a plan to city leaders that would eventually mold Prescott into the beloved town we know today.

1915: Prohibition Threatens to Close Prescott's Library

As the New Year dawned on 1915, everyone knew the saloons of Whiskey Row would be closed, but realization quickly set in that Prescott's library would be next.

Voter initiated Prohibition just went into effect in Arizona. But the drying up of legal liquor also meant the drying up of city tax revenues on the sales and licensing of alcohol. This led the town fathers into making some tough decisions and severe cuts to public services.

The library, for example, required an annual budget of $600 ($24,000 in today's dollars) and the money was simply not going to be raised by the city in 1915 to keep the institution open.