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.

Taft was in the middle of a circuitous route visiting America's Southwest in what was the longest trip any President had ever made to date.

President Taft seemed well pleased with his reception in Prescott, mentioning so several times.  "Prescott, in turn, was pleased with the President.  That expansive smile, fortified by some 300 pounds of jovial, golf-hardened humanity, at once won the favor of the people."

President Taft's arrival at the Prescott Depot: Oct 13, 1909

After the executive party left the train, they took seats in assigned automobiles and started a parade toward the awaiting throng in the courtyard downtown.  The Prescott band lead the way followed by Sheriff Smith and his mounted escort.  Then came the President's car followed by other cars with lesser dignitaries. On the right side of the autos marched the Grand Army, a band of "grizzled and hobbling heroes of the Civil War."  While on the left marched the young regulars of the 15th Infantry from Fort Whipple in full dress uniform.   "It was an inspiring and touching sight," the paper reported.

Prescott's streets were "canopied by flags and flanked by a continuous line of national colors on either side."  All along the parade route, "a repeated succession of welcoming cheers and waving flags greeted the President and his party."

The inspiring story of the christening of the USS Arizona.

Upon reaching the speaker's stand, Taft noticed that Prescott's organizers seated the town's school children at the front of the crowd by class.  So moved was Taft by this, that he quickly instructed the Secret Service to remove the rope barrier between the stand and the children.  "Let down the ropes and bring the people close to the stand," Taft told them, "I want to get close to the people."

Across from the President, the courthouse was adorned with a large banner that read: "We Want Statehood!"

Before the President was introduced to speak, he was told of the area's famous Hassayampa water.  "Those who drink the water from below the crossing (will) trifle with the truth and those who drink of this water above the crossing thereafter  will be celebrated for their truth and veracity.  This water comes from ABOVE the crossing."  The President was invited to drink some and he did so to great applause.  "At that moment," the newspaper wrote, "he became one of us."

The true story of how Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders originated in Prescott, Arizona

Taft spoke for 15 minutes.  "I am glad to see you because I am glad to know that the population of Arizona, which I believe will soon and in the near future become a state, is (interrupted by great applause) sufficient to deserve it.  I observe even out of the mouths of babes and sucklings we hear the desire for statehood!...  I congratulate you upon having such an energetic and pretty city."

Taft also impressed the crowd when he gave advice on the importance of the territory creating a constitution that would be elastic enough to last many generations.  "It ought to be simple; it ought to be general; it ought to be comprehensive," Taft said.

"Don't allow every fact or every principle, however sound, to be inserted in that constitution.  Trust something to your legislature...and do not bind them," he advised.

After the speeches, the President went to visit the local Masonic Hall as well as the Yavapai Club before boarding the train and heading to the Grand Canyon.

The people of Prescott were extremely happy that Taft came out so strongly for statehood and highly impressed with the man and his message.

"President William H Taft has come and gone," the paper reported, "and in the brief space of an hour and a half, his memorable call has marked a red-letter event in the history of Prescott--an event that will be a vivid spot in the lives of the 7000 cheering citizens and the 1000 jubilant children who saw and heard the chief executive of the nation."

President Taft signs the bill making Arizona the 48th state.

Arizona Journal Miner; October 14, 1909; Headline story, (et al)

Tourist Tips:
Prescott's Masonic Lodge was the 1st in Arizona (Click Here for info)

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"True Tales of Prescott" 

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