December 18, 2016

The "Secret Agent Man" Christmas of 1966

The Cold War had an effect on the Christmas of 1966. With "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," James Bond and even "Get Smart" invading pop culture, boys dreamed of being "secret agents" and Christmas toys reflected that.

In Prescott, the Senior High opened its home bastketball season against McClintock in their brand new, saucer-shaped gymnasium. Prescott won. (*1)

December 11, 2016

1937: The Christmas Without Candy

Come 1937, the Great Depression was taking a serious human toll.

One small boy arrived at Jefferson School "wan and helpless." When the principal, Miss Anyta Buzran questioned why, she uncovered an appalling travail: For the last two days, that boy and his two sisters had nothing more a glass of milk apiece to eat for the last two days. (*1)

Buzran quickly investigated several other families with students in her school and found 8-10 more children in the same condition. (*1)

Without a social safety net, things had become extremely desperate for many Prescott families who couldn't find work. After five long years of depression, even the charities had difficulties procuring suitable donations.

December 4, 2016

1916: The Plaza's (& AZ's) First Christmas Tree

1916 was an auspicious year for Prescott's Courthouse Plaza. In October, the cornerstone was laid for the brand new (and current) Courthouse.

Later, as Christmas approached, citizens as well as the Chamber of Commerce, thought it would be an excellent idea to erect a municipal Christmas tree in the plaza.

A meeting was held December 18th with the chamber, local ministers, and city officials, where "the opinion was unanimous in favor of the big tree." (*1)

There were to be lights, decorations, candy, toys and charity baskets for every worthy, poor family in the city.

The newspaper proudly crowed: "Prescott will be the first city in the entire State of Arizona to hold a big municipal tree." (*1)

...That is, if they could get all the plans completed in less than a week!

November 27, 2016

The Mysterious Ruins at Sullivan Lake *UPDATED*

Sullivan Lake Dam under construction
The mysterious ruins: What are those smaller stone structures?

A couple of miles south of Paulden, off of Rt. 89, is a loop spur marked "Old Hwy. 89." This aptly named stretch of the former roadway eventually crosses a bridge where some old ruins can be seen.

The usual passer-by often wonders what these buildings were for and when were they constructed?

November 20, 2016

Story Behind the Name: "Wilhoit" "Woodchute" "Bumble Bee" "Big Bug"

Arizona has some interesting and colorful place names. Here are four from around the greater Prescott National Forest area:

Wilhoit, Arizona

First, the charming story of Wilhoit, Arizona.

November 13, 2016

1953: Prescott is a Hotspot for Flying Saucers

Prescott Evening Courier, May 22, 1953.

It was a time when the study of UFO's was in such infancy, that the very term "UFO" hadn't been coined yet. There were no national databases of sightings and those who did see something unexplainable most often kept their experiences to themselves.

However, in the first half of 1953, there was such a rash of sightings in the skies of Prescott, that it would turn ardent skeptics into true, vocal believers.

In fact, so numerous were the accounts by respected citizens, that even the newspaper was compelled to cover the story.

For the increasing number of eyewitnesses, the saucers brought astonishment, awe, wonder and worry.

November 6, 2016

Prescott's "Double-Decker" Brothel

Arrow shows the location of the Double-Decker Brothel on Granite Street
 in this 1890 lithograph.

This 1885 photo, taken from the Old Courthouse,
reveals the back of the Double-Decker Brothel.
Before the downtown parking garage was built on Granite Street, the opportunity was taken to make an archeological dig of this portion of the old red-light district. Among several other things, this project unearthed the colorful story of Prescott's only two-story brothel.

In archeology, the prime artifacts are most often found in the areas where the refuge was dumped. As a result, (and speaking of dumps,) the true star of this story is: "The Privy at Prescott's Double-Decker Brothel."

Seems the old "Double Decker" was one of them pricy, high-class type joints. That is, if what they threw in the crapper is any indication...

October 23, 2016

The Haunts of the Jerome Grand Hotel

Many have heard that the Jerome Grand Hotel is haunted--it's been featured on cable television.

But few know exactly what kinds of paranormal activity to expect if he or she is brave enough to stay there.

Would you spend the entire night if the following creepy things happened to you?

October 16, 2016

Viola Jimulia: America's First Chieftess

Sicatuva, also known as Viola Pelhame Jimulla, had a character and soul as mighty as Granite Mountain. She would have to call on every ounce of these qualities to guide her people through one of their lowest times in history.

In the 1930's, when the Prescott Yavapai were down to a population of around 50, Viola took over the role of chief (mayora,) of the tribe, even before her husband, Chief Sam "Red Ants" Jimulla, (pronounced gee-mew-LAH,) passed away in 1940, when he fell off his horse. (*1)

In fact, a December, 1936 Arizona Highways article stated: "As far as is known, Viola is the only woman in America to hold the position of tribal head;" (while the story curiously never mentioned Sam it all.) (*2)

October 9, 2016

The Terrible, Shoddy Construction of the Old Courthouse

The construction of the "Old" (2nd) Yavapai County Courthouse was so terrible, so shoddy--even slapstick--that a sane man might wonder if the Three Stooges didn't paste it together just prior to landing their gig on vaudeville!

Here now are seven cases in point:

October 2, 2016

The Forgotten Ghost Town of Placerita

Old Stone Cabin at Placerita, AZ.
Since this picture was taken, the roof reportedly has collapsed.
There are different types of ghost towns in Arizona, depending largely on the ease of access to them. Ghost towns located on well-travelled roads, like Jerome, really only used to be ghost towns and are now vibrant tourist stops.

Then there are the ghost towns located on dirt roads that still might have a ranching community or even a bar, like Cleator.

Finally, there are the true ghost towns that sit in the middle of the wilderness and are only accessible by foot trail.

Placerita, Arizona is one such "true" ghost town and offers a colorful history of gold, goats and several killings.

September 25, 2016

1863: Hot-Head Miners Murder 20 Yavapai

The earliest episodes of Indian conflicts in Yavapai country were not recorded in newspapers, at first. Quite simply, there weren't enough readers around to publish one.

When newsmen did arrive, however, they were keen to make a record of these early events through accounts of oral history, while these "early birds" were still alive.

"Some of the tales told...seem almost incredible, but they are substantiated by fact and require no 'affidavit;' they are epitomized from the general tone of the many who relate such."

This particular tale includes one of the most gut-wrenching twists in the history of the county...

September 18, 2016

Prescott's First Building

"Fort Misery"

Originally meant to be a temporary store front, the meager two room log cabin would grow a history and reputation as tall as a skyscraper.

Although the structure would never be associated with the military, it would soon earn the moniker: "Fort Misery"...

September 11, 2016

Cactus Needles for Toothpicks? (An Early Mayer Industry)

Anyone who has ever suffered the burn of being "bitten" by one of our local cacti will tell you that the last place you'd want a cactus needle is near your gums!

In spite of this, two Mayer, Arizona pioneers decided to start a business that produced toothpicks from cactus needles. They developed and patented a process that "skinned" the needle of its burning barbs and removed the surgically sharp point so it could be used as a toothpick.

They were called "Indian Souvenir Toothpicks" and were wildly first.

September 4, 2016

1895: Prescott's First Football Game Hosted Phoenix *UPDATED*

Early "foot ball" was half sport and half street riot.

Come one! Come all! "To witness the greatest and latest sport to take place in Prescott for the first time..." (*1)

The exciting game of Foot Ball!

"The boys are practicing regularly for the game. In the day time, they practice in the plaza, while at night, they go through signals and receive instructions in the Scopel Block, so all lovers of good sport may expect an exciting game Sunday," (December 8th, 1895.) (*2)

"A small charge of fifty cents will be collected to help defray the expenses of the visiting team. It is hoped that a large crowd will be present." (*1)

There was an additional motivation: Prescott wanted "to win at least one sport from Phoenix before the year closes." (*3)

Everyone was excited for the big game.

August 28, 2016

The Yavapai People's Ancient Flood Story

Most cultures have ancient stories of their beginnings. The Yavapai people are no exception. Their story is recorded in "Oral History of the Yavapai", chapter 19.

Those who are familiar with the flood of Noah in the Book of Genesis will be intrigued by the commonalities with the Yavapai's flood story.

However, the Yavapai's "Genesis" story includes two floods: one that brought them up out of Ahagaskiaywa, and a second, Great Flood...

August 20, 2016

23-Ton Blast Shakes Yavapai County

United Verde Mine  Jerome, Arizona
December 20th, 1925 seemed a day like any other. People were busy getting into the Christmas spirit; making final preparations.

A train, about an eighth of a mile outside of Jerome, AZ, was taking on water, when one of the train's engineers noticed some smoke rising at the United Verde Mine. When he looked more closely, he noticed that the roof of the powder house was on fire!

Quickly, he climbed into the  train's engine compartment and pulled on the whistle for all it was worth.

Shortly, people in the town of Jerome started coming onto the street, curious as to what the fuss was about. They, too, noticed the mine's powder house roof on fire.

Everyone realized that in a matter of a few short minutes, 23-tons of TNT would explode violently.

August 7, 2016

I Survived an Apache Attack!

Apache warrior
Howdy. My name is Fred Henry. I first entered the Arizona Territory way back in 1862 and I came to the Prescott country early on, in 1863, to prospect.

Now I know some of you tenderfoots dream about meeting a real-life Indian out in the wilderness, but I'm here to tell you that if that injun is an Apache, you'd be better off tripping over an angry bear! (Truth is, you're probably never going to see an Apache, unless that Apache wants to be seen.)

I give you fair warning: This tale ain't for youngins or the faint of heart. But if you think you have nerve enough to listen, then find a place by the campfire and I'll tell you all about it.

July 31, 2016

Colony of Russians Arrives to Farm *UPDATED*

No one knows exactly why they came in early 1916. It was assumed that they were avoiding one of many purges in soviet Russia. (*1) But on January 12th, fourteen railroad cars carrying over 100 Russian colonists and their possessions arrived at Jerome Junction, southeast of present day Chino Valley. They brought with them 151 cattle, 103 horses, chickens, geese and all their household furniture and goods. (*2), (*3) & (*4)

In order to promote the area for farming, an enthusiastic pamphlet had been published.  It praised “Little Chino Valley” as “the only adequately irrigated body of rich, productive land in this great producing mining district of Arizona,” having the “perfect soil for potatoes” and “perfect conditions for dairying.” (*5) These promises undoubtedly brought the Russians to the area in the first place.

Their journey to this point was long and hard and there would be further challenges ahead. But the people of Prescott were excited to see these new immigrants and welcomed them openly.

July 24, 2016

When Nature Was the Only Drug Store (Updated)

During the 19th century, every region of the country had its own home-spun remedies that depended on that area's herbage. Today, these so-called "cures" seem to span between the humorous and the ridiculous.

This article, based on oral histories, focuses on the treatments that were unique to Arizona.

July 17, 2016

Lost History: Yavapai County Courthouse: The Construction

After the cornerstone was laid, (story here,) construction started immediately.

Under the contract, the courthouse was supposed to be finished by the end of 1917.  Even though the builders stated that it would be finished "long before that time," it was not completed until 1918. (*1)

July 10, 2016

The Mysterious Courthouse Cornerstone

Cornerstone of the Yavapai County Courthouse laid October 19th, 1916
After the contract to build the new courthouse was signed, (story here,preparatory work began immediately.

Of special interest and care was the building's cornerstone. A date of October 19th, 1916 was set for the laying of the cornerstone to coincide with the opening of the Fourth Annual Northern Arizona Fair. (*1) The mayor declared a holiday and all businesses closed for the festivities. (*2) Yet there are mysteries behind it.

July 3, 2016

Lost History: Yavapai County Courthouse: The Need

The Old (2nd) Yavapai County Courthouse, 1878-1916

There were four reasons why Yavapai County needed a new courthouse. First, the old one had become too small. The county had grown a great deal from 1878 to 1916.

Second, the old courthouse suffered from shoddy construction in the first place and was beginning to fall apart.

The third reason was a matter of civic pride and disgust: "It is unsanitary and reeks with foul smells," a magazine complained. (*1)

June 23, 2016

The Surprising Adventures of Arizona's First Boy Scouts

The first Boy Scout troop in Arizona was organized in Prescott. Prescott adored her Boy Scouts, providing logistical support from all fronts. In return, scouts provided many services to the local community including primitive archeology and fighting on the frontline of wildfires!

June 4, 2016

The True Victims of "Bloody Basin" Were the Yavapai

There are many stories surrounding how "Bloody Basin" got its name.

Some say that its from a mass slaughter of sheep during the range wars.

Some say that seven Navajo virgins were sacrificed there by Geronimo.

Those who've done research find that it was due to a massacre at the Battle of Turret Peak. Yet, most of these have written that it was Tonto-Apaches that were massacred there.

However, the oral history of the Yavapai tribe would vehemently disagree.

May 30, 2016

Sheriff's Exploits Were Hollywood; His Appearance Was Not

"Uncle" Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts wore a plain black, "eastern-sized" hat, with no band. He donned a plain white shirt and blue jeans; the side pocket worn white from the outline of his old frontier model, single action Colt. The gun looked as if it hadn't been shot in years and bore no notches. He had no holster and wore no boots. (*1)

But perhaps his greatest antithesis to the iconic image of the "Hollywood gunfighter" was Roberts' ironic relationship with horses. He developed a reputation for breeding some very fine ones, yet he would never ride one himself. So when one summoned the sheriff, instead of bolting in on a sweating steed, Roberts would mosey-up on his mule! (*1)

He was a man of few words. "Jim never did say much," one old-timer related, "and when he was angry, he didn't say anything." (*1)

"He always returned your greeting. Question him, though, and he would shut up like a clam," another said. (*1)

 To the local law-abiders, he was fondly known as "Uncle Jim."

Appearances aside, Roberts was a highly respected and lethal gunfighter who kept some of the rawest of Arizona's frontier mining towns in lawful order.

May 23, 2016

1916: Man Kills Two Over a $2 Bet

Fred Marshall was a disturbed, angry man. Few in the area knew much about him or anything of his past. (*1)

Yet one warm June evening, Marshall would receive his "15 minutes of fame" in a most notorious way.

He and a local machinist named S.F. Wrenn "were shaking dice in (George G.) Casey's Poolroom and became involved in an argument over a $2 bet," which Marshall "refused to pay." (*2)

"During the argument, Wrenn knocked Marshall down." Incensed, "Marshall went across the street to his home and procured a revolver. He returned to the pool hall (where he) was met outside the door by Wrenn.

"The two men grappled. Wrenn wrested the gun from Marshall and during the struggle, one (shot fired). Several witnesses testified to having heard Marshall scream that he was shot." As Marshall retreated, "Wrenn took the gun into the pool hall, tossed it across the bar to Casey and said laughingly: 'Here's a gun I just took away from that fellow.'" (*2)

But Fred Marshall was not done.

May 14, 2016

The Incredible Story of the Million-Year-Old Frog

The Arizona Toad
Life is tenacious. But one frog,  found deep in a Prescott area mine, showed a tenacity to stay alive that many biologists would have considered impossible.

Although described in the title as a "million-year-old frog," the depth at which it was discovered suggests that this remarkable amphibian was tens or even a hundred times older than that!

May 7, 2016

Prescott Used to Have Countless Prairie Dogs

For a rodent, they are undeniably cute. But to farmers and ranchers they're a horrible pest. Where there are prairie dogs, agricultural output decreases 25-85%. (*1)

Yavapai County once had 1.5 million acres "infested" with prairie dogs. (*2) When Prescott's airport was first being laid-out, workers "went up and down both runways with shovels leveling the mounds and filling up the holes made by the hundreds of prairie dogs that infested the field."(*3)

So, what happened to them?

April 20, 2016

Prescott "Smoker" Events Featured Marijuana

The majority of the material for "Prescott, AZ History" is from reading weeks and weeks and months and months of old Prescott newspapers.

So imagine this author's surprise when he came across this headline:


A "Smoker" event with "Plenty of the Weed"???  (*1)

Could it be true? A large, civic, pot smoking party in Prescott?

This is going to take some further research!...

Back in the early 20th century, not only was cannabis legal, but it was widely used in medicines and had none of the negative stereotypes that it carries today.

But did people actually call it "weed" a century ago?

April 10, 2016

Prescott's "Man of (Her First) Century"

Morris Goldwater 1852-1939
The year was 1964 and Prescott was celebrating her first centennial. As part of the celebration, it was decided to chose a "Man of the Century." That choice was Morris Goldwater.

When looking at the man's resume of civic service, it is hard to imagine that anyone of any future century could come close to what Morris Goldwater accomplished in helping make Prescott an urban municipality. 

In its early years, Prescott struggled to grow from a back-water mining town to a civilized city and whenever Morris Goldwater saw a need for Prescott, he would set out to accomplish it himself.

"In addition to operating one of the most important stores in town, he served as the city’s mayor for a total of 20 years (over a 48-year period, from 1879 to 1927)." (*1)

March 20, 2016

1959: Constellation Airplane Crash Still a Mystery

Memorial plaque at the Constellation Trailhead honors the victims.

February 28th, 1959 was another "darned nice day" weather-wise in Prescott. William Watson who was visiting family in the area was driving north on State Route 89 with his nephew Robert Schilling. As they rounded a curve in the vicinity of the Phippen Art Museum, "the windshield filled with airplane." (*1)

Plunging into the shoulder of the road before them was an Air Force Lockheed C-121G "Super Constellation" transport plane. It exploded on impact sending flames several hundred feet into the air. (*2)

William and Robert rushed out of their car to see if they could help. But the heat of the flames combined with now exploding small ammunition drove them back.

Sam Steiger, who would later serve as a U.S. Congressman and Prescott Mayor, and who owned a ranch across the way, "saw the ship at about 300 feet" coming down in a "vertical dive with one propeller feathered." (*1)

"(Other) eyewitnesses said the plane winged over and plowed nose first into the ground." (*1)

"Persons miles away from the crash scene said they saw a huge flame billow into the sky and heard a tremendous explosion. Others were attracted to the scene by huge clouds of black smoke." (*2)

A mere seven minutes before the crash, the plane radioed in to report a small forest fire south of Prescott. There was no mention of any problems with the plane at that time. (*1)

The lack of a distress call, along with the perfect weather, all added to a mystery that remains to this day.

9 Cryptid Monsters of Arizona (UPDATE: Bigfoot near Prescott?)

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 following six that live in northern Arizona.  Instead, it is hoped that people who might 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. The first six have all been seen in northern Arizona.

March 13, 2016

1864: Apache Indians Mass to Attack Prescott

September, 1864: A 16 year-old, emaciated Mexican boy makes his way into Prescott frightened. He had just escaped the Apaches, who had held him as a slave since he was 10. (*1)

As excited as the boy was to be free, the people of Prescott felt equally anxious. Whites had already lost hundreds of heads of livestock to the Indians in 1864 and it was now becoming apparent that the Apaches were massing in large numbers to harass and attack Prescott.

February 29, 2016

1956: Teen Delinquents Beat Blind Man; Murder a Veteran

The headline in the paper spoke to the shock of the city: 

It began as seven males were drinking at the Prescott Cafe. Three of the males, two 17 year-olds and one 18 year-old, were members of a rebel teen gang. (*1)

Perhaps they desired a change of scenery; perhaps they were asked to leave, but all seven decided to drive together to Phoenix. However, just south of Mayer, the car suffered a flat tire. (*2)

The three gang members decided to take the opportunity to rob the four other men. Soon, a 50 year-old former patient at the Whipple VA laid dead in a pool of his own blood. A second, blind man was in the County Hospital suffering from serious injuries including a possible fractured skull. (*1)

In a rare move for the day, Yavapai County Attorney, Jack Ogg, would seek to try the three teens, Joe Mungia and Joe Rudy Daniels, each 17 and Earl Padilla, 18, as adults. (*3)

January 30, 2016

That Smokestack in Mayer Is an Antique

Cynics say it's a memorial to a boondoggle. Locals say it's a memorial to Mayer's mining history. In an unwitting way, it's also a memorial to the end of World War I.

Whatever one wants to call it, the old smokestack becomes an official "antique" in 2017, celebrating its 100th anniversary then.

For commuters it marks that one is 17 miles away from Prescott Valley. To tourists it's an oddity. But the 129.5 foot-high tower which sits as a silent sentry over the town of Mayer, has an interesting history.

It was meant to carry smoke into the sky from the smelting of precious metals mined around Mayer. It was never used for that. In fact, it was never even finished!

January 19, 2016

Back When Prescott Was "Opium Central"

There is no doubt that like many other wild-west towns, opium made its first appearance in Prescott with the influx of the Chinese population.

"It is no coincidence that 1869, the year the Union-Pacific Railroad was completed, was the year that Chinese began to appear in (Prescott) in significant numbers." (*1)

So began a most uneasy relationship with a drug habit that would grow and endure for seven decades.

Publicly, Prescott hated opium. Practically, little was done to stop it. Ultimately, Prescott would become the manufacturing hub of opium for the entire state of Arizona.

January 6, 2016

The Jack-the-Ripper of Yavapai County?

To the anglos, Indian-killer John B. Townsend was a celebrated hero. To the Native Americans, he was equally an antihero.
This account takes the perspective of the latter.
John B. Townsend
The Indian Wars abounded with examples of vigilanteism. Although illegal, at times it was a near necessity since official law enforcement was often days away. Yet one man's vigilanteism was so extreme in those days, that one might consider him to be a serial killer of Indians.

Even more distressing is the fact that when there exists an environment rife with racial cleansing, not only can a serial killer hide in plain sight, he might even be lauded for his ghastly deeds.

Such is the case of one John B. Townsend, 1835-1873. "Those writing of this man seem to agree that he had a pathological hatred for the (Indian) and he hunted them with grim determination." (*1)

A WARNING: The following story contains graphic racist remarks and incidents that can be harsh to read. It may not be suitable for sensitive readers.