December 31, 2017

Police Blotter for 1917

Professional safecrackers, burglary, found treasure, a 40-year-old murder solved, and a work-release program highlighted the police blotter in 1917.

December 17, 2017

1864: Prescott's First Christmas

Winter began early in 1864, "and by the middle of December the trails were mostly snowed under and lost--all but those often traveled which led to the placer gold mines on Lynx Creek, or to Walnut Grove and the camps on the Hassayampa."

In what would be a rare "white" Christmas, "the snow lay white over the hills; the tops of the high peaks were crystal white and cold; and the pine and cedar and juniper trees were sparkling like trees on a Christmas card."

There were roughly 200-300 anglos around the Prescott area and the few houses that did exist in the tiny burg happily opened their doors to all that arrived.

December 10, 2017

1853: The First Christmas in Northern Arizona

"Ten years before the tents of Ft. Whipple were pitched in Chino Valley in 1864, the man for whom that post was named, with a small reconnoitering party, spent two weeks exploring the southwestern slopes of Bill Williams mountain and the basins between it and and Picacho Peak [Partridge Creek and the Big Chino Wash.]"

This time included December 25th, and the first anglo Christmas ever celebrated in northern Arizona would combine with modest commemorations from cultures here previously.

December 3, 2017

1940: Prescott's Hospital Destroyed by Fire

It was built in 1890 prior to building codes and, in retrospect, it was inevitably bound to happen. A trash chute running the height of the three-story building was built of wood, and on June 8th, 1940, someone threw a lit cigarette into it.

What resulted has been called "the second worst disaster in Prescott history;" surpassed only by the Great Fire of 1900.

November 26, 2017

Cowboy Escapades #1

In this premier edition of Cowboy Escapades (formerly titled "Crazy Cowboy Tricks,) we look at true stories of bear roping and buffalo riding!

November 19, 2017

Indians Save Lost Anglos

Thomas Ward and Alex Douglas couldn't be more relieved. They were finally on a train completing their trip from the Colorado River to Jerome Junction. They had been caught in a heavy snow storm and had become hopelessly lost.

Both men were now eager to tell anyone who'd listen how their lives were saved by several Indians.

November 12, 2017

2 Large Meteor Strikes Within 8 Months & 150 Miles! UPDATED

Although tons of material regularly enters earth's atmosphere, very little reaches the ground. In fact, the number of all witnessed and recovered meteorite strikes on the entire planet is only around 1100! So when two meteors strike 150 miles apart separated by a mere eight months--it's nearly unbelievable.

Yet in 1911-12 this did happen near a small railroad stop called Supai, east of Ash Fork and later over Aztec, another stop on the same railroad line! The explosive force of each was colossal and caused great panic and alarm for all who experienced it.

November 5, 2017

Brave Woman Fights Off Indians in Granite Dells

It was September, 1867. Lewis A. Stevens must have been anxious about leaving his wife at their ranch in the Granite Dells (then known as Point of Rocks.) He was required to go to Prescott to serve in the 4th Territorial Legislature and Indians had been raiding all around the vicinity recently.

As he passed by Fort Whipple (now the VA,) on the way to Prescott, he hoped that its proximity to his ranch might be a deterrent to an Indian raid.

It would not...

October 29, 2017

October 22, 2017

Historic News Clips of 1911

As this author researches newspapers for this blog, he finds some stories that are historic or interesting, but individually would be too short for a full blog. So then, here is a pictorial blog presenting these news stories.

October 15, 2017

1917-1940: Twig Blight Threatens the Prescott National Forest

By 1935 the slow-moving disaster had become genuinely alarming. "The possibility of the absolute destruction of the Prescott National forest through Twig Blight disease is foreseen by officials of the Bureau of Pathology, unless intensive energetic work is conducted immediately to stifle this deadly disease," the newspaper reported. (*1)

The Bureau reported that: "Since the discovery of the disease on the Prescott Forest in 1917, it has spread from the 400 acres affected to about 38,000 acres on the Prescott National Forest.'" (*2)

October 8, 2017

May 9, 1911: Two Capital Murders in One Afternoon

As the 20th century dawned, Prescott was much more of a "law and order" town than her early years. However, May 9th, 1911 would see two unrelated, shocking, cold-blooded murders on the same afternoon!

Both suspects would face the gallows as the newborn State of Arizona grappled with the question of the death penalty.

October 1, 2017

Story Behind the Names: Dewey-Humboldt

It was December 20th, 2004 when Dewey and Humboldt were wedded through incorporation. Although the two experienced vastly different upbringings, they had always had a symbiotic relationship.

With these two stories lies the account of the two major industries in early anglo Yavapai county history. Dewey was a ranching town providing the food, while her future husband Humboldt was a mining town earning the cold hard cash.

September 24, 2017

1912: Come to Prescott's First Chautauqua!

Teddy Roosevelt once said: "Chautauqua is the most American thing in America!" (*1)

"Chautauqua is an institution that began in the late 19th century to provide higher education opportunities through the combination of lectures, concerts, and public events." (*1)

It was also a grand celebration of the freedom of speech and in 1912, Prescott would climb aboard.

September 17, 2017

"Prescott's Original Whiskey Row" by Bradley G. Courtney

A review.

Knowing that Prescott's Whiskey Row is central to her history, it's surprising that it took until the 21st century for such an important subject to be addressed thoroughly in a book.

Bradley G. Courtney not only brings this significant story to light, but he does so in a cohesive and entertaining narrative commensurate with the professionalism of an author holding a master's degree in history and a doctorate in education.

September 10, 2017

1911: Buffalo Bill Cody Comes to Prescott to Invest & Reminisce

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries William "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a superstar recognized by nearly everyone. So when the people of Prescott noticed him walking their streets, they were both surprised and excited.

However, Buffalo Bill did not come with his "Wild West Show." Instead he came with his mining engineer and they meant business.

September 3, 2017

Mayer Onyx Was Unique, Beautiful, World Famous

As Professor Price sat on the train, he looked again at the sample of onyx sent to him from Mayer, Arizona. So impressed was he by the  beautiful sample and the accounts of its source that he was now on his way from San Francisco to see the deposit for himself.

When the train pulled into the station at Mayer, he looked out the window and was astonished at what he saw. Previously all known deposits of onyx had come in the form of boulders and smaller rocks and was mined. However, this Mayer onyx was part of the natural strata of the earth! It could be cut into blocks of nearly any size like sandstone or granite! (*1)

Indeed, this was no boulder of onyx. This single deposit covered nearly two-thirds of a square mile and ran from 10 to 20 feet deep! It was more factual to call Mayer an onyx quarry. Nothing like this had ever been found before.

Before departing, Prof. Price found a onyx-rich tract of land that had not yet been claimed and quickly procured it for himself.

August 27, 2017

1970: UFO Lands in Prescott

Dick Zabriski 
It all started when a 7th grader named Dick Zabriski looked up into the night sky and saw an object that according to him, "seemed to stand still within a column of four stars and then it started to move (erratically)...It changed colors from red to blue then to green." (*1)

This incident would be only the beginning. Soon the town would be abuzz over a massive wave of UFO sightings and the curtain would be raised for the most bizarre event in Prescott history.

August 20, 2017

Chamber of Commerce Brings Excitement & City Slogan (1910)

By 1910 it seemed that Prescott was the only city of appreciable size in Arizona that did not have a Chamber of Commerce. There had been attempts before, but they ended up dissolving due to factional differences. But now the situation was becoming acute, if not embarrassing.

"Even the town of Parker had such an organization," the Journal-Miner grumbled, "and it has sufficient influence to cause the government to consider seriously throwing open the lands of the Indian reservation for settlement." (*1)

However, this time the Chamber would meet great success. For it not only included Prescott's businesses, but the involvement of her citizens as well.

August 13, 2017

"Lost" Bell's Canyon Was Infamous

Originally the wagon trail going through Bell's Canyon was meant as an alternate route from Kirkland to Date Creek. However, the topography of rock outcroppings and the need to go slowly over the extremely rough road made it the perfect place for angry Indians to ambush weary whites.

Indeed the area would become so notorious and so avoided that the anglos eventually allowed it to melt back into the wilderness. Today there are no roads going to Bell's Canyon.

August 6, 2017

1911: Giant Humanoid Skeleton Unearthed in Yavapai County UPDATED

(Not the skeleton found in AZ)
Monsoon floods of 1911 had cut a new wash through the farm that Peter Marx had been working since 1870. By chance, this new cut exposed some bones sticking out of its bank. Marx went to investigate and quickly unearthed a large leg bone about twice the size of a human's.

Puzzled, he wondered what animal it could have come from.

He continued to dig finding more large bones until, about three feet in, he discovered a giant human skull!

July 23, 2017

The American Ranch: The Ritz of Stage Stops

It was in 1876 when Jefferson Harrison Lee built the large two-story hotel and stage stop. It was located at a prime intersection on the Prescott to Hardyville tollroad. Named the American Ranch, it was the most elaborate stage stop on the entire 150 mile road. (*1)

July 16, 2017

Remembering the USS Yavapai

Rare photo of the USS Yavapai

When naval history is written, it's the large capital ships that get all the attention. Yet aircraft carriers and battleships require a large amount of support ships--not just destroyers and submarines, but a myriad of logistical ships that require fuel, food, and fresh water.

The USS Yavapai was a ship that provided these necessities to the smaller ships; quietly "serving with distinction" in her logistical missions in Iwo Jima and Okinawa before going to Korea and China.

July 9, 2017

Bill Fain: The Father of Prescott Valley

According to Lew Rees, former Fain Signature Group executive director, and former CEO of the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce, Bill Fain was the most important man in Prescott Valley history. (*1)

“'He had the brains, the fortitude, the work ethic and the strength to put together a community. His handprint is on every aspect of Prescott Valley and, indeed, the entire quad-city area,' Rees said." (*1)

"Known as a man of his word – and for his generosity, work ethic and foresight – Bill Fain’s handshake was all anyone needed to seal a business deal." (*1)

July 2, 2017

Cleator: The Ghost Town That Was Sold Twice

The area in which Cleator, Arizona stands today was the scene of one of the earliest settlements of anglos in Yavapai County. At first the area was known as "Turkey" with nearby "Turkey Creek." (*1)

The selection of this name was obvious enough. Even to this day one can happen upon wild turkeys in this area of the Prescott National Forest.

June 25, 2017

Mystery Man Entombed in Thumb Butte

It was Sunday, January 22, 1911. Two young men had made the risky climb to the summit of Thumb Butte. While enjoying the view and carefully moving about the top, one looked down into a deep crevice and was shocked to see a person!

"So stupefied and astounded were they, that after a few minutes observation...and satisfying themselves that life was extinct; (they) hurriedly left the scene and gave alarm in this city."

June 18, 2017

The Complete "Lost History" of the Yavapai County Courthouse

The reasons why Yavapai County needed a new, third, (and current) courthouse seemed endless. First, the Old Courthouse had become too small for the growing county. Added to that was this stunning list of deficiencies:

June 11, 2017

1865: The Shocking Twist at Battle Point (Skull Valley)

It was a usual day in the freighting business for Sam and Jake Miller. Yet in 1865, freighting through the Arizona wilderness was unusually dangerous. Indian raids on the toll road from Ft. Mohave to Prescott were happening regularly and this time the Miller brothers would be taking mostly passengers as well as some supplies and stock.

"People wishing to come to Arizona traveled with freighters for protection." Every precaution would have to be made to protect both riders and supplies. (*1)

June 4, 2017

Story Behind the Names: Mingus Mountain; Cherry & Yeager Canyon

The first mention of the mountain that would become known as Mingus is found in the origin story of the Yavapai people. A girl named Kamalapukwia was placed in a water tight log to survive the worldwide flood. After the waters receded she went to Mingus mountain before dawn and allowed the rising sun to hit "her inside" in preparation for having a child. (*1)

May 28, 2017

Spencer Repeating Rifle Rules the Battle of the Black Mountains

It was April of 1867 and ranchers in the area were both highly anxious and on alert. "Information of the presence of a large body of hostile Indians in Hell Canyon" prompted General Gregg to send two companies "to examine and explore that locality, and if possible to break up this band." However, by the time the army arrived, the Indians had left and were heading southeast towards the Black Mountains, several miles south of Woodchute and Mingus. (*1)

It would take several days for the Army to catch up, but such a large party of Indians and their animals left a trail even anglos could follow. But this time, for the first time in Arizona, the troops were armed with the lethal and already legendary Spencer Repeating Rifle. It had already been used, with devastating effectiveness, against Confederate soldiers.

May 21, 2017

1867: Territorial Capital Departs for Tucson

Governor's Mansion

When word first came out that there was a movement to relocate the capital from Prescott to Tucson, most of Yavapai County thought the idea to be both unfathomable and impossible.

Traditionally American capitals had always been located near their geographic center. Even Washington, DC, now far to the east, was centrally located in relation to the 13 original colonies.

But now there was a movement to relocate the capital hundreds of miles away from the majority of the population, close to the Mexican border, where it's so hot that "one can fry a rattlesnake without a fire."

In the end, it was politics that made the unthinkable become reality.

May 14, 2017

The Pioneer Ranch Mom

The pioneer ranching mother was one of the true unsung heroes of the West. Her lot was an especially hard one; not only because of a lack of conveniences, but because her toils were a necessity in order to survive.

May 7, 2017

I Was the Cause of the Battle of Skull Valley

Sure--I've seen more than my share of Indians--most of them hostile.

I ran freight on two roads--one that ran from La Paz to Prescott and one from Hardyville (or what you call Bullhead City,) to Prescott.

One time in particular I had a seriously close brush that ended-up in a military battle.

My name is Freeman and not only did I fight in the Battle of Skull Valley, but you might say that I was the cause.

April 30, 2017

The Dynamite Attack on JS Acker's House

It seemed just a normal sleepy night in Prescott early on Saturday, April 21st, 1917, when at 2:30 am an explosion rocked the city.

It was "a diabolical attempt to blow up the home of JS Acker, [at] 205 North Mt. Vernon Street." (*1)

It seemed someone wanted to see the future donor of park land to Prescott dead. But why?

April 23, 2017

1872: The Gruesome Fate of the Young Braggart

It was 1872 when the John Sturns family was making its way from Arkansas to Del Rio Springs. On the way they picked up a young man heading in the same direction.

It was prudent for the family of five (as well as the lone traveller) to join together as they headed deeper into Indian country and the lawless wilderness. An extra gun could mean safety and survival.

The young man told the family not to worry. He wasn't afraid of any injuns. He boasted that he was going to shoot the first Indian that he laid his eyes on!

Perhaps he thought doing so would mark a passage into manhood. Perhaps he wanted to amass a fearless reputation in his new haunts. Whatever his motivation, it would all end up horribly wrong.

April 9, 2017

1868-71: The Last Indian Raids on Kirkland Valley

One method used by Native Americans during the Indian Wars could be described as "guerrilla attrition"--sudden, stealthy strikes aimed at absconding with the very things the settlers needed to survive.

Kirkland Valley was not immune.

April 2, 2017

Highway 79 (89A): the Prescott to Jerome "Shortline"

When it first opened August 1st, 1920, it was declared "Yavapai's Greatest Attraction." (*1)

"Members of the National Geographic Society...proclaimed [Highway 79] as 'the most beautiful drive in America.'" (*2)

To cynics (and the carsick) the curvy, mountain road might seem to have been designed by a carnival-ride engineer, a drunk, or both. In fact, Highway 79 would be considered an engineering marvel even by today's standards. It cut the travel time and distance between the two cities nearly in half.

While some history is buried under the sands of time, Highway 79 was eventually buried under a ribbon of asphalt and given a new number: 89A. Still, the twists and turns of this roadway only mirror the odyssey taken to construct it.

March 26, 2017

The Findings at the Fitzmaurice Indian Ruin

The Fitzmaurice Indian Ruin today.

Most of the commuters who go up and down Stoneridge Drive each day probably have noticed a peculiar zig-zagging fence surrounding a hilltop east of the road.

They might wonder: "What is this fence guarding?"

Answer: Perhaps the most significant, undeveloped tourist attraction in all of Yavapai county!

The Fitzmaurice Ruin is far more than a few scattered rock formations. The 27 room main pueblo and its several satellite structures encompass the largest Indian ruin in the Prescott region.

March 19, 2017

Entrepreneur Joseph Mayer & His Town

Joseph Mayer

It was with a small amount of irony that Joseph Mayer's funeral was held in Prescott. For it was a fateful trip to that city that unexpectedly ended 30 miles short that would define his life and his legacy.

"He was loved and mourned by all who knew him. People came from all over the state, rich and poor alike, hundreds of them. They said among themselves, 'There will never be but one Joe Mayer'" (*1)

An Apache chief who lived across the creek came to pay his last respects. "My people have lost their Big Chief," he said, "our brother and best friend." (*1)

"Tears were shed by both men and women as the remains were lowered into their last resting place." (*2)

As both an entrepreneur and a kind-hearted man, Joseph Mayer brought a great deal to both his town and Yavapai county.

March 12, 2017

Prescott's 1st Ordinances Reveal the Charm of a Small Village

It was May 12th, 1873 when the Village of Prescott's Council met to pass its first two ordinances.

The two simple and quaint laws offer an interesting insight into the everyday life of the early, small settlement.

The first ordinance dealt with the job descriptions of the four primary city workers. The second dealt with criminal laws concerning "Breaches of the Peace."

March 5, 2017

The Legend of Burnt Ranch

The Burnt Ranch house that replaced the burned cabin.
It was 1961 when plastics manufacturer Arthur Edison bought the 160 acres for future development. He paid $150,000--less than $1000 per acre for the land located west of Williamson Valley Drive between Iron Springs Road and Pioneer Parkway. (*1)

By then the property had been known as "Burnt Ranch" for nearly a century.

This is the tale of the Apache-Mojave (aka "Date Creek") Indian raid that gave the ranch its name.

February 26, 2017

"Story of a Hanged Man" by Parker Anderson

A review...

It was around the turn of the century when author and Prescott historian Parker Anderson was reading an account of (Fleming) "James" Parker, notorious outlaw and subject of many wild west dime novels. It was an interesting account, but much to Anderson's chagrin, it did not include proper sourcing.

Perhaps it was at this moment that Anderson succumbed to a syndrome not uncommon to historians: he was bitten by the "dig-up the truth" bug. Little did he know that he would be embarking on a sixteen-year odyssey that included hurdles, difficulties, and an occasional dead end.

February 19, 2017

Meet the Kakaka: The Little Indian People Who Live in the Mountains

Granite Mountain--one of the homes of the Kakaka.

For those of us whose minds were formatted in the style of Western Civilization and culture, the Kakaka pose a paranormal puzzle. Are they spirit beings? Are they aliens? Are they elementals? Do they even exist at all? However, for the Yavapai and other Arizona tribes, the Kakaka aren't only real--they're a vital part of their culture.

For it is the Kakaka who give instruction and teaching to their medicine men.

February 12, 2017

Story Behind the Names: Route 89: Prescott to Ash Fork

In this edition of "Stories Behind the Names" we look at: 
Prescott, Chino Valley, Paulden, Drake, Hell Canyon, Ash Fork and other minor locations along the way.

Prescott: (Includes Early Street Name Origins)

Most students of Prescott history are aware that the town "was named in honor of Massachusetts-based historian William Hickling Prescott, who was already deceased at the time and had never set foot in the west.  (*1)

It was unusual for towns to bear the names of people who were not involved with their founding, yet the start-up community of Fort Whipple officially renamed itself Prescott in May, 1864. (*1)

February 5, 2017

1890: The Dam, The Drunk, & The Disaster

Walnut Grove Dam

The Dam:

"Besides being the largest piece of solid masonry in the United States, [the Walnut Grove Dam] also drain[ed] the largest watershed in the world, being upwards of 400 miles of territory." (*1)

But in the dark, early hours of February 22, 1890 heavy rains would cause the dam to "literally explode."

"The disastrous breach of Arizona's first major dam poured 4 billion gallons of water into a canyon above Wickenburg and killed approximately 100-150 people, although no one will really ever know how many people drowned." (*2)

January 22, 2017

The Crazy, Two-Hour Jerome Junction Gold Rush

The railroad's section foreman was five or six miles out toward Jerome doing his usual job, when it was time to take his dinner break. He found a nearby rock to sit on and began eating the food from his pail.

There wasn't anything particularly new to look at, so he happened to look down at the rock he was sitting upon.

Soon he noticed something shiny and matted within the rock that caused an instant double-take. It was shiny; it was heavy; it was gold!

The foreman stood up and examined further. Not only was there some gold in the rock, there was a great deal of it!

Not only was there one gold bearing rock, but an entire vein was visible!

He couldn't wait to rush back to Jerome Junction and tell of his unbelievable luck. So he broke off several pounds of the ore as a sample and took his handcar to get back to the hotel in town.

January 15, 2017

1875-86: The Murderous Stanton Syndicate

Charles P Stanton in front of his hotel.
This article is effectively retired. 
Four years after this article was published, historian Parker Anderson researched the subject for his book "Arizona Gold Gangster Charles P Stanton." Nearly all of the folklore was proven to be untrue or highly unlikely...

When Charles P Stanton first set his eyes on the town of Antelope Station, he coveted to make it his own personal empire. Eventually he would name the town in honor of himself and rule it with a murderous tyranny that would even make Al Capone blush.

"While Stanton, Arizona never had the glamor of Tombstone, in the days of Charles Stanton, no town in the West could equal the murderous, evil environment predominating life in this (otherwise) thriving gold-mining community." (*1)

In fact, Stanton gained such a heinous reputation that travelers in the area steered clear of the town. (*1)

January 8, 2017

Arizona Pioneers' Home: A Gibraltar of Civic Pride

Whatever happened to the pioneer miners when they got too old to work?

As Prescott began to mature at the beginning of the 20th century, this was hardly a theoretical question. The old pioneer miners were becoming aged, infirm and could no longer toil after years of back-breaking work.

They worked in extraordinarily tough and dangerous conditions, bringing wealth and the very founding of the community and the state. Now, in their sunset years, they needed Arizona to help them.