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.

Too often many local history books lack an engrossing narrative instead presenting an uneven, dry buffet of half-digested research notes. Courtney's book, on the contrary, deliciously envelopes the reader into both the colorful stories as well as the time period.

Be not mistaken. The fluff of cotton candy does not appear on Courtney's menu. The 144 page paperback cites 171 footnotes for those who desire a supplemental plateful. "Three and a half years of extensive and intensive research and analysis back this study," Courtney recounted.

Starting in 1864, Courtney covers the golden age, happenings, and changing scene on Montezuma Street until Prescott's Great Fire of July, 1900. He "tiers" the saloons by importance based primarily on a mixture of popularity and longevity. Full-bodied histories are presented for saloons in the higher tiers.

Dear to Courtney's heart, and comprising half of the top tier, is "The Palace"--an institution he still occasions and probably always will.

Prescott's first two ordinances (passed May 12, 1873) reveal a charming time when things were much simpler and the village was much smaller.

While discussing these earliest times in Prescott history, it is impossible not to include many of Prescott's "firsts" as well as other ancillary and animated stories. The fires, the murders, the robberies, and the jealousies are all as colorful as anything Hollywood ever produced.

Also included is a "short history" of Prescott's early beer breweries, as well as the enthralling exploits of Mayor Buckey O'Neill, lawman James Dobson, the "Barbarians," "Dynamic" Dan Thorne, and many others.

In authoring this book, Courtney was keen to separate truth from lore. One particular example is "Arizona's most famous saloon story--The legend of Chance Cobweb Hall"--a baby left in a bar and soon adopted. Courtney retells the old story that has appeared in several publications over the years while revealing that it's not true. Through his research he was able to find that the baby for whom the legend was based was actually one Violet "Baby Bell" Hicks. By uncovering her story, Courtney dispelled a popular myth thought to be true by all.

Courtney also untangles the factual histories of the early saloons and unmasks the myths that have grown and surrounded them over the years.

Additionally, the volume includes 45 black and white images, several of which are most interesting.

Brad Courtney
For anyone who takes pride in their shelf of Prescott history books, this one seems a must. For anyone looking for his first Prescott history book, this one seems an excellent choice providing the fundamental and accurate accounts of Prescott's early social and business center.

According to an internet report, Courtney is working "on a follow-up book with the working title 'The Resurrection of Prescott’s Whiskey Row.'"

We anxiously hunger for our second-helping.


According to its author, "Prescott's Original Whiskey Row" is available for purchase "almost everywhere" including Amazon.

"Prescott's Original Whiskey Row" by Bradley G. Courtney:
ISBN: 9781467117678
Publisher: The History Press, 2015.

Did You Know... that #PrescottAZHistory publishes a new article four times a month on Sundays? Follow the blog in one of the following social media to be sure you get the latest article!

Want more Prescott history? Join the "Celebrating Historic Prescott" group.
(Daily pics and featured articles.)
Drew Desmond is on Facebook (For the latest article.)

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist
(Daily pic featured at 6:30 am & 6:30pm and featured articles.)

Prescott AZ History is on Pinterest
(For the latest article.)

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram

No comments:

Post a Comment