December 30, 2018

Wild Wagoner AZ: Founded 1864

Wagoner, Arizona was the kind of town that Hollywood loves portraying. There were outlaws, gold, guns, fights and killings.  Like desert grass, Wagoner bloomed in the monsoon of its gold rush and quickly perished soon after.

December 16, 2018

Christmas 1909: Big Snow, Big Gifts

As December 25th, 1909 approached, citizens of Prescott were optimistic about the local economy. Ore prices had revived and it was announced that the Humboldt smelter would restart the following Spring.

Yet that particular Christmas would be remembered for a colossal snow blizzard and two gifts so extraordinarily generous, it was thought that they would never be forgotten—although they largely have been.

December 9, 2018

The Stay-at-Home Christmas of 1918

Above all other Christmases, 1918 was the biggest “stay-at-home” Christmas in the 20th century. This was due to the practicalities of dealing with the lethal Spanish influenza pandemic. Yet 1918 would also provide the world with one of the best Christmas gifts imaginable.

December 2, 2018

1921: The Birth of the Smoki People

As the end of the 20th century approached, Smoki ceremonies, performed by anglos disguised as Native Americans, became increasingly controversial and were finally discontinued. 

However, the first of their performances were held as fund raisers to save the cash-strapped Frontier Days, and were called the “Way Out West” show. In these, the Smoki were only a portion of the festivities.

November 25, 2018

Indian Wars Dispirited Early Thanksgiving Celebrations

The first Thanksgiving Day, November 9th, 1866, was a solemn one in Prescott. Some were thankful that the Union had been preserved, while others that the killing and destruction had finally ceased.

It was “the first time a day of Thanksgiving (had) been set apart in this territory,” the newspaper reported, and was “duly respected” with a community remembrance. However, the annual festivity would soon slip into neglect in Prescott and elsewhere in Arizona.

November 18, 2018

The Mysterious, Phantom Fort Misery Near Oro

Many are familiar with the first building in Prescott, and oldest surviving log cabin in Arizona, “Fort Misery.” 

Then there was a second Fort Misery near Oro—or maybe there wasn’t. The mystery and controversy about the military presence near the banks of Humbug Creek during the Indian conflicts has flared-up in recent years.

November 11, 2018

The Plaza's Early History

Before the Courthouse was built,
the Plaza fielded baseball games.
As Robert Groom plotted out Prescott and created the Plaza in the middle of downtown, it wasn't necessarily meant for the county courthouse. The first courthouse was located on the street facing the plaza.

Instead, it was left as an open public space and its uses were many and varied.

November 4, 2018

The History of Palace Station

Palace Station, located 17 miles south of Prescott, is one of the most famous stage stops in Yavapai County. Having been built in 1875, its history is long and its future is bright. 

“Palace Station is one of the few remaining stagecoach stations dating from the settlement of the Arizona Territory. The station played an important role in the social and economic development of the new territory and is now…on the National Register of Historic Places.”

October 28, 2018

The Lost Ghost Town of Zonia

Main Street in Zonia as seen in the 1960s
Place name books that cover Arizona show no listing for the small little ghost town of Zonia. Google maps can locate the Zonia mine, but not the town itself. Even off-roading clubs that are well familiar with Arizona's backroads and ghost towns show no listing.

Yet this old mining town did indeed exist and flourished from 1899-1922.

October 21, 2018

Prescott Valley's UFO Wave

According to reports submitted by local residents to the National UFO Reporting Network (NUFORN,) Prescott Valley experienced a wave of UFOs in the late winter and spring of 2000.

What's more, they seemed to be looking for something.

October 14, 2018

The Great Tungsten Rush of 1915-16

At the height of the rush a mere 20 pounds of 65% tungsten ore would net its owner the equivalent of $1300 today. In Yavapai county this was serious enough lucre to wheedle cowboys into leaving their saddles and commence digging!

September 30, 2018

Famous Novelist & Statesman Falls In Love With Prescott

Sir Gilbert Parker, M.P. (1862-1932)
Member of the British Parliament, novelist, and Knight, Sir Gilbert Parker landed in Lakewood, New Jersey in December, 1911 in hopes of restoring his health from a bout of malaria. Upon hearing this news the Prescott Chamber of Commerce sent him an invitation to come to "the balmy shades of the pines." Although Sir Gilbert received many invitations, he decided to accept Prescott's.

When Sir Gilbert returned to London, he was armed with many photographs of the area. He would hold lectures about Prescott and Yavapai county to crowds of thousands. "If I had 20 sons," he would tell them, "I would send them to this new world."

September 23, 2018

Kirkland's Early History

William H Kirkland
Bill Kirkland had a restless spirit, never wanting to stay too long in one place. At the age of 18 he left Missouri to make the long trek to California in 1850. He stayed there only five years before he relocated again, this time to Arizona.

There the pioneer would be accredited with many firsts. However, he is best known for a valley, creek, and town in central Arizona that would end up bearing his name.

September 16, 2018

The Story Behind Prescott's Street Cars UPDATED!

"Today, May 19, 1903," the newspaper proclaimed, "will mark the beginning of a new era in the industrial progress of the city of Prescott." That day saw "the beginning of work on the first electric street railway in northern Arizona, and Prescott now takes her place among the up to date cities of the west."

It was this level of excitement that announced the mundane arrival of the first railroad ties for the Prescott and Mt. Union Railway Company.

September 9, 2018

Fight! Badger vs. Bulldog vs. Hypnotist

In the early 20th century laws were enacted to prohibit animal fighting, but social stigma against the practice was slow to catch-up. This was probably due in part to the popular, associated gambling on these events.

At one such occasion a visiting hypnotist who was performing at the Elks' Theater became involved. He would soon regret it.

In relating this disturbing, yet fairly common event in that day, the gory details have been withheld...

September 2, 2018

Yavapai Co's Astounding Agriculture: 1912

Those unfamiliar with the agricultural past of Yavapai county are sure to be astonished by the variety and success of the crops. Almost anything imaginable was planted and most did well--for a time.

1912 was a healthy year for both rain and crops with several varieties reaching mammoth proportions...

August 26, 2018

The Adventures of Prescott's First Motorcycle Club

Back in 1911 motorcycles were closer to what people might call motorbikes today. Early machines had pedals like a bicycle. Single cylinder engines produced a meager 4 horsepower, while 2 cycle engines produced 7.

Still, like the automobile, motorcycling proved popular and on March 10th, 1911 a number of enthusiasts formed the Yavapai Motorcycle Club.

August 19, 2018

Arizona's First Masons Helped Steer Early Prescott

1907: Masons lay the cornerstone for their lodge on Cortez St.
It is difficult today to understand the social gravity and importance of fraternal organizations in the 19th century. These were the places where "networking" occurred. Generally each fraternal organization represented a particular group of socio-economic class or trade.

The Masons were the business owners, lawyers, doctors and politicians.

Indeed, organizing a Masonic Lodge in Prescott, (the Territory's first,) was considered so important that one was quickly established before the appearance of a denominational church!

August 12, 2018

Clever Young Forger Meets His Day of Reckoning

John Frye was a well-liked, 20 year-old who came to Prescott and got a job as a correspondence clerk at the Prescott State Bank.

In mid-February, 1918, he informed people that he had received a telegram notifying him "that his aunt who had raised him was seriously hurt in an automobile accident, requesting him to come to Seattle immediately."

In fact, this was a ruse. Frye was attempting to evade the police before an act of embezzlement in Seattle caught up with him. Additionally, he was planning another caper in New York City where he would walk out of local banks there with the equivalent of $500,000 today.

August 5, 2018

1933-41: Army of Young Men Save & Improve the Prescott National Forest

One of Franklin Roosevelt's most popular Depression programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The CCC enrolled unskilled and unemployed men between the ages of 18 and 25. The men primarily came from families on government assistance.

Each worker received $30 per month (that's $600 today) plus room and board at a work camp. However, the men were only allowed to keep $5 of their pay. They were required to send the rest back home to help support their needy families.

The Prescott National Forest had many of these work camps and the legacy of their work is still with us today.

July 29, 2018

Prescott's Goldwater Store: "The Best Always" from 1876-1978

For over a century Goldwater's general merchandise store not only offered the staples of life, but also brought first class merchandise of elegance and good taste to Prescott.

Although its tenure in this city started in 1876, the Goldwaters had been merchants in Arizona starting in the early days of anglo history, 1862--passing on the business to each generation.

When the family first arrived in the territory, it was not to become merchants, but rather freighters. "Micheal Goldwater was quick to see the possibilities of what was to become Arizona. He established himself and his family in the thriving town of La Paz and settled to a busy life of a freighter."

July 22, 2018

Prescott's Other History Museum: Ft. Whipple

Due to a mature tree rooting its way into a sewage pipe, the Fort Whipple Museum had been closed for six months. But now it's reopened and it offers a unique and charming visit into the fort's past.

"If you want to learn the history of Fort Whipple from its military beginnings in 1864 to the modern-day Veterans hospital, it’s all here in riveting exhibits with crisp text, historic photographs and compelling artifacts. Friendly, knowledgeable docents will give you a tour of the exhibits and answer any questions you might have."

July 15, 2018

Jealousy Killed the Good-Time Girl

History lost her real name; she went by "Georgie Brown."

She was a "woman of the under world" who caught the eye of a naive young barber named Alexander Oaks when she blew into San Louis Obispo, CA.

Oaks would become completely infatuated with her to the point of losing common sense. He would follow her anywhere--even to the grave.

July 1, 2018

Will Rogers Visits the 1933 Frontier Days

The Courier's editor needed to pinch himself. ""Will Rogers of Claremore, OK--yes, indeed, THE Will Rogers, gum-chewing humorist whose quips go straight to the mark and have made many a personage in high places flinch--well, he's in town."

"Rogers, who flew to Phoenix (on the 3rd) and drove up yesterday morning (the 4th), spent the day at the grounds, squatting on his heels at the end of the arena for the most part and surrounded almost all the time by a group of contestants,...gals of the range, and young cow waddies: a big gang of admiring small boys."

It was hoped that Rogers might present the rodeo awards that night, or ride in the closing parade, but he had something else in mind for his surprise visit "to see the final events at the fairgrounds of Frontier Days."

June 24, 2018

The Invasion of the Horseless Carriage!

It was 1903 when the first automobile drove into Prescott and before the year was over, the city fell in love with the new contraption!

Well, mostly...

Still, these "machines" as they were often called, would begin to infiltrate every aspect of life in Prescott.

June 17, 2018

Famous Harvey Houses Supplied by Del Rio Ranch

"Fred Harvey civilized the west with his '3000 Miles of Hospitality' that consisted of an extensive chain of hotels, shops, and restaurants along the Santa Fe Railway, staffed by a professional, customer service army which included the famous Harvey Girls."

To supply his hotels and restaurants with milk and cream, he had a dairy farm, the Territory's first, in Peach Springs. However, water supply was problematic at that location and in 1912, Harvey moved the entire operation to Del Rio Springs, north of Chino Valley.

June 10, 2018

Prescott's Forgotten Railroad Developer & Philanthropist

Frank Morrell Murphy first arrived in Prescott in 1877. "During the next 40 years he changed almost every aspect of life in Yavapai county. A financier, promoter, philanthropist, and empire builder, it was said that he brought more money into the Territory than any other one man."

Today few people are familiar with him. "This is probably because of the emphasis that Frank Murphy placed on his life. He promoted Prescott and Yavapai county; he promoted railroads (and) mines, but he did not promote (himself)."

June 3, 2018

Ft. Whipple 1869: Futile Campaigns & Public Diversions

In 1869 military campaigns against the Indians were hapless in Yavapai county. The Native Americans had not only learned that it was best to avoid the Army, but they became quite adept at doing just that.

As morale dropped for both soldier and civilian, local military leadership tried to reach out to the local community through theater and dances.

May 27, 2018

1903: Ed Shumate Opens the Granite Dells Resort

Although some had attempted to develop the Granite Dells into a recreational attraction previously, all fell short. Enter businessman Ed Shumate. "When he took hold of it, all manner of predictions were made that it would prove a failure for the reason that Prescott was said not to be large enough a (city) to support such a place."

Defying the naysayers, the newspaper reported: "Mr. Shumate is the first person who has been able to make a complete success of this resort and he has accomplished it in a most admirable manner." Indeed, during special events, the resort regularly hosted 1400-1500 guests.

May 20, 2018

Early Descriptions of Prescott: 1864-'71

Several early visitors to Prescott were well impressed with the young settlement. For these sojourners the buildings were secondary compared to the inspiration they felt from the spirit of her citizens and the wonderment the area bestowed.

Their accounts in the years 1864, 1867, and 1871 offer insight into how Prescott grew from little more than a mining camp to an all-American community.

May 13, 2018

The "Graces" Who Got Things Done in Prescott

It was probably inevitable that Grace Sparks and Grace Chapman would join together. They both had a deep love for serving civically. Even in their own day "they were known as the 'Graces' who helped get things done in Prescott."

Each served Prescott and Yavapai county dutifully in their own ways, but when their good friend, Sharlot Hall, passed away, they came together to make sure that the Sharlot Hall Museum would not only stay open, but would begin to grow into the facility it is today.

May 6, 2018

1903: First Automobile Drives Into Prescott

The first automobile to drive into Prescott was a brand new 1903 "Curved Dash" Oldsmobile, which was also the first car ever to be mass produced. It was the evening of February 26, 1903 and the welcoming of this new invention brought a surprising amount of civic pride to the city.

April 29, 2018

Cowboy Escapades #2: Autos on the Range

When automobiles were new inventions, it was inevitable that at least some cowboys would decide to try to replace their horses for cars in cow punching chores.

Indeed, at least twice it was suggested to start using autos in traditional events during the Frontier Days rodeo!

April 22, 2018

Downtown Store Windows in the 1800s

A trip to downtown Prescott in the 19th century often included a gander into the store windows. Generally, merchants would display the very latest arrivals to their stock, but this wasn't always the case.

Fortunately, the newspaper was keen to mention what was being displayed at stores--particularly when those same stores were regular advertisers. These mentions offer insight into what a 19th century visitor to Prescott would see as he walked around the square.

April 15, 2018

Dutch John: Prescott's Audacious Bootlegger

"Dutch" John Berent was sitting in the defendant's seat in Superior Court. Across from him lay "273 bottles of beer; (along with) 23 pints, two quarts and 3 five-gallon (glass jugs) of whiskey." Although he would soon be found guilty of bootlegging, he would successfully sue to have all that liquor returned to him!

If it was prohibition in Yavapai county and one wanted a drink, then "the distinctly individual countenance of (Dutch John Berent was) well known to practically every person in Yavapai county," according to the newspaper.

Soon the sheriff's office would also become aware of Dutch John's notoriety and with the assistance of paid snitches and the employment of private detectives, John would find himself before the court judge.

March 25, 2018

Fort Whipple's Faithful Dog "Abe"

Shortly after moving closer to Prescott, Fort Whipple had a camp dog owned by Indian Scout Willard Rice. His name was Abe.

One day, this faithful, large greyhound used his keen senses to protect his "pack," and he would be happily credited with preventing an Indian raid.

March 18, 2018

1871: CB Genung Builds the Old Yarnell Road

Come 1871, the farmers and ranchers of Kirkland and Peeples Valley had a logistics problem. They wanted access to the Wickenburg and Phoenix markets for their products, but there was no wagon road down the rim that was suitable for heavy loads.

"There was a road that could be traveled by light rigs and empty teams, but no (loaded wagon) could be handled over it." Additionally, the old trail was an excessive 60 miles long.

A new, better route was desperately needed and Charles Baldwin Genung proposed a road that would cut off a whopping 33 miles from the journey.

March 11, 2018

A Union Spy in the Joseph Walker Camp

Joseph Rutherford Walker, circa 1860
It is well understood that Fort Whipple was established to protect anglos around the Prescott area. However, there is evidence that initially the federal government was not so much interested in protecting the miners as it was in protecting the minerals.

March 4, 2018

Rich Ranchman Tries to Get Away With Murder

1918's "trial of the century" was the first murder case ever heard in today's Yavapai County Courthouse. Details of the case were so lurid, salacious, and popular that column-inch coverage of the trial was greater than the concurrent, closing weeks of World War 1!

Cast of Main Characters:
Robert J. Miller: 36 year-old ranch-hand and kindly lady's man; worked on the Stephens' ranch and was gunned-down April 2, 1918 in a clothing store downtown on Gurley St.

Joe Stephens: Wealthy cattle rancher from the Simmons area and family patriarch. It would take an average 1918 worker over 130 years to earn what Joe Stephens was worth. Despite prohibition, he was known for frequent drunken tirades.

Mrs. Stephens: 45 year-old, besieged wife of Joe Stephens. At the very least, she was victim of drunken verbal abuse. Although the subject of domestic violence was not broached in 1918, contemporary readers might discern disturbing symptoms of such.

Harry "Bud" Stephens: Sophomoric son of Joe and Mrs. Stephens. Considered a World War 1 draft-dodger. There was no disagreement that this 22 year-old was the gunman who killed Miller.

February 25, 2018

Road Crew Finds Giant Skeleton on Sycamore Creek

In February 1913, a road crew started digging "where the grade of the Verde railway passes" over Sycamore Creek in order to facilitate improvements. Soon they uncovered evidence that they had found a prehistoric gravesite. What shocked them further was the enormous size of the bones located within it.

It was later calculated that this humanoid skeleton must have stood at least 8 feet tall.

February 18, 2018

The First Prescottonians Killed in the Indian Conflicts

As Prescott began to develope into a small, isolated bastion of anglo civilization, conflicts with Native Americans were immediate and regular.

Although trappers and miners were killed in the area prior, here are the accounts of the first Fort Whipple soldier and the first citizen of Prescott to be killed in the Indian Conflicts.

February 11, 2018

The Zany Prostitution Sting at the Depot House

By 1918, Prescott was keen to clean-up the city's reputation in regards to prostitution. Fines were increased from a simple slap on the wrist to truly punitive amounts.

The red-light district on Granite street was closed down and prostitution stings were begun at other locations including the Depot House. However, on the night of August 4th, the sensitivities of the Chief of Police would be put to the test and, in the end, Cupid would have his way.

February 4, 2018

Indian War Military Posts of Yavapai County: A Primer

Fort Whipple
One cannot fully understand the Indian Conflicts in Yavapai county without a general understanding of the military posts of the time.

Here then is a primer of the early military posts including locations, dates, the the reason behind their names. This is first presented in alphabetical order followed by a chronological list.

January 28, 2018

Pioneer Surveyor / Miner Robert W. Groom

Originally Robert W. Groom came to the area to mine. However, Groom was also a surveyor which was a rarity in Yavapai county in the mid-19th century. Soon he would be pressed into service to plot the streets and blocks for both Prescott and Wickenburg.

Groom Creek was named in his honor.

He was also involved in one of the most bizarre duels in the history of the southwest.

January 21, 2018

The Indian Raid That Gave Fort Rock Its Name

Fort Rock stage stop.
It was Saturday, November 19, 1866 when a force of 50-100 brave Hualapai warriors descended upon a stage stop near Mt. Hope on the road between Prescott and Hardyville (now Bullhead City). The epic battle would be remembered for generations and the name of the locale would change forever.

January 14, 2018

The Battle of the "Pinole Treaty"

PINOLE: A food made of maize, cacao beans, and spices that originated with the Aztecs.

It was January 4th, 1864. A.H. Peeples had just given his friend, William Kirkland, a watchdog with a new litter of puppies.

It was a decision that Peeples would regret the following night.

January 7, 2018

Arizona's First Carnegie Library

One cannot tell the story of Arizona's first Carnegie library without telling of the organization that birthed it. It was a group of Prescott pioneer women who became known as The Monday Club.