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.

He was born in Clark county, Kentucky, August 28,1824 and moved with his parents to Clay county, Missouri when he was 3. He went back to Kentucky to study surveying and was Deputy County Surveyor of Trigg county from 1845 to 1848.

He then went to California to mine, but his rare surveying skills were called upon in all his western sojourns. He was contracted in 1856 "to survey certain townships west of the San Bernardino meridian;" was San Diego County Surveyor from 1856-59 and again in 1861-62. He also served in the 9th and 11th California legislature.

"He lived in the gold fields of California...until the breaking out of the Civil War. At that time, there were many southerners in California and he was heart and soul with the South." He raised and led a party to head to Texas and join the Confederacy.

They never made it. "After many skirmishes with the Indians and the Federals, this band of hardy Westerners was scattered and many of them were killed; others got through in safety, while still others, including Mr. Groom, were captured." As leader of the group, Groom was "held with ball and chain at Fort Union, NM, (for ten months) until released on receipt of a letter from Senator James A. McDougal of California certifying to his loyalty."

The early histories and place name origins of Mingus Mountain, Cherry and Yeager Canyon, Arizona.

In 1863, Groom was paid $90 a month to be a guide back in Arizona. He "climbed San Francisco mountain to observe the lay of the land;" then travelled to Granite Creek and made camp "at the present site of Prescott."

Later that same year, Groom "joined Capt. Joe Walker and six others in locating the 'Groom Load' situated between Granite Creek and Walker's in 'Groom Creek'." He located several other mines until 1864 when he surveyed and plotted the town of Prescott. Additionally, he supervised the selling of the town lots.

He was elected to the first two Arizona Territorial Legislatures; first representing Groomdale and two years later, representing Yavapai county.

Judge John J. Hawkins wrote of Groom: "He was a typical pioneer, who lived a simple life; a magnificent specimen of manhood, caring nothing for riches. He never married, living practically a hermit's life."

"Like many in those days, Groom was no angel. He was fond of his liquor and at times was known to drink too much." At one time Groom became involved in a "heavy dispute" with a young army officer at a trading post "where liquor was freely dispensed." Eventually, the army officer challenged Groom to a duel.

It was up to Groom to choose a location and the weapons to be used. The location was "a secluded spot somewhere on the flats between Kirkland and Walnut Grove." The weapons Groom chose were two large, long-handled wooden paddles.

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

Groom led his opponent "to a very beautiful spot which Groom had selected. There they saw three or four Indians with long-knives standing over a dead bull, "which had been dead for sometime. It was lying with its legs standing straight up and was in an advanced stage of decomposition."

"The Army officers, all dressed in their fine uniforms" watched as Groom "threw out the wooden paddles and signaled to the Indians, who immediately took their long knives and slashed open the dead bull."

"Mr. Groom stationed himself at the head of the bull with one of the paddles and handed the other to his opponent and told him to stand at the other end of the bull." Groom stated that "the man who could throw out the most of the insides of the bull would be the winner."

"The terrible stench of the place caused everyone, except Mr. Groom and the Indians to take to the woods--even Groom's opponent. It is stated that ever afterwards there never was known to have been another duel fought in the Territory of Arizona...Whenever the subject of dueling was discussed, the mode and manner by which Mr. Groom (used) was told and it caused a good laugh and brought on another drink and everyone would be friends again."

It was said that Groom and his army opponent "became firm friends and had many good times at the trading post telling of this famous duel in that beautiful spot."

In 1868 Groom used his surveying skills once more to plot-out the town of Wickenburg. He fell in love with that area and lived there until his death January 21, 1899, aged 74. At the time of his passing, he owned mining interests in southern Yavapai and northern Maricopa counties which were appraised at $34,500.

Tourist Tip:
Wickenburg is a wonderful place to visit! 

It includes history, upcoming events, lodging, dining and more!

#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 and posts about Drew's writing.)

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist
(Daily pic featured at 7 am & 7 pm and featured articles.)

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

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram


All source articles are from the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives Vertical Folder: "Groom, Robert".

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very interesting article about Robert W. Groom. I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to sharing it with my children and grandchildren since this is one of our kin.