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.

Believing that past failures were due to the area not being developed enough, Shumate signed a lease with Thomas and GT Wing to develop the area in April of 1903. He immediately departed for Los Angeles to obtain supplies. In early May he returned, giving him a little over two short weeks to install the new attractions before the season opened.

"Ed Shumate...would be ready to open the season at Granite Dells (on April 17th)," the paper reported. "Although everything will not be as complete as he hopes to have it in a few more days yet he will be able to receive the visitors in a handsome manner, and all who know Mr. Shumate and his manner of doing business know that he will be satisfied with nothing short of the best and the season this year at Granite Dells promises to be far ahead of any previous year, as several hundred dollars has been spent in fixing things up, and the resort will be run in a first class manner."

Added to the "bathing" and boating, Shumate installed a billiards room, a bowling alley, a baseball field, and a dancing platform.

"An important factor in its success also has been the excellent eating house which he has maintained in connection with it," the newspaper said.

The improvements did not end there. "Manager Shumate...has just completed the new pavilion... It is capable of seating between 300 and 400 people, is entirely covered with heavy canvas and is one of the finest pavilions in the territory. Mr. Shumate has spent a pile of money this spring in putting this resort in fine shape so that our people could have a pleasant place to go and spend a day or go and stay a few weeks, if they so desired, and there is not a more pleasant place for rest and relaxation anywhere than Granite Dells," the paper boasted.

Private parties were held there. The first customer was a gathering of the Eagles fraternal organization. A baseball game was held featuring Prescott vs. Ft. Whipple. There was a barbecue, a baby contest and several foot races--all with prizes furnished. The main event was "the tug of war featuring the Eagles team against the field." The winners got: "1 barrel of Rainer beer; 10 boxes of cigars and 1 bottle of prize goods."

The first Fourth of July at the resort was also a roaring success. "Ed Shumate...estimated that there were at least 1400 people at Granite Dells, showing the popularity of the place under his management. Every rig in town seemed to be pressed into service to carry visitors there. In addition to the usual amusements of the day furnished by him, he gave a fine display of fireworks at night."

The resort was also used as a summer escape from the hot desert heat. Shumate offered tent rentals by the week or month.

1903 advertisement for Ed Shumate's Granite Dells.

At the close of the 1903 season, Shumate immediately began to improve the resort further. In reviewing the first season the newspaper wrote: "Ed Shumate deserves credit for his enterprise in making such a popular resort of Granite Dells. It has a tendency to keep people at home (instead of traveling for vacation). No California city has any more beautiful or enjoyable natural retreat than that afforded by the Dells."

Also That Year...
True story of the first automobile to drive into Prescott, AZ in 1903 and the city's reaction.

The following March, 1904 Shumate hired five men to expand and deepen the lake.

"April 10 will be opening day at Granite Dells," the paper reported. "Ed Shumate has arranged an interesting program for the day. A bronco riding exhibition...participated in by three or four expert bronco riders will be given. The riders will be among the best in the territory. The Iron King and Prescott baseball teams will open the season with a game of baseball also. The Eagles band consisting of 16 pieces will give a concert from 2pm to 5pm. In addition there will be bowling, dancing and boating, and a fine turkey dinner with strawberry short cake will be served at 4pm."

The day was a complete success. "Ed Shumate...overlooked nothing to make the day one of complete enjoyment to all who attended, and the Dells promise to be as popular as last season, if it does not excel it. Mr. Shumate has made very many improvements since last season, which add to its popularity."

At the end of the school year Shumate invited school children from St. Joseph's Academy and the public schools to visit the Dells. He would allow them to play the amusements for free "and it is needless to say that they were utilized to the fullest extent."

The resort also became a large concert venue. Once a popular band was between performances in Phoenix and Flagstaff and wanted to play in the Prescott area. The only spot large enough to hold the event was the resort and the attendance was large.

"Ed Shumate is doing a good business at Granite Dells (even) without offering any special attractions other than the the comfort of the natural beauties offered by the pleasure resort," the newspaper observed.  (He) has a large number of regular boarders who are occupying tents on the ground and only a lack of tents prevents him from having a larger number." Weekends regularly brought between 500-700 people.

1867 episode of a raid in the Indian Wars near Prescott, AZ where a woman and a hired hand fended off 20 Indians.

Things were going swimmingly until tragedy struck in June. "About 2:30am Mrs. Shumate was awakened by the glare of burning buildings shining in her bedroom, and aroused her husband, but at that time the flames had made such great progress that the family had barely time to make its escape, and as it was Harry Shumate who got out without clothing."

"In endeavoring to save some of their household effects, in which they were also aided by occupants of the tents,...Mr. Shumate was quite severely and painfully burned about the hands and face."

"The fire seemed to have originated in the bowling alley, but what started it is not known as there was no fire in the building of any kind except that from the gas jets, and these had been extinguished when the (last customer) left."

"The lodging house, with its attached culinary department, the pavilions, billiard room, bowling alley and one tent," were burned to the ground.

"The loss was partially covered by insurance. With his well known enterprise Mr. Shumate commenced rebuilding as soon as the embers of the burned building had cooled, and provided an entertainment Sunday which had been previously advertised."

By the 4th of July, after two short weeks, things were almost completely back in order. That year the miners' union in Jerome was in such disagreement with management, that nearly the entire work force abandoned that town's events to come celebrate the holiday at the Granite Dells. The event turned out to be a big success.

However, after the second year, Ed Shumate realized that the resort endeavor took too much time from his other business interests. Early in 1905 "the lease and all the improvements of the Granite Dells pleasure resort was transferred by Ed Shumate who has conducted the place for two years, to James Adams, the consideration being $3000."

"Mr. Adams...stated that he intended to continue its management on similar lines to those of his predecessor and to maintain it at the standard of perfection attained by him."

Today the location is still private property. The lake has filled-in and dried-up. The cost of restoration, including compliance with today's public safety standards, is extremely prohibitive--especially for a seasonal business. Although the Granite Dells remained a popular attraction for decades, it is now a turned page in Prescott's history.

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