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.

In 1864 Col. Poston wrote his friend J. Ross Browne about his visit to Prescott:

"Prescott, the newly founded capital of Arizona...was so delightful...that my visit was very much prolonged. There was so much to see and do in that interesting country, and for more than a month I was kept traveling over the mountains and valleys, looking at newly discovered mines."

"Here, in what is considered a wilderness...a town is laid out in the sight of the Indian fires in the mountains. A number of people gather around in tents, under trees and in wagons, and commence the business of life with a vigor and confidence which inspires the most inert and timid with a desire to accomplish something."

"The Executive Mansion was nearby in a tent, but its hospitality was as unbounded as if it were a palace, and its occupant as generous as a prince."

"The granite mountains, covered with great pine forests, give a grandeur and beauty to the country which I have not seen elsewhere. The atmosphere is the perfection of temperature, seldom varying from 75 degrees during my visit. The water is pure, cool and refreshing, and abounds in every direction," he wrote.


Also that year...
True story of how the Apache tribe massed to attack Prescott in 1864 and what stopped them.

The 1867 account first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner and was authored by someone known only as "F.P.H." In three short years Prescott began to show that she was quickly growing from a camp into a town. 

" situated on the bank of Granite Creek, in an amphitheater formed by the mountains and hills which surround it.  The site is well chosen and properly laid out. It looks huge on a map, but has somewhat of an embryo appearance in reality.

"There are one or two private residences that are quite respectable, some taste being displayed in their construction. There is but one brick building, erected expressly for the printing and publishing offices of the Arizona Miner.

"As to the rest of the town, there are 8 or 9 stores in all; plain board shanties, with the exception of the building occupied by Messrs. Bowers, which is constructed of adobe, and is by far the best and most commodius building Prescott can boast of."

"The principle merchants are Gray & Co. (and) Campbell & Buffum. Mr. Hardy has a large store here, well stocked with hardware and Wormser & Co. appear to do a pretty good business. Add to these one or two small traders, three or four drinking saloons, a hotel, and a restuarant, may be said to comprise the entire business of the place.

"Of public buildings there are none, except an old log building used as a Legislative Hall, Court House, and for sundry other purposes too numerous to mention. We have no jail. That speaks well for the morals of the community; and no church--perhaps that speaks the other way, but I am not quite sure.

The FIRST Yavapai Co. Courthouse
with attached saloon.
"The Court House answers the purpose very well, with a lager-beer saloon attached. This very useful Court House is situated on one side of what is termed the plaza, a large quadrangle that looks green and pleasant in the spring and summer. A large flagstaff graces the center, from which, on great occasions, floats the Star-Spangled Banner.

"Granite Street comprises the rest of the town, and is situated below the Plaza, on the banks of Granite Creek. As usual in new towns, the houses on the lower side are built a little too near the stream, and are in some danger of being washed away during the spring freshets."

By now, the Governor's Mansion was no longer a tent: "The Governor's residence is on the opposite side of the creek, and is by far the most substantial private dwelling in Prescott. Fort Whipple is situated a little over a mile from town (and) is a substantial picket structure," the account stated.


Also that year...

The account of how Arizona's First Territorial Capital in Prescott moved to Tucson in 1867.

In 1871 John G. Bourke was an officer under General Crook when he first set eyes on Prescott. He recorded his impressions in his book "On The Border With Crook."

After spending much time in southern Arizona, where latino influence is pronounced, Bourke considered Prescott to be a patriotic oasis:

"A few words should be spoken in praise of a community which all those on the southwestern frontier preserved the distinction of being thoroughly American," Bourke wrote. "Prescott was...picturesque in location and dainty in appearance, with all its houses neatly painted and surrounded with paling fences."

"The transition from Tucson to Prescott was as sudden and as radical as that between Madrid and Manchester," Bourke recalled.

"(Prescott's) inhabitants were Americans; American men had brought American wives from their old homes in the far east, and these American wives had not forgotten the lessons of elegance and thrift learned in childhood.

"Everything about the houses recalled the scenes familiar with to the dweller in the country near Pittsburgh or other busy community. The houses were built in American style; the doors were American doors and fastened with American bolts and locks, opened by American knobs, and not closed by letting a heavy cottonwood log fall against them."

"The furniture was the neat cottage furniture (of) an American country home; there were carpets, mirrors, rocking-chairs, tables, lamps, and all other (accessories of home life). There were American books, American newspapers, American magazines--the last intelligently read."

"The language was American, and nothing else... Not even so much as a Spanish advertisement could be found in the columns of the Miner. The stores were American stores, selling nothing but American goods."

Bourke did note one similarity between Prescott and Tucson, however: "In Prescott, as in Tucson, the gambling saloons were never closed Sunday or Monday, night or morning, the 'game' went, and the voice of the 'dealer' was heard in the land."

"Prescott was essentially a mining town deriving its business from the wants of the various 'claims' on the Aqua Fira, the Big Bug, Lynx Creek...and others. There was an air of comfort about it which indicated intelligence and refinement rather than wealth," he wrote.


Also that year...

The story of the first heavy use road to run from Kirkland to Wickenburg before there was a White Spar Road (Hwy. 89). It was built by Charles Genung in 1871.

Going back to the first 1864 account, Col. Poston authored a line that might have been more prophetic than he could have realized. In speaking of the city's lots, he wrote: "These city land sales will continue doubtless until the entire location is sold out, giving settlers all a chance as they may come into the country."


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"True Tales of Prescott" 

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Arizona Miner, 9/21/1864; Pg. 2, Col. 3
Arizona Miner, 3/9/1867; Pg. 1, Col. 1.  
"On the Border With Crook" by John G. Bourke. University of Nebraska Press, 1971; Reproduced from the 1891 edition. ISBN 0-8032-5741-4; Pgs. 158-159. (For those with other editions of this book it's the first 4 paragraphs of Chapter 9.)

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