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."

Contemporary Ad for Parker's writing.
Parker was best known for romantic fiction set in the Canadian west. He was knighted by King Edward in 1902 "for his service to Canadian literature." He served in the Parliament from 1900-1918.

In the 1920s several of his novels were made into silent movies, or as it was called at the time, "picturizations."

"I came to Arizona because I wanted inspiration," Parker said. "I wanted to go where people are building."

Prescott rolled-out the red carpet for her distinguished visitor. Mayor Morris Goldwater, Frank Murphy, and other local dignitaries met Parker at Ash Fork where he was taken to Prescott in Murphy's private railcar.

After arriving in Prescott, he wrote back to London about it. "I like this altitude and I like this place immensely," he wrote. "The people of Prescott have been wonderfully kind... They have made me feel at home and here in the Yavapai Club I am as comfortable as I would be in Piccadilly. From my window, I look out upon the snow-clad San Francisco the left, upon Granite Mountain... all about me are brown, cedar and pine-covered hills. This little city of 6000 people has all the characteristics of a far larger place, is metropolitan in its conveniences and in its way of doing things."

Parker arrived New Year's Day, 1912. "The celebrated author and statesman is delighted with what he has thus far seen of Arizona," the paper reported. "After a short rest at the Yavapai Club, where he is staying, he admired the Rough Rider monument, praised the mountain-girt setting of Prescott, sniffed the cool dry air which he pronounced "like wine" and returned to the club as hungry as a bear."

"He was at the leap year ball at the Yavapai Club...and enjoyed meeting a number of Prescott's leading citizens. On being shown his apartment he expressed delight at seeing the British Union Jack draped behind his escritoire" (writing desk). He spent the next few days enjoying the nearby scenic beauties afoot and on horseback. 

On Jan 4th Parker was invited to attend the Chamber of Commerce meeting which he accepted.

"The distinguished visitor has already met a large number of the citizens of this city and remembers most of them by name." He was taught how to play faro and after only a few minutes of instruction was pronounced "proficient enough in its mysteries to buck the tiger."

He visited "the High and Grammer schools, St. Joseph Academy and the Pioneers' Home." When shown Whipple Barracks, "he expressed admiration at the location and arrangement of the post."

From 1913-1915 over 100 silent westerns were filmed around Prescott, Arizona.

His visit to the Pioneers' Home produced yet another colorful tale concerning its first residents. Sir Gilbert "met with a unique the Arizona Pioneer home," the newspaper reported. "All the inmates of the home, many of them grizzled survivors of the exciting early days of Arizona, had been presented to the novelist, excepting James O'Donnell, a veteran, and one of the earliest settlers of the new state."

"When O'Donnell was introduced, he added:
'Are you English?'
'Yes,' replied the visitor.
'Then I won't shake hands,' announced O'Donnell, 'I am Irish.'
'But I am half Irish myself,' protested Sir Gilbert; 'Shake hands.'
'I will never shake hands as long as there is a drop of English blood in your veins,' roared the pioneer."
"Sir Gilbert laughed good-naturedly...but Maj. Doran, superintendent of the home, reported the incident to Gov. Sloan and to the chief of staff of the army of Washington."

From Prescott, Parker journeyed to Castle Hot Springs. Sir Gilbert loved golf and although Prescott had no links at the time, the resort had just opened a brand new 9 hole course. There he rode horseback and played golf "to his heart's content."

While at Castle Hot Springs, Sir Gilbert telegraphed Prescott "that he is very happy there and that his health is improving everyday. Hot Springs is a lovely place," he related to the paper, "and that the realization of the joys of life there far exceeds his expectation, even after the glowing descriptions of the place which he heard while staying in Prescott." He extended his stay from a week to ten days.

The mysterious curing powers of the Hot Springs was exactly what Sir Gilbert needed. His health recovered and he pronounced the place as the best he ever found to recuperate in all his travels across the world.

While staying there, Parker met a man who was working at the laundry. He was a tough, grizzled, wandering prospector named Thomas Jefferson Stone. Sir Gilbert thought that he looked like he was in his 60s when in fact, he was 46. "He had no teeth, his hair was grey, his features (were) sallow and withered," he observed.

Sir Gilbert told Stone that he wanted to photograph him. "Three days afterwards he was ready for the Kodak," Parker wrote. "When he came, I saw he had a set of teeth in his mouth. I was astounded. We were scores of miles away from any dentist or any town where a dentist should be," he continued.
"Hello Stone," Parker said, "You've got a set of teeth. How's that?"
"He gave a smile of conquest. 'I borrowed 'em to be photographed!' he said."
While he was at Castle Hot Springs, Frank Murphy brought Sharlot Hall and other local dignitaries to met the famous author. His next stop was Phoenix and the Roosevelt Dam, but Parker truncated that trip so he could spend "the maximum time possible in Prescott" before he started back to London.

The biography of Prescott, AZ's empire builder Frank Murphy. The philanthropist was the primary force in the development of Arizona's railroads and mining industry.

Sir Gilbert returned to the Mile High City; this time tanned and full of vitality. "During his second visit to Prescott, Sir Gilbert (would) be the guest of FM Murphy" who would take him "over the switchbacks to Crown King" and "a trip over 'the most crooked railroad in the world' to Jerome."

"Although many invitations other than these await him, Sir Gilbert is determined, thanks to his renewed strength, to enjoy himself fully during the remaining weeks of his stay in the Mile High City," the paper reported. "Never in his life had he experienced greater satisfaction or greater enjoyment than from the few days he had spent in Prescott."

He would remain in Prescott for another ten days. "Prescott and my many friends there did me good and I go back to them with eagerness and gladness," Parker said.

"I have found health and...a wealth of good companionship," he said. "Nowhere in the world have I ever run up against a people so great hearted, so generous, as my Arizona friends--for I will call them that."

The days passed too quickly. Soon it was time to start the journey back. He would take a short trip to lay his eyes on the Grand Canyon before heading back east. As a remembrance he was presented with an Arizona quartz gold watch chain. This was the very evening of Statehood Day. Sir Parker would later mention that he was proud to be in Prescott to witness that happy event.

"I leave this state with greater regret than I have ever left a country where I came as a stranger to learn only that I was at home."

He hoped to return in August with Lady Parker "who vows she will see the country of which her husband has written so often and enthusiastically." However, business in Parliament prevented this.

"Sir Gilbert regrets his inability to visit Prescott particularly," the paper reported, "and refers affectionately to his 'many good friends' here. 'How I wish I were out in Arizona among them now. Give them all my kindest regards,'" he wrote.

Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce Frasier sent Sir Gilbert a shipment of Aztec beans for him to share with his friends. Parker wrote back:
Dear Malcolm Fraser:
You are the first man of my acquaintance to "give me beans," as the saying is: and, while the operation is generally considered an offense, this case seems a brilliant exception. I have just opened a box of Aztec beans and, after consulting with my cook and taking an anesthetic, I will eat some of them myself before I try them on my friends.
Unfortunately, Sir Gilbert would never enjoy a visit to Prescott like he had in 1912. Although he was finally able to make it back in 1917, he was quickly called to Washington DC tasked with being a liaison between Great Britain and the United States during World War I...

Shortly after arriving back in England, Sir Gilbert published an article recounting his 1912 visit. It was published in The Metropolitan and included a handful of pictures that Sir Gilbert took. If you are interested in reading it, it can be found by CLICKING HERE.

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Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/13/1911; Pg. 8 Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/10/1912; Pg. 3, Cols. 5-6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 5/15/1912; Pg. 6, Col. 3. 
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/10/1912; Pg. 3, Cols. 5-6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/28/1912; Pg. 4, Col. 5.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/3/1912; Pg. 4, Col. 4.
Coconino Sun, 1/19/1912; Pg. 5, Col. 3. 
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/17/1912; Pg. 5, Col. 3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/24/1912; Pg. 6, Cols. 1-6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/24/1912; Pg. 5, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/31/1912; Pg. 7, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/14/1912; Pg. 6, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/21/1912; Pg. 6, Cols. 3-4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/6/1912; Pg. 5, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/10/1912; Pg. 3 Cols. 5-6.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 10/9/1913; Pg. 8, Col. 4.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/14/1912; Pg. 5, Col. 4.
Biographical background from Wikipedia

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