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.
 At first he settled in Tucson. When the Mexican army withdrew from there, Kirkland "helped raise the stars and stripes over the Presidio."

Four years later he met his future wife who was also from his home state: "Missouri Ann" Bacon. On May 26, 1860, they became the first anglo couple to be married in the Old Pueblo. This union also produced the first anglo child born in Tucson, a baby girl named Lizzie. Shortly thereafter a son named George was the first anglo male born there.

Soon Bill Kirkland had a hankering to relocate again. It was 1863 when he led his family to the valley that bears his name. He spent his time both farming and mining. As a farmer, he raised the first crop of barley ever grown in Yavapai county.

However, it was mining that produced some substantial income for Kirkland. "He worked four arrastras with 16 horses and a crew of 30 men, making $1500-1700 per week." That was more than the average farm worker made in a year!

Paper money was scarce and highly sought in those early days and Kirkland would exchange his gold for greenbacks with Arizona Secretary McCormick for 50 cents on the dollar. "Looks as though there were profiteers in those days too," one writer observed.

The following year Kirkland built a successful stage stop in the valley. He also built an adobe house with portholes to defend against hostile Indians that stood for several decades before being torn down.

After only five years, Bill left Kirkland Valley to try his entrepreneurial luck in Phoenix. He and his Mrs. also produced the first anglo child born in that city as well.

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.

However, Kirkland's departure did not stop homesteading settlers from slowly filtering into the valley to "raise their living."

"All the settlers owned some cattle, hogs, and poultry, but not large herds, for most of them were brought overland with the settlers. The women made clothing from sacks. Tobacco came in cloth sacks and they would use these in making quilts. Everything was utilized (and) nothing wasted."

By October 1867, one rider passing through Kirkland Valley found "a great many old acquaintances settled down on good ranches, enjoying themselves after the agricultural labors of the summer."

In the mid-19th century, rain was more abundant than today and agricultural crops flourished in the virgin soil. In 1870 one riding into Kirkland Valley would see 13 farms growing a total of 870 acres of corn. They "took their corn to Peeples Valley or Walnut Grove to an old mill and had it ground into meal. This had to last them, although it might get full of weevils, until corn was raised again." For those farmers who had neither gold nor cash, the mill owner would gladly barter for something else of value; generally produce or "perhaps a calf or a hog."

Other crops grew exceptionally as well. One farmer's harvest of onions produced specimens that weighed two pounds apiece! Also raised were beans, potatoes, oats, wheat and barley. Nine farmers had a total of 223 peach trees. There were also 175 grape vines and 6 apple trees being raised in 1870.

Mining was also a large part of Kirkland's early history. Although after Bill Kirkland departed, mining lands went untouched for a time.

"Ranchmen from Kirkland Valley inform us that, in the foothills close to the creek, there are ravines that they know will pay, if rightly worked," the newspaper told. "A lot of Mexicans, a long time ago, worked in these gulches and made fair wages, although they had to pack the dirt to the creek to wash it."

"A company of Americans once started to take water from Kirkland Creek into the diggings, but on account of Indian and other troubles, they gave up and left. A portion of the ditch was dug by them, and we would like to see a company finish it and try the ravines," the paper continued. It was estimated that $8-10 a day could be recovered providing a decent living.

Life in Kirkland Valley was generally a quiet one occasionally punctuated by terrifying Indian raids. Farmers had to be especially vigilant around harvest time when hungry Native Americans would take their crops under the cover of night. Stock animals were also run off and eaten.

The story of the last of the Indian raids on Kirkland Valley, Arizona from 1868-1871.

As far as the residents were concerned, it took a long time for the railroad to come through Kirkland Valley. Officials were mistakenly skeptical about its financial prospects, but it was finally completed and operating profitably in 1894.

"Thomas Earnhardt located in Kirkland the same year the railroad went through. He opened a store and helped look after railroad duties." Silver was also found around this time and the mining activity "brought business to Kirkland and helped (Earnhardt's) store to grow into a very large one."

By the 1920s Kirkland sported "a fine two-room school, a fine modern hotel, post office and garage." However, like the rest of Yavapai county, the area became more arid and only stock feed grasses could be grown ideally. The mining panned-out and today ranchers still "raise their living" in the beauty and peacefulness of Kirkland Valley.

Tourist Tips:
If you enjoy Yavapai county history, you must visit the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Now Available!
Books by Drew Desmond and Brad Courtney:

"Murder & Mayhem in Prescott"
"True Tales of Prescott" 

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 and featured articles.)

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

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram

"Early History of Kirkland" author and date unknown. Sharlot Hall Museum Archives; Vertical File: Places--Kirkland.

Arizona's Names: X Marks the Place, by Byrd Howell Granger; 1983; Falconer Publishing Co. ISBN# 0-91-8080-18-5.

Arizona Miner, 10/26/1867; Pg. 2, Col. 3.

Arizona Miner, 8/27/1870; Pg. 2, Col. 1.

Arizona Miner, 12/14/1872;  Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Arizona Miner, 3/7/1868; Pg. 3, Cols. 2-3.

No comments:

Post a Comment