November 4, 2018

The History of Palace Station

Palace Station, located 17 miles south of Prescott, is one of the most famous stage stops in Yavapai County. Having been built in 1875, its history is long and its future is bright. 

“Palace Station is one of the few remaining stagecoach stations dating from the settlement of the Arizona Territory. The station played an important role in the social and economic development of the new territory and is now…on the National Register of Historic Places.”

The location of the stop is in Crook's Canyon. It was named for Gen. George Crook who effectively brought an end to the area's Indian conflicts. Crook “used this area as a bivouac area for his troops while scouting the area.”

In 1873, Alfred B Spence along with his wife and father-in-law, left Missouri to settle on Groom Creek. At first they built a sawmill there, but 2 years later decided to build the log structure that still stands today. Its location was chosen because “it was halfway between Prescott and the Peck Mine, which at the time was one of the most prominent mines in the Territory.”

The business was an immediate hit. In 1878, the newspaper reported that “Mr. Spence’s Palace Station on Turkey Creek, is highly spoken of by the traveling public.”

“The original log structure was built in the manner typical of pioneer cabins and had 2 downstairs rooms and a sleeping loft [for the family.] In 1890, when sawed lumber was more readily available, the board and batten kitchen was added” and meals were served. 

“At the time of the Spences’ arrival here the only access route into Crooks Canyon was a mule trail. The Senator road from Prescott went only to the Senator Mine, approximately 6 miles north of here. In 1877 a wagon road was surveyed into the canyon and, thereafter, the Prescott to Phoenix stage carried passengers to Palace Station and beyond to the Peck Mine.” 

“At Palace Station the horses were watered and rested while the travelers enjoyed a meal prepared by Mrs. Spence. Horses were changed at Bully Bueno, another station 6 miles southeast from here. The trip from Prescott to the Peck mine was completed in a single day. And thus Palace station did not provide sleeping accommodations for the stage rider” at first. 

1873 advertisement.
In October, 1896 it was reported that “new cabins (were) being built near Palace Station.” Although their future use was not described, some of them must have provided sleeping quarters for guests. “Behind the Palace Station bar a sign offered meals for 50 cents, beds for $1.00 and hay and grain for $1.50.”

“In 1900 a new and improved road was opened. Unlike the original trail, which followed the creek bed, the new road was suitable for buckboards and enabled travelers to journey into the Bradshaws without need for the stage.” In 1902, construction began on a three mile road from the Station to the Brodie mine bringing in even more traffic.

"About the same time telephone service was introduced into the area" primarily for quick communications in case of wildfires. This “further reduced the role of the stage. The first automobiles to travel the road (was around) 1910.”

In 1905, Mr. Spence retired before passing away in 1908. The family tried to sell Palace Station, but instead abandoned it in 1910. (Some sources date Spence's death as 1907. However, the newspaper reported it in 1908.)

Soon it was being utilized by the Prescott National Forest. By 1915, the newspaper was referring to it as "range headquarters" for one "popular young range man" named Fred E Edwards. On September 1st of that year, at high noon, Edwards married the girl of his dreams inside Palace Station--the only known wedding to take place there to date.

In 1921 a small wildfire came within a half-mile of the historic building. "The fire was sighted...from the Tower mountain lookout station. (It) was located on the top of the hill on the west side of (Crooks) Canyon." Fortunately, seven forest men quickly arrived at the scene and were able to extinguish the blaze.

At one point the forest service's claim to Palace Station came under scrutiny due to an old mining claim. However in May 1963, “Ralph Crawford, supervisor of the Prescott National Forest, said the station and nearby burial grounds had reverted to forest service possession…after (the) mining claim had been declared null and void by the government.”

“Structures [that were still there at that time,] included small relic low buildings and a larger building that was the station headquarters, restaurant and bar. The burial area holds some 13 graves," the paper reported. "Crawford said that a forest service employee would work in his free time this summer to return the old stage station to the way it once looked."

It played several roles for the forest service over the years, including providing housing for forest personnel.

The future of Palace Station is the brightest it has been in over a century. The forest service is currently completing construction work to make the Station a rental cabin! It will soon be open to the public for anyone who would enjoy the experience of staying in this most historic building.

Perhaps in the future, more weddings will be performed there!

The story of the historic American Ranch stage stop which was located 12 miles from Prescott, AZ. on the Prescott to Hardyville toll road.

Tourist Tip:
Although Palace Station is only 17 miles south of Prescott on the Senator Highway, it still takes about an hour to get there by car.

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US Forest Service brochure: “Palace Station.” Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, Vertical File: Stage stops.

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