December 16, 2018

Christmas 1909: Big Snow, Big Gifts

As December 25th, 1909 approached, citizens of Prescott were optimistic about the local economy. Ore prices had revived and it was announced that the Humboldt smelter would restart the following Spring.

Yet that particular Christmas would be remembered for a colossal snow blizzard and two gifts so extraordinarily generous, it was thought that they would never be forgotten—although they largely have been.

After being dormant for two years, the Humboldt smelter was to fire-up again on March 1st. “A vast tonnage is piled up for treatment,” the paper reported, “and from every district in the county (it's) the universal desire of the miners to get his ores out and ready for market.”

In order to fund Christmas cheer for the city’s poor, a charity baseball game was held that went “down in Prescott baseball history as being productive of the most runs ever known on the local diamond,” (although the paper did not report the score.)

$85 was raised to help “renovate and brighten” the County Farm which was used at that time to house the destitute and aged. Funds were spent on “some wearing apparel and other supplies…for the unfortunate aged men and women who are spending their declining years at the county institution.”

“Three chairs, five rockers, three tables, (and) six cuspidors” were purchased for the reading rooms as well as two cribbage boards and two decks of cards. “The arrival of all of these articles at the County Farm was the occasion for a general rejoicing and the residents there bent with the weight of years appeared suddenly to have become much younger and decidedly livelier and much more cheerful,” the paper observed. The committee that provided the funds was praised for making the money stretch so far.

Generosity was also shown when one man received a late invitation to a Christmas dinner. He already had purchased a live turkey, and asked the newspaper to give it to a family in need.

The Journal-Miner had a contest of its own offering prizes for the best Christmas dinner menu submitted. The only obligation was that items must be prepared with ingredients available in Prescott at that time. First prize was a 44 piece set of breakfast dishes; 2nd place received $5 with 3rd & 4th places receiving $3 and $2 respectively.

Story and history of the Goldwater store in Prescott, AZ. Also included: the founding of Ehrenberg, AZ.

1909 would also be one of the whitest Christmases in Prescott history. Snow “not heretofore experienced in the history of Northern Arizona” caused people to stay inside. “In Williamson Valley…36 inches of snow fell, an unheard of condition for that elevation, while a few miles farther south it was 15 inches in Skull Valley,” the paper related. Kirkland received 15 inches while “in the hills adjacent it was over 3 feet.” The surprising blizzard kept all indoors as community and church events were cancelled.

Christmas 1909 would also see some great generosity by railroad entrepreneur Frank Murphy, who gave away two large pieces of land in west Prescott. 

The first gift was to St. Joseph’s Academy. “Following his desire to donate the greater portion of the Murphy addition to the city free of any consideration whatever other than a nominal one for maintenance of the zoo,” the paper said, “FM Murphy yesterday gave to St. Joseph’s Academy in this city a Christmas present of the north half of lot 4, the entire lots from 5-11, in all 8 parcels of land a dimension each of 50x150 feet. The gift above comprises practically the entire mesa lands on which is situated the academy buildings…”

“The donation by Mr. Murphy is one of the handsomest that has ever been made in Arizona by an individual. The combined value of these beautiful lots will run to at least $10,000,” which would be over a quarter-million today.

As magnanimous as that gift was, Murphy had an even larger Christmas gift for the city. 

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.

MURPHY PARK TO BE GIFT TO CITY,” the headline screamed, “Arizona’s Prettiest Breathing Spot Will be Tendered to Prescott” 

According to the paper, the city would be “acquiring a park of its own for the first time in the history of any Arizona municipal corporation.” The land was half a square mile of “finely wooded ground,” which was “famed for its picturesque mountain views.”

“The offer pleases me greatly,” Mayor Morris Goldwater said. “It delights me immensely to know that the city has an opportunity to have an attractive park. This proposition meets with my personal endorsement.” The mayor also “commended Mr. Murphy for his generosity and philanthropic citizenship for such a magnificent donation.” The city’s councilmen were equally excited.

With the mining economy rebounding, the expansion of St. Joseph’s Academy, and the new Murphy Park, 1910 looked to be a banner year for Prescott. 

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