December 22, 2019

Christmas 1950: The Children’s Voices Rise

As winter approached in 1950, anxiety about the Korean conflict and the affect it might have on America’s booming economy was palpable. However, in the midst of this, it would be the children of Prescott who would bring the cheer of Christmas.

December 1, 2019

1890s Thanksgivings Sported Turkey Shoots and Football

When Thanksgiving first became a holiday, Prescott was newly born. The first celebrations were muted in both Prescott and the Southwest, however, due to the ongoing Indian Conflicts. Stories of the Pilgrims and the friendly Indians who helped them survive seemed farther away than Plymouth Rock itself. In the 1890s, however, most of the local conflict had been put to rest. Prescott started to celebrate Thanksgiving “quietly,” the paper observed, but by the middle of the decade the town began to create some of its own Thanksgiving traditions. 

Prior to the 1890s several churches in Prescott would hold morning services. Starting in 1868 the evenings would feature gala balls. These annual traditions continued through the 1890s and by the middle of the decade, two sporting events were added to the list: turkey shoots and football games.

November 24, 2019

Founder of Lowell Observatory Got High in Prescott

Percival Lowell
Percival Lowell’s life changed after reading Camille Flammarion’s “La Planete Mars.” It was then that he dedicated his life to the study of astronomy. His greatest legacy was building the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. A renowned scientist in his own time, he came to Prescott, AZ over the Thanksgiving holiday of 1909 to spend time with his friend, Judge EM Doe.

He would also take the opportunity to give a spell-binding lecture to a delighted crowd at Elks’ Theater about the potential of intelligent life on Mars. “It was Prof. Lowell who first offered proof to show that Mars is inhabited,” the newspaper proclaimed, “and because of his achievements has been honored with membership by the highest scientific societies of Europe.”

November 10, 2019

Before Prescott Valley, There Was Massicks, AZ

The Barlow Massicks "Castle on the Creek"
Thomas Gibson Barlow Massicks had just visited his Catoctin Mine and was riding back to Prescott in his buckboard, May 17, 1898. Although the road was especially rugged, Massicks made haste, bouncing about abruptly as the buckboard wheels dropped into a rut or launched off a bump. As he endured the ride, his six-shooter slowly made its way out of its scabbard and fell to the wagon floor. With the sheerest of bad luck, the gun landed on its hammer and fired, barely missing Massicks’ right kidney and coming to rest on his right lung.

Despite excruciating pain, Massicks drove his team even harder in hopes of reaching Bates’ Station, 4 miles away. When he arrived the house, he “was so far gone from the loss of blood and from the shock, that he was almost in a state of collapse, and had to be at assisted into the house,” the paper reported.

Mr. Bates immediately took Massicks’ buckboard and completed the trip to Prescott to summon a doctor who undoubtedly saved his life. However, the wound would slowly prove mortal both for Massicks the man, and for the town of the same name, which was located in the Prescott Valley area on lower Lynx Creek.

October 27, 2019

Halloween A Century Ago

In the early 20th century, before there were Halloween treats, there were Halloween tricks. Children and teenagers all across the country would run off with anything that wasn’t nailed down. Doormats, yard and other tools are prime examples. But at times, our intelligent Prescott juveniles would use their astuteness for more creative acts of mayhem. In 1911 the Weekly Journal-Miner warned: “All good housekeepers will take the precaution tonight to remove the front gate and hide it under the bed. By doing so, they will be able to boast of owning a gate tomorrow morning. Tonight is Halloween.”

October 13, 2019

The Indian Offensive of 1868

Although Indian attacks were a constant fear in the 1860s, they were not a constant occurrence. However, in the last third of 1868, the Native Americans definitely took the offensive.

October 6, 2019

The Hassayampa Inn Was a Community Project

Particularly during big events, Prescott perennially has suffered a shortage of hotel space. Even today people attending the World’s Oldest Rodeo often have to stay in Cottonwood.

After the Congress Hotel burned down, the situation became especially acute. No one who was interested in building a hotel in Prescott could be found. As a result, the community decided to solve the problem, and finance it by the sale of stock. So in December, 1924, the Hassayampa Hotel Company was incorporated. “The Chamber of Commerce and business leaders had decided that a grand hotel would attract tourists and opportunities for enterprise into Prescott.”

The community was optimistic that a replacement for the Congress Hotel would be constructed quickly, but it would be nearly 3 years before the doors of the “modern, beautiful, and fireproof hotel” would be open.

September 22, 2019

Old Black Canyon Rd was a Stagecoach Robber's Paradise

When it comes to stage-robberies in Yavapai County, the road from Prescott to Wickenburg may have had the most infamous heists, but the Old Black Canyon road was the route that was pinched with alarming regularity.

September 8, 2019

The Hohokam Village Under the Cordes Junction Interchange

Each day over 40,000 vehicles pass through the Cordes Junction interchange connecting I-17 with Arizona Highway 69. Few are aware that they are passing over an ancient, northern village of the Hohokam people.

Anytime the Arizona Department of Transportation prepares to build, they are required to investigate the area “for the potential to encounter cultural resources (including) prehistoric archeological sites.” When ADOT looked to expand the Cordes Junction interchange in the later portions of the first decade of the 2000s, they found an ancient Hohokam village surprisingly full of artifacts.

September 1, 2019

Congress Hotel Fire Changed Prescott

The Congress Hotel was located on Gurley St.
on the western lot of today's Hassayampa Inn.
It was just before 3 am, July 12, 1923. EA Chase, a guest at the Congress Hotel was awakened by a woman screaming “fire!” As soon as he raised up, he noticed his room was quickly filling with smoke. When he placed his feet on the floor his heart filled with trepidation as it had already grown sizzling hot...

A nursemaid caring for the grandson of US Senator Henry Ashurst, panicked when she saw the flames and left the building without the 1 year-old child...

Unfortunately, the city’s fire siren was out-of-order. Someone fired three pistol shots into the air to try to attract attention, but it would be 10 minutes before the fire department finally arrived at the scene...

August 18, 2019

1932: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Visits Prescott

It was late September, 1932 and in a little more than a month, the United States would be choosing a new President. That man would be Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

At this time he was traveling to Arizona to get a little rest and relaxation at the Greenway Ranch in Williams. Yet his popularity and his position would mix some work with his pleasure. The Arizona Democrats were meeting in Phoenix and FDR was compelled to attend.

From there, on his way to Williams, Roosevelt’s train would stop in Prescott to meet an exceptionally large, well-wishing crowd.

August 4, 2019

Gillette, AZ: Boom To Bust in 35 Years

Daniel B Gillette needed a mill for his Tip-Top mines and the mill needed water. He found a spot 6 miles away on the Aqua Fria river. In a matter of months, not only was the mill in full operation, but a whole town complete with stores, saloons and hotels had sprung up out of the wilderness. 

Just nine years later, the town which some thought would rival Prescott, would be dealt a mortal wound.

July 21, 2019

Ice Cream in Early Prescott

Prescott's first ice cream ad.
It took 10 years after Prescott’s founding before ice cream appeared at a social function and then it was an exotic luxury.

July 7, 2019

Castle Creek Hot Springs in the 19th Century

The first anglo to dwell at the Castle Creek Hot Springs was a miner by the name of George Monroe who discovered it in the 1870s. “At that time he was engaged as a government scout, employed in the numerous campaigns against the Apaches,” the paper recalled. “One evening, just as the sun was sinking, Monroe was traveling down the banks of Castle Creek. As night (fell,) he began a search for a place to sleep, (avoiding) the Indians. His search brought him to the mouth of a canyon, through which a small stream wound its way to Castle Creek. Following it a few yards he came upon the bodies of 12 Maricopas who had, from all indications, been slain (recently) by Apaches.”

June 23, 2019

1889: Three Arsons in One Evening

On the evening of November 19, 1889, “Prescott scored a fire record, in which she takes no special pride,” the paper lamented, “the department being called out no less than three times within four hours.” Although the first two fires were extinguished quickly, the third, at the livery stable, went out of control.

June 16, 2019

That's My Daddy! (at Frontier Days)

Lester Ruffner, Arena Director, Frontier Days
Early etiquette at movie theaters was sacred. People paid good money to watch, and demanded to do so without distraction. But there was an occasional time when the silence was broken and even more rarely, when it was excused.

June 9, 2019

JFK Recuperated at Castle Hot Springs

After his PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer in World War II, John Fitzgerald Kennedy fought back problems. During his recuperation, he spent about a year in Arizona and Castle Hot Springs. It wasn’t JFK’s first trip to Arizona, nor would it be his last.

June 2, 2019

The Lost History of Howey Hall

For decades, the history of what was once an iconic building on the Plaza lay veiled. It was known as Howey Hall and it stood in service to Prescott for over 80 years.

The reason for this lack of history was a lack of ink in surviving newspapers. This was because of a bit of a grudge held by Miner editor, Charles Beach, who “was most unhappy…because of the fact that (Howey Hall) productions were advertised by placard rather than the newspaper.” However, Beach did feel compelled to print a dozen words or so about community events held there. These lay buried in the dusty columns for over a century until the power of 21st century newspaper search engines brought these nuggets to light. Together, they bring into focus the important community role Howey Hall held in Prescott.

May 25, 2019

The Rocky Road That Brought the Rough Rider Monument

As soon as news reached Prescott of William “Buckey” O’Neill’s death in Cuba, one of his closest friends, MJ Hickey, was inspired to see that a memorial to the late sheriff and mayor be made in his hometown. This idea of a memorial would quickly grow into a monument and its journey from conception to inception would grow monumental as well.

May 19, 2019

1919: Growth Causes Prescott to Run Out of Water

Old City Dam, 1920s
By the time summer came along, water pressure had consistently fallen so low that everyone was required to boil it. Unfortunately, that did nothing to relieve its foul smell.

May 12, 2019

Prescott Moms Support the "Prairie Dog Boys" (First Cub Scouts)

When scouting first came to Arizona, it started in Prescott and became hugely popular. Not only were boys of the proper age being turned away for lack of space, but the younger brothers of scouts became jealous of their activities and wanted a group of their own.

“These youngsters invaded the regular meetings of the various scout troops in such numbers that something just had to be done to keep them away from the regular Scout meetings,” the paper reported.

April 28, 2019

The Amazing Mascots of the Arizona Rough Riders

Arizona Roughrider mascot "Cuba"
The Arizona Regiment of the Roughriders had three different animal mascots. Two were canine and one was feline. All were extremely popular among the entire army.

April 14, 2019

Prescott's Old Gateway to the World

For decades, Prescott’s front door was her railroad depot. Thousands entered and left the city through its doors. However the acquisition and construction of the iconic structure was not without its hurdles.

April 7, 2019

Mail-Order Brides of Yesteryear

Perhaps it was because their hearts were extra-lonely. Perhaps it was because they were caught-up in the romance of western novels. Perhaps it was both. But some women were determined to find themselves a rugged, handsome, western man.

March 31, 2019

Rough Rider Cofounder Gov. Alexander Brodie

November 13, 1849 - May 10, 1918
Because he gave his life during the Spanish-American War, it is Buckey O’Neill who is the most widely remembered Prescott Rough Rider. However, when the regiment departed the Prescott depot to go to war amid the echoes of celebratory dynamite blasts, the Arizona Republic observed: “Col. Brodie is the most popular man in the command.”

March 24, 2019

In 1879 No One Died of Old Age

If one were to think that the Arizona 1880 Mortality Schedule for deaths in 1879 was as dry a source as the Arizona desert just prior to the monsoons—he’d be right! But when one extracts the data for Yavapai County, the way of death in 1879 paints a poignant picture of a most difficult way of life.

March 17, 2019

Tom Mix Helps Start the Northern Arizona Fair

In 1913, the Arizona State Legislature allowed for counties to use a certain amount of property tax dollars “for the support and furtherance of county fairs and exhibitions.” For the northern counties, it was felt that more money could be raised and result in a better fair if they could pool their resources and stage the event together. “This was agreed upon and the Northern Arizona Fair Association came into being (with) bylaws formally adopted on August 7.”

However, the prime mover in helping to bring the fair together was western silent movie star Tom Mix. Prescott was a second hometown for Mix who produced scores of films around the Granite Dells area. He was named “Program Chairman and through his efforts raised $6000 (over $150,000 today,) to put on the fair. He planned and staged a Wild West show using local cowboys” to help raise the money.

The effort turned out to be more popular and successful than the planners could have dreamed.

March 10, 2019

1863: The Indian Raid on Peeples Valley

Abraham Harlow Peeples was one of the true early settlers of Central Arizona. He first arrived at Ft. Yuma in 1863 in order to prospect in the virgin wilderness of what would become Yavapai County. 

Leaving Yuma on April 1st with a party of other renowned pioneers, both their journey and their results were epic and will be the subject of a future article here.

Peeples not only made mining claims, but he also quickly made a homesteading claim in a valley, 35 miles southwest of Prescott, which now bears his name. However, that winter the Peeples’ ranch would suffer the crippling theft of 29 horses and mules.

March 3, 2019

1952 Saw Six Air Accidents

In the early 1950s, the Prescott Airport was a bustling place. Two airlines, Frontier and Bonanza, offered commercial service while many planes, including military, used Prescott Airport as a refueling stop. Of course, with increased activity comes the chance of increased mishaps and accidents.

Such was the case in 1952 when no less than six airplane accidents occurred around Prescott.

February 24, 2019

1867: Needed a Jail; Built a Courthouse

It had only been three years since Yavapai County’s seat was formed and there was already need for a jail. Prisoners were being kept under an expensive 24/7 armed guard and two criminals already cost the county $2000 each (about $180,000 apiece today,) to keep them before and during trial. So the county floated bonds, worth nearly a million dollars today, to build a new (now referred to as the “Old,”) Courthouse.

February 17, 2019

It Took 18 Years to Build the Post Office

Prescott PO & Federal Building when brand new.
The people of Prescott were excited when, in 1913, a sizable portion of the southern end of the Plaza district was approved to be the site of a new federal building and post office. It would be the first post office built by the US government in Prescott--perhaps even in Yavapai County.

Unfortunately, for nearly 18 years, this plot of land at 101 West Goodwin Street would largely remain a yawning cavity on the Plaza, until the building finally opened its doors in 1931. 

February 10, 2019

1919: Murder Plot at the Pioneers' Home

For attorney AG Baker, it was a routine chore. He left his office with a will in hand to be signed by a paralytic Pioneers’ Home resident, William Debus. Debus asked Baker to come down to the car for the formal signature that would leave nurse Clarance Dyer Debus’ worldly possessions upon his death.

“Two copies of the will were made for him. The name William E Debus was written in the proper space and with his left-hand, (the man) executed a cross. The document was witnessed by Baker and…the legal work (was paid for) with two $5 bills.” 

It was at that moment that undersheriff Ed Bowers suddenly appeared and leveled a large six-shooter directly at the aged man’s chest.

“Throw up your hands!” He shouted…

February 3, 2019

1867: Squatters Try to Purloin the Plaza

In 1867, the only permanent structure on Prescott's Plaza was a flagpole. But one morning in March, people arriving downtown came across an infuriating sight. "We are sorry to announce the arrival of the notorious and vagabond called ‘squatter’ in our devoted town,” the paper reported. A small party of men, “mostly strangers” to the area, “deliberately located or 'jumped' our town plaza, and are now proceeding to take and fence it.” 

When one is in mining country, being called a “jumper” is one of the most derisive comments that could be leveled in public discourse.

January 27, 2019

Horsethief Basin: Heart of a Rustlin' Racket

The first use of the name “Horsethief Basin” in an Arizona newspaper was November 1st, 1911, but its history as the heart of a criminal syndicate stretched back 30 years prior.

In the end, the illegal activities there would continue for decades until a road to the site was finally built. 

January 20, 2019

The "Shirley Temple of Silent Films" Was a Prescott Girl

Virginia Lee (born LaVerne) Corbin
On March 2nd, 1910, the Weekly Journal-Miner reported that Mrs. LE Corbin, wife of a wealthy business owner in Prescott, left for Long Beach, CA to visit relatives there for several weeks. The couple’s parting must have been both cordial and celebrated, for nine months later, on December 5th, a future star was born.

The couple named her Virginia LaVerne Corbin, but outside Prescott, she would become known as Baby Virginia Lee Corbin; “The Dresden Doll,” comparing her fair complexion to the celebrated porcelain-headed playthings. 

January 13, 2019

The Great Diamond Swindle of 1872

John Slack and Phillip Arnold were 10 years apart in age, but both were born in Elizabethtown, KY and both went to fight in the Mexican War at the same time. They developed a friendship that had one thing in common: they both yearned to become rich quick. So they both travelled to California to become “49ers” during the gold rush there.

Although neither man was considered a mental giant, together they would pull off one of the most successful cons in Arizona history.

January 6, 2019

Prescott's Plaza Pets

Through the years Prescott's Plaza has been blessed with a few beloved, exceptional animals that stole the hearts of the entire city. Here are the stories of Old Joe the horse, Stub the cat, and Mike the dog.