April 12, 2020

The Odd Jobs of Prescott's First Reverend

Rev. HW Read was Agent for the Duke's and Co. stage.
For Reverend William H Read, ministering in the Central Arizona wilderness in 1864 was challenging. There weren’t many anglos to begin with and even fewer were interested in religion. As a result, Read needed to to take regular employment and the jobs he worked were civic in nature.

Read was Postmaster of Tucson before coming to Prescott in 1864. The Arizona Miner reported that he had “received orders from the Post Office Department, authorizing him to establish an office at the capital wherever it may be.” He arrived in Prescott with the Governor’s party and was the first clergyman to lay eyes on the fledgling camp. 

Read already had a sparkling reputation in Arizona, and before he could settle into his new home he “was appointed to take the census in Ft. Whipple, Goodwin, Walker, Hassayampa and the Weaver districts,” the paper revealed.

Fulfilling his orders from Washington, Read worked tirelessly at laying the foundation for an effective Post Office in Prescott as its Postmaster. Yet he still found time to do the Lord’s work. In early April, 1864 he “preached at Fort Clinton, Lynx Creek…to a large and attentive congregation,” the paper related. “It was the first religious service in the gulch.” 

Fort Clinton was not a military post. Instead, it was the name given to the residence of George Clinton, who, like King Woolsey before him, built his house with the primary consideration of repelling an Indian attack. “He has the largest cabin on the creek,” the paper declared. “25 feet wide by 50 in length—it is constructed in the style of a fort; (would) hold 200 men in an emergency; and commands the whole gulch.”

Soon after this first religious service, Fort Clinton would be the site of the area’s first wedding. Rev. Read would preside and the groom was George Clinton himself. Secretary McCormick, who was the first to sign the marriage certificate as a witness, joked: “that he had as soon expected an earthquake as a wedding in the gulch. George replied that he knew nothing of it himself two hours before!”

“The miners were quickly summoned, and the affair was conducted in an offhand and truly western manner,” the paper stated. The groom was “in his shirt sleeves” and the bride, Juanita Bachichia, wore “her morning gown.” The service was performed in both English and Spanish. “George invited all to take a drink, and his friends punished a bucket of Old Ride.”

Ad for George Clinton's boarding house, 1864
Early on, Read started holding church services in his log cabin home every Sabbath morning. On August 7, 1864 “the first Sunday school in Prescott, and,” the paper said, “we believe the first in the territory, was organized. All the children in town (were) present, but of course the number (was) very small.”

Read also gained the respect of the Postal Service and, in early October, was tasked “to learn the particulars of the roads from Los Angeles to La Paz and Prescott, from Los Angeles to Mojave and Prescott, and from the Pima Villages to Prescott,” the paper reported. “This would indicate the purpose of the department to put service upon these routes at once. They were authorized at the last session of Congress, as well as a route from Albuquerque here…” At the end of that month he traveled to Washington and New York to present his findings.

As the days passed, Read’s reputation grew, but his ultimate desire was to be full-time in the Lord's work. Finally in 1867, he was offered a position at a brand new “Missionary and Sabbath School” in Hannibal, Missouri.

The paper printed a circular announcing the the move: “it is believed to be extremely fortunate that the services of Reverend HW Read have been secured; a minister so well known in this community, and whose ability, experience and success in various such missions has won for him a name and record seldom obtained in this country.”

“This is our old friend Parson Read,” the paper recalled, “‘so well-known in this community.’”

After Read's departure, church services were held on the Plaza by respectable men who read sermons authored by holy men back East. The Sunday continued under the direction of 3 women: Mrs. Bashford, Brooks, and Turner.

Three early accounts of Prescott, AZ from 1864-1871 revealing its growth from a mining camp to an all-American community in 7 short years.  


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Arizona Miner, 8/10/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 4.
Arizona Miner, 3/9/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Arizona Miner, 3/9/1864; Pg. 2, Col. 4.
Arizona Miner, 4/6/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Arizona Miner, 4/6/1864; Pg. 3, Cols. 1-2.
Arizona Miner, 8/24/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Arizona Miner, 10/5/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Arizona Miner, 10/26/1864; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Arizona Miner, 5/4/1867; Pg. 2.

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