Before becoming a subdivision, Deep Well was a working ranch. It was also the site for Yavapai County’s cowboy camp meeting starting in 1945 and stretching into three decades.
When the camp meetings started, the ranch was owned by, and named after, Bob Perkins. The Perkins family was a pious one. Indeed, they helped start the very first cowboy camp meeting in Bloys, Texas. The cowboy meetings would develop into a circuit that reached Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas, and elsewhere in Arizona before coming to Yavapai County on the second weekend in August.
|Bob Perkins 1948|
Cowboy camp meetings were basically no different from other evangelical camp meetings; they simply were held where the cowboys were. However, one unique and highly popular characteristic of the cowboy meeting was the chuck wagon meals featuring fresh beef grilled over an open fire.
The Courier took notice of the third annual meeting in 1948 and described the scene: With the “limitless Arizona sky the ceiling of their cathedral, [and] Christian worship their sole and all-embracing denomination, Yavapai ranch families and Prescott residents opened the…annual cowboy camp meeting on the Bob Perkins ranch… Food for the body, preceding that for the spirit, was served up range style.”
|Eating lunch in 1965|
Only lunch and dinner were served that year. Later, breakfast would be a regular staple. Firewood was brought in for campfires and benches and tables were set up.
The Prescott Cowboy Camp Meeting is often remembered as being held for four days from Thursday through Sunday, but this tradition may have started in 1951. That year, the circuit was lengthened and many needed to leave for another camp meeting in Bloys, Texas.
Stan Brown, evangelist for the 1960 camp meeting wrote: “In 1955, Rob and Laura Perkins retired and moved to Phoenix. With retirement, Rob Perkins sold the Deep Well Ranch to Harold James, but he [Perkins,] came up for the annual meetings until his death in 1964. The Perkins family continued to play a major role in carrying on the annual Cowboy Camp Meetings, joined by the new owner of the site, Harold James.”
Indeed, James was as enamored with the camp meeting as he was the land; appointing himself chairman and performing the lion’s share of the annual preparation. The paper reported that the following year, 1956, was the “largest audience ever to attend a cowboy camp meeting.” There were four services each day that year.
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Campers would begin to arrive on Thursday to set up a tent city for the weekend. Dinner and an evening service was offered the first day. Breakfast was served at 6 am with services at 10:30; lunch at noon with services at 2:30; and dinner at 6 with the evening service at 7:30.
“Every cowboy camp meeting had a Prayer Tree:” Brown wrote, “a big old alligator juniper that the local ranchers had branded with the founding date of that particular camp meeting.” Deep Well’s tree had a bell attached that was rung to announce each meal and service.
|Ringing the bell at |
the Prayer Tree, 1965
The tree was not only the site of a daily men’s prayer service, but it was also a place where families would gather and visit between events. In 1960, electricity was wired to the camp.
In ’61, James needed to make a few repairs to the well Perkins built in ’48; while “Johnnie Fain…made arrangements for music for services throughout the four-day camp.”
Nearby residents were also invited to attend, and the crowd swelled as the weekend went on. By Sunday, there were scores of empty church seats in town as many attended the cowboy camp meeting instead.
Perhaps the zenith of the “Prescott Cowboy Camp Meeting,” occurred in 1962. Old-time cowboys were honored during a program that year. Two special guests included M.A. Perkins and G.W. Evans “who helped establish [cowboy] camp meetings [in 1885] in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico,” the paper reported.
Gospel services were held in the "big tent" and were interdenominational with different preachers featured each year.
|The big tent in 1955.|
By 1965, James gave up chairmanship and a committee of ten took over. However, James continued to supply the beef, plan the music and keep the grounds.
However, the area was changing by then and ranches in proximity to Prescott were quickly being sold to real estate developers.
“The crowds came out well into the 1960s,” Brown recalled. “The last published announcement for the Deep Well meeting was in the summer of 1968. After that, word of it seems to fall silent and presumably that had been the final year.”
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Prescott Evening Courier, 8/10/1951; Pg. 4, Col. 7-8.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/13/1948; Pg. 1, Col. 7.
“History of the Prescott Cowboy Camp Meeting Pt. 2” by Stan Brown.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/10/1956; Pg. 1, Col. 8.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/7/1958; Pg. 1, Col. 2.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/9/1961; Pg. 1, Cols. 3-4.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/13/1962; Pg. 2, Cols. 1-2.
Prescott Evening Courier, 8/12/1965; Pg. 1, Cols. 2-4.
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