August 28, 2022

Embezzling Postmaster is Redeemed (1875)

  James S Giles was a highly-respected and true pioneer of Prescott, Arizona. He was one of the party that accompanied Governor Goodwin and Secretary McCormick to the territory in 1863. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the first Territorial Legislature, he introduced most of the first basic laws known as the “Chapters of the Code.” He was elected Speaker of the House in the second Legislature. Lately he had been the postmaster for Prescott, so when he absconded with nearly $10,000 August 14, 1875, it was a bombshell.

Still, there would be a happy, yet poignant ending.

July 17, 2022

A Grave Robber's Remarkable Find

Meet John Love. In his day, at the turn of the last century, he was known as a “relics prospector.” Today he would easily be considered a grave robber. “Those who come in contact with him dub him queer, eccentric, etc., explaining that he was struck on the head in early youth by an iron bar and has suffered more or less seriously since,” the Arizona Republican reported. Still, the same paper also described him as “John Love, the well-known searcher for prehistoric relics…”

July 3, 2022

1922: The Tragic Tale of a Rising Rodeo Star

His name was Frank James Stephens. He was the son of a rancher and Mohave County supervisor, WB Stephens, who owned a ranch along the Sandy River. Frank had taken well to the ranching life and he was quickly developing into a genuine rodeo star.

His first appearance at Frontier Days in Prescott was in 1918 at age 21 and even as a rookie, he won third place prize money in the relay race. 

Three months later his wife would give birth to their first child.

June 12, 2022

What It Was Like to be an Extra in "Junior Bonner"

Sam Peckinpah was in Prescott directing the 199th movie made in Yavapai County, “Junior Bonner, when he noticed a nude painting titled “Olympia” by Earl MacPherson. Peckinpah thought it would be perfect hanging behind the Palace bar for some scenes he would shoot there. When asked if the movie could use his painting, MacPherson bargained that they could if he was hired as an extra. Peckinpah was happy to agree. Thus began an interesting, four-day, behind-the-scenes experience for the painter.

May 29, 2022

1922: Prescott Turns the Page on the Old West

From its beginning and for the better part of a century, Prescott desired to be a modern city in stark contrast to the surrounding wilderness. Come 1922, people had grown weary of streets that were either dusty or muddy and desire was strong to dust-off Prescott’s cowtown image and replace it with a modern, 20th century city. As a result, 1922 would see the biggest infrastructure improvements the city would ever experience, as well as Prescott’s first big growth spurt.

May 15, 2022

William Randolph Hearst brings 15 Congressmen to Prescott

(Forgive the typo!)
In 1903, William Randolph Hearst was a 40 year-old newspaper baron and US Congressman from New York who was under serious consideration for the Democratic nomination for President the following year. He desired statehood for the southwestern territories of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona and took a delegation of other congressmen and their wives on a whirlwind trip through those three large land masses to find evidence that they were worthy of statehood to bring back to Washington.

On the 17th of October, the special train would stop in Prescott and he would be completely surprised at what he found.

April 24, 2022

Gun Fight at the Independence Mine

James S McClure, age 36, arrived home unexpectedly from a month-long business trip to Colorado. When he came upon his surprised wife, who was on her way to the post office, he was “out-of-sorts,” the Prescott Evening Courier reported. When she returned to their ranch that surrounded Tussock Springs, her husband was still in a sour mood. She was on her way to take the mule out to pasture, when “he asked her to wait a minute,” which she did.

What would transpire in the next few minutes would decide whether Mrs. McClure would live or die.

April 10, 2022

Williamson Valley's Astonishing Duck Migrations

Prescott Journal-Miner, 2/9/1917

They would usually appear in February after the harshest days of winter, and stayed until May. Reports of thousands upon thousands of ducks and other waterfowl were annually noted until the climate took a turn toward our more arid conditions today.

A report in the Prescott Journal-Miner in 1917 stated that “the sun was obscured for over five minutes” as a gigantic wave of migrating ducks were settling in for the Spring in Williamson Valley. One man who wanted to boost tourism via duck hunting proclaimed to the Weekly Journal-Miner: “It is safe to say that 80 percent of all water fowl flying from the north to the south use Williamson Valley as their course.”

Yet in spite of these incredible numbers, is it really possible to bring down thirteen ducks with only two shots, as one pioneer rancher claimed?

March 27, 2022

Tornados in Yavapai County?

Arizona is known for straight-line winds, red flag warnings, and dust devils that can be strong enough to create tornado-like destruction, but actual tornados? Indeed, there have been rare times when the quad-cities area fell victim to genuine twisters.

March 13, 2022

Pleistocene Prescott Valley

It was 1984 on the Fain ranch near the headwaters of the Aqua Fria River when A. Jordan peered into a 13 foot deep arroyo and noticed a partial skeleton of a mammoth. 

Soon paleontologists from the Arizona Archeological Society, Yavapai College, Sharlot Hall Museum, and Northern Arizona University were busy unearthing the remains. Their work would also uncover the remains of three additional large mammals: a horse, a bison and a camel.

February 27, 2022

Prescott’s 1st Federal Narcotics Raid was AZ's Biggest (1922)


It was, at the time, the largest drug haul ever confiscated in Arizona—a take-down of “the center of the wholesale drug ring in Central Arizona,” according to the Arizona Republican. The drug kingpin was a Prescott resident and barber named Mayo Simpson. 

Mayo was no stranger to being at odds with the law. His first stint in jail was for burglary…at the tender age of eleven.

February 19, 2022

$7 Million in Gold Awaits to be Found

Initially one might dismiss an account of over 230 pounds of placer gold just waiting to be found, but the Catholic Church had enough faith in the story that they employed fifteen men to try to locate it. Still, it remains hidden to this day.

January 29, 2022

The Zaniest Railroad Accident in Prescott History

It seemed a normal July day in 1888 Prescott, but soon a ridiculous, domino-effect of events would cause the most bizarre railroad accident in the city’s history.

January 16, 2022

Brave 14 Year-Old Testifies to Her Assault

It was February 11, 1922 when Mr. and Mrs. John A Rounds left with a neighbor, “Grady” CB Bartley to find some firewood. While the couple was searching for wood, Bartley had something far more sinister on his mind. 

The three had left Mrs. Round’s sister, 14 year-old Mary Haynes, alone back at the house. After scouting for a bit, Bartley gave an excuse to head back to the house himself.

He “followed [Mary] into the kitchen and called the little girl into the bedroom,” the Prescott Evening Courier related. Afterwards, Bartley threatened the girl in order to keep her quiet.

January 1, 2022

Robert Todd Lincoln Visited Prescott Thrice

It was early February, 1894 when the announcement was made in the Journal-Miner that Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, would be visiting Prescott the following month. Accompanying Lincoln were three millionaires from Chicago: Marshall Field, “the many times millionaire” department store mogul; NK Fairbanks, the millionaire meat-packer; and Norman Ream, a manufacturer of agricultural implements.

The trip was extremely important to Yavapai County at a time when capital was needed to develop both mines and railroads, and it ultimately would be the first of three visits by Lincoln.