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.
In fact, the party would visit Prescott on the way back to Chicago from California. They were traveling in the private car of the Vice President of the Santa Fe Railroad. When they started their journey back, former Arizona Territory Governor N. Oakes Murphy joined them.
The Arizona Sentinel reported that the group would visit Prescott “to look over the country and inspect work on the Santa Fe-Prescott railway, which they [were] building, in which…they have already invested $2 million, and for which they hold the entire bond issue.”
“They will probably remain here until Saturday morning,” the Journal-Miner suspected, “and will be taken out by a special train to the end of the track,” which was just short of Skull Valley.
They travelled to the Iron Springs summit and made it back into town by noon. Five VIP residents of Prescott travelled with them. “On the return from the trip to the end of the track, the party expressed themselves highly pleased with the trip, the scenery being especially admired and the excellent work on the road being frequently remarked upon,” the paper reported.
The party then boarded carriages and were taken for a tour of the town. They were also “profuse in their praise” of the “Invigorating effect” of the “clear, pure, bracing atmosphere,” the paper recounted. “During the afternoon their car [was] open to visitors and many of our citizens...availed themselves of the opportunity of shaking hands with them and expressing the welcome to our mountain town that [was] felt by all.” Several veterans and members of the Grand Army Post “paid their special respects to Mr. Lincoln, as ex-secretary of war and the son of the great chief executive of the nation during the war of the rebellion.” Col. DeRussey, commander of Whipple, and other officers also called to pay their respects.
The train would leave for Chicago the next day. As they departed, “they express[ed] themselves as having had a most delightful and enjoyable time on the entire trip.”
The trip resulted in Fairbanks and EB Cage joining local railroad mogul Frank Murphy in the purchase of the Congress mine which, two years later, had uncovered ore valued at $3 million. It would not be the last time Fairbanks and Murphy would partner for a large capital investment in Arizona.
The story of John F Kennedy's trip to Castle Hot Springs Resort, AZ in 1945. He was recovering from injuries after PT-109 was rammed.
Lincoln, Fields and Fairbanks returned in 1897 for a trip of “business and pleasure.” They only stopped in Prescott for a short time while on their way to inspect the Congress mine. Ream did not make this trip, but the trio was joined by several other VIPs including Frank Murphy.
In September of 1897 more fruit from these visits ripened as the Prescott and Eastern Railroad was born. It would run ore from Big Bug into Prescott. NK Fairbanks and other Chicago capitalists joined Frank Murphy as incorporators.
Prescott & Eastern Railroad
During this time, Lincoln was a corporate lawyer whose main client was the Pullman Palace Car Company—a manufacturer of railroad sleeping cars. Before 1897 was over, founder George Pullman would pass away and Lincoln would be named company president. This undoubtedly was with the approval of Norman Reams, a co-visitor with Lincoln, who also served on the Pullman board of directors.
By 1901, the Chicago Commercial Club was formed and Lincoln brought 25 members and 10 guests into Prescott in March—just eight months after the Great Fire. They were “strolled” around town by Mayor Burmister and “expressed the greatest surprise at the recuperative powers shown and could scarcely believe that such results could be accomplished in the time that has elapsed since the big conflagration,” the paper was proud to boast.
They “rambled up and down the hills of Prescott for two hours, marveling at the picturesqueness of the pretty mountain town,” the Arizona Republican related. “Refreshing mountain air, a view of groves of pines and a unique little city surrounded by mountains instilled new life into the weary travelers.” Indeed, the group enjoyed the excursion so much that “the [train] engineer [had to sound] two blasts before he could gather his following of celebrities.”
From Prescott they travelled to the Congress mine which was the main business reason for the journey. They toured the tunnels and all the workings. “Several ore cars, rigged for the occasion, plunged down 3000 feet into the darkest bowels of the Congress mine,” the Republican expressed. Most of the visitors scooped-up many beautiful pieces of quartz for souvenirs. “Few of the explorers had ever seen a great mine before and the [train] engineer again sounded a long blast before he was able to collect the travelers.”
That would be Robert Lincoln’s last visit to Yavapai County. Prescott has had many celebrity visitors over the years, but Lincoln’s were highly beneficial, bringing the heavy capital needed to grow Yavapai County’s infrastructure and economy.
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Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/7/1894; Pg. 3, Col. 3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/14/1894; Pg. 1, Col.7.
Arizona Sentinel, 3/10/1894; Pg. 2, Col.2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/14/1894; Pg. 4, Col.1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/4/1896; Pg. 2, Col.3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/3/1897; Pg. 3, Col.1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 9/22/1897; Pg. 3, Col.1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/13/1901; Pg. 2, Col.3.
Arizona Republican, 3/8/1901; Pg. 1, Col.5.
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