Saturday morning, at nine, we drove up and nose-in-parked in front of the Prescott post office. Although scheduled to visit in April, it was now October 27, 2018.
I leashed Bernie and Chris and posed them in front of Rotary’s sign.
“Prescott, Founded 864 on Granite Creek. Early source of placer gold. Former Territorial Capital of Arizona. Now a center for ranching, mining, health, especially asthma relief. Located here on site of old Ft. Whipple is Whipple Veterans Hospital. Seat of First Governor’s Mansion, and Arizona Pioneer’s Home. Frontier Days, oldest rodeo in west began here. Erected by Prescott Rotary Club.”
The brief description could not thoroughly record Prescott’s impact on Arizona’s history.
A 2018 tourist brochure described the expansive region:
“Prescott, Arizona is nestled at an elevation of 5,200 feet above sea level amongst the largest stand of ponderosa pine forest in the United States. Prescott’s perfect weather provides an average temperature of 70 degrees, with four beautiful and distinct seasons, and breathtaking landscapes complete with granite mountain, lakes, streams, and rolling meadows filled with wildlife.”
The brochure, with other promotional media, encouraged hundreds of thousands to visit this beautiful region. Their prime want was enjoyment.
Promotional information of the 1800s delivered a different message. It urged people to move west and seek their future. Although countless pioneers traveled with families in wagon trains, most eager explorers sought gold and traveled alone.
1869 photo of Joseph R. Walker (1798-1876)
A mountain man and experienced scout, Joseph Walker, established a segment of the California Trail. The trail became the primary gold field route for the emigrants during the California gold rush.
The collective opinion of his fellow frontiersmen agreed: “…[Walker] didn’t follow trails, but rather made them.”
His name survives today on Walker Pass, Walker Lake, Walker River, Walker Valley, Walker Gulch, Walker Canyon, Walker Creek, Walker Trail, Walker Peak, Walker Mining District, Walker, Arizona, and Walker, California.
An advertisement about sailing to California, circa 1850
Might an advertisement inspired Joseph to travel west?
Walker was a man of many firsts: (1) First to guide a government survey party assigned to map the Santa Fe Trail; (2) First to find a navigable route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to California; (3) First to lead an emigrant train over that route; (4) First white man to set eyes on the Yosemite Valley;
(5) And the first to discover gold that launched Arizona as a territory in 1863 and established the city of Prescott.
Twice, history recorded Prescott, the official territorial Capital of Arizona. It was the Capital, and then it wasn’t. It became the Capital again but ultimately lost that position by one vote. An interesting story described the event.
President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Arizona territory on February 24, 1863. The common talk was the capital expected to be Tucson, the hub of culture. But Walker’s gold strike convinced newly appointed governor John ‘w’ Goodwin and his party, to head for unofficial-named Prescott instead.”
Nearby Fort Whipple protected prospectors while they dug out the gold. During the same time, Prescott required an official survey. Lacking proper survey equipment, clever pioneers used an old prospector’s skillet as a transit.
To choose a name for the new capital, on May 30, the governor held a meeting in a humble log-cabin mercantile store known as Fort Miser.
Three proposed names for Prescott were Audubon, Goodwin City, and Aztlan. However, William Hickling Prescott, author of The History of the Conquest of Mexico, was regarded with such high regard, the site became Prescott.
The “Arizona Miner” newspaper reported the name was accepted because Prescott was “a good citizen, a true patriot, with industry, perseverance under difficulty, amiability of character and love of country.”
Prescott remained the territorial capital until 1867 when with the Civil War ended. Then, Tucson became the Capital of Arizona. Ten years later, in 1889, a political battle arose between Prescott and Phoenix for the Capital of Arizona.
A glass eye decided the winner of the Capital battle. Based on one tale, Prescott lost its bid because of a mishap with a glass eye. On the evening before the final vote, as the story goes, one of Prescott’s delegates wandered to his city’s red-light district to visit ladies on the line. The man had a glass eye, about which he was self-conscious. That night, after blowing out the lamp, he removed the eye and placed it in a water glass next to the bed. During the night, his companion became thirsty and, turning the water glass bottoms-up, swallowed the eye. The next morning the delegate found his eye gone, and vanity prevented him from attending the legislative session. Thus, Phoenix was named the capital by one vote.
Red-light district Whiskey Row
Whiskey Row was suitably named because folks enjoyed visiting every one of its 40 saloons and other places of entertainment.
Unfortunately, a devastating fire in 1900 destroyed 25 saloons, five largest hotels, and the entire red-light district.
Photo of the 1900 fire area
Powdermen went ahead of the fire and dynamited buildings to prevent the fire from spreading further. The fire was finally out by 3 A.M.
During the fire, customers in establishments grabbed stocked bars, roulette wheels, and faro tables. A rescued piano played “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”
By mid-morning, they had set up counters on the sidewalks in front of the burned-out buildings to conduct business as usual.
After the fire, they replaced the old wooden buildings with more permanent concrete, brick and stone buildings. These buildings reflected a shift from exuberant Victorian styles to a more controlled formality of styles.
Prescott has many Victorian style homes
809 buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. They locate falcon Nest, the tallest house in North America, on the slope of Thumb Butte.
By 1900, established residences reflected the Victorian era architectural styles: Cottages, Greek Revival, Octagon, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Eastlake, Stick, Shingle, Italianate.
Three excellent museums expand the area’s cultural awareness.
Prescott enjoyed a huge tourism economic impact. Summer was always a busy time. Many families from Phoenix stay in summer homes in or around Prescott or camp out in tents or recreational vehicles. Besides many hiking trails, the extensive cultural displays are in and around Prescott.
Willow Lake north shore—1497 Heritage Park Road
The unique site was a great example of the Hohokam influence on the people of the Prescott region
It contained the remains of a village where up to 800 residents lived during A.D. 900 to 1100.
These excavation ruins, protected with ramada architecture, contain many interpretive panels that provided an educational experience. Trails, picnic sites, and boat launch were nearby.
Community Nature Center—1980 Williamson Valley Road
Prescott located the City’s Community Nature Center near Granite Mountain Middle School and featured a replica of a log cabin.
In 1976, the Youth Conservation Corps used pioneer days construction techniques to build a log cabin. The structure featured the traditional chinking between logs and rock fireplace. Now it was a visitor center on weekends with various educational displays.
Timelines Around Prescott
As public art projects, supported by the locals, and involved school children and other volunteers.
Placed at the Prescott Public Library was another timeline, positioned along the steps that paralleled Godwin St and lead up to the main entrance. This World History Timeline covered human history around the world from early civilization and ended in the modern era. The entire walkway were events related to the time ribbon on the left side.
Rough Rider Monument
One of Prescott’s most famous landmarks. Solon Borglum’s majestic bronze statue of the Rough Rider was on display in front of the Yavapai County Courthouse.
The statue served as a tribute to those Arizonans who served in the First Volunteer Cavalry and were known as the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War.
Prescott, Arizona created a history of secrets; many shared and others, perchance discovered ─ by you.