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By Bradley G. Courtney


Whiskey Row of Prescott, Arizona is arguably the most fascinating, historical quarter-city block in the western United States. The centerpiece of this historic, jam-packed street has been the magnificent Palace Saloon, today the Palace Restaurant and Saloon. It is no wonder that one of Arizona’s favorite sons, Barry Goldwater—whose ties to Prescott are well documented—once lamented, “My only regret is that I didn’t buy The Palace when I had a chance.” 
 
His friend, Tom Sullivan, who in 1977 believed he had purchased the Palace (it was still under contract at the time of the letter mentioned below but the deal fell through eventually), knew this. When writing Goldwater on July 26th of that year, his incentive was rather thinly veiled—his guilt quite transparent. 


The bulk of his letter, however, disclosed his plans to restore the saloon to its early 1900s glory and to share its considerable history with patrons. “I know of your very deep and sentimental interest in Prescott and any help that you may be able to give will be greatly appreciated." Goldwater’s response was a truly honest, magnanimous and typically humorous letter, dated August 10, 1977. It began with a good-natured, “You rascal, you went and bought what had long been my desire to own. When I was in China during World War II, I received in a Christmas package a book, and I knew when I opened it there would be the deed to the Palace Bar which, at that time, was available.” According to Goldwater, the asking price then was a mere $20,000. He went on to share a story said to have occurred in 1889 regarding the transference of the territorial capital from Prescott to Phoenix. 

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By Tom Collins

The comic operetta “Pinafore” has been a favorite with Prescottonians ever since December 1879, when the nationally renowned burlesque star, Miss Pauline Markham, rumbled into our territorial capital on the stagecoach from Tucson. Pauline was celebrated for her beauty, her shapely legs, her velvet voice and her broadly publicized horsewhipping of a Chicago critic who branded her and her fellow British Blondes as harlots. 

Pauline brought with her a very small supporting cast of professionals that included three male talents: Harry Carpenter (in the 1890s a Republican representative from Yuma), Joseph Dauphin (a light opera character actor in San Francisco) and Frank Roraback (a nationally experienced light opera tenor). She relied on local Prescott amateurs to build the deck of Her Majesty’s Ship Pinafore on the stage of the Prescott Theatre on Alarcon Street, and she required them to recruit the chorus of sailors (Fort Whipple soldiers) and “the sisters and the cousins and the aunts” of Sir Joseph Porter. Pauline played Josephine, “the lass that loved a sailor”; Carpenter was Captain Corcoran, Josephine’s father; Roraback sang his heart out as Ralph Rackstraw, the sailor who falls for “the fairest flower that ever blossomed on ancestral tree”; and Dauphin personated Sir Joseph, Ralph’s preposterous rival. It is unclear who played Little Buttercup, a dockside vendor infatuated with Captain Corcoran.

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By Dewey E. Born

Thrifty Wholesale (a store opened by Dick, Merle and Joe Allen in 1936) sold in quantity, and for those who had enough money to stock up, there were real savings buying wholesale. Canned goods were sold by the case or in large institutional cans. Sugar was in 25 lb cloth sacks and flour in either 50 lb or 100 lb sacks. Flour sacks had print designs on them and could be made into shirts or dresses. Ranchers were good customers and bought in quantity to reduce the number of trips to town. This was especially important in bad weather as there were few paved roads and none went to ranches. When it rained, the roads turned to mud, and there were usually several good snowstorms each winter. At Thrifty Wholesale, they could load their trucks with cases of canned goods, sacks of flour and sugar, a large package of yeast and a 25 lb can of lard. 

Another large grocery, Howard’s Market, served Miller Valley. The most complete food store in Miller Valley, it later became the J.R. Williams Market. The Christy Food Market at 437 S. Montezuma served residents in that part of town and operated into the early 1950’s. Several smaller stores specialized. The southeast corner of Willis and Cortez had a car dealership and Ploetz Grocery that dealt in bulk foods. On either side of the door were large containers of a variety of beans. They also carried dried fruits and vegetables, and in the fall, they always had a large container of fresh cranberries and bins of nuts.

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By Nancy Burgess

In Part 1, Don Maguire and his travels brought him to Arizona in 1878. After traveling and trading in Nevada, Maguire and his party of four men (including a Chinese cook, three wagons and twelve mules) arrived in Arizona Territory in the area near Prescott. They traded in “Walnut Grove Valley (25 miles from Prescott in 1877), Williamson’s Valley, Skull Valley, Peebles [sic] Valley, and Kirkland Valley” for some three weeks, trade being “exceeding profitable.”  

While in the area, Don became very interested in studying the prehistoric ruins in the valleys and on the peaks. Finding large quantities of broken pottery, spearheads, arrowheads and axes, along with the foundations of dwellings and stone walls, he determined these were the remains of an “extinct race, who seemed to have inhabited this entire central region of Arizona in remote centuries.”  

Next, Maguire traveled to the southeastern part of Arizona Territory. Then, heading north from the Tucson area, Maguire and his men arrived in Prescott on December 24, 1878. Having rented a storehouse and a “dwelling house” in Prescott, the merchandise was unloaded into the rented storehouse. Keeping Christmas Day as “a sacred holiday,” Maguire’s party gathered at their rented home for a Christmas Day repast of “roast turkey and all other queenly luxuries I could secure in the Prescott market, added to the fairly good things that we had with us.”

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By Nancy Burgess

“Now that we were in Arizona, a strange and novel spirit had come upon us.  The fact that we had landed in Arizona after a journey of almost one thousand miles from Ogden, Utah, led me to feel that reaching the East bank of the Colorado River in Arizona was to have gained another milestone in my life.”  ¹

Before the arrival of the railroad in 1886, merchandise for the Arizona Territory came overland on the Santa Fe Trail, by ship from the eastern United States around Cape Horn or across the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and up the Colorado River by boat. Freight teams to Prescott brought goods overland on the Ehrenburg or Mohave Toll roads.

From 1876 to 1879, itinerant peddler Don Maguire made three trading expeditions through Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Mexico. He determined that the trading opportunities were ripe in the mining districts of the Arizona Territory, which were typically undersupplied. The expeditions were not without danger and Maguire did not go alone. He hired experienced, “good, trusty and worthy men.” He required his men to be constantly well armed and alert, to keep to themselves, not talk to the locals, not explain their purposes and be loyal to him. In exchange he offered good pay, the best food and accommodations to be had, good horses, side excursions and vacations.

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By Bob Baker

Jul Nanning (J.N.) Rodenburg and his wife Johanna, both German immigrants, arrived in Prescott in 1870. They brought many of their German customs and traditions with them. One of these traditions included decorating a fir tree during the Christmas celebration.

In 1908 Orrick Jackson wrote a book in which he credits J.N. Rodenburg with “providing the first Christmas tree to be erected in Arizona.” While no date is given for the event, J.N. Rodenburg first resided in Prescott in 1870. Jackson’s claim differs from historical records stating that Margaret McCormick, the wife of Governor Richard McCormick enjoyed “dressing the tree” during the Christmas Session in 1865-1866. Thus, she should have been credited with erecting the first Christmas Tree in Prescott.

Many of Rodenburg’s fellow frontiersmen wondered how to celebrate the holiday—no stores at this time carried candy, toys or Christmas decorations. Undaunted, Rodenburg, along with six fellow townsmen, went into the forest and cut down a “beautiful fir tree.” “The tree was erected in Rodenburg’s house.” They asked the public to donate toys and decorations. Men crafted crude toys and women donated cloth for ribbons to decorate the tree. Candles were obtained, cut in half and tied to the tree with twine. Three kinds of Black Jack molasses were molded, cut in strips and placed in paper bags to hang on the tree. Thirteen children participated in the Christmas celebration. 

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By Dewey E. Born

(Originally published on April 21, 2008.)

In 1935 and 1936, Prescott had a population of about 5,000 and, like the rest of the country, was in the middle of the Great Depression. The surprising thing is that this small town had some 25 grocery stores. They varied from national chains to small family stores, but they all seemed to make a profit.

Stores were different from the supermarkets of today. No pharmacies—prescriptions were filled at one of the half-dozen drug stores in town. No frozen foods either, though some stores did have a small freezer for ice cream. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available in season only. With one exception, the New China Store at 222 N. Cortez, all stores closed on Sunday.

Most of the bread was local, baked by the Ideal B Bakery on N. Cortez. It was packaged in waxed paper decorated with borrowed Hopi designs. Customers could get any kind of bread they wanted as long as it was white. Some stores sold bread shipped from Phoenix, usually Roman Meal. Both the Home Bakery on S. Cortez and Brinkmeyer’s Bakery in the Brinkmeyer Hotel baked bread, but customers could only buy the bread in the bakery. They could buy milk by the quart in a few stores, but it was not in great demand; instead, people had it delivered to their homes by several dairies serving Prescott.

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By Drew Desmond

It was the biggest disaster to strike the city since the Great Fire of 1900, and it got progressively worse. By the time the summer of 1919 came along, water pressure had consistently fallen so low that everyone was required to boil it. Unfortunately, the Weekly Journal-Miner noted, that did nothing to relieve its foul smell.

Prescott was thrilled to learn that Ft. Whipple would be brought back to life as a hospital for US veterans suffering from tuberculosis. It would be an economic boom for the city. However, the new hospital had first rights to the water being pumped up from Del Rio Springs, which was also the largest source of freshwater for the city. Even before it was in full operation, the hospital was already consuming the majority of that water. The crisis was even more acute for farmers around Chino Valley and Jerome Junction. Prescott had been allowing them to use city water for several years, but in May of 1918, the city needed to turn off the tap. Prescott also prohibited the railroad from using water from Miller Creek. Despite these efforts, the city was still consuming more water than it was capturing. In December of 1918, over 17 million gallons were consumed. The previous December, it was only 10 million.

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By Marjory J. Sente

Ada D. Bass was the wife of renowned Grand Canyon guide William Wallace Bass. Her Arizona roots, however, were first planted in Prescott, when she arrived as Miss Ada Lenore Diefendorf to visit her aunt, Mrs. Anna C. McGowan, in January 1894. Ada’s aunt was the proprietress of the Williams House, a Prescott hotel.  

Twenty-six-year-old Ada traveled by train from her parents’ home in East Worchester, New York, for a visit that lasted almost a year. A teacher and musician trained at the Boston Conservatory of Music, she became involved in the Prescott community, offering music lessons during the spring and summer of 1894.           

In 1894 after learning about guided Grand Canyon trips, Ada and her aunt decided to take one of W.W. Bass’s excursions. They paid $25 for the six-day adventure from Williams to the Canyon and back, accompanied by Miss Kate L. Heizer, Frank S. Emmal and Arizona Journal-Miner editor J. C. Martin. The trip was well-documented by Martin in his articles in the Journal-Miner and by Ada’s composition “My First Trip to Grand Canyon.” 

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By Bob Baker


James Grant was a well-known and respected figure in early Arizona Territory. While his crowning achievement was starting the first stage line to provide through transportation from Prescott, the territorial capital, to San Bernardino, California, he also worked as a teamster, a contract mail carrier, mercantile store owner and a territorial auditor.

Grant left Canada in 1854 seeking new opportunities in California. Upon arrival he opened a mercantile business in Marysville that he ran for several years. In 1863 he collaborated with John R. Fink to start a mail stage from San Bernardino, California to La Paz, Arizona Territory. Subsequently, they won the U.S. Mail contract and Fink sold out to Grant. Grant was one of the first white men to cross the Great Colorado Desert from San Bernardino to La Paz. He often carried the mail himself despite the rough terrain, unsettled relationships with Indigenous tribes and unpredictable weather.   

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