By Bradley G. Courtney

Robert “Bob” Brow, born circa 1857 in Missouri, was a true western pioneer. His name is the one most associated with the early days of Prescott’s iconic Palace Saloon, the oldest, if not most historic, saloon in Arizona—perhaps even the West, and the man himself led a fascinating Old West life. 


In the early 1870s, when Bob was in his mid-teens, his father, Jacob, moved the family to the Dakota Territory where they stayed for a short time in its capital city, Yankton. In 1875 the adventurous Brows journeyed into the Black Hills, a region now part of western South Dakota. Gold had been found in a narrow canyon of the northern Black Hills called Deadwood Gulch, where Jacob saw an opportunity. He and his sons—Bob was now in his late teens—joined an expedition of miners in a supplementary role. Brow had bought a sawmill of the crudest type to set up wherever the miners decided to settle. 

On the way there, the Lakota attacked the party. The fight brought Jacob Brow national recognition. Although injured in the Lakota confrontation, Jacob recovered and began operating his sawmill in Deadwood Gulch—soon to be the site for the town of Deadwood. He was the first to do so and was soon producing lumber for the gold-seekers.

In 1881 24-year-old Bob Brow grew tired of the lawlessness in Deadwood. He and a companion set out for another boomtown, Tombstone. Coming through Utah, he entered Arizona Territory and crossed the Colorado River via Lee’s Ferry. Along the way, Bob changed his destination. He had learned that the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was being built and would run through Holbrook. On the way to Holbrook, the pair became famished and thirsty to the point they thought they might perish. They wobbled into Holbrook to recover. The two soon won a contract with the railroad, performing work of an undisclosed nature.

Bob found himself in Prescott in 1883. There he opened the Eclipse Saloon on Whiskey Row. During its opening night, by 9:00 p.m. the enthused Bob “had already burst two buttons off his vest, drinking.” Bob advertised his saloon by asking, “Have You Seen the Eclipse?” He kept the saloon until 1884. Bob’s stay in Prescott was short-lived, as he then took up residence in Walnut Grove, thirty miles southwest of Prescott. 

By 1886 Bob was a pillar of Walnut Grove. He served as constable in 1887 and 1888. Tragedy struck the Bob household on Christmas of 1888 when his 36-year-old wife took ill and suddenly died.

In 1886 Bob took part in another building project. A rock dam was being built in Walnut Grove to provide water for placer miners along the Hassayampa River and to help farmers below the dam with irrigation. Bob was heavily involved in its building. He stayed connected to the dam’s operation and maintenance, but it was doomed.

Walnut Grove Dam broke in the early morning of February 22, 1890, due to poor construction. On February 25, the Courier claimed that Bob was missing. This was quickly revealed as untrue. Four different newspapers - three of them from Arizona, including Prescott’s Journal-Miner - reported that he had lost a safe in the flood and that it came from his saloon  - perhaps also called The Eclipse. One newspaper put his loss at $4000, another $7000 and one more at $10,000. For this reason, an intense search for the safe was undertaken, but without success. Modern day treasure hunters have used metal detectors to hunt for it, still to no avail. Bob was nearly ruined.

Next week, Bob moves back to Prescott.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.