By Richard Gorby
In 1870, Prescott was only six years old, but on Gurley Street the largest edifice was called "The Old Capitol Building".
In 1864, Governor Goodwin had declared that the legislature of the new Territory of Arizona should assemble on September 26 "at the house provided for that purpose". The problem was that there was no such "house" and no money to build one. It was at this time that Van Smith, possibly Prescott's first entrepreneur, offered to build a structure for business purposes that could temporarily be used by the legislature. "It is to be of hewn logs, carefully put up, and will be upon Gurley Street, on the north side of the Plaza". The finished product was not very satisfactory to those who had to use it. The floor was dirt and the partitions did not go to the ceiling, so that voices carried from one room to the other. The furniture was unpainted pine tables and chairs (two chairs are now in Sharlot Hall Museum's Governor's Mansion).
The "Old Capitol Building" ran seventy-five feet along Gurley, including today's The Shoe Box, Raskin's Jewelers, Granite Mountain Coffee Co., and the Plaza Café. In 1867, the log building was divided into three rooms; the first, on the west end, was for John Littig's Arizona Brewery. Littig was the builder and proprietor of Prescott's first theater, the New Theatre on Montezuma Street at what would be the south twenty-five feet of today's Heilig-Meyer Furniture. Littig was joined in his theatrical venture by McGinley's Concert and Dramatic Troupe, newly arrived from the East. One of their first productions was described by the Arizona Miner:
" THEATRICAL: We have a theatrical company in Prescott, and a pretty good affair it is. Miss McGinley's Topsey was capital, particularly when she demolished the glass shades to the footlights. And the unique manner in which she can wipe her nose on her calico apron is a lesson to all other urchins."
In May of 1867, one of Prescott's fires destroyed Littig's theater, and he moved to Gurley and the brewing business in March of 1869.
From Arizona Miner Editor John Marion:
"Lovers of good lager beer should not fail to drop into the saloon of the Arizona Brewery in the Old Capitol Building. The proprietors, Littig and Co., have recently spent considerable time and money in repairing, painting and decorating their saloon, and we feel safe in saying that it is now one of the neatest and most comfortable places of public resort in the Territory."
Next door, to the east, was the post office, Prescott's fifth in three years. After many problems, Prescott finally had, it would seem, a real post office. George Barnard was made postmaster in August of 1868. He had spent some time as a saddle and harness maker, as a librarian of the Arizona Pioneer and Historical Society, dance instructor, justice of the peace and builder and owner of the Juniper House, Prescott's first restaurant, just across the street on the Plaza, a flimsy structure fastened to juniper trees.
A few feet to the east, at today's County Bank, was A.G. Dunn's Butcher Shop, badly needed in Prescott. Fresh meat was expensive but in great demand. It couldn't be brought from California like most other foods, and cattle raising in the Prescott area was difficult because of Indian raids. Dunn, however, had his own ranch on the outskirts of town with some fifty head of cattle guarded by "..five savage dogs to keep the Apaches away". Apparently the dogs were not trained to protect horses, for in July of 1867, the newspaper reported:
"On Thursday at noon, a band of Indians jumped the herd kept by Mr. A.G. Dunn, at the time grazing within half a mile east of the center of the town of Prescott. An alarm was immediately given, and our citizens turned out in force, but being mostly on foot they soon gave up the chase. Several horses were stolen."
A few days after the raid, the Indians came back again and took the remaining horses. They made an attempt to take the cows but were unsuccessful.
Things started to fall apart on Gurley rather rapidly. In only a year, John Marion had changed his mind about John Littig, from: "Lovers of good lager beer should not fail to drop into the saloon of the Arizona Brewery" to:
"FLIGHT OF TWO ROGUES. We regret very much the necessity of having to warn the public against two rogues, S.E. Blair and John Littig, who stole away from Prescott early this week, and are now on their way to Colorado. They left owing almost everybody here. Littig has proved himself both rogue and swindler. He, it is said, left with considerable money, which, of right, belonged to other people."
Postmaster George Barnard was dismissed in disgrace and almost jailed for being short some $3,500, almost all he had received in his two years.
As for A.G. Dunn, two years after his store opened, Dunn was killed in a gun battle, a typical movie-style shoot out. This was unusual for Prescott despite its role as a rugged western town. Dunn's fight was, apparently, with another citizen over a woman.
Prescott was no Tucson or Tombstone, where such events could possibly be considered commonplace. On Gurley Street in 1870, they were extraordinary.
Richard Gorby is a volunteer at the Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(st117pg).
Reuse only by permission.
Gurley Street between Cortez and Montezuma in the late 1870s.