By Mona Lange McCroskey
It took three health-seeking trips to Prescott to convert Will "Gib" Gibson into a permanent resident. In 1902, at age sixteen Will traveled to Arizona from Morgantown, Indiana, seeking relief from "bronchitis." He rode the narrow gauge railway to Poland where he worked for a summer in the Bashford-Burmister store for James A. Whetstine, later mayor of Prescott from 1943-1947.
Gibson, a tall, thin lad, was teased unmercifully by the miners, who sent him up the creek for a left-handed monkey wrench and otherwise made his life miserable. He returned to Indiana, married, and when he contracted tuberculosis in 1913, Gibson came to Flinn's renowned sanitarium for treatment (the original buildings still exist at the Southwest corner Gurley and Willow Streets). After the birth of their son, Thomas, in Morgantown, his wife Opal journeyed to Prescott and rented a house in Pine Crest to be near him during his two-year convalescence.
The Gibsons then went back to their native Indiana. Will built a home for his family and went to work for his father, a merchant. Within a year he suffered a serious relapse, and once more the Gibson family moved to Prescott. Gibson built a house in Pine Crest, recovered slowly, and was finally able to work full-time at the Bashford-Burmister Company, commonly referred to as the B-B. James Whetstine was then working as a manager in the Prescott store, and when James and Mary Hope decided to retire Will sold his home in Indiana to invest in the business as a partner with Whetstine.
Will and Opal Gibson became active in their community. He built a home on the corner of Park Avenue and Gurley, across Park from the Brinkmeyer house, and a daughter, Julia, was added to the family in 1924. They were charter members of the new Hassayampa Country Club. Gibson was also a Mason, and his wife played bridge and was active in the Monday Club. Frontier Days was a big event for the family. They had a great vantage point for watching rodeo parades from the huge balcony windows of the B-B.
The Bashford-Burmister Company took up the buildings on Gurley Street that now comprise the Bashford Court and Solt's Clothing Store, and the store sold everything "from fur coats to mining machinery, and soup to nuts, inclusive." The main floor had sliding doors that opened to the green grocery section, a new marketing strategy. The grocery also sold canned goods, prime beef, dairy products, and chocolates made by Brinkmeyer's confectionery. A men's department separated the hardware, stationery, and shoe departments.
To one side was the dry goods department, behind which were elevators and a stairway leading to the mezzanine and, later, to the third floor. On the mezzanine were the furniture department, china, and glassware, ladies' ready-to-wear, and offices. When the third floor was added it became the ladies' department, ready-to-wear, restrooms, and a beauty shop. Behind the store and across the alley was a large warehouse, later demolished to put in a parking lot. The loading docks across the back of the store received shipments of goods.
"Gib" Gibson was the buyer and wholesaler for the Bashford-Burmister Company. He bought and wholesaled to the other B-B stores, in Mayer, Poland, and Jerome. He also serviced the accounts of ranchers who bought in large quantities; the store stayed open late on Saturdays to accommodate them. Will worked six days a week, traveling throughout Yavapai County. On Sunday mornings he picked up the mail, separated what pertained to his part of the business, and did his book work.
A frequent misconception is that the Bashford-Burmister Company went broke. Gibson's daughter was quick to point out that it never did. It was in fact not in very good financial shape, and Will Gibson insisted that it be sold before it did go broke. In 1941, Whetstine and Gibson sold their stock to a Los Angeles company that specialized in fire sales. The store employees, including Israel and Minnie McCash, H.D. Aitken, and Gene Weiland, continued to work there until all the merchandise was sold and the store was closed. The partners subsequently sold half of the building, which became Woolworth's. They put up a block wall, remodeled the inside, and rented the remaining half to Penney's.
Information for this article came from an oral interview with Will Gibson's daughter, Julia Ann Matheny (1924-1994). Recently her husband, Doug, donated her collection of Yavapai and Pima baskets to Sharlot Hall Museum. Will Gibson took them in as payment on unpaid accounts during his tenure at the Bashford-Burmister Company.
Mona Lange McCroskey is a Research Historian for the Sharlot Hall Museum.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pa118pgg). Reuse only by permission.
The Bashford-Burmister Company sold everything "from fur coats to mining machinery, and soup to nuts, inclusive." And when the Parade came, as it did in this 1933, photo, many of the employees, including the Gibson family would watch from the upstairs windows.