By Kristen Kauffman


On October 17, 1903, an off-schedule train screeched through Prescott at 6 AM, waking up the town. This was intentional, meant to announce William Randolph Hearst, newspaper tycoon and politician (later of Hearst Castle fame), arriving with great fanfare.


With Hearst were fifteen congressmen and their wives, some hesitant to travel into the infamous “Wild West.” The purpose of the trip was for Hearst and company to tour the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona territories and inspect these eligible candidates for statehood—and because Prescott was keen to impress them with proof of civilized living, one tour stop included a thorough inspection of the school. There was a parade with a band, a speech made on the bandstand by Mayor Dennis Burke and an elaborate breakfast at the Hotel Burke (an earlier name for the Hotel St. Michael building). Mayor Burke highlighted Arizona’s excellent climate, peaceful society, fertile valleys and mineral wealth. Hearst’s party then caught the 10:45 AM train to Phoenix, the next stop on their campaign trail. Phoenix flattered the politician, as evident from The Arizona Republican the month before: “[Hearst] is not a meteoric statesman who scorches through the sky and then explodes with a nauseating concussion, but is a pure and brilliant planet whose effulgent rays light up the path of the common people. . . giving them hope, help and encouragement, who fights their battles with pen, purse and voice, and who asks no odds and fears no foe.”


This stop was good for Arizona and good for Prescott, but there were some complicated feelings. J.C. Martin, the editor and manager of the Arizona Journal-Miner referred to Hearst as “by no means a brilliant man” who can “only harmonize his actions with that of insanity.” In his article, Martin attacks Hearst for his bid for the presidency because he controls the opinions of the prejudiced papers he owns. Martin also states that Hearst is “possessed of an ambition to fill an office for which he possesses no abilities whatsoever.” Why would a prominent citizen of Prescott make such scathing remarks against a man who appeared to be bringing wealth and prosperity to Arizona?


It could be that some in Prescott resented the tycoon for suing the City of Prescott in 1894, to the tune of $154. According to the trial documents, the City of Prescott contracted Hearst in the winter of 1893 to publish an article attracting settlers to the area. Hearst delivered by publishing an article on January 28, 1894, in The San Francisco Examiner featuring Yavapai County’s railroad facilities, climate, schools and churches, water sources, land uses and agriculture, and city government and institutions. Examiner readers were given a tour of our county: “The scenery is grand, wild, picturesque and beautiful. The grandeur of mountain peaks 10,000 feet above the sea, covered with snow for half the year, gradually fades into the pine-covered plateaus, across which trickle brooks and rivulets on their way to the Colorado, the Salt and the Gila. Then this changes into pleasant valleys almost tropical, for they are hemmed in by mountains that break the effects of the northern winds and act as barriers for the stockman and the agriculturalist whose fields and herds rest securely in their shelter.” Hearst delivered, but the City of Prescott didn’t pay the agreed $154 because they claimed, after publication, that the mayor had no right to sign a contract without the city council’s approval. When the city didn’t pay by May that year, Hearst filed suit with the Yavapai County Court, and by July 26, 1894, Judge J. Hawkins ruled in favor of Hearst.


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