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.
Grocery Stores in Prescott 1935-1936 Part 2
Jan 09, 2023
By Dewey E. Born
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.”
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.
Prescott’s King of Christmas
Dec 24, 2022
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.
Grocery Stores in Prescott 1935-1936 Part 1
Dec 13, 2022
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.
1919: Prescott Runs Out of Water
Dec 10, 2022
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.
Ada Bass: Prescott to the Grand Canyon
Dec 03, 2022
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.”Read More
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.
“Swatting Flies Thanksgiving Day” - November, 1914
Nov 19, 2022
Compiled by Susan Cypert
In 1914 Europe was in the beginning of World War I, but not the United States. And in Prescott, the town was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1864. It was also celebrating a great Thanksgiving as described in an article in the Weekly Journal-Miner on November 27th.
The following version of the 1914 article was originally published on November 22, 1997 as a Days Past piece edited by Michael Wurtz, archivist at the Sharlot Hall Museum. It is a delightful article and bears revisiting. The subheading gives the reader an idea of why this particular Thanksgiving was so remarkable: “Mercury Ranges From 28 to 70; Day Long To Be Remembered in Prescott”.
“It simply does not lie in the power of the weather man to make a finer day for Thanksgiving than the one in Prescott yesterday, and it is probable that the people enjoyed it to the full measure of their capacity for such perfect things.
In the morning the thermometer registered twenty-eight above at 7 o’clock. At nine o’clock Old Sol had driven the silver point up to [sic] twenty, and at noon it was 67, becoming still warmer than this as the beautiful afternoon wore slowly away.
Sharlot Hall’s Adventures on the Arizona Strip
Nov 12, 2022
By Jenny Pederson
Sharlot Mabridth Hall, founder of the Sharlot Hall Museum, was an opinionated, independent woman with a thirst for learning. She came to Central Arizona as a child in 1882 and quickly became fascinated with the Territory’s history. Trips into the growing town of Prescott and conversations with “old-timers” knowledgeable about the early history of Arizona further encouraged her work as an ambitious amateur historian.
This drive to learn about the history of her adopted home later informed her work as Territorial Historian, a position she held from 1909 to 1912. In this role, Sharlot took on the responsibility of collecting and caring for the history of Arizona in an official capacity while searching out the people and places that had shaped the Territory’s past.
During her tenure, Sharlot took multiple trips around Arizona, collecting objects from the families of original settlers, interviewing early Territorial residents and seeing the historic ruins and contemporary communities of Arizona’s native populations. One of her lengthiest trips was a seventy-five-day tour of the Arizona Strip, begun in July 1911 in Flagstaff and completed in October of the same year.
At the time, the Arizona Strip was a little-known region, comprising nearly 5 million acres and stretching from the Colorado River to the northern border with Utah. It was – and still is – an arid, rugged landscape with varied elevation and intriguing sights. To prepare for the trip, Sharlot tried to do research, but little material was available that discussed the region’s history and people.