Rose Garden PhotographsWinifred “Winnie” Lucille (Mayer) Thorpe was born December 12, 1892, the youngest daughter of Sarah “Sadie” Belle (Wilbur) and Joseph Mayer in Mayer, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory.  Joe Mayer was born Joseph Hoffmire in 1846 in Olean, New York. At age 14, he left home as a result of a troubled life. He changed his name from Hoffmire to Mayer to avoid being found by his ill-tempered father.

Winnie was very proud of her Arizona pioneer family and of her hometown that was founded by her father, Joe Mayer, in the summer of 1882.  The beginnings of the town were originally established as Big Bug Station in 1877 on Big Bug Creek, thirty-two miles southeast of Prescott.  Joe Mayer purchased the stage station and 160 acres of land on Big Bug Creek in July 1882. He built a town there and established Mayer as a railroad-shipping center for copper mining in the region. Mayer became a freight stop for shipping ore and bringing in supplies, many of which were sold at the Mayer Store.

After Joe Mayer bought Big Bug Station and moved his family from Tip Top, he proceeded to build a town and establish Mayer as the mercantile center of central Yavapai County.  Mayer became a mining center and a railroad town, shipping out ore and livestock and bringing in supplies, many of which were sold at the Mayer Mercantile.

Joe and Sarah settled in Mayer and raised their four children, Martha Gertrude, Mary Bell, Wilbur Joseph and Winifred nicked named “Winnie”. Winnie had many exciting experiences growing up in this small rural town. She knew the miners, many of whom her father grubstaked. She knew the Indian and Chinese laborers who were part of Mayer's history, as well. Winnie was very proud of her pioneer family and of her hometown, Mayer, founded by her father.

Some of Winnie's girlhood memories were of looking forward to cowboy dances, of seeing a gunfight in the street, and of feeding chickens and milking cows at home. Winnie remembered the dances of Apache Indians who camped nearby. Her father bartered with these “Apaches,” actually Yavapais, for their baskets. The Post Office was located in their home and Sadie and her daughter Mamie were the postmistresses for decades starting in 1884.  Having the Mayer Post Office in their home gave the Mayer family an inside track on what was going on in town as the Post Office was often the hub of local activity and information in the community.  Winnie helped out as she didn’t want to miss out on anything.

Joe Mayer was very interested in education and wanted the best for his children. He built the first school in Mayer and later donated his best lot for the “Red Brick Schoolhouse,” which was constructed of bricks from his brickyard.  The teachers and some of the students from outlying areas boarded at the Mayers’ home.  Winnie was a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy and went on to attend the Normal School in Flagstaff.

Winnie met her future husband, Thomas Thorpe, at Brisley’s Drug Store in Prescott where he was the druggist.  They were married in Mayer in 1919.  They married on July 23, 1919, and had two sons, Thomas Edward Jr. and Wilbur. However, Winnie and Thomas later divorced in 1937.

Winnie is remembered for her artistic endeavors, her poetry and her writing. She freely gave of her time to help record the history of Mayer. In 1978, she wrote “Joe Mayer and His Town” for the Journal of Arizona History. In 1981, Winnie was still living in the Old Stage Stop built by her father in Mayer. She broke her hip and could no longer live alone, so she moved to Good Samaritan Village in Prescott. Winnie died at the Village on July 19, 1983, and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott. Shortly after her death, the old stage stop burned down.

Donors: Nancy Burgess and Sylvia Neely
Photo Located: PB 005, F-77-169, I – 1046
Updated: 6/12/2015, Gretchen Hough Eastman