By Richard Gorby

On January 1, 1900, Prescott was thirty-six years old, and apparently not much interested in the arrival of a new century. In the Arizona Journal-Miner: 

"There will be midnight services in the Catholic church tomorrow night - - the last service of the old and the first of the new year." And: 

"On New Years day, at 2:30 p.m., there will be a football game played in Prescott between Black's team and the Prescott team." 

That was all.


In the week before January 1, 1900, there were minor items in the paper about the goings-on of some interesting people.  Since celebrations on the eve of 1900, were less than apocalyptic let's take a look at the citizens who were prominent in Prescott at that time as well as some of the top stories. 

From the Newspaper: "Morris Goldwater and Bros. The Best Always" 

Morris Goldwater was born January 16, 1852, in London, and moved to San Francisco with his parents shortly after.  In 1876, his father, Michael, opened a store in Prescott on the site of the present city hall building, and Morris took over as manager.  Goldwater was elected mayor of Prescott and held the office for 22 years.  He organized the Dude's, one of the first volunteer fire companies. 

Goldwater was a lifelong member of the Democratic party, served as marshal of five grand juries, served on the board of supervisor's, was a member and vice-president of the 1910, Constitutional Convention, and was a member of three state legislatures. 

From the Newspaper: "Pearl Hart, Arizona's female bandit, was given a five-year engagement in the Yuma penitentiary.  When she gets through with her job she will have reached the conclusion that stage robbing is not so romantic after all." 

In the spring of 1899, Pearl appeared in the Mammoth (Arizona) mining camp where she and another girl shared a tent and opened up business.  They lived with the "protection" of a gambler known as Joe Boot, who lived off of the girl's earnings.  With a slowdown in mining operations Joe decided to hold up the Florence-Globe stage, and took Pearl as a partner.  On the afternoon of June 5, l899, Pearl, dressed as a man, and Joe Boot, both with drawn pistols, stepped out of the roadside bushes and stopped the stage.  They collected $300 and set out on foot, planning to "hobo" it out of Arizona. 

The Pinal county sheriff, with a couple of deputies, caught them before they had gotten far.  In jail in Tucson, Pearl became "The noted female bandit", much advertised in the newspapers and the eastern penny-press.  For a time Pearl capitalized on her bandit reputation in vaudeville and cheap shows. 

From the Newspaper: "King Ussery deposited $500 cash bond today and was released from custody.  He is out on a $1,200 bond, also to appear at Globe at the next term of court for trial on a charge of grand larceny." 

Late in the afternoon of December 24, 1891, John Goff, an old stage-driver, left Riverside on the Globe-Florence run, and headed for Florence.  Beneath the driver's feet in the Wells-Fargo express box, were two bars of silver, valued at $1000 each. 

Just as they topped the last rise overlooking the Florence desert, two horsemen appeared from behind the brush, handkerchiefs concealing their faces, and with pistols in hand demanded, and took, the box of silver.  John Goff was sure he knew one of the men, and upon reaching Florence stated that one of them was King Ussery, a rancher. 

Heading for the Ussery ranch on Tonto Creek, Sheriff Henry Thompson and others stopped at a ranch on the way and the rancher told them that several days previously he had seen King Ussery, on a black horse, ride through his field and stop and dig a hole in the ground.  He had thought at the time Ussery was digging for roots, or something, and paid no more attention to it.  He showed them the place and a bar of silver was found.  Ussery was arrested, found guilty, and in November 23, 1892, was sentenced to seven years in the Yuma penitentiary.  He was released and retried twice and was apparently out again when the 1899, item was mentioned. 

Although New Year's 1900, was apparently not very exciting, the first year of the century will be remembered as the year of Prescott's great fire, July 14, l900. 

In 1864, John Raible, Daniel Hatz and Samuel Blaire, had built the first building that is still standing in its original location in Prescott, the Governor's Mansion, which is a historic building at the Sharlot Hall Museum.  Three years later, on south Montezuma street, Raible established Prescott's first brewery.  On October 5, 1867: 

"As we brew our own beer, and take great pains to make it o.k., lovers of that healthy and strengthening beverage will do well by calling upon us and taking some of our medicine.  Good lager beer, liquors and cigars, always on hand." 

A few doors north of John Raible's, near the Scopel Hotel on the corner of Montezuma and Goodwin, the fire that destroyed much of downtown Prescott in 1900, had its beginning.  Wind blew it across Goodwin to Whiskey Row, where it ignited the Sam Lee Restaurant, and the Gem Saloon (now the Galloping Goose) and Jake Mark's Liquors, (in the present Antiques & Collectibles).  It moved to Sam Hill's large building (the name can still be seen on the fronting sidewalk on Whiskey Row) and on to the Lafayette Liquors House and C.B. Linn's Golden Eagle Store (now the Hillside Depot, Bird Cage Saloon and Maude's). 

Next hit was Price and Chandler's Arizona Restaurant (the present Moctezuma Saloon), to Ben Butler's Chop House (now the Buffalo Montana Trading Post), on to the famous Cob Webb Hall (today's Liese Interiors and Prescott Museum and Trading Company) and John Campbell's Saddle and Harness (now the Prescott's Art Gallery), on to Ed Block's big store (today's The Worm and the Dog House), the Cabinet, the Palace, and the Burke Hotel, which advertised itself as "The only completely fire-proof hotel in Arizona."  The fire moved to Gurley, destroying the rest of the Plaza area and then down to Cortez where it was finally stopped just before reaching the Santa Fe Depot. 


None of these returned after the fire, until the Cabinet and Palace joined hands to build today's new Palace and the Burke was rebuilt as today's St. Michael. 

As Prescott prepares for Y2K in the next few days, remember that although there were no computers 100 years ago, the town faced its greatest challenge that summer and rebuilt from the ashes. 

Richard Gorby is a research volunteer at the Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb128f11i4). Reuse only by permission.
Looking west on Gurley street 100 years ago it is evident that Prescott was preparing for a quiet new year. Six and a half months later the towns biggest fire changed the landscape and motivated the citizens to rebuild despite the challenge. Sharlot Hall Museum Photo