Palace Station & Spence Family
detailsD. F. Mitchell/Prescott, Arizona Unknown bust6001pb.jpg BU-ST-6001 B&W 1409.6001.0002 bust6001pb Stereograph Print 4x6 Historic Photographs 1880s Reproduction requires permission. Digital images property of SHM Library & Archives
This photo shows the Palace Station stagecoach stop in background with Spence Family members in foregound. Left to right: Matilda (Lambuth) Spence holding fourth daughter Myrtle, oldest daughters Ida & Belle and Alfred Spence holding third daughter Florence. In background is Richard Lambuth sitting on porch with one of his dogs.
In 1873, Alfred Barnum Spence (b. 1834 – d. 1908) along with his wife Matilda (Lambuth) Spence (b. 1850 – d. 1929) and his father-in-law Richard James Lambuth (b.1825-d.1896) arrived by covered wagon in the Arizona Territory from Missouri. They settled on Banning Creek near Prescott, Arizona, where Alfred worked at the Peck Mine sawmill, near Groom Creek, Arizona. In 1875, the Spence-Lambuth family moved to Crooks Canyon, named after General George Crook, where they began construction on a log cabin. The location of the cabin was selected because it was halfway point between Prescott and the Peck Mine, which at the time was one of the most prominent mines in the Territory. The Spences raised eight (8) children: six daughters, two sons, and two grandchildren at Palace Station. All were home schooled by Matilda. Besides being a wife, mother, teacher, and the Palace Station manager, Matilda became the Postmaster in 1881, but the post office closed eighteen months later. Matilda often had her hands full, as Alfred often took jobs that acquired him to be away from their ranch and Palace Station for weeks at a time, leaving Matilda to take care of everything.
The original log structure was built in the manner typical of pioneer cabins and had two downstairs rooms and a sleeping loft. In 1890, a kitchen was added to the cabin. Later, a rear porch was added. Today , most of the original structure remains intact, although some elements, such as the log chinking and daubing, roof shingles and porch are replications of the original structure. However, three barns, a bunkhouse, milk house, blacksmith shop and hen house no longer exist.
Prior to the Spences’ arrival, the only access route into Crooks Canyon and onto the Peck Mine was a mule trail. The Senator Mine road only went from Prescott to the Senator Mine, six miles north of Palace Station. Today , this road is called Senator Highway. However, in 1877 a wagon road was surveyed into the canyon and thereafter, the Prescott to Phoenix stage carried passengers to Palace Station and beyond. At the Station, horses were watered and rested while the travelers enjoyed a hot meal prepared by Matilda Spence. Since the trip from Prescott to the Peck Mine could be completed in a single day, Palace Station did not provide any sleeping accommodations to the stagecoach passengers. However, for wagon freighters, miners on foot or horseback, and mule skinners with pack trains carrying ore or supplies, the Station did provide overnight lodgings.
In 1900, a new and improved road was opened. Unlike the original trail, which followed the creek bed, the new road was suitable for buckboards and enabled travelers to journey into the Bradshaw Mountains without need for a stage station. During this same time, telephone service was introduced into the area and the improved communications further reduced the role of Palace Station. In 1910, early-day automobiles began traveling Senator Highway making the Station obsolete and on October 31, 1913 Matilda sold Palace Station for a meager $10.00 and moved to Prescott. Matilda died on April 14, 1929, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott. Subsequently, in 1963 Palace Station came into the public domain of the Prescott National Forest and on April 30, 1976, it was listed on the National Register of History Places in Yavapai County, Arizona under the title, “Palace Station District.”
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