Frequently I find, as I travel the country, connections to people and places from my life. After my last blog post I heard from Kim Baker (a former co-worker and friend) about another such connection.
Thomas Seaman Bullock built Prescott’s first railroad, The Prescott and Central Arizona Railroad in 1887. One of the locomotives built for this rail line was a 4-6-0, built by the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey. It was built for the Prescott & Arizona Central Railway as their locomotive #3 and named W.N. Kelly after the company’s treasurer. From the beginning, the new line was plagued by problems. Engines were too small and could only pull a half-dozen cars; roadbeds were easily washed out; and there was no turntable built in Prescott so trains had to back from Prescott all the way to Seligman. The line was in constant disrepair and trains and shipments were almost always late. The P&AC went bankrupt in 1893 and Bullock relocated to California bringing much of his railroad equipment, including the No. 3 (rumor has it he brought everything including the rails) to California for a new venture. Entering into a new partnership in 1897 they incorporated the Sierra Railway Company Of California to connect Oakdale, California with the timber producing regions of Tuolumne County and Calaveras County. Herein lies the connection as the Sierra Railway facility (originally founded by Bullock) and the #3 locomotive now belong to California State Parks and make up Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, one of the parks I had the pleasure of managing when working for California Parks. I had several opportunities to ride in the Sierra #3, a beautiful historic steam locomotive. Kim tells me that Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott has some history of the RR, and that Railtown has even used some of their images. Wish I had checked out this museum – there is always next time as I will be going back! Thanks Kim for the info – now that you’re retiring when are you going to join me on the road?
“History is the interpretation of the significance that the past has for us.” – Johan Huizinga
A Little More History……….
Prescott was founded in 1864 as the Territorial Capital of Arizona. The name “Prescott” was chosen in honor of William Hickling Prescott, author of The History of the Conquest of Mexico. I did my best with the name as locals pronounce it as “Preskit” and who wants to be labeled as a tourist?
At the same time Prescott was established as the Territorial Capital, it was also designated as the County Seat of Yavapai County, one of four original territorial counties. Although the Capital moved to Tucson from 1867 to 1877, the Capital returned to Prescott at the end of 1877 and remained until it was moved permanently to Phoenix in 1889.
The decade of the 1880s saw fluctuations in the economic condition of Prescott due to slumps in mining activity, especially a severe slump in 1885 which resulted in the closing of several Prescott businesses. The community was strong enough to recover economically based on the rapid growth of the cattle industry in the area. On December 31, 1886, the Arizona Central Railway was opened connecting Prescott with the Atlantic and Pacific (see above for the California connection). In 1893 it was replaced by a branch of the Santa Fe. By 1895 the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad (also known as the “Peavine”- see previous post) connected Prescott’s mining area with the Southern Pacific line. Communication and utilities improved along with transportation. An electric light plant was built in 1889 and telephones arrived shortly thereafter.
Directly across from the Courthouse downtown is “Whiskey Row” which was once the home to over 26 saloons, including The Palace Saloon, where Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers were once patrons. Doc Holliday’s girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, is buried in Prescott’s Pioneers Home Cemetery under the name Mary K. Cummings.
The frontier spirit of the Prescott’s historic residents may have been best exemplified when a devastating fire destroyed the entire downtown business district including “Whiskey Row” on July 14, 1900. Twelve hotels and 20 mercantile establishments were lost. Within hours, make-shift shelters were erected on the Courthouse Plaza and businesses began rebuilding. Old-timers tell us that when the fire started, the patrons in the Palace Saloon drug the massive bar across the street to the Courthouse Plaza. When the Place was rebuilt, the old bar was re-installed and remains there today where staff dresses in period clothing to serve todays patrons.
Prescott has more than 500 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Yavapai County Courthouse (rebuilt), which proudly stands in the downtown square. West of the courthouse, on Mount Vernon Street, stand many original Victorian homes that have been beautifully preserved creating a wonderful historic neighborhood. I am told that Courthouse Square is beautifully decorated during the holidays and hosts many community events during the Summer.
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” – Rudyard Kiplin
Prescott has a very colorful historical past and I was excited to go along with Darlene (a good friend of Linda) on one of her haunted history tours. She was a wealth of knowledge and though no ghosts decided to make an appearance, the history and architecture were well worth the tour. Pat and Linda joined me on the tour and an early dinner at the Prescott Brewery – it was a great way to spend my last night in the area.