Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Death Site of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

Cross along the Florence-Kelvin Road
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Outside of Florence, there's a sandy dirt road that leads east. Called the Florence-Kelvin Road, it's still a rural drive, as yet uncluttered by subdivisions (although they're in the plans for the future) and untroubled by too much traffic or asphalt. You'll first drive by the Arizona State Prison in Florence and if you're lucky you'll get a glimpse of the mustangs and burros being trained by the inmates on the prison ground's edge.


The long, sandy grade where Sheriff Glenn Reynolds was killed.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
There are no historical markers along this road, but here, on November 2, 1889, Sheriff Glenn Reynolds and his deputy, William H. "Hunky-dory" Holmes, were murdered by Apache convicts they were transporting from Globe to Yuma Territorial Prison. I've described the event in detail here:  The Death of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

The Florence-Kelvin Road is an old stagecoach road connecting Globe to Florence. Take the road from the east and start at Ray Junction (formerly Kelvin) to re-create Sheriff Reynolds' final journey. Kelvin has since been devoured by the vast Ray Copper Mine, but the old historic Kelvin Bridge remains across the Gila. Soon, it will be closed to vehicular traffic and the much larger, much stronger new bridge will open. Take a few minutes to enjoy the bridge; it's historically significant as a bridge designed by Daniel Luten, constructed in 1916.  More on the bridge here: The Historic Bridges of Kelvin and Riverside

Old adobe at Riverside along the Gila
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The stagecoach carrying the Apache prisoners - including the notorious Apache Kid - stopped at Riverside in the late afternoon on November 1. There, they overnighted. William T. Branaman, a stagecoach driver himself, opted to guard the prisoners overnight for $5 rather than drive the stage in the morning.  Starting afresh at five the next morning, they left idyllic Riverside (and Branaman) behind, Eugene Middleton driving the stage while Holmes and Reynolds tended the prisoners. 

About four miles west of Riverside, the stagecoach reached Zellweger Wash, the low point at the base of a long, steep grade. The deep sand made the haul tougher on the horses. The prisoners were, according to Branaman's later account, numb with cold. Reynolds allowed six of the eight prisoners - one Mexican and seven Apache - to get out of the stage and walk up the hill, partly for their own warmth and partly to help the horses ease up the grade. The prisoners who got out were shackled; the Apache Kid remained in the coach with one other prisoner and the driver, Middleton, continued onward with them. He was to wait at the top of the hill until the rest caught up.

The prisoners on foot had planned their escape. As the coach got well ahead, two of them attacked Sheriff Reynolds and two attacked Deputy Holmes, killing both. Middleton heard the shots and assumed the lawmen were shooting the prisoners to quell an attack, not realizing the men had been fatally wounded. The lone Mexican prisoner took Sheriff Reynolds' gun and advanced on the stagecoach, shooting Middleton. As the team of horses bolted on, Middleton fell from the coach with wounds to his head, neck, and side. The Apache Kid intervened as the other Apaches caught up and began to attack Reynolds as well, telling them Middleton was already dead and so not to shoot. 

Middleton, though, was not dead. One of the bullets struck him in the right cheek, exiting at the top of his head; it likely followed the path of least resistance as it traveled upward, rather than entering his skull. He later said he'd "played possum" while the Apaches took his gun, coat, and valuables. They also took the orders of commitment to prison and tore them up at the scene.

Middleton was able to walk back to Riverside and, although the papers at the time reported him as "nearly dead," he lived until April 24, 1929, dying in the apartment complex he owned in Globe. Middleton, a true pioneer, had lived in Gila County since 1876.

Sadly, there's no official monument to the incident along the sandy stretch of road. From my own exploration of the area and the landmarks described in the papers of the time, the grade on which the murders occurred is easily identifiable. Precisely where the incident happened is uncertain; it's midway up the hill and out of sight of where Middleton waited at top. The photo of the road above is my best estimate as to the rough location of the murders.  Nearby is the cross in the top photo. I believe it is intended to mark the death of the two lawmen and may well have been where the tragedy occurred.

Reynolds and Holmes were among the first of Arizona Territory's line of duty peace officer deaths. Should you drive that dusty highway, take a moment to remember them.

The Florence- Kelvin Road
(c) 2018 MJ Miller



Copyright (c) 2018 by Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, forwarding, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thanks for stopping by.




Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Bridges of Kelvin and Riverside, Arizona

The Old Kelvin Bridge at Riverside, Arizona
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
The Gila River barely flowed this afternoon, relaxed by months of drought and little snowmelt. Like any of Arizona's rivers, it has a ferocious, voracious alter-ego during heavy rains. Our rivers divide communities in the literal sense during the most productive storms; our bridges are lifelines. Our historic bridges spanned the waters beneath old wagon and stagecoach roads; slowly, motorized vehicles and blacktop took over.  Although many of our early state bridges have vanished, enough remain to make bridge-hunting a rewarding pursuit. In recent decades the new bridges have risen above and near the historical bridge, and a few older bridges have been converted to pedestrian bridges or have been abandoned but not demolished. 

The Riverside / Kelvin / Ray Junction area along the Gila is a joy for bridge-chasers. Turn off the highway onto the old Florence-Kelvin Road and you'll find a new bridge under construction. In its shadows is the old Kelvin Bridge just below it. Showing its age in the deteriorating concrete and the single-lane scale, it's a graceful reminder of the elegant and attractive designs once employed in civil engineering projects. Designed by Daniel Luten, an Indiana engineer famed for his patented concrete-arched bridge designs, the Kelvin bridge no longer has its original decorative guard rail but retains its sweeping grandeur. Built in 1916, it is on the original stage road that connected Globe and Florence via Kelvin and Riverside. On that road, not even five miles away as you head toward Florence, Sheriff Glenn Reynolds was murdered by Apache prisoners he was transporting in 1889. 


The Old Kelvin Bridge
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

It is an idyllic area. Swallows build mud nests beneath the bridge. On the southwest edge of the bridge is a quiet hiking trail; one leg leads to the river banks and the other leads farther than I had time to walk it. Hawks, bright yellow finches, and cardinals were nearby in the cottonwoods and salt-cedars. 


The Kelvin Bridge Placard
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The new Kelvin Bridge looms over the 1916 Luten bridge.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Kelvin Bridge is actually in the community of Riverside, a territorial town where once Eugene Middleton, the stagecoach driver wounded during the murder of Sheriff Reynolds, resided. Middleton came to Arizona Territory in 1874 and stayed until his death in Globe in 1929.

A third bridge at the Kelvin Bridge site: a working bridge for construction crews.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
Mud swallow nests cling to the bridge's underside.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The town of Kelvin itself was consumed, as much of the area's settlements were, by the Ray Copper Mine operations. That vast mining operation is responsible for the small Copper Basin Railroad that makes its way back and forth throughout the area. With that railroad came the gorgeous but purely functional iron bridges across the Gila.

A Copper Basin Railroad Bridge near Ray Junction
(c) 2018 MJ Miller


Abandoned bridge near Ray Junction
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Just south of the Kelvin bridge, where the 177 and 77 meet, is the abandoned concrete bridge above. It angles across the road to what was once the old wagon road, now replaced by the paved highway, crossing not the Gila River but one of the larger creek beds feeding it.

A small bridge on the Ray Junction / Kelvin Road
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The terrain throughout the region is rugged and ever-changing. Dotting the landscape are small concrete bridges across the channels variably known as ravines, washes, arroyos, creek beds, and coulees that texture the land.

Ethan and Me at the Copper Basin Railroad Tracks

I have Jerry A. Cannon and his co-author Patricia D. Morris to thank for my relatively recent appreciation of Arizona's bridges. Until I began packing a copy of their Arizona's Historic Bridges, I too often drove over, passed by, or stopped and photographed our scenic, historically significant bridges without knowing their history or importance. I recommend Jerry's book for your own Arizona history library:  Arizona's Historic Bridges (affiliate link).

Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for visiting and sharing my love of the west!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An Apache Trail Outing

My childhood was filled with adventures by proxy: my father's return from his frequent outdoor expeditions always included his tales of Arizona history and sights. An avid outdoorsman and amateur historian who'd moved to Arizona by the 1950s, he took every opportunity to venture out in his faded blue Land Rover whether it was to go rockhounding, gold panning, hunting, fishing, or visit historic locations.

Although I was too young to accompany him on all his adventures, I cherish the memories of those I did participate in - and the ones I missed, I'm catching up on now.  Others, I was too young to well recall, and I'm repeating them now with camera in head. One stretch of twisting, winding dirt was particularly notorious. Dad (sometimes with my mom bouncing along white-knuckled beside him) drove the Apache Trail on many occasions; I can barely distinguish between my own youthful memories of it and Dad's references to it as a treacherous piece of road.

Tortilla Flat
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Apache Trail is somewhat tamer now, but no straighter nor flatter. The first part of the journey - because you want to take it from Goldfield north rather than from Roosevelt south - is paved, and offers an opportunity for the less adventurous to enjoy the trail without hitting the winding washboard slopes. If you count yourself among that group, consider a trip to Tortilla Flat for lunch. Stop at the Superstition Mountain Museum on the way; enjoy some views of Canyon Lake below it; enjoy the atmosphere at Tortilla Flat; and by all means have some prickly pear ice cream at the shop next to the restaurant before you head back to urban mayhem.




Tortilla Flat
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The restaurant is generally packed on even weekdays, drawing tourists from all over the world, so get your name on the list (there's going to be a wait) before you visit the tourist shop. Take some time to appreciate western kitsch and choose a souvenir or two. Don't miss the guacamole when you win the "your table is ready" lottery!



Fish Creek Canyon
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Should you decide to continue onward (and high five to you, intrepid traveler!) make sure you've got fresh batteries in your camera and someone riding shotgun who can snap photos for you. Wear sensible shoes because you don't want to miss the overlook stops.

My good friends, Jennifer & Steve, who never say no to an adventure and have introduced many to the Trail.
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Apache Trail, largely built onto the ancient footpath of the prehistoric Anasazi indians, is a microcosm of Arizona's history. Its story is that of famed scout Al Sieber, stagecoaches, wagons, freighters, dam builders, Teddy Roosevelt, Model A's, Sunday drivers, farmers, water sources, flood control, and fishermen. It features sweeping vistas, deep canyons, historic bridges, and the memories of lives lost. Built as a supply road to the worksite of what would be the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, the road was once called the Mesa-Roosevelt Road. Early territorial tour guides and tourism boosters gave it the name by which it's known today.

Fish Creek Canyon
(c) 2018 MJ Miller
Often described as the most picturesque section of the Trail is the Fish Creek area, including the steep Fish Creek Hill and Fish Creek Canyon below. There's a good pull-out and parking area for you to stretch out, take some photos, and enjoy the breathtaking views. 





The author at Fish Creek Canyon Overlook

A narrow passage approaching a single lane bridge

Sentinels
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

A glimpse of Apache Lake
(c) 2018 MJ Miller


 One of many historically-significant sites along the Trail is the Alchesay Canyon Bridge. Built in 1905 by Apache laborers, the bridge remains today as Arizona's oldest extant vehicular bridge.


Precious, life-giving water
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The queen-mother of the Trail is the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Construction began while Teddy was president and, on completion of the masterpiece of engineering, Teddy himself was on-site for the dedication ceremony.

Theodore Roosevelt Dam
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The dam is taller now than it was on that memorable day. The maximum flow was initially under-estimated. Seventy-seven feet have been added to the top to handle the higher levels of water. The dam resolved water supply issues as well as addressing the frequent flooding the valley suffered in territorial days as water surged down the Salt River.

The stunning Roosevelt Bridge
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

The reservoir created by the dam is Roosevelt Lake, popular with fishermen and boaters. Dad used to fish there frequently in his old bass boat. I don't know if, as he fished, he thought about the one-time community of Roosevelt far beneath the boat's bottom. Wherever large-scale infrastructure projects were built in the territory, pop-up towns were built to accommodate construction workers. Just as Frog Tanks lies beneath Lake Pleasant, once the site of a thriving community of dam-builders and their families, so lies Roosevelt, having served its purpose. Of those dam-builders, 44 died in the construction of Roosevelt Dam.

Roosevelt Bridge
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Our final site of note on the Apache Trail was the Roosevelt Bridge. Arguably the most elegant bridge in Arizona, this arch bridge is reminiscent of a rainbow. For scale, see the close-up photo (two pictures above) and note the size of the car. This bad boy is a massive, daunting structure - and so large it isn't the least bit intimidating to drive across even for the most bridge-wary driver. 

Should you decide the Apache Trail isn't for you but the views of the lake, dam and bridge are irresistible, take the alternate route from the Beeline Highway to the Roosevelt exit. You'll pass through scenic pastoral land as well as the communities of Jake's Corner, Punkin Center, and the historic Tonto Basin. 

To fully appreciate the drive, you might want to pick up a copy of Richard L. Powers' Images of America: Apache Trail before you go. Available in the Superstition Mountain Museum bookstore in Gold Canyon, you can also purchase it here: Images of America: Apache Trail (affiliate link). The book features vintage photos of the Apache Trail scenery, early drivers and freighters, and construction of the Roosevelt Dam, with a good overview of the history. 

If you love historic bridges as I do, I recommend packing a copy of Images of America: Arizona's Historic Bridges by Jerry A. Cannon and Patricia D. Morris. You can purchase a copy here: Images of America: Arizona's Historic Bridges (affiliate link).  Mr. Cannon is a structural engineer and in addition to the book's historic photos and background, he provides an expert's guide to the types of bridges and information specific to their construction. I fear my copy will soon be tattered as I explore the bridges he and Ms. Morris have featured.

Copyright (c) 2018 by MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the written permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, emailing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for visiting and for sharing my love of western history.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Death and Gravesite of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds

Tombstone of Sheriff Glenn Reynolds
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

By five a.m. on a cold November 2, 1889, Gila County Sheriff Glenn Reynolds and his deputy, William A. Holmes, had barely begun the second day of their long trek from Globe to the Yuma Territorial Prison with nine prisoners. Eight of the convicts were Apaches - one of them the infamous Apache Kid, another Pash-Tan-Tah - and the remaining prisoner a Mexican man named Jesus Avott. The prisoners rode in a stagecoach driven by its owner, Eugene Middleton.  Next to Middleton sat Deputy Holmes, riding shotgun, while Sheriff Reynolds accompanied them on horseback.   

On the Globe - Florence stagecoach road about four miles west of the town of Riverside, the travelers arrived at a steep and sandy hill known as the Kelvin Grade.  To ease the burden on the four horses, the lawmen directed seven of the prisoners to exit the coach and walk up the hill, leaving the Apache Kid and another shackled in the coach.  The Apaches, handcuffed but not shackled, managed to overpower 35-year-old Reynolds and 44-year- old Deputy Holmes, seizing their weapons. Deputy Holmes was shot once, an immediately lethal round through the heart. Sheriff Reynolds did not die as mercifully. He was shot in the shoulder and had several buckshot wounds in the face and head, but struggled for his life. For his efforts, he was beaten to death with rocks and the butt of a long gun until his skull was crushed. 

The Apaches shot Eugene Middleton as well. Initial accounts varied, some saying Middleton was shot in the right side of the face, the bullet exiting through the top of his head, but that he was still able to walk to Riverside for help - and arrived after the two-hour walk near death.  Another account said he was shot in the shoulder as well as taking a round to the cheek and sustaining a scalp wound. A third report simply described him as "wounded."  As it turns out, Middleton survived. The round, likely a 40-80 from Holmes' rifle, penetrated his face and somehow missed his vertebrae, exiting his neck at the base of his skull. By November 9th, Dr. Mann of San Carlos deemed he was mending well. 

The Mexican was soon captured but the Apaches, now well armed, headed south. Shortly after the news was reported, a posse led by Deputy Ryan left Globe in pursuit. Another posse left from Florence, led by Sheriff Jerry Fryer - husband to the renowned Civil War spy, Pauline Cushman. (The Florence posse, interestingly, included Peter Gabriel, one of the combatants in the famous Florence saloon shootout.)  By one in the afternoon, the Cavalry commander at San Carlos had received telegrams and dispatched two lieutenants with 30 men from Troop G as well as Lt. Watson with 20 scouts. Arizona Territorial Governor Lewis Wolfley quickly published a "Wanted" notice in the papers announcing $500 reward for the murderers.



Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Arizona Silver Belt, a Globe territorial paper, paid flowery tribute to the mens' death. "... While we greatly miss their presence and deeply regret the sudden ending of their useful lives, it is a consolation to believe that while they can no longer enjoy life's alluring cup there is a lighthouse for the soul that beacons to a tranquil home. Then why should we mourn that the shroud and the vault have left a blank in the tome of a busy life? The part of the living is simply to cherish the names and virtues of the loved ones who have passed the boundaries of time."

Sheriff Glenn Reynolds, a Texas native, left behind his widow, Augusta, and four surviving children of the five they'd had. 

Deputy William Holmes, a native of Texas, had arrived in Arizona in 1869.  Known as "Hunky-dory Holmes" he was one of the original settlers of Phoenix and had donated 160 acres to the townsite. 

Eugene Middleton lived to be 66, when in 1929 he succumbed to a heart attack at the apartment building he owned in Globe. 

The Apache Kid was never caught. Having shot famed scout Al Sieber and spent time in Alcatraz prior to the murders of Reynolds and Holmes, his name - unlike those of his more heroic victims - remains a household word to the casual enthusiast of western history.



The Gravesite of Miriam Middleton, mother of Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller
The Gravesite of William Middleton, Father of Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

The Gravesite of Willis A. Middleton, brother to Eugene Middleton
Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by and sharing my affection for Arizona history *




Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stumbling onto Phineas "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite

Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Historical research is, at its best, full of serendipitous finds and surprising epiphanies. Rarely have I visited a site or buried myself in archives and not had the sudden goosebumps that accompany the discovery of an unexpected and exciting nugget. Sometimes it's the key to unraveling a mystery I've been working on; other times, it's recognizing a connection between places or people; often, it's something as tangible as happening across a grave you weren't looking for, but that's somehow relevant to the search you were on. When you're open to detours and digressions, one line of research always links to another in the most wonderful ways whether you're interviewing an old-timer or turning brittle pages of a dusty document.

I've been trying to verify the details of a relatively unknown 1877 shooting that occurred in Yavapai County for my current book-in-progress. The victim in that shooting had, a few months earlier, killed a man in Globe. After chasing down some worthwhile details last night, the incident was fresh in my mind as we made a trip to a gun show in Globe today. My other-half Russ wanted to look for the grave of Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife; I wanted to look for any familiar names in the less-than-focused, spontaneous, laissez faire method of research I do.  Some might call it haphazard, even. (Some might even be accurate in doing so.)

Short of time after a few side trips, we stopped at the Globe Cemetery rather than verifying which plot of land held ill-fated Mattie's remains. Russ wandered in one direction, I wandered in another, and we found many of the nuggets I'd hoped for. One of the more interesting was Phin Clanton's grave.



Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite, Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller

The graves the cemetery had determined to be of greatest historical significance were clearly marked with signage - Al Sieber, Glenn Reynolds, and so forth. In contrast, Phin's grave had no additional marker to call attention to it, no sign indicating his relevance to the historian. 

Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton was one of the seven children of "Old Man" Clanton, Newman Haynes Clanton.  Phin, along with his brothers Ike and Billy, was involved in the conflicts in Tombstone culminating in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. For those of you who need a brief refresher, Billy (William Harrison Clanton) was killed in the gunfight, while Ike (Joseph Isaac Clanton) was uninjured. Phin and Ike were suspects in the attempted revenge murder of Virgil several weeks after the gunfight as well as the successful murder of Morgan Earp two months after that.

Phin danced in the grey throughout his life. He was known to be a cattle rustler. He also was tried and did time for crimes he was apparently innocent of; on one occasion, he was acquitted of burglary after it was determined he'd been framed by the actual embezzler of the money. On another he completed nearly a year and a half of a ten-year sentence in the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison for larceny until being released when it came to light the star witness had falsely and perjuriously accused him for the reward money. Whether guilty or not, Phin was later arrested in an armed robbery of a Chinese man - and again, Phin was acquitted.



Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

As he approached 60 years old, Phineas Clanton ultimately married and settled down. He never celebrated his third anniversary, contracting pneumonia in January, 1906, and succumbing. Phin left behind a widow and stepson, William.  He was buried in Globe, where he and his friend, fellow outlaw and Yuma Penitentiary alum Pete Spence, raised goats. In an apparent jab at the lawmen who'd fought his family and friends, Phin's grave marker bears the quote, "Not all good men wore badges." 

Spence married Phin's widow, Laura, and after his 1914 death was buried beside Phin. There is no marker for Spence's grave. 




Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links, however, are enthusiastically encouraged * Thank you for linking, liking, tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!



Monday, November 13, 2017

Unexpected, Unspoiled Main Street Florence

(c) 2017 MJ Miller
Florence's reputation too often precedes her. A prison town in the flatlands, from the highway she boasts backyards of single-wides to the west and the massive correctional complex to the east. Like many, I've ignored her, seen her as a place to pass by en route to my destination, yet her name is one of the most recognizable of the state's small towns.

"He was sent to Florence."  Sentenced - to Florence! Inextricably intertwined with connotations of punishment, execution, and escape, Florence is home to the state's oldest operating penitentiary. Built in 1908 when Arizona was still striving for statehood, it replaced the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison. Prisoners did much of the construction on the new facility, and work programs continue as a valuable part of the correctional philosophy. Now, in addition to various trades and agricultural pursuits, inmate work with the BLM wild horses and burros, taming and training them for their future adoptive homes.

The history of the prison itself is material for volumes, but step away from Florence's shady side for a bit and you'll uncover one of the best preserved, historically significant towns in the state. Charming, tidy, and jam-packed with historic buildings, Florence is an unexpected delight. Unspoiled by flocks of tourists, it is a perfect site for rambling about, unbothered and unhurried, basking in sun and history.


The Old Florence Hotel / Silver King Hotel
(c) 2017 MJ Miller


We visited yesterday, on a Sunday, and were quickly and happily transported back to a slower-paced time. Stores and restaurants were closed, few cars were on the streets, and we had the town to ourselves. When drivers did appear, I was taken aback by their politeness. Two cameras in hand, I invariably had one focused on a structure at any given time. To my surprise, every passing car stopped so as not to ruin the picture by getting between me and the subject, and when I waved with appreciation, I could count on a return wave and a smile. A young woman on a bicycle apologized for 
riding into my picture. Who is possibly that polite in this day and age, people? I was quickly smitten with the town. Sidewalk planters held "usable" plants, such as basil or sweet potato; hunter green park benches - all empty during our visit - were readily available for the tired visitor. Public restrooms weren't just convenient, but so appealingly appointed with talavera tile and hunter-green wood my husband actually called me over to look. 

After my love-at-first-sight reaction, we got to work looking for historical sites. In all honesty, it would have been harder work avoiding them. It seemed nearly every building bore a historical placard. The buildings were largely intact and un-ruined by well-intentioned renovations, and the markers conveniently indicated what major changes had been made. A historian's and photographer's paradise, I suspect Florence will dominate this blog for weeks to come. In this post, you'll get but a sampling of Main Street photographs. I'll offer more in-depth histories in future entries.


The First Pinal County Courthouse / Pinal County Hospital. The one-story section dates to 1877, with the two-store portion dating from 1883. Now a visitor's center. (c) 2017 MJ Miller


Main Street, Florence may well be Arizona's Mayberry. Vintage toys tempt from the windows of the TrueValue Hardware store, formerly the White-McCarthy Lumber & Hardware Co., at 290 N. Main.  I can well imagine Ralphie pressing his nose against the windows, dreaming of a Red Ryder BB gun. The metal sidewalk canopy was added in 1941.


The White-McCarthy Lumber and Hardware Co. Building, 1914.
(c) 2017 MJ MIller



Vintage-style doll, TrueValue Hardware store window.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



Across the street, the Rexall sign provokes momentary nostalgia. 



(c) 2017 MJ Miller


The Mauk Building at 360 N. Main, designed by architect George Mauk and built in 1925, quite literally reflects a past era in its upper windows. 



The Mauk Building, 1925.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



Hand-painted advertisements, murals, and traces of past businesses abound.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller
(c) 2017 MJ Miller



From the red, white, and blue festooning the first Pinal County Courthouse to signs in shop windows, patriotism is evident - and I'm always happy to see it.



(c) 2017 MJ  Miller



The well-preserved buildings of Florence represent a plethora of different architectural styles. The William Clark House is an example of the "late transitional" style, featuring a Victorian bay window and a pre-fabricated entryway. 


The William Clark House, 1884.
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

More photos ahead in coming posts! 


Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express written permission of the author * However, links may be freely shared * Thank you for liking, linking, forwarding, Tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!




























Friday, August 25, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Lonely Desert Cottage in Vidal, California

Wyatt Earp Cottage, Vidal, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

On a flat expanse of chaparral-dotted dirt in the Mohave Desert near Parker, Arizona - and not a whole lot else - is a tidy white cottage with baby-blue trim. Save for the traditional western design and the historical marker in front, you wouldn't take much note of it. Here is where the legendary Wyatt Earp and his third wife, Sadie, spent their final winters together. Glancing around the "town" of Vidal, California, you're likely to wonder why Wyatt chose this still-remote site to settle down in what the historical plaque informs us was their only permanent home together in their years of marriage. The little house had been site-built in the town of Calzona, where the Earps had lived until 1922 when Calzona met the fate of so many desert towns and burned down. The house survived the conflagration, and the Earps had it moved to Vidal.

Copyright (c) 2017 MJ Miller

Wyatt and Sadie - better known as "Josephine" to the public, but "Sadie" to her friends in a version of her middle name, Sarah - lived in Los Angeles during the hotter months, but traveled to Vidal so Wyatt could work his mining claims. The tiny house there had previously been the home of Wyatt's brother, Morgan.  Wyatt, long weary of curious visitors seeking him out to discuss the Tombstone days, sought the solitude of the lonely place. He maintained a wooden cabin a few miles north of Parker at what was then called "Drennan," in closer proximity to his "Happy Day" copper and gold claims. Sadie and Wyatt were known for taking their four-mule team and wagon out prospecting along the Arizona - California border.

Earp, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The tiny town of Drennan, a former signal station for the Santa Fe Railroad line servicing the Phoenix to Cadiz route, adopted the name "Earp" after Wyatt's death in homage to the elderly miner who'd been a local fixture in his later years. Consisting of not much more than a post office and a couple of local businesses, the community commemorates Earp with his portrait on a building's side and a mock grave in front of the post office. Earp's rustic cabin has long since been razed. 


Faux Grave at Earp, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Wyatt Earp passed away at age 81 on January 13, 1929 at his summer home at 4004 West Seventeenth Street, Los Angeles. His funeral was a who's who of fading western figures. Bill Hart, Major Tom P. Clum (first mayor of Tombstone, and founder of the famed Tombstone Epitaph), William Mizner, and Tom Mix served as pallbearers. Other attendees represented various and distinct phases of Earp's amazing life:  Jack Cochrane, who knew him during Earp's time mining in Alaska; Dr. George B. Calnan, who met him in El Paso; Joe Treest, who knew him while Earp mined in Tonopah and Goldfield (California); Tom Grady, E. A. Speegle, M. C. Beckwith, and Dr. D.K. Dickinson, all of whom knew him during his Tombstone days; and Frank E. Cline, who knew Earp during his twenty years in Los Angeles. Pallbearer Hart knew Earp in Dodge City.

After Wyatt's death, Sadie continued on at the cottage at Vidal for a couple of seasons, summering in Pasadena. She lived at the Grand View Hotel at the river's edge in Parker for two years as well, ultimately returning to Los Angeles where she served as a technical advisor for the film version of Wyatt's Tombstone years. Sadie died December 20th, 1944 at age 75.

About four miles from the Colorado River, the town of Vidal peaked during the building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in the 1930s, boasting 435 residents. Wyatt and Sadie were already gone by the boom. The town was originally homesteaded in the 1880s by Anson Brownell. Brownell operated a trading post for local ranchers, miners, and Indians, leaving his estate to his son Charles. Charles ran a poker table in the general store, and Wyatt, lifelong gambler, was known to frequent the table.

Charles sold the property to the Sparling family. In 1931, the Sparlings developed it into 575 individual homesites, building the first houses in 1932. By 1933, the San Bernardino County Sun described Earp and Vidal as two of the four "booming" villages along the aqueduct. Vidal even had a Justice of the Peace court, necessary for the execution of justice in the rowdy town: the town was essentially a large labor camp for the dam builders and aqueduct construction crews, and proved troublesome during the violent union agitation days. The I.W.W. sent agitators to the town, and many were arrested for rioting and tried at the Vidal J.P. court.


The J. M. Heacock Building, Vidal, California
(c) 2017 MJ Miller

By 1935, the area had no less than 28 liquor establishments, the paper describing them as "hangouts for river toughs and equally tough women."  The then-lone law enforcement officer of the area, Deputy Sheriff Hal Oxnevad, had a job referred to by the paper as the "suicide" job of the county.

Across the railroad tracks from the Earp cottage is a desolate cemetery. No doubt on a quiet night you can sense the presence of the Holly Ghost within its barbed-wire expanse.


(c) 2017 MJ Miller


(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Buried within the Holly Cemetery is the man who served as Deputy Coroner of Vidal in the early 1930s, John Harger. 

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Veterans and prospectors have ample room in the cemetery. Most plots are either unmarked or unfilled. The few marked graves are rendered all the more poignant for the solitude.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

Prospector Peter Hulsman's marker lovingly depicts his tool-in-trade, a rock-hammer, fashioned of local rock fragments and bits of ore. Pardon the errant photographer's arm in the picture - bear with my inability to add the edited image into the sequence!




Just beyond the cemetery is a vestige of more recent history - a small collection of debris from the mid-1900s comprised of old cans, tobacco tins, and broken glass.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller

The Great Depression destroyed the promising town of Vidal. At some point, Anson Brownell's estate reverted to ownership of his son, Charles. When Charles died in 1943, Hal Oxnevad, the deputy who'd worked the area during its roughest years, bought the 100 acre townsite. Oxnevad, who'd risen to the rank of Undersheriff, may have purchased it with affection for the town's history. Oxnevad kept the land for over 20 years.

In September, 1967, the San Bernardino County Sun enthusiastically wrote of the town's pending revival. At the time it had nearly 35 residents. Most of the houses were already gone, either torn down or moved to other locations. Retired Undersheriff Oxnevad sold the land to two Blythe men who planned to build vacation homes for boaters and fishermen from the fast-growing Los Angeles area. Their plans unfulfilled, the desert oasis of Vidal never came to fruition. By 1970, Vidal had only 15 residents, their age averaging 70.

For those of us who seek out authentic traces of the west we love, it's for the better. Spend time at Vidal and you'll have a sense of the sheer remoteness you won't find in Tombstone, Dodge City, or Wyatt's other more famed haunts. You can appreciate the J. M. Heacock building and its masterful hand-crafted early 1900s stone construction, without skyscrapers or gleaming condominiums to distract from what was certainly then anything but humble. In its ruins, Vidal is arguably unruined.

(c) 2017 MJ Miller


Copyright (c) 2017 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links to this page, however, are greatly appreciated * Thank you for liking, linking, sharing, forwarding, Tweeting, sending by passenger pigeon, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!