Everything under the sun seems to have its own week in America, and believe it or not this is National Archives Week. It inspires me to tell you this story.
One morning after a meeting of the Northern Gila County Historical Society, Ed Smith suggested the name of a gentleman in southeast Arizona who was rumored to possess a ledger from the old McDonald Mercantile Store on Payson's Main Street. The information prompted quick action, with the hope of retrieving an important historical document for the Rim Country Museum's research library.
The McDonalds were one of the early families to settle in the Rim Country. Mart McDonald arrived in Pine in 1884, worked in a sawmill, was a cowboy for the Hashknife outfit, and in 1894 moved to Payson where he married O'Beria Gladden. Soon after their daughter Elizabeth was born, they purchased the Doll Baby Ranch (not yet named that), ran several hundred head of cattle, and added two more girls to their family, Sarah and Caroline.
By 1903, the children were coming into school age, so the McDonalds moved to town, sold the ranch and bought a mercantile store from Bill Colcord.
In 1911, the McDonalds bought the "Turkey" Thompson Ranch, which included today's subdivision of Payson West. While there, daughters Sarah and Elizabeth were married. The late Sarah "Babe" Lockwood's oral history, in the archive of the Museum's library, gives us much information about her family. Mart McDonald was a well-known merchant in the growing town of Payson. He served at one time on the Gila County Board of Supervisors.
Now, suddenly, there seemed to be an opportunity to see one of the McDonald ledgers and study the names and transactions from that early period of Payson history. The gentleman rumored to own the document responded quickly and graciously to my inquiry. "Sorry, but the ledgers ... have been sold to an antique shop in the Valley.
"The store ledger was all hand written," said my correspondent. "Entries starting in 1906 and ending in 1914, along with Mart McDonald's checkbook The ledger included sales as well as purchases, arranged under the customer's account. Many entries were the result of bartering. Chickens, pigs and hay were entered in payment for merchandise. The checks written indicated that Mr. McDonald continued in business after 1914. A woman affiliated with your museum was rumored to have his later dated store ledger. I do not know this as fact"
In such a way many important documents and photographs of our heritage slip through our fingers.
This week is celebrated as Arizona Archives Week. It is a good moment to invite you, the reader, to participate in the maintenance of our Rim Country History. An Arizona law requires that all governmental institutions (like the town, the schools, the county etc.) retain their records, and before disposing of old records contact the State Library and Archives in Phoenix. Most of such records are required to be deposited there. But family records, scrapbooks, photos, letters, diaries and the like so often are left in attics, tossed out, or passed to the later generations who do not prize them.
Our aim at the Marguerite Noble Research Library of the Rim Country Museum is to preserve all such records of our past. Then future generations will have a place to seek them out, study them, and base an understanding of our history.
An income tax deduction is possible for such a gift, if the documents are properly appraised. A letter from the Historical Society is then prepared to assist the donor with income tax preparation.
If you have any old photos or documents relating to a 50-mile radius around Payson, tucked away in your storage places which would serve our day and future generations, please contact me by phone or e-mail. If you do not wish to give them to the Historical Society, we would gladly make copies and you may keep the originals.