When People Asked Questions

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Every week several questions are asked of me by Rim country residents or visitors, and off I go on a search for the answers. It might be well to use such questions and answers for a few of these articles. For example:

WHY DOES AIRLINE DRIVE IN PAYSON HAVE SUCH A NAME?

Well, before there was a formal airport in Payson pilots were landing planes in various places around town. One of the several landing strips was built by Preston Dooley on the north side of town, leading from today’s Beeline Highway toward the Payson Elementary School. About 1948, he bulldozed the trees down the middle of that valley, paralleling the present Airline Drive and Rancho Road. The strip was 250 feet wide, and pilots reported dangerous crosswinds making takeoffs and landings very tricky. Dooley built a four-plane hanger where the Masonic Lodge is now located, and he planned to develop a resort in the area. However, after four years the project went bankrupt and the land was subdivided. When the streets were put in, one of them was, naturally, named Airline Drive, and side streets were named after prominent builders of airplanes.

IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH “BOOTLEG ALLEY” WAS JUST WHAT IT SAYS? IS THAT SO?

Yes, during prohibition this little road between Main Street and Frontier became the site of several stills. They produced bootleg whiskey, widely known as Payson Dew. In fact, nearly every spring in a box canyon had a still in those days, but Bootleg Alley was the place to go while in town. The old Pieper Saloon, on the northeast corner of the alley and Main Street, was called “The Dive,” and the illegal stuff was dispensed from there as long as the “Pro-highs” were not coming. An elaborate warning system was developed among the Rim country bootleggers to let them know when the federal agents were about to descend.

WAS BIRCH MESA NAMED FOR BIRCH TREES?

No. It was named for a man named Burch, and his name has become misspelled on most maps.

William Burch was the first recorded settler in Green Valley, establishing a cabin in 1876 where the 5th green of the Payson Golf Course is today. He developed the Golden Waif Mine, ran cattle, and became Payson’s first justice of the peace. He with his wife and children moved to Liberty, Ariz., in 1893 to join his wife’s family. He left his name behind on the mesa that later became the Payson airport and surrounding subdivisions. It was part of the claim he had made for grazing his cattle.

WAS GREEN VALLEY THE NAME FOR PAYSON?

The fertile pasture that lay on either side of the American Gulch formed Green Valley. It was named by a detachment of soldiers from Camp McDowell as they pursued Apaches through the area. In the summer of 1868, a military road was built from the Tonto Basin up Rye Creek to enter Green Valley from the west, along today’s Doll Baby Ranch road. The plan was to establish a military outpost here, but the plan was later abandoned because the supply line was too long and the Apaches were too strongly entrenched. One soldier wrote to the newspaper, The Prescott Miner, extolling the beauty of Green Valley as lovelier than Central Park in New York, and having more potential than Prescott.

WHY DO THEY CALL THE HILL NORTH OF MAIN STREET INDIAN HILL?

Recent improvements on McLane Road between the Payson High School and Main Street will take you over Indian Hill. This hill rising along the north side of Main Street was the site of an Apache Indian camp for generations before the white settlers arrived. After the army defeated the Apache and Yavapai in the 1870s, the Indians were taken from this territory and settled on reservations. During the 1890s, the Apaches were free to leave the San Carlos reservation, and many second- and third-generation Tontos returned to the birthplaces of their elders. They set up camps here and there, usually near available employment. The traditional campsite overlooking Main Street (and the good agricultural pastureland) soon came to be called Indian Hill by the white settlers. Several Tonto families occupied it until developers forced them off in the early 1950s. The name remained. Somewhere on the east side, overlooking the high school, are the graves of those Apaches who died while living there.

HOW DID McLANE ROAD GET ITS NAME?

It had always been called the Globe Road, as it came in from the south to junction with Payson’s Main Street. It was the way to go to the county seat in Globe. Several hundred yards west of there, the road led north from Main Street to Pine, and was called the Pine Road.

Before Payson was incorporated in 1973, the planned door-to-door mail delivery required street names. Likewise the volunteer fire department needed a better way to locate addresses. So a lady working for the chamber of commerce began to label the streets. Her name was Erma McLane Hathaway. In order to honor her father she named the old Globe and Pine roads McLane. He was Lloyd McLane, a cowboy born in Wheatfields (south of Miami on Pinal Creek), a charter member of the Globe sheriff ’s posse, and manager of the Globe Stock Yards for many years. He died in 1995 and is buried in the Pinal Cemetery.

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