As the Payson Town Council currently focuses its search for new water sources on the historic Doll Baby Ranch, it seems to be a good time for newcomers to learn how much this ranch was part of Payson's early days.
It is located 10 miles west of town on a rough but passable gravel road, just before the road dead ends at the East Verde River. The Mazatzal Wilderness begins at the road's end, although the road once continued on to the mouth of Pine Creek and beyond.
Along this road were the sites of six homesteads by early families such as Simanton, Lazear, Taylor, Pyeatt and Belluzzi. However, before these folks arrived, Mormon families were sent here by their church in the 1870s. They did not cluster in a village, but spread their farms up and down the East Verde River and its tributaries, naming the entire spread Mazatzal City. In the early 1880s, these families abandoned their farms over the threat of raids by renegade Apaches, and joined their relatives in the settlement of Pine.
The story of the modern Doll Baby Ranch begins with Marshal "Mart" McDonald, who, in 1884, at the age of 15 came with his family to Pine. Ten years later, he found O'Beria Gladden in Payson and she became his bride.
Shortly after Mart and O'Beria had their first child, Elizabeth, the little family moved out to the East Verde where they claimed squatter's rights on what would one day be the Doll Baby Ranch. Two more daughters were born on this ranch, Sarah in 1898 and Caroline in 1902. "Carrie Bee," as they called the baby, lived only two days and was buried about 200 yards west of the ranch house. A mound of earth and rock and a small wooden cross marked the place.
The year Caroline died, Elizabeth turned 7 and needed to attend school in Payson. O'Beria took the two girls and moved to town where they lived with her mother, Susan Gladden. Mart remained on the ranch for the next year, commuting to Payson whenever he could to be with the family.
In 1903, the McDonalds sold their squatter's rights to George T. Smith of California, and moved permanently to Payson, where Mart went into the mercantile business.
It was during the years George Smith owned the ranch that the name "Baby Doll" was adopted, according to the late Margaret Taylor Murphy who was born and raised there. The name seemed appropriate because of Caroline McDonald's little grave.
Eventually the wooden cross disintegrated and the mound of earth disappeared. The exact location of the grave was lost, but the ranch name carried the memory.
Smith was more of an investor than a cowboy, and hired a neighboring rancher to operate the place for him. The rancher was Richard Teal Taylor.
Dick Taylor had been a footloose cowboy until the age of 34, when he settled down and married Angela Belluzzi. She was the eldest child of an early pioneer family on the upper East Verde River. The year was 1906. The Taylors claimed squatter's rights adjacent to the Smith's Baby Doll Ranch, and named their brand the Diamond-H.
In 1912, Smith's wife, Emma, died and after she was buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery, he moved back to California. Two years later, in 1914, the Taylors moved to the Baby Doll with their four children, Richard, Margaret, Bill and Fritz. Soon a fifth child, Ed, was born.
The Taylors' second brand was a Cross-Triangle. That is, a cross mounted on the peak of a triangle. Margaret Taylor Murphy said in later years, "A little girl was out at the corral watching the cowboys brand cattle. She saw the cross-triangle and said, "Oh, look at the Doll Baby." From then on the ranch was called the Doll Baby instead of the Baby Doll.
In 1917, George Smith accepted the Taylors' offer to buy the ranch, but they agreed Smith would first apply for a patent on the land. That same year, Richard Taylor filed a homestead claim on the Diamond H section. The Taylors then took ownership of the Doll Baby.
When Dick Taylor retired in 1939, at the age of 67, he sold the ranch to his son, Richard.
In 1945, Richard sold the Doll Baby to A. B. Cobb, who proceeded to clear the area around the ranch house to make way for more buildings and clean out scrub growth. He knew the story of the baby who was buried somewhere west of the house, and had a gravestone made to mark the spot so it could remain sacred. Cobb inquired in Payson, if one of the two McDonald girls would come out and identify the gravesite. Sarah Lockwood, long married by that time, was away with her husband. Her sister refused to accommodate Mr. Cobb, so he laid the head stone against the fence and proceeded to clear the land. With that, the location of the Baby Doll's grave was lost for all time.
The ranch continued to change hands, and each time the cattle allotments became smaller. According to the late Sarah Lockwood, the people who bought the ranch from Cobb came upon the stone and "threw it away." Hearing about that, Richard Taylor and his brother-in-law Ira Murphy went out and retrieved the stone for Sarah. They set it between the graves of Mart and O'Beria McDonald, where it is today in the Pioneer Cemetery, a head stone without a grave. It simply reads, "Carrie Bee McDonald b. Sept. 23, 1902 - d. Sept. 25, 1902."
Though the ranch continues to change owners from time to time, and its grazing permit is down to 150 cattle, the name remains filled with memories.
Some of those old timers have said, "If there's water anywhere, it's there on the Doll Baby." The time is coming when the Town of Payson intends to prove that statement right or wrong.