"Where do you get your information?"
The question often comes to me when people are discussing these columns. The answer has to do with decades of collecting documents and stories about the Rim country, and going out on many a "treasure hunt."
There are oral histories taken over the years, and there are public records such as census reports, the voting register from territorial days, obituaries and newspaper reports. Then there are reminiscences, correspondence, and archaeological studies.
The sources are many; the trick is to find the right ones.
A number of times each week I receive written or face-to-face questions about families, places and historical events. To accommodate, I begin another "treasure hunt." If successful, voila! Another essay is the result, as well as helping someone in their search.
The problem is that some answers elude me completely. For example, ever since the new portion of the Beeline Highway has been opened over the Mazatzal Mountains, many people have asked the origin of KITTY JO CANYON and WHISKEY CREEK, two highway signs that have been placed on the new road. For the life of me, I cannot find anyone, old or new to these parts, who has any idea about the origin of those place names.
It is obvious that Whiskey Creek was once the location of a bootleg still, as were most of those spring-fed washes in the mountains. I assume also that Kitty Jo (some say "Joe") was a wife or relative of an early rancher, like the Hughes family that ranched the Sunflower area for so long. Apparently, I have not found the right source to search. Hopefully someone reading this can become a sleuth for the answer. Please contact me if you have an answer.
Then there is BOULDER BOB'S CABIN. My inquirer says, "No one at the Tonto National Forest knew anything about it. Neither did Marguerite Noble ... I'm going to call Fred Chilson about Boulder Bob, and hope you can check some sources around Sunflower or Punkin Center. Surely someone must know the story." Well, so far, no luck.
During the Apache outbreak of July 1882, L.P. Nash was postmaster at Reno (near Punkin Center), and wrote to Andrew Houston telling what he had heard from the Army about the murders the Indians had committed in Pleasant Valley and along the upper East Verde.
In relating how the cavalry pursued the Apaches, he wrote, "Joe Boyer guided troops in by Little Green Valley, and Major Chaffee went by way of Fellows."
A history buff who is trying to trace the various routes of Indians and Army in that chase is wondering where FELLOWS is located. He thinks it may be a ranch, but I cannot find any reference to that name. (By the way, in that same letter from L.P. Nash he says, "I sent Hight Nelson up to Tonto Basin on the night of the 7th with news of the Indian outbreak, and they all got together at Sidles place." This refers to the warning sent to Payson and the "forting up" of the populace in the adobe building that later became the Pieper Saloon.)
Someone wanted to know how ISAIAH FRIEND, who died in 1895, is connected to Tonto Village.
A house owner on Airline Drive wonders why the words WOODLAND LODGE are carved into their porch. Another homeowner on West Cherry wonders why a LAZY N T brand is carved into their fireplace.
Here's another. On Emer Chilson's log of bar sales at Marysville (1881-82) the name "B. HIER" appears. That name cannot be found elsewhere. Who was he?
Near the Twin Lakes Mobile Home Park on east Miller in Payson, a spring-fed lake remains. Someone said there was a sawmill there in the 1880s, and the lake water was used for the steam engine. Who knows more about that sawmill?
Going south on Ox Bow Hill, on the left where a windmill used to be, is GILMORE SPRING, according to a 1927 forest map. A corral and chute that have long been abandoned are there, and a concrete trough with a 1939 date. Who knows anything about these, or the name GILMORE?
Someone from San Antonio was looking for a Tom Crockett, whose grandfather was Andrew Jackson Crockett. A family letter indicates he was in Gisela. Who knows anything about the CROCKETT FAMILY?
Several inquiries have come in about the ruins of a well-built stone house along the Deer Creek trail, probably the east fork. One person said a German prospector who mined the area built it. In searching, I came upon this interesting quote from Frank Alkire who refers to a German. He was reporting on his 1886 trip through the Rim country. "Several more miles beyond Dr. Peter's Tonto store the road turned into Rye Creek which empties into Tonto Creek. From Rye Creek the road began to climb into the hills and cross canyons, for the country is very rough. One hill in particular was Ox Bow, named for its twists and turns, which formed a gigantic ox bow several miles in length. At one bend of the bow was a little spring just off the road. A GERMAN SETTLER who had married a Mexican woman had erected a fair-sized adobe house there, and had built a fence of ocotillo around it and a garden. He had a small cattle ranch, a big bunch of children ... Years afterwards we passed that point again, the road had been changed and the house was gone ..." Who was the German prospector? Sounds like it could have possible been W. O. St. John, a partner of Al Sieber. Was he German? Could he have built the stone house on Deer Creek trail?
I look forward to some answers to these puzzles.