Elam Boles Settled Roberts Mesa

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Elam Boles is the name of an early settler in the Rim country whose story has had me searching for years.

It seems that one of the cabins on his old Roberts Mesa homestead may have been built by Zane Grey, before the famous Zane Grey lodge, and that makes my search for the story even more intriguing.

The Rim Country History has recorded some facts. In 1882, Boles came to Payson (called Green Valley then) from Missouri at the urging of his blacksmith friend Myron Cooper who was already here.

After the two of them shingled "every house in Payson" he went into the freighting business, running a burro train from Tonto Basin to Fort McDowell. Tiring of that, he sold the burro train and bought Jim Robert's place under the Rim, just west of the modern fish hatchery on Tonto Creek. There, he improved the land and began a small cattle herd.

The Rim Country History goes on to state, "In Payson Elam met a young widow with two boys and a girl and pursued her ardently. The young widow promised to marry Boles if he would build a new home on the acreage." It goes on to say they were married in 1902 and in "1922 Elam sold his land to Zane Grey for $3500." There was no mention of who the widow or her children were.

A search of oral histories taken from early pioneer families finds references to "the Elam Boles place," but nothing of substance about the man or his family. Then, suddenly, I found a lead that was totally unexpected. A phone call from Councilwoman Judy Buettner informed me that she had visited with a lady in a Sedona bookstore who mentioned having a family scrapbook about the Elam Boles family, to whom she was somehow related.

Several weeks of tracking led to a meeting between myself and this lovely lady named Betty Hays. She made a trip to Payson to bring me the family scrapbook, which was in need of restoration. Her husband, Columbus Franklin Hays, a step-grandson of Elam Boles, is buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. We had copies of the photos and written histories made, and refurbished the scrapbook, retaining copies for the research library at the Rim Country Museum.

From that scrapbook we can piece together more of the story of Elam Boles, but first let's go back to Oklahoma Territory and a lady named Ida Simmons.

In 1886 she marred a fellow there named Henry Garrells. All old-timers in the Rim country will recognize that name.

The couple soon moved to Washington State where their son, Henry Garrells Jr. was born. When Henry Garrells Sr. died two years later, Ida and Henry Jr. returned to Oklahoma Territory, where she married a blacksmith named William M. McCord. Ida bore him two children, Carrie (1892) and William (1894). Their father died a few years later and Ida married again, to Melvin Boles. However, just three months later, Ida was widowed for the third time.

Melvin's brother, Elam Boles, invited her to come to the Rim country of Arizona with her children and be his housekeeper. He had homesteaded near Tonto Creek, under Myrtle Point. She accepted the invitation, coming here in 1899. Ida and Elam were married the following year. (This family history differs from the Rim Country History, which puts their marriage in 1902 and does not name the widow or her children.)

In 1904 Ida and Elam had a son, Edward Boles.

Their daughter, Carrie McCord, had several unhappy marriages. The first was to John Franklin Hays, and they had three boys, James Emory Hays (1911), Columbus Franklin Hays, nicknamed Chris, (1914), and John Riser Hays (1917).

Frank Hays, that is "Chris," would often come to the Elam Boles place to visit his grandparents. He is the one who married Betty, and when he died in December of 1988 he was buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

Many loose ends need to be tied up in the Elam Boles story, and perhaps a reader will have something to add.

One mystery that remains to be explored is Boles' Zane Grey connection. In an October 1919 letter to his wife, Dolly, Zane Grey revealed a primary source of his information for the novel "To The Last Man." He wrote, "Best of all I ran across an old Tonto Basin man, pioneer, named Elam Boles. He went through the Pleasant Valley War and told us the story. It is a wonderful thing. The war really and truly was not between sheep men and cattlemen, but between rustlers and honest ranchers. A good many men want to tell us the story, so we hear, for obvious reasons. But I'm glad Boles got to me first."

Some years ago, local author Ralph Fisher dispatched an article to the Phoenix Gazette, in which he describes the Roberts Mesa ranch and the "old ranch house, which looks much as it did when its former owner, author Zane Grey, lived there. Among other things, it boasts one of the greatest known free-burning brick fireplaces in the vast Tonto country." He tells that Grey raised special grasses to provide feed for his horses and cattle. "He had built a 20-stall stable to house his string of riding horses that were used for providing his many guests with guided hunts and trail rides ... The cold spring at the ranch feeds the shallow well and has never gone dry, making it a haven for the many wild animals." Fisher continued, "It will forever be the Zane Grey Ranch, where the man fell in love with the Tonto country, dreamed, wrote and lived long ago ‘Under the Tonto Rim.'"

Now there is my dilemma. How does this Zane Grey ranch house relate to the lodge he had Babe Haught build in 1922? The one that for years was a tourist attraction after it was refurbished, and then burned in the Dude Fire. And as for Elam Boles, where did he go? What happened to him and to Ida? As for the children, some of their offspring are still in the area. Perhaps more information will be forthcoming.

If anyone finds inaccuracies in this article or has additional information, please contact Stan Brown directly at (928) 474-8535.

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