Zane Grey's historic cabin, destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire, will be rebuilt on the grounds of the Rim Country Museum at Green Valley Park.
The famous novelist, who literally penned 56 westerns, spent each fall at the cabin during the 1920s. He set 24 of his books in Arizona and half of those in the Rim country.
Grey hired "Babe" Haught, who had served as his hunting guide, to build him a cabin where he could hunt and write.
"Enamored with the Rim's rugged environment, Zane was certain that it was also rich in history that would provide many plots for his novels," Beth Counseller, one of the original cabin's caretakers, wrote in "The Story of the Zane Grey Cabin."
Dick Wolfe, Payson town councilor, is president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, the group that plans to rebuild the cabin.
"We have a committee of very distinguished people working on the fund-raising plan. Once that's all pulled together, we'll have a groundbreaking ceremony and that will launch this whole effort," Wolfe said. "It's going to be an exact replica of that cabin on the grassy knoll just to the east of the Rim Country Museum, and it will house genuine artifacts from Zane Grey and his era, and the whole building itself will be an exhibit."
Wolfe said local architect Gary Spragins has already completed the blueprints from which the cabin will be rebuilt.
"We spent hours and hours with magnifying glasses looking at photos from Beth Counseller's files," Wolfe said. "I feel confident that it's a good replication."
The original cabin went through three major phases, Wolfe said.
"The first was the original cabin when Zane Grey contracted with Babe Haught to build him a hunting lodge," he said. "He wanted a log cabin, but the Haughts figured being an easterner he'd prefer an eastern-style house.
The second phase occurred after Grey stopped coming to Arizona. "He got crossways with our game and fish people over a hunting permit and he left the state of Arizona and never came back," Wolfe said. "The cabin just deteriorated."
According to Counseller, the dispute arose in 1929.
"(Grey) died 10 years later, and for 33 years his cabin was vacant and neglected and became a victim of the elements," she wrote. "Vandals descended upon it, breaking windows, carving names into the beams, tearing apart the steps to use as firewood, even setting campfires inside the cabin."
The third and final phase involved the cabin's restoration by Phoenix air conditioning magnate William Goettl.
"An avid outdoorsman and admirer of Grey, Goettl purchased the property from the Grey family in 1962," Counseller wrote. "Using his own money, labor, time and love, he and his crew restored the cabin to its original status."
In 1974, the cabin was included in the National Register of Historic Places, and by the 1980s it was attracting 20,000 visitors a year. Plans to add a western art museum, learning and nature centers and an amphitheater at the cabin site were abruptly interrupted by the Dude Fire that started 12 miles northeast of Payson.
Ignited by lightning, the blaze killed six, destroyed 60 homes and devoured 28,000 acres before it was finally subdued. Included in the destruction was the Zane Grey cabin and most of its contents.
The treasures that were saved, including a book autographed by Grey, his hat, chaps, bridle and guns, 10 first edition books, movie posters and a handwritten manuscript, will be on display at the replica cabin.
Rebuilding the cabin on its original site was impossible, Wolfe said.
"The land was sold to a developer who had no interest in doing that," he said. "It was also in such an out-of-the-way location."
Wolfe believes the replica will be a huge tourist attraction.
"If it was attracting 20,000 people 13 years ago and it was so hard to get to, we feel it's not only going to be a building to house some very valuable artifacts, but it's going to be a real economic engine for the town," he said.