One of the biggest attractions for people who come to Payson from all over the world is Zane Grey and his hunting lodge. He still holds title to being one of the best selling novelists of all time, and long after his death his fans still beat a path to the Rim country. They desire to witness first hand the setting for his fertile imagination and the fabulous beauty he described.
It was a tragedy to many when the Zane Grey Cabin burned during the Dude Fire of 1990. Still folks come asking about that cabin and wanting to see the Zane Grey artifacts on display at the Rim Country Museum.
Working in conjunction with our local historical society, the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation plans to build an authentic replica of that hunting lodge on the grounds of the Rim Country Museum at Green Valley Park. The plans are drawn, the land has been obtained from the town of Payson, and all that remains is for sponsors to contribute the $250,000 needed for this exciting project.
Old-timers in the Rim country know the Zane Grey story, but for most of today's population, it is new.
During these next few weeks in the Roundup I will hope to acquaint you with this most amazing man, Zane Grey.
He was named Pearl Zane Grey, born in 1875 in Zanesville, Ohio, a town named for his maternal grandparents. As he grew, he was a good enough baseball player to earn scholarships that put him through college. Then bush-league baseball put him through dental school, and he began his practice of dentistry in New York State. However, boredom gnawed at him.
He preferred the open country where he could fish and hunt, and then write articles for sports magazines. Driven by this desire, he would open Arizona's central mountains to the world through his descriptive powers.
As early as 1907, the budding author discovered the wonder of the Grand Canyon while there on a lion hunt. Annual trips to the West followed, and he formed a close friendship with well known stockman, Al Doyle, from Flagstaff who guided him over the Colorado plateau.
His first novel, "Betty Zane," had been published at his own expense in 1903, and for the next several years he was rejected by publishers, with the exception of some magazine articles on fishing.
Grey used the last of his wife's inheritance for a trip to Arizona in 1907, and out of that experience wrote "The Last of the Plainsmen." It was rejected by Harper's, so he published it with a small press without receiving any compensation or royalties. After that, several manuscripts for juvenile books were sold, and Harper's began publishing his stories in serial form.
In 1912 Harper's published Grey's book titled "Riders of the Purple Sage," and to the publisher's surprise it became an instant success. At the age of 37, Zane Grey was launched as a popular author, and by 1918 he had published 18 books.
It was in 1918 that Doyle suggested the best game was to be found south of Flagstaff, along the Mogollon Rim. By this time Grey was making a good deal of money from articles and books. It was a banner year, for in 1918 three of his novels were made into movies, he moved his family from New York to California, and Zane Grey discovered the Mogollon Rim.
Flagstaff historian Platt Cline, in his book "They Came To The Mountain," described Doyle as "a man ... who exemplified the qualities of honesty, self-reliance, independence and the pioneering spirit which have come to characterize the western frontiersman legend."
It is no wonder Grey was taken with Doyle and made him the prototype for his heroes. We see Doyle surface in many of the characters portrayed in Zane Grey novels.
Interestingly enough, it was also in the year 1918 that one of the last grizzly bears was found in the Rim country. Doyle had heard that one needed to be bagged down around Tonto Creek, where the silver tip was killing cattle. This was enough of an inducement to send Zane Grey and his hunting party south over what the Apaches called The Black Mesa. It was an area the author would later name "The Tonto Rim."
Doyle admitted he did not know that country as well as the Colorado Plateau, but he made arrangements for Grey to meet Anderson Lee Haught, known as "Babe," who lived near Tonto Creek. Haught made his living hunting bear and lion as well as running a few cattle.
Doyle escorted Grey's well-supplied caravan over 100 miles of trails to the edge of the Mogollon Rim. In the party were Zane's 9-year-old son, Romer and Zane's brother, R.C. Grey. A lengthy description of this expedition by the author can be found in a book published in 1922 entitled "Tales of Lonely Trails." It can be found in our Payson Public Library.
(To be continued, Zane Grey enters Payson and camps on Main Street).