Pioneer, Rancher Dies At 87

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The Rim Country has lost another of its pioneer sons.

Calvin G. Peace, 87, died Friday, April 27, at the Hospice House in Payson.

A resident of the Rim Country for 80 years, and calling the Payson area home for more than 50 years, Peace was a pioneer during Payson's transition from a cow town to tourist town.

He owned the first excavating business in Payson, ranches and other businesses.

He was born July 29, 1919 in Ysletta, El Paso, Texas to William Calvin Peace and Myrtle Clara (Griffin) Peace. The Peace family moved to Arizona in the 1920s and first lived in Globe. In 1927, they moved to Pleasant Valley, where Myrtle Griffin Peace's father lived.

Peace received his schooling in Pleasant Valley and worked hard on the family farm there. By age 13, he was hired to work for big cattle ranches in the area. He made several cattle drives to the railroads in Globe and Holbrook, where the cattle were loaded onto train cars and hauled to the Midwest.

When World War II started, Peace was drafted in the Army. He served as a warrant officer in the Medical Corps in Wimborne, Dorset, England and was honorably discharged.

Before the war ended, Peace married a young woman he met at a dance in Pleasant Valley, Anna Mae Hale, daughter of Duke and Birdie Hale of Gisela. They were married Nov. 30, 1943 in Globe.

After the war, the couple bought the old Haught place in Gisela where they ranched. They raised fruit, vegetables, chickens, sheep, cattle, hogs and did whatever it took to make a living.

While his wife ran the ranch at Gisela, Peace supplemented their income by working for Owen Brothers Sawmill in Payson and on the construction of the Beeline Highway. While living in Gisela, they had two daughters, Jayne and Jeanne, both born in Globe.

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In 1961, Calvin Peace bought the Riley Neal Ranch.

When it was time for Jayne to start school, the Peace family sold their place in Gisela and moved to Payson. Here, Mr. Peace established himself as a businessman.

He pioneered several modern businesses in the early development of the Payson area. The few builders in town in the early 1950s asked Calvin to establish a hardware store, so they wouldn't have to make the long trips to Phoenix each week. Local ranchers asked him to carry hay, grain and salt, so they wouldn't have to make the wearisome trips.

In 1954, Calvin opened Peace Hardware and Feed. Twice a week, he made the six-hour trip to Phoenix via the old Bush Highway to buy supplies. He left Payson at 3 a.m., arrived in Phoenix around 9 a.m. to pick up his supplies, and then headed back to Payson about 4 p.m. With a heavy load on the truck, he sometimes didn't get home until midnight. When the truck broke down, he was delayed a day or two. While Peace was hauling supplies to Payson area builders, his wife ran the hardware and feed store.

As people bought land in the Payson area in the 1950s, they needed their lots cleared, roads built and septic systems installed. Peace bought a backhoe and a Caterpillar and went to work. After a few years, he sold the store, bought a road grader, two trucks and hired Stuart Jones, and then Bobby Owen, to help him. He was in the excavating business full-time. He charged people just enough so he could make a profit, and for the ones who didn't have the money, he took land, horses and cattle in trade.

His wife did not like living in town and wanted to go back to ranching in Gisela. So, in 1961, Peace bought the Riley Neal Ranch. This ranch was settled by his wife's great-grandparents and later homesteaded by her great-grandmother, Ellen Neal. For a few years, the Peace family had a home in both Payson and Gisela. Then in 1967, they moved back to Gisela and began cattle ranching. They branded the "Valentine," a brand handed down by Mrs. Peace's great-grandparents.

Peace continued to work in Payson until he retired in 1989. The last Payson business he owned was Payson Car and Truck Salvage.

After carrying a lunch box for many years, Calvin loved to eat lunch at the Beeline Cafe. When he came in the front door, Millie Sexton knew to start cooking a "Calvin Burger." That was a hamburger with Thousand Island dressing. He loved visiting with his many friends there.

Calvin Peace was an innovator. He was a man who could figure out how to do what needed to be done, even when the proper equipment was not available.

He was a man's man who could pick up a full 55-gallon barrel of diesel and load it onto a flatbed truck. Peace was equally at home in a saddle or on a well-drilling rig.

He was a friend to all who knew him and many a Payson family received a helping hand from Calvin Peace during his 50-plus years in the area.

Peace was a member of the American Legion and the Veteran of Foreign Wars. He was a charter member of the Payson Elks Lodge.

He was a member of the Gila County Cattle Grower's Association and, in 2000, he and his wife were honored as "Ranchers of the Year."

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