Books About Rim Country History



One of the questions that I often get asked is: What are some good books about Rim Country history? The great thing is that there are a number of books -- some easier to find than others. Today I'm going to my bookshelf and sharing some of the books that I have on my shelf and that you may want to have on yours too.

The quintessential book is "Rim Country History," published in 1984 by the Northern Gila County Historical Society. This was a collective effort that involved local historians such as Ira Murphy and Marguerite Noble. It has a good deal of family history information, as well as other information about the area. One thing to keep in mind: don't take everything that is in this book as gospel. Technology improvements in the past 20 years have made it a lot easier to research and thus some errors have been found. But this really is a great starter book. I have it on my shelf and you should too. It's available at Rim Country Museum for $25.

Since Payson has the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo, Jinx and Jayne Pyle's "Rodeo 101" has a place on my shelf. This book is chock-full of pictures, many of them very neat. The Payson Rodeo has played host to many legends over the years, including plenty from around here. This book has the information about them all. You can find it at stores around Rim Country for $25.

A lot of times, women don't get covered as well in history. Thankfully, that's not the case in Gila County. Two volumes of the "Pioneer Women of Gila County, Arizona" have already been released, with two more volumes to go. These books contain the stories of pioneer women and their descendants and have been put together by the Daughters of Gila County Pioneers. They are rich in photos as well as information. It's a great gift in my opinion -- I've given a couple of them away in recent years and am sure I'll do it again in the future. Look for this book, priced at $25, in stores around Rim Country, including Rim Country Museum.

One of my personal favorites in particular is Jinx Pyle's "Mountain Cowboys." His scrapbook style of putting things together is terrific. And make no bones about it, while Jinx is a good writer, pictures are what make this book great. This book is all about Jinx's family history. He covers areas under the Rim such as Ellison Creek in good detail. One of the things that his family has been known for is their hunting ability. Back in the days when people still depended on running cattle for their livelihood, they were rather protective of them. Thus they would hunt predators such as mountain lions. The Pyles have done this quite well and there are some terrific hunting pictures in Mountain Cowboys. This is available for $25 in stores around Rim Country, including Jinx's shop on Main Street, Git A Rope Trading Post.

The Pine-Strawberry area is host to some great museums. There is the oldest schoolhouse in Strawberry and a great little museum adjacent to the chamber in Pine. At this time there is only a small history available on the area, but it is a good one. "Brief History of Pine and Strawberry, Arizona" by Michael Anderson covers the history of that area up to about 1900. This little booklet can be found at the museum in Pine or at Rim Country Museum in Payson.

One of the most recent additions to my shelf is "The Monster Reared Its Ugly Head," by Jim Paxon. This book is about the Rodeo-Chediski fire and also provides a good background on wildfire fighting. Many of you may remember Paxon from his role on that fire. He worked as the Forest Service's chief information officer on that fire and his press conferences helped lead off the 10 p.m. nightly news for a few days during the peak of that monstrous fire. He also was chief information officer on the notorious Dude Fire in 1990. Paxon's book has some terrific photos and does a great job detailing the fire. It can be purchased at Arizona Spectrum Wireless at 700 S. McLane for $40.

The Pleasant Valley War was a feud between the Graham and Tewksbury families which engulfed the entire region in the 1880s. There are a number of books about it, some more available today than others. Most recently, Leland Hanchett has written extensively on it. Hanchett researches the heck out of his books and has also chosen to take a bit more of a Graham position, whereas most of the previous writing has slanted towards the Tewksburys. I have Hanchett's "They Shot Billy Today" and "Arizona's Graham-Tewksbury Feud" sitting on my shelf. "They Shot Billy Today" is one for the research geeks, you might say. He goes into things very in-depth, so I wouldn't start with that one if you don't know much about the feud. "Arizona's Graham-Tewksbury Feud" is a better one. Other books about the feud that you might be able to find are Don Dedera's "A Little War of Our Own" and Earle Forrest's "Dark and Bloody Ground." Additionally, Zane Grey wrote a fictional piece about the feud, "To the Last Man."

If you want a sense of the culture of the past, then look no further than Slim Ellison's writings. Ellison was the grandson of Colonel Jesse Ellison, who first settled under the Rim before going to Pleasant Valley. Slim was a prolific writer and all his books are written in the way that he talked. While this can make them a touch more difficult to read, it also conveys the true feel of the time. He wrote at least five books, only a few of which you're probably going to find around. The biggest one was "Cowboys Under the Mogollon Rim." Expect to pay a premium for this book, as it was last published probably 20 to 30 years ago. This book was the first one that he wrote and he gives a pretty good overview of his life in it. The other ones that you might find is "More Tales from Slim Ellison and Backtrackin'." These books contain more colorful tales from Slim who was quite a character. A side note on a personal level: my Dad absolutely loves Slim's writings. The Arizona Historical Foundation at Arizona State University has quite a collection of Slim's manuscripts and I took my dad down there a couple months ago with me. He was talking about what he found in Slim's stuff for weeks! Ellison really was a special character and it's a shame that his books aren't more widely available.

Obviously, there are a number of other books about area history available. Jayne Peace Pyle wrote "History of Gisela," which has some great history on that area, and Barbara Zachariae's "Pleasant Valley Days" is one that you may find around as well. Personally, an out-of-area favorite is Ross Santee's autobiography "Lost Pony Tracks." Santee was a phenomenal writer and cowboy in the Globe area, 50 to 75 years ago. Santee's sketches alone in his various works are something special. "Lost Pony Tracks" has some terrific stories in it and while not quite as flavorful as Ellison's stuff, it contains plenty of western flavor.

Side Notes

Don't forget that I'm always interested to hear from people about history. The best way to get a hold of me is probably via e-mail at, though please be patient with me. This is an extremely busy time of year for me between real estate and preparations for Payson's 125th anniversary celebration, including the Beer, Brats, Wine and Cheese event Oct. 3, which I'm chairing. But I love hearing stories and if you have old pictures, contact me and we'll find a time to get together.

Don't forget to support the 125th effort and heritage in general. We are always looking for donations and if you know of someone who'd like to fund a specific project, please let me know. Record research takes time and some of the best stuff is on reels at the National Archives in Washington. As much as local researchers want to go everywhere and do everything, there are limitations. Even within the state, I'm lucky if I can get a day once a month to travel out of the area and do some research. As a heritage community, we can always use help, whether it be financial or in the form of volunteers.

Payson's 125th Anniversary events

The week of Oct. 3 through Oct. 7 Payson is going to be popping with activity as the community comes together to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the town.

Among the events are the following:

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. - Beer, brats, wine and cheese at Green Valley Park in honor of early settler August Pieper and the German heritage he and others brought to the community; $25 per person, includes a commemorative wine or beer glass

Thursday, Oct. 4, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. - Community picnic, box supper and pie extravaganza on Main Street, from Westerly to McLane, with live music by Junction 87 and an auction for the box suppers

Friday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m. - Community Golf Tournament, Payson Golf Course, registration is at 7:30 a.m.; $80 per person, $60 for members of the Payson Golf Course

Friday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m. - Mystery Dinner at Main Street Grille. The food won't be a mystery, but there will be a mystery for guests to solve; $75 per person, limited seating

Saturday, Oct. 6, 7:30 a.m. to noon - Main Street events, including the 7:30 a.m. Mayor's Breakfast at Main Street Grille, $10 per person; 9 a.m. Timeline Parade from Westerly to Green Valley Park, with storytellers sharing Payson history; live music; 11 a.m. Cake Walk at the Payson Woman's Club; noon Costume Judging at Pioneer Park, at the corner of Main and McLane

Saturday, Oct. 6: Green Valley Park events, including 10 a.m. Western Heritage Festival with Art-in-the-Park; 1:30 p.m. Miniature Horses perform in amphitheatre; 5:30 p.m. Western Barbecue, $8 per person purchased in advance, $10 at the gate; games, dancing and music through the afternoon; and at dusk, Lighting of the Lake with commemorative lights sent onto the lake at Green Valley Park

Sunday, Oct. 7: Payson Event Center programs, starting at noon, including Dutch oven cooking demonstration; a variety of equestrian demonstrations; mutton busting; K-9 demonstration; and a Dutch Oven Dinner at 5:30 p.m., $15 per person

Visit the Northern Gila County Historical Society Museum in Green Valley Park for more information.

The annual Rim Country Quilt Roundup will be held in conjunction with the 125th Anniversary Celebration. The 3rd Annual Rim Country Quilt Roundup, with the theme "Heritage Quilt Show" will be held at the Julia Randall Elementary School gym building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 8.

Everyone is invited to enter the quilts handed down to them by their parents, grandparents and others. There is no charge to enter quilts, but there is a $2 charge for show admission (children under 5 will be admitted free). No food or drinks (except water) are allowed in the show.

Karen Housner, AQS Certified Quilt Appraiser will give two lectures during the show that are free to attendees. The lectures will be -- 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7: "The Care and Feeding of Treasured Quilts"; 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 8: "Old Quilt Tops; To Quilt or Not."

Housner will be available, by appointment, to provide appraisal services during the show. Appraisals are $40 each. Call (928) 474-4515 for an appointment.

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