History Up Close

RIM COUNTRY HISTORY

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Recently I had one of those days that historians love: an opportunity to visit with a couple of different groups of people and see some history up close.

The first stop was at the Body Elegance Day Spa on Main Street. This is the old Stewart place at 500 W. Main Street. I'm ashamed to say that I had never really noticed this building because it sits off the road a little bit and is at the east end of what is truly old-town Payson. But this is a place that has a lot of history to it and is also a shining example of historic preservation, creating a strong base for a business in Payson.

The owner Shelley Wayland, who was nice enough to invite me down and share her story with me, gave me a tour. This place was falling apart when she and her husband got it a few years ago. Yet instead of tearing it down, they tore into it, saving what they could and creating an incredible setting for their business. Throughout the day spa you find snippets of what they saved; wallpaper that they partially uncovered and saved a piece, now framed up; old tile pieces that were deteriorating, etc. They made a great effort to save some history. One of my favorite spots is an exposed rock segment just off of the original master bedroom. I believe that this is a connection to an addition from the 1930s. They framed up the rock in a doorway, adding a fantastic touch.

Admittedly, I haven't done a whole lot of research on this specific place, so the background that I'm going to share with you is from a Stan Brown Rim Review story from 2003. According to Stan, the Stewarts originally built this place of red sandstone -- sandstone that still looks great today. The back of this building housed a slaughterhouse at one point in the 1910s, supplying meat to the Stewart restaurant down the street. Later the Wilbanks had this building before moving down the street.

As a community we are very fortunate that the Waylands bought this place and were willing to put the time and effort to make it what it is today. Shelley told me that during the year they were reconstructing it, she was working her 9-to-5 job to pay the bills and then coming there at night and working some more. They were helped out by the Town of Payson. They received a $20,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with the front porch. Shelley also told me that the town was very helpful in working with them on permits. According to her, LaRon Garrett was particularly friendly in giving them advice on how to do their parking lot out front. This business is a Main Street success story and will be open for tours on Saturday, Oct. 6 during the Payson 125th Celebration. I encourage you to check them out.

The next meeting I had was with some people connected in a different way to the Body Elegance Day Spa. I met with descendants of the person who homesteaded land, including 500 W. Main, descendants of August Pieper. It's kind of funny when you research history. Over time, certain people become "your guy." The first "my guy" is Sampson Elam Boles, who I've researched extensively for my upcoming book. I have to catch myself when talking to people sometimes, to make it clear that I'm not related to them, they're just "my guy" because I've spent so much time researching them and walking the same places that they did.

August Pieper has become another one of "my guys." I have a lot of strong German heritage in my family. I love beer and also had a great-great grandfather (Josef Sterman), who kept beer in his cellar, according to my granddad. August Pieper was born in Germany, and as I've discovered, he was a brewer. So when I research August and do stuff related to him, it connects me with my own family. I think of my Great-Great Grandfather Sterman and of my Great-Great Grandfather Christian Ehrhardt, who was born in Oberhoffen, Germany. And it naturally makes me think a little bit of my 95-year-old Grandfather Maurice who's still going strong, back in Wisconsin.

So to get a chance to meet with the granddaughter of August Pieper, Dorothy Tippett, and a great-granddaughter of August Pieper, Sue Jones, that's a special thing. They also brought along a friend, Hazel Cox. They were in Payson for the Daughters of Gila County Pioneers' monthly meeting. They stopped by my office afterward to discuss the upcoming beer, brats, wine, and cheese event on Oct. 3. Since the theme of this event this year is Celebrating Payson's German Heritage: A Tribute to August Pieper. I invited them to come up for the event and celebrate with us. They stopped by to confirm plans for that evening and to share some history. I spent an hour and a half talking with them, time that flew by. I shared information that I've gathered on August Pieper, such as his connection to a brewery in Globe and later, the one up here. I also gave them a copy of the paperwork for August Pieper's homestead, something which is from a collection of homestead paperwork that the Arizona Heritage Research Foundation has gathered from Washington D.C. In return, I got to hear stories; lots of them. It never ceases to amaze me that in situations like this, you always seem to find people connected in places that you don't realize. These folks have lived in Globe a long time and thus know a lot of the people down there that have connections up here.

I talked to Hazel about the Charles Collins family, who had 120 acres of the Boles Homestead immediately after Zane Grey had it. I got an update on Charles' son Bill, who I'd last spoken to a couple years ago. I also got a further sense of some of the family members as well. Both Hazel and Dorothy shared stories of some of the pictures that they've seen -- that was pretty cool. And Sue and I swapped tales about efforts to track down historical information.

I'm really looking forward to the beer, brats, wine, and cheese event on Oct. 3. It is going to be awesome to have Sue and Dorothy up here. Dorothy was profiled in one of the Daughters of the Pioneers books. I know that I'm going to make sure that I have my copy with me that night to have her sign it. It's going to be a wonderful event, especially since we're doing it outside this year on the back part of the museum by the lake. We'll also have the exhibit hall open for people to take a look around. And of course, Germans are picky about glasses, so this year we've got something special: everyone in attendance will get a beer or wine glass with the 125 logo on it, and yes, we'll have some extras available for sale, so that you can put together a set for at-home if you'd like. Tickets for this event are $25 and available at the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce and at Git A Rope Trading Company. We are doing more of a full dinner this year. There'll be potato salad and some desserts, in addition to the brats, which we will have buns for. We'll also have some non-alcoholic beverages and some hot dogs for those who are less inclined to go the German way.

Don't forget, if you have history questions or information that you'd like to pass along, make sure you contact me. You can always reach me through the local Century 21 office or contact me through my website at www.ZaneGreyCountry.com. Please have some patience though, especially with the 125th Celebration so close. I know that, for me, it's going to be one heckuva week -- I'm even going to be in the Valley for a morning that week learning about a Digital Heritage Initiative, so it'll be busy, but it'll also be lots of fun and I hope that y'all can join us for the festivities.

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