Some of the Rim Country's oldest families gathered at Rumsey Park the second weekend in September. So many branches of the Belluzzi and Lazear families were present, it was as if the park had a whole new stand of trees ... at least to the uninitiated.
"The group gets smaller and smaller each year," observed Evelyn Lazear.
Dese Lazear Muller and her sister, Anne Lazear Diener, shared the early history of their families.
Bartolomeo (John) Belluzzi arrived in Arizona Territory in 1872, first arriving in Tucson and then moving on to Globe and later to the Rim Country, Muller writes in her family's history.
Belluzzi was born in Genoa, Italy in 1848. In 1866, he ran away from his home and family to become a deck hand on a ship. He signed aboard a ship bound for Africa in 1866.
Eventually his sailing life caused serious injury to a leg and, in time, he came to the shores of the U.S. In San Francisco, he was told he would have to have his bad leg amputated. Belluzzi and his best friend, Louie Barnini, jumped ship the night before the surgery was scheduled. They found help and shelter with other Italians and Belluzzi regained his strength. However, he was told he needed to be in a dryer climate, so he and his friend headed to Arizona Territory.
Hearing about mining work in Globe, the two headed north. They worked as apprentices for 10 cents an hour for 10 hours a day and made their "home" camp-style. Once they became rated as miners, they earned $3 a day and could afford to move into a boardinghouse.
Belluzzi was able to save $1,200 over a two-year period and when land was opened up under the Rim for settlement, he picked a spot north of the settlement of Payson. He and Barnini bought a wagon and team and headed to the Rim Country. They felled timber, split rails, built fence, a home, a barn and out buildings. When winter came, Belluzzi went back to Globe and Barnini stayed and took care of the homestead -- which became known as Rim Trail Ranch.
Returning to Globe, Belluzzi moved back into a boarding house and met Mercedes Mungaro there. They were married in the spring.
When the mine closed, Belluzzi went to Tucson and found a job driving the Butterfield Stage between Tucson and San Diego. The mine reopened in 1883 and Belluzzi and his family returned to the homestead, and he continued to work at the mine off and on. The work in the mine led to ill health and another change in occupations. Belluzzi worked for the railroad in Flagstaff until 1890, when he returned to Rim Trail Ranch.
On Oct. 27, 1896 Belluzzi received his final citizenship papers and on Dec. 11, 1908 paid the U.S. Land Office a $16 fee and became the legal owner of the Rim Trail Ranch.
The family stayed on the ranch until the children were grown and married. Angela married Dick Taylor; Rose married Henry Hardt; Bert married Lottie Hardt; Jo married Vern Gillette; Sue married Lewis Bowman; Allen married Ruby Beck; and Marie married Walter Lazear.
Belluzzi sold the Rim Trail Ranch to Walter Lazear in 1916 and he and Mercedes moved into Payson, building a home on West Frontier Street. They remained there until their deaths, Bartolomeo (John) Belluzzi died June 2, 1925 and Mercedes Mungaro Belluzzi died Oct. 7, 1930.
Walter Lazear, who married Marie Belluzzi, and bought the Belluzzi's Rim Trail Ranch in 1916, was the son of John Lazear and Margaret Stark Lazear.
The Lazear family history, shared by Anne Lazear Diener, starts in Italy as well. John's family was among the Huguenots driven from Alsace Larraine in France to the Piedmont Valley in northern Italy, which is where John was born in 1847.
Mormon missionaries came to the Piedmont Valley and, as they were not welcomed, had to hide and hold secret meetings. The Lazears were one of the families that helped the missionaries. Because of this help, when a ship came to take the missionaries home, the Lazears and other benefactors of the Mormons, who had joined the church, were invited to come with them to America.
Lazear and his family sailed from Liverpool, England in Dec. 1855, his mother, Catherine, died on the hard voyage and was buried at sea. The ship reached New York in Feb. 1856. Lazear's older brother became separated from the family and was never heard from again.
Not long after, Lazear and his father, Peter joined the First Hand Cart Company and began a long journey across America. They reached Salt Lake City in Sept. 1856. Peter Lazear died and was buried in Echo Canyon, just before the company reached its destination.
Young Lazear was taken by a family named Almon. He worked in a salt mine and was injured in a cave-in.
Margaret Stark was born in 1857 in Pollockshaws, Fife, Scotland. In 1872 Margaret's widowed mother took the little Stark family to Denmark to board a ship for New York. They then crossed the country by train, arriving in Salt Lake City in Sept. 1872.
Lazear and Stark met in Salt Lake City and were married in 1873 in a little log church Lazear had helped build in Temple Square. The church sent the young couple to St. George, Utah with a group of missionaries to build the St. George Temple. While in St. George, they had four children, Mary, John, James and Peter. Mary died and is buried there.
From St. George, the church sent the Lazears and others to Arizona Territory. On the journey, Margaret Stark Lazear's mother died and was buried at Sunset City, north of Winslow.
The Lazears and others continued to Mormon Lake and onto Nash Point, where the wagon boxes had to be lowered by ropes. Leading the oxen and horses down the Rim, the group arrived in Pine Valley in Oct. 1881. The cabin they built is now the Gingerbread House at the corner of Randall Drive and Highway 87 in Pine.
In Pine, John and Margaret Lazear had five more children: Annie Belle Lazear Hunt; William Start Lazear; Agnes Lazear Ogilvie; Walter Lazear; George Lazear; and Joseph Lazear.
The descendants of the children of John and Margaret Lazear are the families that gather each year for the family reunion.
Among those sharing stories for this special 125th Payson Anniversary publication were Joe Lockwood, Evelyn Lazear, Dese Lazear Muller, Anne Lazear Diener, with help from Pat Haught Cline.
Lockwood was born in Payson in 1923, the grandson of Mart McDonald, who had the Old Payson Commercial (rock store) for years -- this is the store where the rodeo money was kept the year of the fire. Hamburgers were being cooked outside, under the eaves of the store and the place caught fire. The building burned down and the safe had to sit for several days before it was cool enough to break into and retrieve the rodeo money.
Lockwood left the area in 1939 to go to high school in Globe, but returned to Payson for his junior year, staying with Howard and Rose Childers.
Everyone worked to help their families make ends meet. Lockwood swept up and pumped gas at the store.
There was time for fun, too. Lockwood said his mother would take him and a bunch of other youngsters up to Winslow to see the Ringling Brothers Circus once a year. He remembers seeing "The Tallest Man in the World."
"We borrowed lots of chickens and would go have a big chicken fry," Lockwood said. He played a little basketball, as did just about all the boys. There would be six or seven of them on the team and they would travel to away games in the back of a truck with a canvas rigged over the bed.
Everyone went to the dances -- no matter how far away they were or how long it took to get there. They would go up to Kohl's Ranch and down to Punkin Center, traveling winding, rutted dirt roads. Once at the dances, Lockwood said they would go outside and try to find where the men had hidden their bootleg.
"We'd watch them and think we'd know where it was, but never found any. So, we started throwing rocks in the air and listening for them to ping against the glass of jars."
Muller said her grandfather, Bartolomeo (John) Belluzzi loved to garden and always won prizes at the fair. Her grandmother, Mercedes Mungaro Belluzzi was born in Mexico, her family had come from Spain.
From the Rim Trail Ranch Walter and Marie Lazear moved to town when their oldest daughter, Rose, was ready to start school. They first lived on Oak Street, where the Oak Trailer Park is now. It was so close to the school that when Rose was let out of class for recess, she would come home. The family then moved in with Marie's parents on West Frontier Street to help take care of her ailing father.
The Lazears eventually bought a ranch in Star Valley, a place that had been homesteaded by Jim Lazear, one of Marie's brothers, and built a house there. Another brother, Pete Lazear, homesteaded another ranch in Star Valley; it is where the Raymond Cline family moved in the early 1960s.
Muller and Diener left the area for Tucson. Muller came back in 1955 and Diener returned more recently.