Timeline: Payson, Arizona


600-1200 AD:

Prehistoric people occupied about 1,000 sites in Payson and the surrounding area. One site, now called "Goat Camp," located on the northern edge of Payson, dates to between 600 and 1150 A.D. and had at least 25 rooms. Another site, "Risser Ranch Ruin," located in northeast Payson, had more than 100 rooms -- although modern housing has covered all but 20 of the rooms. The "Ancient Ones" who once lived in the Payson area had a protrusion on the back of their skulls called an occipital bun, which made them different from the other "Ancients," including the Anasazi, Mogollon, Salado, Sinagua, and Hohokam (according to archaeologist Penny Minturn).


The Athapascan people, called Apaches, and the Yavapai arrived. For a few hundred years, these bands fought a little among themselves, but then the white man arrived.


Gold discovered in Prescott brought a flood of immigrants. The special census of 1864 shows the number of non-Indians in the area swelled from 25 to more than 1,000 in a year's time. Many of these prospectors and miners came on to the Rim Country. This started a long war with the Apaches who saw their homeland being taken.


Arizona Territory created by act of Congress, with Prescott as capital.


King Woolsey's brought the first military expedition into the Rim Country; he named Tonto Creek.

Road built through Reno Pass to Green Valley (Payson).


Road built from Camp Verde to head of Fossil Creek.


General George Crook subjugates Tonto Apaches; Chief Delche is killed.


David Harer arrived in Greenback in 1872; Harer and son-in-law, Florence Packard, built the first house there in 1874.


Henry Sidles settled on the East Verde.

William O. Burch built first house in Green Valley (Payson), at the foot of Burch Mesa.

David Gowan, who came to Gisela in 1874, built a rock house there in 1876.

During the "Planting of the Colonies" Program, President Brigham Young sent first Mormon explorers into the Tonto Basin.

Sam, Andrew, and William Houston arrive in Star Valley.

Christian Cline and family return to the Tonto Basin with cattle after losing their first herd to Apaches and predators the year before.


Second Mormon expedition in the Tonto Basin: Explorers were Revilo Fuller, Wyllys Fuller, Alfred Randall, John W. Freeman, Thomas Clark and John H. Willis.

First mining claim filed in Mazatzal District by I. M. House and J. T. Moore on the Golden Waif; located four miles southwest of present-day Payson.

John Meadows family brought cattle and horses from California.


Houston Brothers returned to Star Valley with cattle and horses.

William McDonald family arrives; Burch and McDonald bring cattle into Payson.

William O. St. Johns brings in goats and cattle; settles four miles south of Payson.

Joseph Gibson and family living at Wild Rye.


David Gowan traded his place at Gisela to Mormon pioneers, John Sanders Jr. and Moses Martin Sanders, for a span of mules, a harness, a wagon and a buckskin horse. The mules were later sold for $500 in gold.

Mazatzal City, located 10 miles west of Payson, settled by Mormons; abandoned in 1882 when Mormons moved to Pine.


Miners and cattlemen in Payson area; mines being worked; stores open. Payson population 40.

Isadore Christopher settles on CI Ranch on Christopher Creek.


Emer Chilson opened a store at the old mining camp and named it Marysville; it was located three miles southwest of Green Valley (Payson). One of his first customers was Indian Scout Al Sieber.


Battle of Big Dry Wash; John Meadows and others killed by Apaches.

The beginning of Payson Pioneer Cemetery: John Meadows was the first to be buried there, followed by his son, Henry, a few months later.

Paul Vogel built an adobe house for Henry Sidles in Payson, today (2007) the oldest standing house in Payson.

Marion Derrick settled at Indian Gardens.


January 6, Ed Tewksbury shot the first man in the Pleasant Valley War: John Gilliland, whose family lived at Jake's Corner, then known as Felton's Ranch.

Bill Craig built an adobe at Little Green Valley for Levi Berger.


Settlement of Green Valley opens its first post office, with Frank Hise as postmaster, and the name of the settlement is changed to Payson.

World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo starts, headed by Charlie Meadows and John Collins Chilson.


Jesse Ellison, Samuel A. Haught and other cattlemen arrive in Rim Country from Texas with large herds of cattle.


Geronimo surrenders. Apache fighting ends. Most are living on reservations.


Payson, which had been a part of Yavapai County, became a part of Gila County. County seat moves to Globe.


August 2, Ed Tewksbury fires the final shot of the Pleasant Valley war, killing Tom Graham in the Salt River Valley, Ariz.


Strawberry Schoolhouse constructed; now the oldest schoolhouse in Arizona.


108 people registered to vote in Payson Precinct.


Forest Service formed; Fire Prevention Policy goes into effect.


Roosevelt Dam, the highest masonry dam ever built, was dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt; many early settlers worked on the construction of this dam.


Arizona becomes the 48th state on February 12.

Dr. Christian Risser settled in Payson. He rode far and wide to care for folks in the Rim Country.


Prohibition becomes law in Arizona! Bootleggers got busy!


Payson's first bank opened -- Payson Commercial and Trust Co. -- with Ralph Hubert as bank president.


Young men in the Rim Country went to fight in World War I.


Famous western author, Zane Grey, starts coming to the Rim County and would for 11 years, missing only two or three years. Babe Haught built Grey's cabin and was his main hunting guide. Grey wrote many novels while living under the Tonto Rim.


Payson Womans Club started.


Grady Harrison produced the first electricity in the Rim Country.


Miss Julia Randall began teaching school in Payson (1924-1969).


Wilbanks' Rodeo Arena -- Payson's first rodeo arena -- opens for the August Doin's.


Prohibition ended.

The Payson Hotel opened (later the Oxbow).

Dr. Christian Risser died. He is buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.


The Payson Roundup newspaper started, with Bert Slater as editor.

Bush Highway was completed; named after Harvey Bush, a Mesa lumberman; 30-50 cars per day immediately began using it before it was totally completed.


Owens Brothers Sawmill opened in Payson; jobs for many.


Dr. David Gilbert moved to Payson. He was the second medical doctor to move to Payson and stay for more than 20 years. He was a medical doctor, a great surgeon, a good vet, and he made house calls. Many lives were saved because of him.


Beeline Highway completed; shorter travel time between Payson and the Salt River Valley; more people moved to Payson, more people came to Payson on weekends and holidays, more Payson people went to the Valley for shopping, etc.

Payson Clinic opened, thanks to the Payson Womans Club.


ASU started practicing football at Camp Tontozona; a practice that continues today.


Rumsey Rodeo Arena built.

Seismological Observatory completed between Payson and Star Valley - Payson's tie to the Cold War.


Jan. 6, four youth died in Payson Jail of carbon monoxide poisoning -- Kenny Haught, John Watkins, Blaine Schroeder and Cliff Greenland.


The Big Snow -- more than six feet of snow fell in Payson!


The Big Flood -- 6.7 inches of rain fell in Payson in a 24-hour period; many people died during this flood, mostly campers in the Christopher Creek area.


October -- the Tonto Apache Tribe receives a reservation on 80 acres south of Payson.

Melton Campbell became first chief of the Tonto Apache Tribe. Before this time, the U.S. Government did not recognize the Tontos as a tribe.


Payson incorporated; first mayor was Ted Pettet.


Payson celebrated 100 years of hosting the "World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo."


Daughters of the Gila County Pioneers formed an organization in Payson.


The Dude Fire -- the largest wildfire in Arizona history at the time. Zane Grey's Cabin and the Babe Haught Cabin both burned.


Replica of Zane Grey's Cabin was built and dedicated at Green Valley Park in Payson. This was accomplished by the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation.


The Tonto Apache Tribe celebrates 35 years as a tribe. The tribe is the largest employer in Payson today, with a large casino, new restaurant, hotel, administration building, gymnasium and more -- all on 80 acres.

Payson celebrates its 125th Anniversary!

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