A Few Facts About Payson And The Rim Country

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No matter what the occasion -- the 124th World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo or just a weekend outing -- a visit to the Rim Country is a wonderful, refreshing experience. The majestic backdrop of the Mogollon Rim, the friendly people, the four distinct and mild seasons and special down-home type events are key elements making the area an attraction.

To make time in the Rim Country more interesting, here is some background to answer frequently asked questions.

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How do you pronounce "Mogollon" and where did the name come from?

Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon was a Spanish explorer of the 1700s who was governor of the area known as New Mexico. The southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, which extends into New Mexico, is called the Mogollon Rim in his honor. Because he studied the prehistory of the Southwest, the Mogollon Culture is also named for him.

Because the name is Spanish, the vowels are long and double "l's" are pronounced as a "y." Properly, it would be pronounced "mo-go-yawn," but it has been anglicized to "muggy-on."

Just north of Payson is a sign for the turnoff to "Tonto Natural Bridge" -- what is it?

The Tonto Natural Bridge is a limestone formation that spans Pine Creek. The bridge is 400 feet long, 150 feet wide and arches 183 feet above the waters of the creek. It is the largest, naturally formed travertine bridge in the world.

Limestone deposits continue to add to the structure as springs and sprays of water trickle over the top of the arch.

Legend has it that its Anglo discoverer, David Gowan, hid underneath the bridge while being pursued by Apaches during the 1880s.

We know why people come to Payson today, but why did pioneers settle here?

After the California gold rush, gold strikes were made around the West. Miners came into the Rim Country in the 1870s. Not many found the gold they sought, but they did find a treasure of another kind: good country for cattle with plenty of water and open grassland and the land was available for homesteading. Ranching became an established industry in the area about 1875. The community of Payson was created in 1882, though it was not incorporated until the 1970s.

The original center of town was at the intersection of West Main and McLane Road. McLane was known for many years as the Globe Road because it was the track to take down off this side of the Rim and across the Tonto Basin, over the old Roosevelt Dam and into the county seat -- a long and winding journey for many years.

The intersection and the buildings constructed around it were the social and economic center of the community. There were stores, restaurants, hotels, saloons, a bank, the post office and a dance hall where the whole community gathered for a Christmas party.

Main Street also saw its share of cattle drives and, for a time, the Payson Rodeo was held on the street.

Beth Counseller originally wrote most of this article for the 1995 rodeo program published by the Payson Roundup.

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