The Story Of Payson, Arizona




Photo courtesy Rim Country Museum Archive

Photo courtesy Rim Country Museum Archive The Pieper Saloon building was built by Henry Sidles as the first saloon in the village of Green Valley. The Hise brothers soon built a mercantile store immediately across the road, a spot where, in years to come, the old Pioneer Hotel would stand.

Early in 1882, Henry Sidles, who still maintained his ranch at Flowing Springs, was living in his poured-mud adobe house in Green Valley. Across from his “mud house” he built the community’s first mercantile store and saloon. It also doubled as social center, dance hall and fort, in case of an Indian raid. It was ideally located at the junction of two roads, one coming from Marysville to the west, and one coming from Ox Bow Hill to the south. In years to come, the store would be the well-known Pieper’s Saloon.

By this time, local place-names had become more closely defined. The meadow along today’s Main Street was called Green Valley; the meadow where the golf course is today was called Long Valley; the area where today’s Payson West is located was called Big Valley.[1]

Enter the family of John and Lucy Hise. They had moved from Chicago, Ill. to Globe City and established a mercantile store as well as a trading post on the San Carlos Reservation. Two of their three sons, John H. and Frank C. Hise saw opportunity in Green Valley, and left the family business to start their own. They built a store across the street from Sidles’ Saloon.

During these early months of 1882, there was growing talk among the settlers about the need for a survey of a town site. Families were simply establishing squatter’s claims in a haphazard manner. The Hise brothers suggested their father be hired to lay out the town, since in addition to being a merchant, he was a professional surveyor. It was agreed and, upon arrival, he solicited the help of James Callaghan, a blacksmith and builder among the settlers.

James C. Callaghan had built his home on Frontier Street, near the corner of today’s McLane (then called the Pine Road), out of liquor bottles, lumber and mud. He was born in New York of Irish immigrant parents, and what little we know of him comes from census figures and local folklore. He remained a bachelor and had no family to perpetuate his story. In the Great Register, the ages he recorded for a birthday vary from 1844 to 1853. Callaghan became a fixture in the growing town, using his carpenter skills to build the Boardman brothers’ houses on Frontier and the “16 to 1” Saloon on Main Street. The “Day Account” kept later by August Pieper, showed Callaghan as one of a cadre of men who hung out in the saloon and consumed from two to eight drinks a day. As a blacksmith he was more than a horseshoe expert. He was a master craftsman who provided every metal object the people needed. He could fix a broken teapot, shape a nut for a bolt, work an iron rim for a wheel or create a hasp and staple for a hen house. His anvil weighed up to 300 pounds and his hammer as much as 12 pounds. If he did not have the correct tool, he invented his own. His coal fire magnified its heat by the use of bellows, and the iron was heated to various stages for the pounding that gave it shape. Years later, Ernest Pieper would say of him, “I can remember even after cars came back in here, they used to claim old Callaghan could come nearer weldin’ a spring together than anybody else could. You know, they’d break so many springs and he’d take them in and he’d weld ’em up.”

The smithy died Jan. 12, 1926 and is buried in Payson’s Pioneer Cemetery.

While Callaghan and Hise were surveying Green Valley lots, a dispute arose over what to name the village. The various valleys, Green, Long and Big, headed the list until John Hise suggested a name that implied they were united as a community: Union Park. The idea caught on, and the name was agreed upon.

That same summer a tragedy came to Union Park that brought the establishment of the community’s cemetery.

An infamous war party of Apaches burst upon the scene from San Carlos and Cibecue, to leave a trail under the Rim and up the East Verde River of burning ranch buildings, dead ranchers and stolen livestock. On a warm night early in July, the Meadows ranch in Diamond Valley (later called Whispering Pines) was attacked, John Meadows was shot dead and his son Henry was wounded. The daughter, Margaret Ellen (known as Maggie) and three smaller boys — James, Jacob and Mobley — helped their mother Margaret fend off the raiders from portholes in the cabin wall. Also present was Maggie’s friend, Sara Jane Hazelton, who was sweet on Henry. Two other daughters, Eva and Rose, were staying in Union Park at the time.

From the night of the murder until three o’clock the next afternoon, the family remained in a defensive position, loading and reloading their rifles.[2]

A son, Charlie Meadows, and his friend Frank Prothero, along with a soldier named Denick, were on their way to the ranch from their jobs as army packers. They had hoped to warn the family about the approaching Indian raiders, but it was too late.

Denick was dispatched to get medical help. Also arriving at the scene were the owners of the Cold Springs Ranch, Dee Massey and John Gray. The latter immediately raced to Union Park to recruit others to come to help. Responding to that call were Bill Richards, Sam and William Houston, and three other unnamed men.

Soon, the Meadows’ daughter Rose arrived with an escort of four armed men — Carter Hazelton, Monroe House, Charlie Bacon, and Ike Lowthian. They wrapped the body of John Meadows in blankets and buried it in the breezeway of the dogtrot cabin. All traces of the grave were obliterated so the Indians would not attempt to desecrate the body if they returned.

Feather ticks were placed in a wagon to carry Henry, who was paralyzed by his bullet wounds, and they started for Sidles’ place on the lower East Verde River.

After seeing the family safely to the “Sidella place,” the posse returned to Diamond Valley to recover the buried body of John Meadows. They took him to a lovely hillside near the junction of Green Valley and Big Valley, along the old military road coming from the west. He was the first to be buried there.

No surgeon could be found to treat Henry’s wounds professionally. He remained paralyzed, his body festering with gangrene, until he died Sept. 17. He was buried beside his father, the second grave in the new cemetery.

Another son, Charlie Meadows moved his mother, sister Maggie, and the younger children to Phoenix, away from the scene of the tragedy.

The older boys continued to operate the ranch, which was soon sold.[3]

Today, the town of Payson marks its origin from 1882, the year the town site was surveyed and the cemetery was begun.

[1] According to the Rim Country History published by the Northern Gila County Historical Society.

[2] Later that day the contingent of Apache warriors fled up the river to rejoin the main body of 100 Indians, and pausing at Clear Creek on top of the Mogollon Rim, they laid an ambush for the pursuing cavalry. The encounter came to be called The Battle of Big Dry Wash, July 17, 1882. It was the last pitched battle with Apaches in Arizona Territory.

[3] In time the simple wooden crosses over the graves rotted away, and decades later the Payson Womans Club placed brass plates to mark the graves. More recently, a relative of Mobley Meadows, Charlie Meadows from Kingman Ariz., purchased marble headstones for the graves, as well as for the nearby grave of a grandchild of John and Margaret: Baby Lillian Aplustill, daughter of Edward Aplustill and Eva Mae Meadows. He also marked the original ranch site in Whispering Pines with a bronze plaque.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.