Payson, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory


Payson was part of Yavapai County? It may have been a long time ago, but it is true. Up until 1889, Payson and most of Rim Country was part of Yavapai County, with the county seat in Prescott. Here’s a look at how things were in those days and how Payson ended up being in Gila County.

Arizona has had a variety of county layouts since Arizona Territory was created in December 1863. It started with four counties: Mohave, Yuma, Yavapai and Pima. Yavapai covered by far the largest part of the territory, encompassing the entire northeastern part. Maricopa County was created in 1871, cutting into Yavapai, and Apache County formed in 1879, taking a big chunk of the eastern area out of the county. Gila County was finally created in 1881, encompassing part of the Tonto Basin area, but leaving out the Payson area. Over the next eight years there was considerable discussion about the county layouts.

The simple issue was that this area is far closer to Globe than Prescott, especially considering the terrain involved. Nevertheless, it still took several years and considerable discussion for the move to be made.

“Tonto Basin, it is claimed, will this year return an assessment of near 12,000 head of cattle. What a pity Yavapai County did not give it to Gila County at the last session of the legislature.” — Hoof & Horn, June 3,1886

Finally, the move of the area to Gila County was made in 1889. These next two quotes show the practical effect of the change, as well as some controversy that occurred.

“The expansion of Gila County by the annexation of Yavapai territory will make county offices more lucrative. They have hardly been ‘worth the candle’ the past several years.” — Arizona Silver Belt, April 20, 1889

“Looting From Children — Through the division by which Tonto Basin was taken from Yavapai County, and annexed to Gila, there were transferred to the last named county the school districts of Pine, Payson, Pleasant Valley, Rim Rock, Tonto Basin, Pyatts and Wild Rye, to which belonged in the aggregate some two hundred children of school age. At the time of the transfer of these districts there was to their credit in the county treasury several hundred dollars which belonged to the children of these districts as honestly and justly as money ever belonged to anyone. Demands for the payment of this money, in order that it might be used for the benefit of the children in these districts, have several times been made upon the proper authorities of Yavapai county, and we regret for the credit of the county that such demands have been without avail. Legally and morally the children of Tonto Basin are entitled to every cent to their credit in the treasury of Yavapai county at the time the transfer of that section to Gila was made, and we hope for the honor of old Yavapai that is Board of Supervisors, county treasurer and county superintendent of schools will at once see to it that every cent is paid, without further quibble.” — Hoof & Horn

“The above, from Bucky O’Neill’s paper, shows up the contemptible and dishonest course of the Yavapai county officers, except that it fails to mention that the apportionment for the school districts annexed to Gila should have been still further increased from the collection of delinquent taxes after the transfer was made. The Yavapai supervisors have acted in the same unjust manner in regard to the road funds of the several districts in the Tonto Basin country, refusing to pay over the money to their credit to Gila county.” — Arizona Silver Belt, Aug. 10, 1889

Remember, it was still the Wild West back then. It would be more than 20 years until Arizona became state. Shenanigans like that were not that uncommon, though some might say that shenanigans like that are still common.

News and Notes

If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Globe, look no further than April 19. I’ll be at the Boomtown Spree event in Miami from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day, along with a number of authors. I’m really looking forward to being down there with other authors. For more information, call The Book Bank at (928) 473-4134.


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