The Story Of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 23: ZANE GREY ARRIVES IN PAYSON

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Tom Brossart/Roundup

This replica of Zane Grey’s cabin is located in Green Valley Park.

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Stan Brown photo

The Brown family visits the restored Zane Grey Cabin in 1971. Richard Haught, son of Zane Grey’s guide A. L. Haught, was the caretaker at that time. This lodge burned down in 1990.

The year 1918 was a pivotal time for Payson, because that was the year Zane Grey discovered the Rim Country, and began to write descriptions of its beauty that captured the hearts of readers.

The Zane Grey novels that were inspired by the pioneers and landscape of this region led to a popularity that brought an outpouring of tourists to Payson down to the present time.

A Flagstaff cattleman named Al Doyle was Grey’s guide during several trips he made to the Grand Canyon and high plateau of Arizona. Doyle had told the author about the Rim Country, and this year they planned a trip to the Mogollon Rim where Zane Grey could enjoy his favorite sports of hunting and fishing.

In the party was his 9-year-old son Romer, his brother R. C. Grey, and about 10 other friends. Doyle arranged for them to meet Anderson Lee Haught at Tonto Creek. Haught, said Doyle, knew this country as well as anyone and he would make an excellent guide.

A few grizzly bears still roamed the area and one of them had been killing cattle. Grey thought it would be a challenge to bag the bear for the ranchers.

However, he had another reason for a special interest in this part of Arizona. He had heard about the Pleasant Valley War and wanted to interview eyewitnesses and then write a novel about it.

The ride from Flagstaff was rough and winding, with loose rocks, dust and treacherous turns to be negotiated. It was September; here or there a red maple blazed from the mountainside.

“At last we descended to a comparative level and came to a little hamlet.” he wrote later in “Tales of Lonely Trails.” [1]

The hamlet was Pine, and Grey was impressed by the quaint log homes in this Mormon settlement. He referred to the irrigation ditch running along side the road, the orchards, and “many rosy cheeked children.”

“We lingered there long enough to get our fill of the cold granite water,” he wrote. “I would travel out of my way to get a drink of water that came from granite rock.”

As evening came, on they pushed their party forward to reach the natural bridge. Coming out of the forest from Pine they saw a grand panorama that he later described in colorful words. David Goodfellow and his family were farming the natural bridge, having come there in 1898 and taken over the claim from their uncle David Gowan. They had turned it into a guest ranch with six small cabins, and the approach was by a precarious, hand-dug road that led down the steep side of the canyon.

Grey described the green alfalfa, the fruit orchard and the walnut trees growing over the travertine bridge that the farmers had layered with top soil.

The Goodfellows invited the party to sample the peaches, apples, pears and melons, while the horses and mules were provided with hay.

The Grey party drank from the voluminous spring that gushed from the hillside and contributed its bounty to Pine Creek below the arching bridge. The fine vineyard there reminded him of “the hanging gardens of Babylon.”

The next day the party pushed on to Payson. He described the town as “an old hamlet, retaining many frontier characteristics such as old board and stone houses with high fronts, hitching posts and pumps on sidewalks, and one street so wide that it resembled a Mexican plaza.”

There were two stores, and he hoped that in one of them he could buy a rifle to replace the one lost while racing with his son Romer down from Pine. However, there was no rifle to be bought. Grey worried that he would not be able to hunt, when he was confronted by “a stalwart, dark-skinned rider named Copple, who introduced himself by saying he would have come a good way to meet the writer of books he had profited by.”

Jacob J. Copple, who told Romer he was part Indian, happened to be in Payson that day, from the Verde Valley. In a generous gesture, he gave the author whom he admired his .30 Government Winchester and several boxes of ammunition. However, when Grey later used the rifle he discovered the sights were all wrong for him and the stock did not fit right. He missed every shot at intended game. We assume “Babe” Haught, his guide, furnished him with a usable rifle.

That notable day when Zane Grey arrived in Payson, they made camp on the west side of Main Street, where the Payson Womans Club and library would later stand. It was a short stay, for the next morning the party was up before dawn, built roaring fires for breakfast and warmth, and began the trek east to find Babe Haught and his family. It was the beginning of Grey’s 11-year love affair with the Rim Country.

The bear-hunting party camped on the Mogollon Rim, above the Haught ranch on Tonto Creek. For the next two hunting seasons he garnered information from several Haught families about the Pleasant Valley War, and when he returned in 1920, he was working on the novel, “To The Last Man.”

During the 1921 hunting season Grey stepped off three acres on the upper part of Anderson Lee Haught’s ranch and offered to buy it. “This is where I want my lodge so I can see as far as the eye can see,” he wrote. “Beautiful country! And this is where I am going to write a lot of my books.”

Upon returning to California he sent Haught a check for $3,500 for a lodge, and gave orders for Tom Ezell, a local mason, to build the fireplace. A friend from Phoenix named Barton was to do the carpenter work, and the Haughts were to supervise the project.

The rough lumber came from the sawmill operated by Babe Haught’s relative Henry.

Grey returned in the fall of 1922 and took up residence in his lodge. From there he spawned such novels as “To The Last Man.”

Eleven of his books are located in the Rim Country, including “The Code of the West,” which is about the Henry Haught family and set in their Little Green Valley ranch. The movie was also filmed there on location, and when it was shown at Payson’s Elk Bar and Café it was cause for a local celebration.

A manuscript about the Babe Haught family in 1926, “The Bee Hunter” was published in the Ladies’ Home Journal.

Zane Grey became one of the best selling and widely read novelists of all time. His romantic portrayals captured the hearts of his readers so that he became a major architect of the genre in literature called “the western.”

Grey’s hunting trips to Payson ended after 1929, but his writings nurtured fans in every state and many nations. From this elite group many continued to make a pilgrimage to Payson and the Rim Country where they can see and experience the places and the life they came to know in his books.

Although Grey’s lodge burned in the Dude forest fire of 1990, an exact replica is created on the grounds of Payson’s Rim Country Museum. It contains authentic artifacts from Zane Grey’s life, and all the volumes of his books are there for purchase.

[1] Harper and Brothers, New York, 1922, Page 169f.

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