The Story Of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 28: The mailmen, the Cadillac and the haunted house

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It was 1923 when Payson’s mail delivery became mechanized, and with no less a conveyance than a Cadillac automobile.  The driver was Julian Journigan, and he was rapidly becoming one of the most appreciated men in the Rim Country. His story and what followed contain one of the sagas of life in and around Payson. [1]

The story begins in 1884 when he was born in Flagstaff.  Julian was left an orphan in 1895 and his grandparents from Strawberry, John and Louisa See, took him in.  While raising Julian they moved to the Tonto Basin, and there they were called upon to take in yet another grandson, Charlie See.  Charlie was seven years younger than his cousin Julian, but the two boys grew to be fast friends and shared many adventures. [2]

As a young man, Julian worked as a cowboy on neighboring ranches, but in 1906 at the age of 22 he joined the newly organized Forest Service.  He was stationed at Roosevelt under Superintendent Roscoe Willson while the new reclamation program of the Federal Government was under way with the construction of the Roosevelt Dam.  Restless, as were so many in frontier life, Julian quit the Forest Service in 1908 and went to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at San Carlos.

In February 1910 he married Margaret Solomon, and their son Jack was born on the reservation. [3] The Journigans moved to Tonto Basin were Julian bought the Denton ranch with two partners.  They cleared and fenced the ranch and ran cattle, but at the same time Julian pursued his interest in mining, making several claims in the Sierra Ancha.  During these years Julian and Madge had a second child, Delsie Dee, born June 24, 1912.

Delsie Dee grew up to be a legend herself – known locally for her singing of western songs.  She became the wife of Lee Barkdoll in Payson, but he was killed in a car wreck in Tucson while returning from rodeo competition.  Later she married Dick Robbins, a cowboy-rancher and she managed the cafeteria at the Julia Randall School.  After they were divorced she married Ray Clark and moved to Oregon were she died at the age of 83.

When a cinnabar mine was established near Mount Orr, Julian contracted with the mining company to haul materials, supplies and machinery by pack animals. [4]

In those times there were no roads for trucks in the Mazatzal Mountains. Julian developed severe arthritis that forced the family to sell the ranch and move to the desert.  They went to Coolidge where Margaret’s family had a farm.  During those years Julian ran the first power plant in the town of Florence.

It was 1921 when Julian’s cousin Charlie See asked him to come to Globe and help operate the mail stage between Globe and Payson.  The mail stage was still horse-drawn, and for the next several years the two men hauled mail and passengers over dirt roads and through swollen creeks.  It was 1923 when the two partners mechanized their mail route by securing a Cadillac car. 

That car and its drivers soon became an institution in Payson, and people eagerly waited for “The Stage,” as they called the Cad.  Julian was the primary driver, and he not only delivered the mail, but carried packages and passengers. Folks along the route often asked him to buy this or that for them in Globe and he cheerfully obliged. One woman had him take a piece of material she was sewing so he could buy thread to match the color. 

The late Marguerite Nobel, one of Julian’s nieces, reported that he also brought the local gossip with him.  It was the best way at the time for isolated ranchers to get the news, there being no newspapers or radio.  Stella Frasier was postmistress at Roosevelt, and was notorious for reading all the post cards.  She would fill Julian in on what others were doing so he could pass it on.

A year or so after obtaining the Cadillac, Charlie See opted out of their partnership and Julian enlarged the route by landing additional government contracts all the way from Globe to the Verde Valley.  Mail routes were contracted with the Federal government, and the person who won the contract would usually sublet portions of the route to others.  An example of such a sublet route was the spur route from Rye to Gisela and over the Sierra Ancha to Young.  These rural routes were called “Star Routes” because the asterisks in the contract noting the sublets were called “stars.” 

These spur routes often generated tales of their own.

In the early 1920s Duke Hale had the contract from Gisela to Young, and he sublet it to 16-year-old Dallas Wilbanks. Dallas made $35 a month making two trips a week with pack mules. He would carry the sack of mail, plus food and water for himself and the mules. Dallas told how he would stop at Spring Creek to eat, and then arrive at Young the end of the day.  After putting up for the night and delivering the mail to postmistress Ola Young, he would return the next day carrying the mail from there back to Rye. There it was picked up by the Cadillac Stage.  At times Tonto Creek would be too high to cross, and to keep the mail dry he would have to wait until it went down. Dallas Wilbanks used the money he made carrying mail to buy 150 acres in Round Valley for $750.  He continued to carry mail until the mortgage was paid.

Another subcontract went to a fellow named Juan who used a horse-drawn wagon. One time when Rye Creek was running high Juan took the wagon through anyway and almost lost it.  His passenger that day was none other than Julian’s wife Margaret. Juan called to her, “Maggie, save the first class mail!”  She did, though other details of the harrowing adventure are lost.

From Payson to Globe was a day’s trip on the Cadillac Stage.  In each direction, Journigan and his passengers stopped for lunch at the Angler’s Inn near the tip of Roosevelt Lake. The meal consisted of traditional cowboy fare: beans, jerky, gravy and hot biscuits.  A special treat was iced tea, created with ice that was packed in from Globe.  On the return trip to Payson, the climb up Ox Bow Hill often required passengers to get out of the Cadillac and help it up the hill; this was done by pushing and placing stones behind the wheels so the car would not slip backwards.

In 1925 Julian and his family built a house on Payson’s Main Street and in 1932, at age 48, Julian lost his bid for the mail route. He went to work on the Chilson-Tremaine cattle ranches near Rye while continuing his hobby of prospecting. In April 1941, after a trip to his mine claims near the headwaters of Slate Creek, Julian Journigan suffered a heart attack in the Sunflower Store and died. He was 57 years old, and is buried in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery. 

After losing the federal contract for the mail route, the Journigans had sold their home to Ed and Leona Fuel in 1930.  Ed had been a driver for Journigan before becoming a Forest Ranger stationed in Payson.  When Ed retired in 1953, and they moved to Phoenix, Edger and Ruby Caddenhead bought the house.  At some point during the next 30 years it became rental property, and in 1985 Mel and Jan Laumb bought the property.  By that time the house had been vacant and was boarded up.  Renters had burned the interior doors for heat, and a pony had lived inside to get out of the cold.

The Laumbs also inherited an intriguing story about the house.  The Caddenheads lived there in the 1950s and the wife had gone missing. The tale goes that at the time his wife was missing, Edger Caddenhead filled one-third of their cistern with concrete.  When the Laumbs bought the house they left the cistern as it was and built their addition around it.  A little closet in the house still contains the evidence of what might have been a murder.

Such tales prompted ghost stories about the property. 

The Laumbs tripled the size of the old Journigan house, adding 4,700 square feet, and turned it into a restaurant and gift shop.  They called it The Heritage House.  When the Laumbs separated, Mel lived alone in the house for several years before he died in an upstairs bedroom in 1998, fueling more ghost stories. His daughter Diane and her husband Randy Roberson took over the restaurant. In 2003 the house was sold to Melanie McCarthy and Madeline Manchino, who renamed it “Mad Dawgs and Mel’s Restaurant.”  It changed hands again and became “The Mogollon Grille.”

The new owners began reporting ghostly appearances and paranormal happenings. This resulted in two different ghost hunter studies of the house.

The history of a house at 202 West Main Street encapsulates a century of local drama and intrigue from the history of Payson.  

[1] The information in this chapter is gleaned from census and cemetery records, oral histories from the Rim Country Museum with journalist Beth Counseller, ranger Ed Fuel, rancher Dallas Wilbanks, and author Marguerite Nobel. Also articles in The History of Tonto by LeCount, and The Rim Country History by the Northern Gila County Historical Society. .

[2] Charlie See was actually Julian’s second cousin, the son of Julian’s first cousin John M. See.  Charley’s father John was abusive, and in 1892 he robbed a stage and murdered his wife Annie. John See fled to Mexico, where he remained the rest of his life, and Charlie was taken in to be raised by his grandparents.

[3] As late as the 1970 Jack and his wife Bonnie were living in Payson and operating Jack’s Diner.

[4] Cinnabar is the ore from which mercury is produced.

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