When I was a kid I loved to go out to spring training games, always with one thing in mind: getting an autograph from someone wearing my favorite team’s uniform. And when I say someone, I mean, anyone — I still have a program with multiple autographs on it, including that of the Cubs’ batboy that day. Now that I’m older, I don’t chase autographs at the ballpark, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t chase them. It’s just that I now chase copies of signatures from the past. Here’s a look at some that are noteworthy to me from around Rim Country.
Grey spent time in this area during the late 1910s and 1920s, writing vivid descriptions of the area in both fiction and non-fiction pieces. His cabin was preserved before it burned in the 1990 Dude Fire, only to rebuilt at Payson’s Green Valley Park where thousands of visitors learn more about him every year.
Grey’s autograph is plentiful, at least compared to that of some area pioneers, though still highly collectible. One of the neater ways you’ll see it is on old checks, of which there are plenty out there. Of course, there aren’t that many written to noteworthy area people, which brings me to my next person…
Sampson Elam Boles
Boles has a special place in my heart. I live on land that he patented and I published a book, “Zane Grey’s Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead,” centered around his land. Born in Missouri, having spent time in Kansas, Boles came here in the 1880s before eventually settling on the land he would patent under Myrtle Point in the 1890s.
Boles sold 120 acres of his land to Zane Grey for $3,500 in 1923. Grey sent payments via a number of checks including one that I have where Grey was making a payment of $1,000.
It should be noted that there are Grey checks out there to a number of other noteworthy folks including many of the Haughts. There’s also something else very unique about these Grey checks: the stamp of Payson’s first bank, Payson Commercial and Trust.
Homestead Paperwork for Copies of Signatures
One of the neat things that folks can do is to get a copy of the paperwork for a piece of land that was patented. These files vary in content, with some from really far back containing next to nothing, and others containing a treasure trove of information. Luckily, in Rim Country they tend to fall into the latter category, with many files containing not just the signature of the patentee, but of the witnesses as well. Here are some noteworthy ones.
One of the founding fathers of Payson, you have to go to the Buckeye area to find his family’s patents. Within that is his signature, which is a little extra special because no picture of Burch is known to exist.
Burch came to the area in the mid 1870s and settled where the Payson golf course is located today. While he didn’t stay around for a long time, moving to the Valley instead, he was a key figure in the beginnings of Payson and his ranch is referred to for location purposes in many early mining claims.
About the time that Burch was leaving, Pieper was entering the scene. He was one of the people behind opening Payson Brewery in the 1880s and then ran it himself when he moved here in 1890 from Globe. His house was located at the front door of Payson (today’s McLane headed south and Main). He raised a family here and set down some pretty significant roots.
Callaghan’s another settler who had an impact but for whom there is not quite as much information. He was the local blacksmith and built a number of houses, amongst them the Guy and Bill Boardman homes according to “Rim Country History,” published by the Northern Gila County Historical Society in 1984.
Yunker was a late-comer who didn’t have much of an impact per se on Payson but did patent a small tract of land (21.7 acres) almost adjacent to the Boles Homestead. His patent was issued in 1929 and he and his wife Rhoda were said to have been in their older years when they came here. However, not much else is known. A good portion of the land that he patented is now known as the Long Ranch.
Through old paperwork we can see the signatures of many of those who have had an impact on this region.
A signature can tell a lot about someone’s personality and in many cases we can find a signature of someone for whom there is not a picture. And yet, it is one of the things that we can most easily forget about preserving. It’s so simple, so timeless and yet often so overlooked.