Walter Lovelady recalled that Jesse “Jess” Chilson brought the first car into Payson in 1916. It was a Marmon and was considered the “Cadillac” of the day.
Jess drove his car up the Apache Trail from Phoenix, across Roosevelt Dam and followed the road along the south side of Roosevelt Lake that had been used by freighters during the building of the dam. He then used wagon roads and cow trails until hooking up with the old Reno Road at Camp Reno and continued his drive up Wild Rye Creek, passing by Snowstorm Mountain and entering Payson from the west.
Walter Lovelady, who had a Copper Top Ford, and David Goodfellow were also among the first to bring cars into Payson via the same route.
It wasn’t until 1938 that a car was driven from Phoenix, by Saguaro Lake, through Reno Pass and into Payson. Both routes were long and difficult. In fact, locals coined the phrase “Crooked as the road to Globe” to describe someone of questionable character.
During the latter 1920s and 1930s, cars lined Main Street in Payson serving as both fencing and bleachers for the Payson Rodeo. Many of these cars had to be backed up Ox Bow Hill as the hill was too steep for the gravity-fed gas tanks of the day.
For many years it was an eight-hour drive to Phoenix and many a car waited additional hours for the flooded waters of Gold Creek, Sycamore Creek or Slate Creek to recede so they could cross. Many more cars overheated climbing Slate Creek Hill while crossing the Mazatzals.
Into the early 1950s, locals would recognize a strange car in town. No one made the trips to or from Phoenix or Globe without good reason.
Finally in 1958, the Beeline Highway was paved and Payson joined the rest of the state with the latest in automotive transportation and modern highways.