With the Arizona Centennial less than a month away, there seem to be a lot of lists out there, some of which are extremely interesting. So, I thought I’d give it a shot, with 10 occurrences in the past 100 years that have had a major impact of this area.
Zane Grey comes to the area
When Zane Grey decided to visit the area in 1918 to hunt and learn about the Pleasant Valley War, locals could not have had any idea of the impact that he would have on the region. He wrote numerous stories from his place underneath the Rim, which led to many movies of these stories being filmed here.
Even after his death in 1939, he continued to have an impact as his cabin under the Rim was restored, leading to the term “Zane Grey Country” to describe the area. Many folks have come here after reading his stories and Grey’s legacy lives on at his rebuilt cabin in Payson’s Green Valley Park.
Camp Geronimo established
In my opinion, this might be one of the more underrated events in the region. They didn’t have to set up camp here in the 1920s, but when they did, they started a tradition that continues to this day. Did Zane Grey have an impact on that decision? Perhaps. It got people in the habit of coming up here to camp, a tradition that continues to this day. Remember, kids with fond memories of their childhood tend to want to return to those places and I think Camp Geronimo helped the stage for future growth in the region.
The completion of the Beeline Highway
It took nearly six years for the paving of the Beeline Highway to be finished in 1958, but it was worth the wait for the area. It set the region up for future growth, making it far easier to get from the Phoenix area to Rim Country. This area had been left out of major transportation lines, as its long held hopes for a railroad connection never materialized. The Beeline was a game-changer.
Four lanes from Payson to Phoenix
When I was growing up I remember many highway delays. Sure, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it was before the Beeline was paved, but it still wasn’t good. If you didn’t get out of Mesa by 3 p.m. on a summer Friday afternoon, you’d be stuck in traffic. Coming home on Sundays weren’t much better, with tie-ups in the areas where it went from four lanes down to two lanes. This further shortened the time between Phoenix and Payson, making the area that much more attractive to people.
The Ox Bow Inn
Built in the 1930s, the Ox Bow still stands today as a testament to Payson’s wilder times. It played host to numerous bands and even a brawl or two, situated in the heart of old Payson on Main Street. Clearly this is a place that has had a major impact.
Payson is incorporated
It may be hard to believe, but Payson wasn’t incorporated as a town until 1973. Ted Pettet was Payson’s first mayor as the region pushed forward.
The 1990 Dude Fire
Located northeast of Payson under the Rim, this fire began on June 25, 1990 and would end up burning over 25,000 acres and costing six firefighters their lives. It burned Zane Grey’s cabin under the Mogollon Rim and much of some of his favorite hunting grounds. The death of the firefighters led to safer techniques and much study; study which has probably since saved additional lives.
Switzerland in Arizona
This Barney Swartwood creation was an anchor of mountain themed developments, in particular Payson North. This hotel, which originally had a restaurant, was a unique piece sitting on Highway 87. It still goes on today, though now it is a Best Western and the exterior has been modified. Nearby though still sit the Swiss Village shops and the subdivisions are home to Payson residents and their unique street names like William Tell, Sherwood, and Luzern. Swartwood was not just a developer, but also donated the land where the town hall was built. His son Craig served as one of Payson’s mayors and on its town council
The Rim Lakes
This region did not always have lakes on top of the Rim. Today’s Rim Lakes were not developed until the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their presence has had a lasting impact on the region, drawing anglers from all over.
The Passing of the Torch
Throughout time people pass on, leaving it to future generations to carry the torch. One must reflect upon and respect the old families who first settled this region prior to statehood. Over the past 100 years many changes have occurred, yet these folks carry on the legacies of parents and grandparents in shaping this region.