As part of the state’s celebration of its centennial birthday on Feb. 14, Payson’s Rim Country Museum opened its special Centennial exhibit, Arizona’s Story — A Rim Country View.
A special opening ceremony took place at 1 p.m., Tuesday, with a flag-raising ceremony, remarks by museum officials and Mayor Kenny Evans. Guests were also given a preview of the exhibit, which took a year to create and opened to the public Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The entrance of New Mexico to the Union on Jan. 6, 1912, and Arizona on Feb. 14, 1912, resulted in a new design for the U.S. flag. The number of stars changed from 46 to 48. Updates to the U.S. flag become legal on the 4th of July following the date of admission for the state. Therefore the 48-star flag was not officially adopted when Arizona became a state in February of 1912, but was first flown in July of that year. The museum’s flag-raising ceremony, performed by the Payson Military Honor Guard, featured the 48-star United States flag and Arizona state flag. These flags will be flown throughout the Centennial Year on the museum complex grounds at Green Valley Park.
When the flags were unfurled, retired Col. Art Stone of the honor guard led the Pledge of Allegiance.
The backdrop of the exhibit is a giant painting of the Arizona flag with Arizona’s story sectioned off: the territorial years are in the lower left quadrant; the future in the lower right quadrant; with the top half devoted to a century of Rim Country history.
Taking center place on the display is a relief image of the state, covered in specially designed Arizona Centennial fabric featuring different sites around the state.
The section about Arizona’s Territorial Years, from 1863 to early 1912, features Rim Country personalities who contributed to Arizona’s growth and move toward statehood. Among them are Duett Ellison, of Ellison Creek and later Pleasant Valley, who was Arizona’s first First Lady. In 1904 she married George W. P. Hunt, who became the first governor of Arizona; and Samuel Ache Haught II, owner of the H-Bar Ranch in Rye who served in the 23rd Territorial Legislature.
The quadrant devoted to a glimpse of what the future may hold includes references to the work on the C. C. Cragin (Blue Ridge) pipeline scheduled to begin in the spring and progress on bringing a four-year university campus to Rim Country.
The largest section of the exhibit shares significant events from the first 100 years of statehood.
The theme, “A Rim Country View,” provides a local focus on people and events in this area. The photos may evoke nostalgia in longtime Payson residents, while visitors may find the 100 years of progress in Rim Country quite amazing.
The Rim Country portion of the exhibit includes a photo and information about the Witness Tree in front of the Payson Womans Club on historic Main Street.
About the Witness Tree
As part of the Arizona Centennial, the Arizona Community Tree Council, Inc. sponsored the “Witness Tree Program” to recognize trees that have stood within the boundaries of Arizona for more than 100 years.
Lita Nicholson of the museum nominated the Emory Oak in front of the Womans Club building on Main Street as a Witness Tree candidate.
Extensive documentation was needed to support the nomination. Jim Mercer and Jeff Leonard from Tonto National Forest Ranger Station measured the tree’s height (53 feet) and crown spread (average 66 feet) and estimated that it could easily be 200 years old.
Historical accounts and personal testimonials also supported the nomination. In early January, notification was received that the Emory Oak had been accepted as an official Centennial Witness Tree.
This tree has long been known as the “Chaining Tree” in Payson. There was no jail in Payson until 1935 and local history sources report the oak tree in front of the Womans Club served as the “jail tree” in the early years. Those who ran afoul of the law and were arrested would be chained to this tree while they awaited an officer from the county jail in Globe to transport them for incarceration.
Old-timers say that while a few truly needed to be incarcerated, many were just good ol’ boys who needed a place to calm down their exuberance from too much “likker.”
The Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin are normally closed on Tuesdays, a special tour of the museums was held for the Daughters of the American Revolution and other invited guests following the flag-raising ceremony.
Museum Chair Betty Berryman welcomed everyone to the event and thanked those members of the museum who created the exhibit.
She was also presented with an award by Don Castleman, president of the Sons of the American Revolution, for flying the flag properly.
Also speaking was Exhibit Committee Chair Donna Daly. She explained the exhibit and thanked her committee, which included Ann Baldwin, Pete Bernard, Patti Naughton, Lita Nicholson, Don Wolfe, and, unofficially, Sandy Carson.
Mayor Evans also made remarks at the opening festivities, saying the efforts of the members of the museum make it possible for the residents of the Rim Country, and its visitors, to look back as we move forward.
“We need to remember where we have been and embrace the best of it to ensure the future will be brighter,” Evans said.
“Today’s young people are the first generation to be raised with expectations they may have less than their parents. I don’t believe it,” he added.
He thanked the museum volunteers for creating the exhibit and said the museum adds something special to the Rim Country.
The Centennial exhibit opened for public viewing Wednesday, Feb. 15. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday.