Rim Country Places

Chapter 20: Jake’s Corner


Jake’s Corner Store looking from Bush Highway and across the old Route 188.

Jake’s Corner Store looking from Bush Highway and across the old Route 188.

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The place known today as Jake’s Corner is 25 miles north of Roosevelt Lake and three miles east of State Route 87 on Route 188. The buildings stand on the spot that was once an important stop-over for those traveling the Tonto Basin.

The story of Jake’s Corner began just after the Civil War when a young veteran of the Union Army came to Arizona Territory. His name was Heinrich Frederick Christian Hardt, and he had come from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, to the United States. Soon he accepted being called “Henry.” As did most of the young, male immigrants during those days, he joined the army in New Jersey and after the war set out to find his fortune in the West. Landing in the Phoenix area he met and courted Annie Eliza Harer, the daughter of David and Josephine Harer.

photo

Stan Brown photo

Jake’s Corner Store looking from Bush Highway and across the old Route 188.

The Harer family had moved to Arizona from California, where Annie had been born in 1856. Some family traditions indicate they had met at a Methodist camp meeting, sponsored by the Harers. Annie was 18 and Henry was 32 years old when they were married at New River in Maricopa County, on April 18, 1875. Apparently the Harers had taken up farming in that vicinity, but right after the wedding the Harer family moved to Tonto Basin. They established a homestead on Greenback Creek in the Sierra Anchas. The name of the creek and valley had been bestowed by Lt. William Hancock, who while scouting with his army detachment discovered greenbacks (U.S. currency) hidden by Apaches in that valley. Later as an influential leader and postmaster in the Phoenix area Hancock became good friends with David Harer and his family. He urged the Harers to settle the Greenback Valley in Tonto Basin, which they proceeded to do. Since Annie’s family was moving north, she and her new husband Henry Hardt moved to the protected vicinity of Ft. McDowell to farm. [1]

The farming venture did not pan out as they had hoped, and in 1881 the Hardts moved to her parents’ ranch in Tonto Basin. This gave Henry time to scout for a homestead, which he staked out on a wash that would bear the family name, Hardt Creek. Their ranch headquarters on the dusty road from Globe to Payson soon became a famous stop for the horse-drawn stages that carried passengers and mail. The Hardts generous hospitality and Annie’s good cooking made the stop famous. She served meals that included quail and venison all the year round, and it was said that even the game warden so enjoyed the meals he asked no questions about Henry’s hunting habits. Annie also maintained a vegetable stand from which travelers could help themselves and leave the money in a container.

As the years went by, Henry Hardt suffered increasingly from arthritis, and his younger children could not remember seeing him walk. For years he had to be lifted on and off his horse. In 1898, during a winter storm, he developed pneumonia and on Christmas Eve, December 24th he died.[2]  Annie moved to Gisela, and later became a cook at the Coppers Mine on the East Verde River. She remained in the Payson area for the next 20 years, and her children were with her until they married and went elsewhere. Sometime before 1930, Annie moved to Chandler, Arizona, to be with her daughter, Susan. [3]

In her absence, Annie had rented the ranch to O. C. Felton and his family, and in 1924 she sold the place to them. During her years in Payson, Annie patented the homestead claims she and Henry had held for so long, and in 1924 an iron bridge over Rye Creek was built just down the road from the Hardt ranch to facilitate the mail delivery between Globe and Payson. Nine years later the Bush Highway would come by the ranch and over that iron bridge, making the ranch even more desirable as a stop-over for travelers

The new owner, Oscar C. Felton, was born in Tennessee in 1841 and grew to be an adventurer, eager to follow the gold rush in California and Alaska, and to participate in the popular Wild West shows. His life before owning the ranch is difficult to trace because he moved so often. After his marriage to Emilia (parentage unknown) in Texas, probably around 1868, the family locations are marked by the birthplaces of their children. They were still in Texas when George A. Felton was born.  Benjamin F. Felton was born in New Mexico in 1870, Florence was born in California in 1874, Oscar was born in Oregon in 1875, and Ruth was born in California in 1878. At the time of their marriage in Texas, Emilia brought two children into the family from a prior marriage. The two stepsons continued to be single and stay with the family for the next number of years. They were J. C. and D. M. Gilleland.

In 1878, the year Ruth was born, the family moved to the Tonto Basin, and apparently took over the running of the Hardt Ranch and stage stop. In his 1922 report on the grasslands for the Forest Service — “Grazing on the Tonto” — Ranger Fred Croxen wrote, “O. C. Felton moved into lower Rye in 1878. The Feltons had headquarters at what is now known as Jake’s Corner.”[4] 

The commemorative plaque erected at Jake’s Corner by a group called “Lost Dutchman” states, “In 1924 the first store was built by George Felton. With the advent of motorized travel and completion of Roosevelt Dam, it became a popular stop to fix oil pans, tires and fuel tanks. It was a small price to pay for the arduous journey along the Apache Trail. George and his wife Virginia operated the store for sixteen years. Virginia was the main caretaker, as George had an adventurous cowboy soul, and performed in Wild West shows worldwide, with his friend Charlie Meadows.” 

George apparently took after his father. By 1940, George was 82 years old and declining health. This made it timely to sell the store, and nearby rancher Polly Brown bought it. She operated the place, still known as “Felton’s Store” for six years, and in 1946 she sold it to Jake and Nina Stephenson. At this juncture, the place became known as Jake’s Corner Bar. Jake operated it until his death in 1971, and it was purchased by Dan and Lou Smyers. Barbecue facilities were added to the picnic spots and Jake’s Corner was all set for its moment of fame. In 2008, a low-budget movie was filmed there, and the title of the movie was “Jake’s Corner.”

NOTES:

[1] In 1877 their first child, Susan Jane, was born. Seven more would follow: David, 1881; Henry Frederick, 1883; Robert, 1886 who died at the age of 3; Charlotte Josephine, 1888; Sarah Reed, 1891; Joseph Howard, 1894; Leonard Byford, 1897. Some records include Joe Hardt, born in 1884.          

[2] Henry Hardt was buried in Tonto Basin.

[3] Susan had married Albert M. Despain when she was 19, Dec. 27, 1896. Annie Hardt died March 2, 1939 at the age of 81, and was buried in Chandler.

[4] A mystery surrounds the dates, however. The 1880 Federal Census lists the Felton family as registering at Marsh Valley in Yavapai County, Arizona. While no such place shows up on today’s maps of Arizona, hiking guides indicate a Marsh Valley trail in the Superstition wilderness, off the Apache Trail (State Route 88). Ancestry.com indicates a Marsh Valley on the northern railroad line, adjacent to historic Route 66, and west of Seligman. This could mean a railroad watering stop. We shall leave it to further research for the solution.

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