The statue in Deming Park, at the corner of North McLane and West Main in Payson, honors the men who first carried the mail into Payson. While it is a reproduction of the Frederic Remington statue, The Bronco Buster, donors who helped get the park built, thought it would be a fine addition.
No doubt, a few of the 60 rough and tumble riders who delivered the mail between Camp Verde and Payson from 1884 to 1914 did some bronco riding in their time.
The statue was placed in the pocket park in September 2006, brought to the area by residents of Camp Verde as part of the dedication of the Mail Trail.
The project to have the Mail Trail recognized and made accessible for recreation started in 1998 when Camp Verde resident Howard Parrish read an article on the last mail rider of the trail, another Camp Verde local named Tuffy Peach. Writer, Marguerite Noble, who was a longtime Payson resident and author, pushed for the revival of the old trail. A historic trails buff, Bill Stafford, located the old trail with the help of a local ranch foreman. Parrish and Stafford joined forces to cut through the red tape, tangled thick as the brush that had overtaken the trail in the 84 years since the last rider had officially traversed the rugged route.
The route started at the Wingfield Store (some say it was the Sutler’s Store) in Camp Verde, which also served as the little river community’s post office. The trail followed the river for awhile, crossed West Clear Creek, east of Camp Verde, then followed Crook Wagon Trail before veering south to Fossil Creek Canyon. The route through the canyon eventually led up the Rim and into Strawberry Valley, down into Pine and on to Payson.
Riders would leave Camp Verde at 2 a.m. for the 11- to 18-hour ride to Payson, depending on the weather and amount of mail they were carrying. They changed horses twice. Today, the highway route between Payson and Camp Verde is only 50 miles.
A single rider made the trip, rather than relying on a relay delivery like the Pony Express.
Mail came into Payson with freighters as well, both those using wagons and later by the men who intrepidly put their autos on the “roads.”