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Stan Brown

Stories by Stan

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 11: The Murder of Gila County’s First Sheriff

In 1885, ranchers in Texas were going broke because the bottom dropped out of the market for sheep, wool and cattle. Among those selling out was cattleman Jesse Ellison. He brought his remaining herd to Arizona in hopes of starting over, and with him was fellow rancher Glenn Reynolds, who had thrown his small herd of cattle in with the Ellisons’. Reynolds returned to Texas the next year for a second herd on behalf of his brothers. Upon reaching Holbrook, he was joined by his wife of 10 years, “Gustie,” and their four children, two sons and two daughters. The Ellison and Reynolds families established their ranching claims in the Rim Country. Just as the Reynolds family was settling down, the Pleasant Valley War broke out, and no one felt safe as sheep and cattle ranchers ambushed one another.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 10: Lynching in Gentry Canyon (Scott, Stott, and Wilson)

“A wave of lawlessness,” is how historian Joseph Fish portrayed life in the Rim Country during the 1880s and 1890s. “A wave of lawlessness marked the collision of livestock, railroad, and mining interests on that remote frontier. This wave took the forms of land-jumping, robberies, beatings, and murder.” [1] Three men were lynched on an August day in 1888 and their murder has become the stuff of legend.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 9: Murder near Woods Canyon - the Al Fulton Story

It happened during the second year of what many call The Pleasant Valley War. A young sheepherder in his early twenties, named Al Fulton, was murdered near the place now called Al Fulton Point. It was September 1888. About 10 years earlier Al’s older brother Harry Fulton had come to Arizona to pursue the sheep business, and he ran sheep near the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff. In 1886 he helped to found the Arizona Wool Growers Association and was elected its first president.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 8: Murder on the Crook Trail

The Crook Military Road skirts the edge of the Mogollon Rim, and along this historic trail there are a number of isolated graves. Each one holds a fascinating story from the past, but none is more dramatic than the grave on Baker’s Butte. Today Forest Road 300 follows the Crook Trail, often right on it and at other times paralleling the old trail. Baker’s Butte is the highest point on the Mogollon Rim, the remnant of a small volcano topped by a fire watch tower. A little over one mile east of State Highway 87, beside this forest road, one readily spots the upright marble military headstone that crowns a man-sized pile of basalt rocks mounded over a grave. The marker reads, “Andres Moreno, Company E, 1st Battalion, Arizona Infantry, July 1, 1840 - July 16, 1887.”

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 7: Murders On The Trail To Globe

The place was Globe, Arizona Territory; the time was Wednesday, Aug. 23, 1882. Delfina Morena gave her 11-year-old daughter Augustina a short grocery list and sent her to the store carrying a small basket. A half-hour later, Augustina returned breathless, her basket still empty. “Mother!” she exclaimed, “There are two men hanging from the tree down by St. Elmo’s Saloon. They are dead, just swinging in the wind. I know one of them. He looks like that dance instructor, Lafayette Grimes. We saw him at the photographer’s place when I had my birthday picture taken.”

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 6: The missing body of Joseph McLernon

This is the pathetic story of an immigrant Irish youth who joined the Cavalry and hoped to become a United States citizen. However, he died at the Battle of Big Dry Wash July 17, 1882. Today the name of the area is East Clear Creek on the Mogollon Rim, just upstream from the Blue Ridge Reservoir. Until recently souvenir hunters were finding cartridges, brass buttons and human bones around the Rock Crossing where a band of one hundred renegade Apaches tried to ambush the pursuing army, but were defeated by several converging detachments of the Cavalry. Many natives died; the young Irishman was the only white man to fall in the firefight.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 5: Murder In Diamond Valley

came at the urging of their older son, John Valentine Meadows, who had preceded them and established a ranch in the White Mountains.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 3: The Skull

The skull of an Apache decorated the Schenectady, N.Y. mantle of retired Army surgeon James Reagles. He had carried it with him as a souvenir when he left Camp Verde in 1878. It had been the topic of conversation for many years as the Reagles family told tales the man whose skull it was, Tonto chief Delshay.[1] The physician had treated Delshay for malaria while stationed at the Rio Verde Reservation, and he was convinced this was the chief’s skull.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 2: Victim of Apache Attack

A very early murder in the Rim Country occurred in May 1868 when a chief packer in the Army was killed by Tonto Apaches at the head of the East Verde River Canyon. The story begins as Colonel Thomas C. Devin took command of the military sub-district of Prescott, Arizona Territory on Jan. 17, 1868.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 1: A culture of violence

A recent article in The Arizona Republic opened with these words, “When the Colt Single Action Army revolver officially became Arizona’s state gun … it was more than just a symbolic nod to the past.”[1] The article continued, affirming that firearms are part of Arizona’s politics and economy as well as its legend and lore.

Water over the Rim

The news of a water pipe bringing that “liquid gold” to Payson recalls the time when “the big water” first came over the Rim from, then called, the Blue Ridge Reservoir. It was 1963, and we were enjoying a late spring at our family cabin on the East Verde River. The antique apple trees on our acre, planted 80 years earlier by Mercedes Belluzzi, were in full bloom, foretelling of pies and applesauce. The waters of the river in front of our house were running twice their usual volume as the last snows melted and renewed the springs that gushed from the canyon sides.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 23: Epilogue, The Wedding

Angie Mitchell returned home to Prescott on Christmas Day, 1880, after teaching at the first school in Tonto Basin. Ten days later, she received word of her appointment as clerk for the House of Representatives in the 11th Arizona Territorial Legislature. She had applied for this position before going to teach on Tonto Creek and had promised to return for the next term unless her application in Prescott was confirmed. Now she would not return to Tonto, but would remain in her hometown, “enrolling and engrossing” bills submitted in the House of Representatives.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 22: A Frightful Final Ride

Teacher Angie Mitchell had completed her term at the Tonto Basin school, and she was eagerly on her way home to Prescott. Her attempt to spend Christmas 1881 with her family and finance, Charles Brown, encountered one hazard after another on the trip. Now it was Christmas Day, and as the stagecoach from Wickenburg headed for the last mountainous road, doom almost caught up with her.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 21: A Race to get Home for Christmas

Teacher Angie Mitchell completed her term at Tonto Basin’s first school, and was heading home to Prescott.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 20: A visit with Captain and Mrs. Chaffee

The trip home to Prescott from Tonto Basin was almost as difficult as her trip over the Rim to Tonto Basin four months earlier.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 19: Preparations to Leave Tonto

  Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1880 was the last day of the fall session at the Tonto Basin School. The families of the students arrived to help close the school and take their children home that evening. Teacher Angie reported a gloomy, rainy day.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 18: Early Visitors to “Tonto” Cliff Dwellings

Just one week after teacher Angie Mitchell’s fateful hike into the mountain that nearly took her life, she eagerly tackled another weekend adventure.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 17: A Hike almost ends in Disaster

The first teacher of Tonto Basin School, Angie Mitchell, found that her social life was rather limited among the several families that were in walking distance.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 16: A Gila Monster comes to School

The young teacher at Tonto School was about to encounter another unwelcome critter, this time in her classroom. It was Friday, Nov. 12, 1880, a warm summer-like day according to her diary.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 15: How to build Aa Pole House

By the first week of November 1880, Angie had 23 pupils squeezed into a structure that was 10-feet-by-12-feet, with a dirt floor, no door, and sides made of brush. There were seats for only 12 students, and how the others were able to do their work she did not say.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 14: An invasion of Harer family members

It was Thursday, Nov. 14, 1880 when Tonto School teacher Angie Mitchell met the extended family of David and Josephine Harer, and found there were more of them than she had realized.  

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 13: A typical weekend in Tonto Basin

After the excitement of the Apache attack and the cattle stampedes, life for the teacher and her students’ families returned to mundane events.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 12: Skunks and Cattle Stampedes

The day after teacher Angie Mitchell’s torturous day with the Apache warriors, she wrote (Tuesday, Oct. 19, 1880), “Too lame to more than scrawl a line. Jane in bed. Mrs. Harer came tonight and was greatly surprised to find a lot of semi-invalids done up in liniment, salve and arnica.”

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 10: Escape FROM the Apaches

Tonto Basin teacher Angie Mitchell described the torture she and her companions were experiencing at the hands of a renegade band of Apaches. The day was Monday, Oct. 18, 1880, as her diary continues.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 8: Life Settles in to Routine

Rain continued to fall in the Tonto Basin as the first week of October 1880 moved into the second week.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 7: A mountain lion tries to get in

It was Angie Mitchell’s second week teaching in the Tonto Basin School, and she continued to live at the Vineyard ranch because the house being built as a “teacherage” was not yet ready.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 6: School Begins On The Lower Tonto

After five days living with Andy and Jane Blake on Wild Rye Creek, teacher Angie Mitchell was escorted along Tonto Creek to the ranch of John and Mary Vineyard.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 5: The move to Lower Tonto

The ranchers in Tonto Basin were about to receive their first schoolteacher.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 4: Introductioin to Pioneer Life

The Mitchell family’s second day in Tonto Basin was one of leisure. George and “Ma” had planned to begin their return trip to Prescott, but after he hitched up the wagon that morning he “concluded to our surprise that he was too tired to go home.”

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 3: Arrival In Tonto Basin

The harrowing ride down Pine Creek had almost cost the Mitchells the loss of their wagon, team and belongings; perhaps even their lives.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 2: Wild Ride to Tonto Basin

 The young teacher Angie Mitchell was on her way from the comforts of the Territorial capital in Prescott to the unknown settlement of Tonto Basin.

Frontier teacher in Tonto Basin

Chapter 1: The Most Barbaric Country

It had been raining “awfully” the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1880. Because of the weather Angie Mitchell and her fiancé George Brown didn’t leave Prescott until nearly two o’clock that afternoon.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 45: The rodeo searched for a home

They called it the August Doin’s and for the first 74 years it was held in several different locations. Beginning in 1884 the event was held in Pieper’s field, where the sawmill would one day stand, and in more recent years where the Sawmill Crossing mall is located.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 43: First steps toward a hospital

The story of medicine in the Rim Country is filled with drama and the heroics of many citizens.

When logging made the Rim grow

In 1951 the Owens family located their sawmill in the old Pieper Meadow at what was then the east end of town

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 42: The Sawmill Brought Employment

In 1951, the Owens family located their sawmill in the old Pieper Meadow at the east end of town. At least folks were still calling it Pieper’s Meadow, even though Mrs. Pieper sold the acreage to the Hathaways after she was widowed. The meadow was an open area leading down from Main Street to the American Gulch.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 41: Payson’s last cattle drive

During the first half of the 20th century there were as yet few fences to restrain range cattle. Every rancher’s brand ran together with the herds of neighbors from the Tonto Basin to the Mogollon Rim.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

The Story of Payson, Arizona Chapter 40: Volunteer fire department organized

For many years fighting fires in Payson consisted of the town folk running to the scene and forming bucket brigades. Large fires, like the burning of the Herron Hotel in November 1918, left the populace helpless, except to drape wet blankets over the neighboring structures and watch until the fire burned itself out.

the story of payson, arizona

Chapter 39: The Town Gets A Newspaper

It could be argued that Payson’s first newspaper was published by the students of the high school, for in the autumn of 1926 they began a newsletter printed on their hand set type printer. It was called The Round-Up.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 38: The W.P.A. Comes To Town

As Payson’s population increased, the two aging frame structures on Main Street that had served as schoolhouses since 1901 and 1916 respectively were simply inadequate. The Great Depression was under way in the 1930s, and local families were in no position to finance a larger school. However, the Federal Government had established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which provided the needed funds. It was up to the local school district to develop the plans and hire the work done, which gave some much needed relief for Rim Country families who joined the construction crews. Not only were local men employed for the work, but also many family members pitched in and invested their time and energy in the task. It was truly a community project, and the community joyfully took ownership, affectionately dubbing it “The Rock School.”

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 37: Access To The Outside

The isolation from the “outside world” that Payson had known from its beginnings was being overcome during the first half of the 20th century. Beginning with the construction of Roosevelt Dam in 1903, new ways to access the beautiful and secretive Rim Country were in demand. Throughout

Forest Rangers Protected Payson

The Story of Payson, Arizona -Chapter 36

A close relationship between forest rangers and the people of Payson existed from March of 1907 when the Tonto National Forest was established. The ranger’s station and house, along with a barn for horses and mules, were the center for the Payson Administrative District, and the first ranger assigned here was Fletcher Beard, a cowboy turned forest ranger.


The Story of Payson, Arizona -Chapter 35

It was in the summer of 1935 that Payson began to be a destination for airplanes. It was Cliff “Tuffie” Edwards who launched the feverish hobby that soon gripped a number of local ranchers and town folk. He was from Texas, as were so many early residents of the Payson area, and in 1910, by the age of 12, Edwards was already a capable cowboy riding with the best of them.

the first church in town

The Story of Payson, Arizona -Chapter 34, The First Church In Town

Settlers in Payson and the Rim Country had a faith in God that was born of adventure and survival in the wilderness. However, it was not until 1935 that the town organized its first local church. After all, these families had little time to develop churches and rituals. They spent their lives in virtual isolation on far-flung ranches, having defied comfort and the malicious terrain to make their way into these valleys. The first record of a Christian mission outreach to Payson is in 1898.

Landmark hotel on Main

The Story of Payson, Arizona - Chapter 33: Landmark Hotel On Main Street

The rowdy and salty character of old Payson still lingers on Main Street in the façade of the Ox Bow Inn and Saloon. It was on these historic properties that the pageant of cow town living was enacted, including shoot-outs, horse races and rodeos performed between the rows of log and clapboard buildings.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 32, The Long Road to a Townsite

It was not until the year 1930 that Payson residents ceased to be living in the Tonto National Forest and could call the community a town. The problem had its roots 46 years earlier.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 31, Happy Days at the Winchester Saloon

When the Winchester Saloon burned down just before Halloween in 1997, it brought a rush of memories to old-timers. This spot, at the foot of the old Pine Road (today’s McLane Road), had been the social center of the community from the late 19th century. The saga began when Guy Barkdoll built a dance hall, a livery stable and an adobe house on the site. The hall was the only place in town large enough to accommodate community events, and it was used not only for Saturday night dances, but also for funerals, weddings, school plays and carnivals.

The story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 30: The Class of 1927

In 1927, the Payson School graduated its first class from a new high school curriculum. There were two graduates. The high school classes were held in one of the two clapboard buildings near the corner of Oak and Main Streets, where today the Community Presbyterian Church has a parking lot.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 29: Hollywood comes to Payson

Although Hollywood film crews had filmed Zane Grey stories on location around Payson in the early 1920s, the year 1927 brought a new rush of Hollywood excitement with the arrival of the MGM mascot, Leo the Lion.

The Story of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 28: The mailmen, the Cadillac and the haunted house

It was 1923 when Payson’s mail delivery became mechanized, and with no less a conveyance than a Cadillac automobile. The driver was Julian Journigan, and he was rapidly becoming one of the most appreciated men in the Rim Country. His story and what followed contain one of the sagas of life in and around Payson. [1]