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Stan Brown

Stories by Stan

Rim Country Places

Chapter 1 – Places have names

Driving south out of Payson on Highway 87 my imagination goes into overdrive. Each place we pass brings to mind stories of people and events: Ox Bow Hill, the Sam Haught and Chilson ranches, Rye Creek, Deer Creek, Mazatzal Mountains, Sunflower.

The Wild West in the Rim Country


For some weeks we have been investigating the violence that plagued the Rim Country during the closing years of the 19th and early years of the 20th centuries. In this concluding chapter we take a flight of imagination back over the centuries to seek answers for several discoveries of ancient bones in the Payson area.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 21: Death on Deer Creek

The time was December 1925 and Jesse Chilson at the Bar-T-Bar Ranch on Deer Creek was wondering why the old prospector had not made his usual trip to the ranch for mail.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 20: The disappearing miner 

Newly elected Justice of the Peace Cal Greer found a gunnysack filled with bones on a shelf in the Payson jailhouse. They posed a mystery that sent the JP searching for answers, and what he discovered put some pieces of the puzzle together. The mystery was clarified later by the research of Lois Prante Stevens, a niece of the dead man.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 19: Shootout On Main Street, Part 2

In part one of the Jack Lane story (The Rim Review May 2), newcomer cowboy Jack Lane spent his first weekend in Payson getting drunk and then racing his horse up and down Main Street, shooting his gun in the air. Finally stopping in front of the 16-to-1 Saloon, next door to JP Colonel Randall’s office, he and the judge had an argument about his behavior. As Lane waved his pistol in the air, threatening the judge, Bill Colcord arrived on the scene with his own pistol drawn.  When Lane swung suddenly and pointed his pistol at him, Colcord shot Lane. Witnesses heard up to four shots, but it could not be determined at the time if some of them were from Lane shooting at Colcord.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 18: Shootout on Main Street

There is a myth about “the Wild West” that leads one to believe shootouts occurred frequently in the frontier towns. Considering today’s murders per capita, the streets in Southwestern towns at the turn of the century were safer. The shootings that did take place were long remembered and often glorified with retelling, like the one that occurred on Payson’s Main Street, Jan. 30, 1910. Many eyewitnesses recorded what they saw and provide us with what must be an accurate account.[1]

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 16: The Mysterious Demise of Al Sieber, Chief of Scouts

A red sandstone monument stands overlooking Roosevelt Lake beside State Highway 188. Traveling southeast in Tonto Basin, this can be seen just before reaching the bridge near Roosevelt Dam. Upon close examination the travelers can see the rough marker announces that near this spot the Army’s famous Chief of Scouts Al Sieber was crushed to death by an immense boulder.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 15: Sheep Camp Murders

The prolonged range war between sheep ranchers and cattle or goat ranchers raged in the Rim Country until after the turn of the 19th century. As many as 400,000 sheep were driven over the Heber-Reno sheep driveway twice a year. This was a traditional route that had been followed for decades. However, there were no boundaries marking the limits where the sheep were to be kept and flocks often strayed onto rangeland claimed by cattle ranchers. The sheep moved very slowly and consumed much valuable grass when they moved south in the fall and north in the spring.

Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 14: The Murder of Clint Wingfield

They called him “Black Jack” Ketchum, but the gambling done by Thomas Edward Ketchum was in robbing banks, holding up trains, and leaving a trail of cold blooded murders across Texas, New Mexico and eastern Arizona. It was July 2, 1899, about 8 o’clock in the evening that Ketchum rode up to the old sutler’s store in Camp Verde, and within minutes had shot and killed the owners, “Mack” Rogers and Clint Wingfield.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 13: The Self-Inflicted Killing of aTrapper

Wayside graves are always intriguing. When we stumble across them they raise so many questions. One can discover just such an interesting monument while driving slowly and watchfully along the Forest Road 300 on the Mogollon Rim. This famous scenic drive along the edge of the Rim follows somewhat faithfully the trail blazed by General George Crook in the early 1870s. His purpose was to connect Forts Verde and Apache and enable troop movement that could cut off the northern escape of renegade Indians. Driving from west to east, as one approaches a sign noting “Leonard Canyon” a gravesite can be seen on the right, just off the road. This spot also happens to be the place where, in the late summer of 1872, General Crook’s two crews met, blazing the trail from both ends. In those days it was called “Deadshot Canyon” after a renegade Apache with that name who had been apprehended here.

The Wild West in the Rim Country

Chapter 12: The Dark Side of Tonto Basin

The good times of rodeos, dances and neighborly visits were interrupted for the residents of Tonto Basin in the spring of 1892 when a young mother was murdered by her husband, and her baby son was left parentless. The story has often been told, but with so many versions one has to carefully sift them to discern how events really unfolded. It begins with two families who emigrated from Missouri to Arizona’s Tonto Basin in the late 1880s. It is not known if they had known each other before coming west, but their lives were destined to become intertwined. John and Adis Narron brought their family to stake a claim near Grapevine, close to the junction of Tonto Creek and the Salt River. Their four children registered in the Catalpa School, Alice, 17, Annie, 16, William, 10, and Lillian, 9.i

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.