Territorial Capital in the Wilderness--and a Giveaway
The city of Prescott was twice the capital of Arizona Territory, first from 1864 until 1867, when it was moved to Tucson. In 1877, it was moved back to Prescott for twelve years, and in 1889 moved
permanently to Phoenix.
Why was this then out-of-the-way place chosen? Because gold had been discovered about seven miles south of present-day Prescott in 1863. Joseph Reddeford Walker led the first documented exploration of what is now Yavapai County, and they found gold in the headwaters of the Hassayampa River. The town was soon founded near the site of Fort Whipple, to protect miners and settlers from the Indians.
This was during the Civil War, and sentiments ran high. The Confederates declared the southern part of what is now Arizona a Confederate Territory, but the federal government was determined to keep the barren territory and what mineral deposits it contained.
Mining claims were filed in the area that’s now Yavapai County, and by March, 1864, the town that became Prescott had several buildings, including a store. The following month, land was claimed for the territorial government. What became known as the Governor’s Mansion, though it is really a large log cabin, was built in what is now the city of Prescott.
|Governor's mansion, Prescott, built in 1864.|
Even today, Prescott holds many attractions. I recently spent several days there, doing research for an upcoming book set in Arizona. My two sisters joined me, and we escaped January snowstorms for a week in the sunny Southwest. We explored Whiskey Row, which used to house about forty saloons, and ate lunch at the Palace, the “oldest frontier saloon in Arizona and most well-known and historic
|Red Rock Country near Sedona. FreeImages.com/Craig Toron|
Back in Prescott, I found the Sharlot Hall Museum to be a treasure trove of local history. This museum was begun in 1928. Miss Sharlot M. Hall, a rancher’s daughter who realized the historical importance of the buildings and artifacts in the area, had leased the former Governor’s Mansion to live in. She began collecting and displaying items pertinent to local history.
Today, the museum complex contains nine major structures, including the house of John C. Fremont, who was the fifth territorial governor.
Another attraction is the oldest log building in the territory. This building was moved from about a half mile away, where it served as Fort Misery in 1863-64, and
later as a store and a boardinghouse.
In the nearby library and archives, I was able to spend a day digging deeper into the history of Prescott, its people, and the development of stagecoach lines in the area for my upcoming book My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains.
|Part of the teapot collection at the Sharlot Hall Museum|
Unless otherwise noted, photos in the above post are by Miriam Cook.
Giveaway: I am giving away a copy of The Lady’s Maid, one of my western romances. In it, an English lady and her maid join a wagon train going West. If you would like to win a copy of my book, leave a comment below and include your contact information.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. Her newest books include The Seafaring Women of the Vera B. and The Cowboy’s Bride Collection. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .