From fool to fame: the life of Lon Chaney

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

If ever a man were born to entertain, it was Lon Chaney. Leonidas Frank Chaney was born in Colorado Springs on April 1, 1883. He was the second of four children, and the family lived on Bijou Street near the downtown district. His parents, Frank and Emma, were both deaf but his father, nicknamed “Dummy Chaney,” made enough to live on by working as a barber for Phil Strubel. Lon later cheerfully attributed his father’s success to the fact that people could talk to Frank all day and he didn’t seem to mind.

In the fourth grade, Lon left school because he was needed at home to help his mother, who suffered from inflammatory rheumatism. The boy was already mastering the art of pantomime as a means to communicate with his parents and to entertain his family. Many an evening at the Chaney home consisted of Lon putting on silent plays for his family, re-enacting characters and situations he had witnessed in town that day. His talent for contorting his body and face into all sorts of positions amused his family, but little did they know that such a talent would also bring Lon world-acclaimed fame.

By age twelve, Lon was proving a useful source of income at home. He worked as a tour guide to escort tourists to the top of Pikes Peak before he and his older brother John secured employment at a local theater. Lon worked as a prop boy, earning .25 cents per night. A few years later, the family had saved enough money to send Lon to Denver, where he learned to hang wallpaper and draperies and lay carpet. In 1900 he was back in Colorado Springs, working as a painter.

Still, young Lon could not stay away from the stage and secured a job at the Colorado Springs Opera House. By 1901, after studying makeup techniques in vaudeville and perfecting his own skills, Lon and John formed their own acting company and produced their first play, “The Little Tycoon.” For the next twelve years, the pair traveled throughout the Midwest and the south. Lon performed a variety of duties in addition to playing on stage, but his contorted and varied characters quickly earned him the nickname “Man of a Thousand Faces.” In 1905 he married a 16-year old actress named Francis Cleveland “Cleva” Creighton in Oklahoma City, and the couple remained in town long enough to have a son. Lon’s career was put on hold as he and Cleva worked to support the baby, whom they named Creighton.

Eventually the stage called to Lon Chaney once more. For the next several years he and Cleva eeked out a living with traveling shows and by performing for money on street corners. The couple would sing and dance while young Creighton gathered tossed coins off the sidewalk. The year 1910 found the Chaneys in California, with Lon working various stage shows in San Francisco while Cleva danced and sang in cabaret shows.

By 1912, Chaney was ready for the movies. He played tiny, uncredited parts in no less than an amazing 38 short silent films through 1914. Such work became a strain on the Chaney marriage, and Cleva attempted suicide backstage in Los Angeles in 1913. The poison she swallowed was not fatal, but it did ruin her vocal chords. After years of jealousy and fighting, Chaney left her. Creighton was sent to a children’s home while Lon continued his career. During 1915 he wrote two films, directed both as well as five more, and played in 32 films. He also remarried to chorus girl Hazel Hastings and reclaimed his son.

Chaney’s biggest break came in the 1919 film The Miracle Man about a con artist pretending to be a crippled man who is healed. By 1920 the Chaneys were living in an average Los Angeles neighborhood with a larger-than-life household consisting of Hazel and Creighton, as well as 5 ½ year old Roy Willard who was inexplicably listed in the census as an uncle, and Hazel’s sister and her husband.

The family no doubt moved to larger quarters after 1923 when Chaney donned pounds of makeup and latex to play Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And his incredible made up disfigurement as the maniacal Erik in 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera further escalated him to stardom. So unrecognizable were his many characters that he soon became the darling Mystery Man of Hollywood. “Don’t step on that spider, it might be Lon Chaney!” was the tongue-in-cheek quip of Tinseltown.

It is no wonder then, that Chaney commanded his personal privacy and spent his off time with his family at his cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His true friends understood, but Hollywood was less forgiving. Despite descriptions of him by friends and colleagues as a fun loving friend, good natured and a wonderful father, Lon’s refusal to attend very many events or grant interviews, combined with his gruesome characters, made him appear odd to the world. “Between pictures, there is no Lon Chaney,” the famed actor once explained, but to no avail. Thus the man who worked so hard to understand people like his parents who were labeled “different” was so labeled himself.

In 1929, Chaney swallowed a piece of fake snow during the filming of Thunder that allegedly required throat surgery. But the real malady was throat cancer. The acclaimed actor made one talking movie, a remake of one of his earlier films called The Unholy Three. Then he retired to his cabin in the Sierras and died on August 26, 1930. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California. During his funeral, MGM stopped all production on the studio lot and honored him in silence. Hazel died three years later.

Lon Chaney’s legacy carried on. His son, Creighton, had been discouraged from going into theater because the lifestyle was so unstable. Following Chaney’s death, however, Creighton decided to utilize the vast amount of experience he learned from the father. Against his own wishes but at a producer’s urging, he took the stage name Lon Chaney Jr. and went on to fulfill roles his father might have played. Among them were Of Mice and Men in 1939, The Wolf Man in 1941, Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and several subsequent “Wolf Man” and other horror movies. Lon Jr. died in California in 1973. His mother, Cleva, who had some bit parts in the movies during the 1950’s, died in Sierra Madre in 1967.

Together, father and son made well over 300 films. Today the Chaney cabin in the Sierra Mountains is on the National Register of Historic Places. Chaney’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue to promote their famous grandpa. In Colorado Springs, the Lon Chaney Theater at the Colorado Springs Auditorium puts on performances and honors the man who only wanted to talk to his parents.

A Quick History of Idaho Springs, Colorado

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

In its very early days, Idaho Springs, went by many other names including Idaho, Idahoe, Idaho Bar, Idaho City, Jackson Bar, Payne’s Bar, Sacramento and Jackson’s Diggings. The latter name was applied in honor of 32-year old George Jackson who first discovered gold in the area in 1858, as well as a natural hot springs around Chicago Creek.

During its stint as Idaho, the original town was established in 1860 and before long had grown to include 12,000 residents. By then it was known that Idaho was a Native American word for “Gem of the Rockies.” By 1861 there were two hotels, at least one saloon and gambling house, and F.W. Bebee’s “Bebee House Hotel” with its substantial menu. There were about 40 homes in town. The first post office, established in 1862, was a wooden box kept in the living room of Mrs. R.B. Griswold.

In addition to the mining industry, the hot springs at Idaho Springs drew people looking to improve their health. As in other places around Colorado, invalids, tuberculosis patients and tourists in general sought out the mineral springs. In 1863 Dr. E.S. Cummings erected the first bath house there. Although it was only in use about three years, Cummings’ bath house was the first of many such spas to come. The year 1868 saw an even bigger health resort and the introduction of stage coach service to Georgetown. The following year, William Hunter built a large log theater and called it Rock Island House. Idaho Springs’ first newspaper premiered in 1873.

Idaho was so popular during the 1870’s that its name was actually considered for the new name of Colorado Territory in 1876. But the idea was forgotten when new mineral discoveries in Virginia Canyon above town had overshadowed the findings at Idaho Springs. When a toll road (known locally as Oh My God Road) was built through Virginia Canyon to Central City, Idaho Springs realized additional commerce by serving as a supply town. The Colorado Central Railroad reached the town in 1877. The post office name was changed to Idaho Springs in April of that year, and Idaho Springs incorporated in 1878. Eventually it also became County Seat of Clear Creek County.

More growth would come as Idaho Springs became a well-known spot along the railroad and various trails. In 1879 the Idaho Springs Mining Exchange was built. Castle Eyrie, one of the city’s most prominent homes at 1828 Illinois Street, was completed in 1881, as well as the elite Club Hotel. By 1887 some 2,000 people were guessed to be living in and around Idaho Springs as plans were made to construct the 5-mile long Argo Tunnel (originally named the Newhouse) to Central City. The tunnel was completed in 1892 at a cost of $10 million.

For many more decades, Idaho Springs remained an important city and became known for its colorful watering holes. Among them was The Placer Inn in 1898 and The Buffalo Bar in 1899, the latter which remains a mainstay of Idaho Springs today. The city also remained unique for its hot springs and “Vapor Caves,” (now known as the Indian Hot Springs) which also are still in operation as well. Nearby mines and a smelter kept the town up with Colorado’s economy.

Eventually, as Colorado’s famous gold boom era faded, Idaho Springs lost some of its population. Still, the city remained an important stop along today’s Interstate 70 with restaurants and hotels for the weary traveler. In 1958, Interstate 70 was redirected, but the business loop still cuts directly through the scenic downtown area. By the 1970’s Idaho Springs’ old-time saloons and eateries had become legendary. Today some of them have gone to the wayside while others have taken their place. These, as well as several museums, historic buildings, mining tours, rafting, and even a zipline make Idaho Springs well worth a visit.

Photo: Busy Idaho Springs as it appeared around the turn of the century.

Arbourville, Colorado and its Community Parlor House

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

www.JanMacKellCollins.com

            Every day, hundreds of cars whiz along Highway 50 along Monarch Pass between Salida and Gunnison. Between these two metropolises lie a number of forgotten towns, some no larger than a building or two. Some of the communities no longer stand at all, their existence marked only by a pile of lumber or sign along the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad as it meanders along the Arkansas River and parallel to the highway. Though travelers in their fast cars have no real reason to stop now, a century ago these small hamlets played an important role in Colorado’s development. At the tiny town of Maysville, for instance, several toll roads offered mail and passenger service in a number of directions. As a crossroads leading to both the goldfields of the west and the southeastern plains of Colorado, Maysville became an important center for exchanging news and information.

These were the days of lawlessness in urban Colorado, but only because there weren’t many laws to break nor outlaws to break them—which would explain why Maysville was sometimes referred to as Crazy Town. When Arbourville was founded along Highway 50 just five miles west of Maysville, it too became a social center of the Monarch Mining District, mostly because the camp housed the only substantial brothel in the area.

Although Arbourville was never incorporated, a post office was established on September 12, 1879. The town was likely named for M. Arbour, a real estate agent who was living at A.B. Stemberger’s boardinghouse near Arbourville in 1880. It was said Arbour had migrated to the new camp from Silver Cliff. It is interesting to note that the first day lots went up for sale at Arbourville, over 100 were sold. Soon, the growing hamlet sported a hotel, boardinghouse and general store.

By 1880, the population was up to 159, a number that seems consistent with the town’s history. There were 102 men and 25 women, many with children. Residents included three local ranchers, as well as upwards of 46 miners who commuted further up Monarch Pass to the Madonna Mine and other surrounding prospect holes. Business folks in 1880 included a banker, two butchers, seven carpenters, three doctors (all of whom were also surgeons), a general merchandiser, a harness shop owner, three grocers, a hotel operator, two livery stables, miller H. Breckenridge, two house painters, two real estate agents, two restaurant operators, two saloon keepers, a shoemaker and two teamsters who likely carried freight and passengers between the mines and the railroad. Stage fare from Maysville to Arbourville cost fifty cents.

Arbourville’s brothel, which is said to have doubled as a stage coach stop, saloon and hotel, replaced a smaller log brothel that operated in the town years earlier. The new bordello is thought to have been constructed by James or Eli Wolfrom in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. In more recent years, the now empty building has become known as the “stone house”. Despite being a house of ill repute, this structure likely assisted Arbourville in rivaling the nearby towns of Garfield and Monarch, since people also gathered there for news and to socialize.

Renowned photographer William Henry Jackson was among those who recorded early-day photographs of Arbourville between 1880 and 1890. In 1881 the post office name was inexplicably changed to Conrow, but closed altogether in 1882. When travel-writer Ernest Ingersoll visited the area in 1885, he noted that Maysville and Monarch appeared to be the most important communities in the area.

Although the D. & R.G. crossed today’s Highway 50 on the town’s edge, there does not appear to have been a depot at Arbourville. Wagon roads led up to Cree’s Camp and other mines, and east or west along the “Rainbow Route” to Salida or Gunnison, respectively. The town cemetery was located under today’s Highway 50. Of the only two identified burials there, the earliest one dated to 1883.

The silver panic of 1893, combined with better transportation, left Arbourville in the dust to the point that the town wasn’t even covered in census records beginning in 1885. The buildings went into private ownership and the town settled into a quiet suburb. In 1938, when the state expanded the highway to its present size, workers declined to even bother moving the bodies from the graveyard.

Long after its short glory faded, Arbourville eventually became home to just one resident, Frank E. Gimlett, the former proprietor of the Salida Opera House. In 1900, Gimlett and his family, including a cousin, were living at Monarch. Gimlett initially worked as a mine superintendent. Later he worked as a grocer and lived with his family in Salida until about 1930. Sometime after that, he made the defunct town of Arbourville his home.

An eccentric and likeable hermit, Gimlett lived year-round at Arbourville until his death in circa the mid-1940’s. He utilized his winter months by writing a series of booklets called “Over Trails of Yesterday.” As a veteran of the mining era, Gimlett knew many of the people and places from the old days and spun many a colorful yarn about them. His stories were entwined with his own personal philosophies. One of his books, “The Futility of Loving Vagarious Women,” inspired playwright and diplomat Clare Boothe Luce to write him a protest letter in defense of the fairer sex. But notably, Gimlett did love one woman, his wife Gertrude, who supposedly also lived with him at Arbourville.

Gimlett also dubbed Arbourville “Arbor Villa” and assigned his own names to various mountains in the area. Among them was Mount Aetna, which Gimlett petitioned to rename Ginger Peak after his favorite film star, Ginger Rogers. Gimlett went so far as to send a petition to President Franklin Roosevelt himself to change the name, but the president himself shot the idea down. Supposedly Roosevelt explained that while Ginger Rogers was worthy of the honor, the name change might prove too much trouble for cartographers. Gimlett retaliated by sending a bill to the government for $50,000. The fee was for “guarding the mountains” during winter and assuring the snow and ice were safe from thieves. It was never paid.

Today, about five buildings are left standing in Arbourville, along with old fences along traces of the main drag, collapsed structures, several foundations and the magnificent stone house. The roof of the building gets weaker and weaker each year and is in danger of sinking in altogether. The ghost town is accessed via the Monarch Spur RV Park, which was owned by Elsie Gunkel Porter in 2012. Having grown up in the stone house, Elsie and her brother Jerry were the last residents of Arbourville. “That town was Jerry’s life and his love,” said Christina Anastasia of Salida in a 2005 interview. Anastasia, along with her husband Raymond, was a good friend of Gunkel’s.

According to Anastasia it was Jerry Gunkel’s dream to re-develop Arbourville, but he passed away in May of 2003. In his honor Anastasia, a doctoral candidate and professor at Colorado Technical University of Salida, nominated Arbourville to the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register, but to no avail. “They said there is no historic relevance to the property, although there are all kinds of fun stories,” she says, “because there is so little documentation about it. Arbourville was a mining camp so there is no legal record that really shows anything. They said until someone can come up with some historical significance, it doesn’t have any relevance.”

Monarch Spur RV Park at Arbourville continues to serve as a wonderful and remote vacation spot with tent and RV sites, cabins, shower and laundry facilities, a store, and even internet service. For information or reservations, or to visit Arbourville, call 888-814-3001 or 719-530-0341 or access the website at msrvpark.com.

Wild and Woolly Ash Fork, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

http://www.janmackellcollins.com

Portions of this article first appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Long after Native Americans, Spanish explorers and Lt. Edward Beale’s crew made their way along today’s Interstate 40 through Arizona, a settlement popped up at the junction of today’s Highway 89 leading south to Prescott. The Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, which laid rails through the area in 1882, called it Ash Fork after a nearby grove of trees.

For a number of years, things at Ash Fork were just swell. A post office opened in 1883, then a Wells Fargo office, and cattle and sheep ranchers began moving in. Local flagstone was loaded onto boxcars along the railroad to build bridges and buildings. Everything was fine until residents realized they had no sheriff, and that their fair little town was seeing a chaotic wave of outlawry and debauchery.

Some of the outlaws around Ash Fork were duly hanged by vigilante committees until the law showed up. When the town became an important branch along the Santa Fe Railroad to Prescott and beyond beginning in the early 1890’s, folks hoped some of the bad guys would hop a train and skedaddle. What happened instead, however, was that more bad boys and naughty girls bought a ticket to come to town instead of leaving it.

By 1893, Ash Fork was quite wicked indeed. On February 22, for instance, the Arizona Journal Miner alone reported that a “woman of the town” had committed suicide, and a man killed E.G. Owens in the same saloon where, the previous summer, one Brog May had also killed a man named Tom West. Also, wife murderer Salvador Armijo was still on the loose. That was just in one day. Later that year, when Ash Fork caught fire and burned to the ground, it is doubtful that anyone was really surprised.

Ash Fork rebuilt. The year 1894, however, wasn’t much better as the incorrigible Bertha Reed came to town. Bertha had already been in Prescott’s court over the morphine overdose of James Gabel and the murder of Tim Casey when she was arrested for loitering in Ash Fork’s saloons. Later, Bertha went to Globe and was involved in several more escapades before disappearing in 1907.

Bertha Reed wasn’t the only troublemaker around Ash Fork. In November of 1901 Rosa Duran was charged with larceny at Ash Fork and sentenced to Yuma’s Territorial Prison for three years. She was back in Prescott by 1908, however, where she and Ella Wilton, a.k.a. the “Turkey Herder”, were arrested for robbing Yee Jackson of $40.

Ash Fork balanced its wild nightlife by having not one but two of the finest Harvey Houses in Arizona. Fred Harvey built the first one, a wooden affair across from Cooper Thomas Lewis’ Parlor House Saloon. When a kitchen fire destroyed the building and some other structures, Harvey built the massive and extravagant Escalante Hotel and dining room in 1907. The Escalante was soon billed as the nicest Harvey House west of Chicago.

The Escalante seemed to tame Ash Fork down a bit. In 1912, an article in the Tucson Daily Star explained that “Ash Fork is today as innocent as a newborn babe; she is as pure and white, morally, as the drifted snows that rim the San Francisco’s.” Of course the cleansing was due to the fact that the day before, “sixteen women of easy virtue” and their consorts were taken to jail in Prescott as a means to clean up the town. Within a year, however, some of the ladies were back. Amongst them was May Clark, who had previously killed a man in Seligman in self defense. After bonding out in Ash Fork, May went to Prescott, dressing in elaborate velvet gowns and conducting herself like a regular socialite during her trial.

May and her many consorts and colleagues gradually moved away from Ash Fork. In time, Route 66 travelers came to rest easy there and in 1947, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made an appearance in town during the filming of “Dark Passage.” Even so, the hotel portion of the grand Escalante closed sometime between 1948 and 1951. The dining room closed just a couple years later as an expansion of Route 66 destroyed numerous storefronts and homes.

The final blows to Ash Fork came in 1960 when the Santa Fe Railroad moved its main line away from town; in 1968 when the treasured Escalante was demolished; in 1977 when yet another fire burned most of the downtown area and yet again in 1987 when one last fire destroyed nearly everything left of the downtown buildings. In between such catastrophes, Interstate 40 eventually by-passed Ash Fork altogether.

The original section of Route 66 still runs through Ash Fork where a healthy handful of historic buildings survive. In 1992 there was another brief revival when another movie, “Universal Soldier” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme was filmed there—although, they say, several decrepit buildings were blown up as part of the action. Today, Ash Fork has reverted to one of its oldest industries, flagstone, while the Ash Fork Historical Society tells visitors about the town’s once wild and woolly past.

Read more about Ash Fork’s wild women in Wild Women of Prescott and Good Time Girls of Arizona and New Mexico: A Red-Light History of the American Southwest.

Arizona’s Agua Fria Valley, An Early Post Office

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

www.JanMacKellCollins.com

Portions of this article first appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

The expansive Agua Fria area encompasses a much of central Arizona, spanning from north Phoenix all the way up to Dewey some miles east of Prescott. Although much of it now lies in the Agua Fria National Monument, there was once a settlement in what is now known as the upper valley in vicinity of Dewey, Humboldt, Mayer and Cordes Junction. This was formally known as Agua Fria Valley.

Agua Fria Valley’s history begins in 1864 with King Woolsey’s Agua Fria Ranch. In March of that year, a group of fifty Pinal Indians attacked Woolsey’s cattle, and the area continued to be plagued by Indian attacks. During August of 1867, one settler was killed during another skirmish as another raid focused on Nathan and Ed Bowers’ new ranch and flour mill just south of today’s Dewey. When stage station operator Darrel Duppa was badly wounded by Apaches in 1872, the military finally stepped in. Lieutenant Max Weisendorf, twenty one enlisted men of “Troop A” and citizen John F. Townsend of Lower Agua Fria Valley had “another battle and killed seventeen Indians” according to area newspapers.

Official Anglo settlements at the community of Agua Fria Valley proper began in 1873, after a “shorter and better” wagon road was built from Prescott. First mention of a woman’s presence came in an 1874 news article when “Mr. Ed. G. Peck and wife, of Agua Fria Valley, arrived in [Prescott] yesterday and left for home today. Ed said that himself and brother farmers have a splendid prospect for crops.” The Agua Fria Valley post office opened in the spring of 1875. Dennis Marr, whose ranch was in the vicinity of today’s Kachina Place and Highway 69, was the first postmaster. Within a few months, mail was delivered weekly.

Other pioneers of the valley included Angeline Mitchell and George Edward Brown. Brown had started his ranch near Mayer in 1877. In 1881 he was elected to the Arizona Territorial Legislature, and would go on to act as deputy sheriff under sheriffs Ed Bowers and William “Bucky” O’Neill. Angeline, meanwhile, occupied her time with documenting local history and collecting mineral specimens.

In 1877, Henry Spaulding became postmaster of Agua Fria Valley. In 1884 the Spauldings also rented a room to a petite school teacher named Annie Allen, who taught the children around the community. One of her pupils was Sharlot Hall, whose family had arrived three years before. Sharlot lived at her family’s Orchard Ranch near Agua Fria Valley for much of her life. A lover of history, she was appointed as Arizona’s Territorial Historian in 1909. In 1928 she opened a museum in the territorial Governor’s mansion in Prescott, known today as Sharlot Hall Museum.

Beginning in 1889, Marr’s Ranch in Agua Fria Valley hosted the first of several rodeo roundups to appease the local cattle industry. A proposal also was made in 1890 to establish the new Mineral Belt Railroad to Phoenix, which would run through the valley. The railroad never came to fruition, perhaps because of the weather which could bring deep snows in winter, catastrophic floods in spring and fall, and very hot days in summer. On a day in July 1890 for instance, the temperature soared to 114 degrees in the shade. Rancher Martin Conrad, who was helping A.C. Burmister bale hay, dropped dead in the heat.

In spite of its expansive land area, Agua Fria Valley was a tight—knit community. In 1892, a “Grand Ball and Supper” was held for the entire community at Fred Hiltenbrant’s Station for just two dollars per person. By 1893, the McCrum Sampling & Milling Company was processing ore for area mines. By then, however, other small towns were popping up everywhere. The Agua Fria Valley post office fell out of use and subsequently closed later that year.

Slowly but surely, Agua Fria Valley’s residents began moving off. Settlers Nathan and Ed Bowers sold their ranch in 1895. Pioneers also were dying off, including Richard “Uncle Dick” Thomas, who had homesteaded in the valley back in 1876. Thomas and his wife Ellen, aka “Aunt Nell”, kept a “a well—known road station” at their home. When he died in 1902, his obituary noted that “‘Uncle Dick’ and ‘Aunt Nell’ are fresh in the memories of many a tired and hungry traveler.” Most fittingly, Sharlot Hall recited a poem entitled “The End of the Trail” at Thomas’s services. Ellen “Aunt Nell” Thomas returned to Michigan, and the ranch was sold.

Even as its residents continued moving away, farming remained a primary focus at Agua Fria Valley. “Residents of Agua Fria Valley report the most prolific corn and hay crops there in many years,” reported Arizola’s Oasis newspaper in 1909. “Thomas E. Reynolds, who purchased what is known to pioneers as the ‘Old Dick Thomas’ ranch, returned from the ranch Saturday with a sample of sorghum the stalk measuring ten feet, ten inches.” Today cattle and crops continue flourishing in Agua Fria Valley, but on a smaller scale than in the old days. As for the post office, nothing is left and the area consists of modern housing and businesses.

Who Was Sedona Arizona’s Sedona Schnebly?

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

It is no surprise that the name Sedona, that most unique art community nestled amongst impossibly beautiful red rocks in Arizona, sounds like a girl’s name. It is, for Sedona was named for a spunky young woman from Missouri who followed the call of the west. Sedona’s mother, Amanda Miller, would later say she made Sedona Arabella Miller’s first name up when the child was born in 1877. Dona, as she was known amongst family, was raised in a Methodist household, received a fine education and even attended finishing school.

Despite her fine upbringing, Sedona’s parents were shocked and heartbroken when their daughter announced her pending marriage to Theodore Carlton “T.C.” Schnebly. She was only 20 years old and besides, Schnebly was a Presbyterian. Sedona married Schnebly anyway. The wound grew deeper when the new husband announced his plans to take Sedona out west.

Sedona’s parents had little say in the matter. There were already two young children from the marriage (Elsworth and Pearl), but Schnebly’s brother Tad was beckoning the couple to Arizona. T.C. and Sedona left Missouri to join Tad and his wife, and the foursome worked their farm in “Camp Garden” along Oak Creek. T.C. hauled his produce to Flagstaff via a steep hill that is still known today as Schnebly Hill along Interstate 17.

T.C.’s hard work paid off. Within a short time the Schneblys were able to build a fine two-story home and open a store. They entertained often. Sedona’s excellent cooking skills, as well as her piano skills, were applauded by many. So popular was the Schnebly house that sometimes T.C. erected tents for extra guests.

In 1902 the community around the Schneblys numbered 55 people. T.C. successfully applied to establish a post office. Fortunately for his wife, the first two names T.C. chose—Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station—were too long to fit on a standard postal cancellation stamp. Tad suggested they name the post office Sedona, “because she was a character that would stand well as a symbol for the community.” The post office accepted the name and history was made.

For the next three years life was sweet for both Sedona and the community bearing her name. A third child, Genevieve, was born. Sedona Schnebly was a favorite in social circles, and the family enjoyed outings with others in the community. The lessons Sedona learned in her early years at finishing school were ever present. Her great grand-daughter would later remember, “Whenever she had to carry buckets of water from the creek, she was planning how she would set her table with a touch of class.”

Most unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1905. On an outing with her pony, daughter Pearl was accidentally caught in the reigns and strangled. The Schneblys buried her in the front yard of the family home to keep her close, but Sedona became so grief stricken that the family moved back to Missouri. There, the Schneblys continued farming and had three more children. Eventually they moved to Colorado, where they also farmed.

The family did return to Sedona, in 1931. By then T.C. was in bad health, and Sedona’s climate was better for him. The family farm was long gone, so the Schneblys rented a one room house. Sedona took in laundry for the Civilian Conservation Corp, and T.C. worked at a local orchard when he was feeling well enough. For the rest of her life, Sedona Schnebly dedicated herself to her community. Residents remembered her as a generous and spirited woman who taught Sunday School and spearheaded efforts to build Wayside Chapel.

Sedona Schnebly died in 1950, just three years after celebrating 50 years of marriage with her husband. T.C. died four years later. The Schneblys are buried in Cook Cemetery beside Pearl, whose remains were relocated. Today, Sedona Schnebly is an honored member of Sharlot Hall Museum’s Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden in Prescott. A bronze sculpture of her also resides majestically in front of the Sedona Public Library.

Prescott Arizona’s Children of the Night

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

The following is excerpted from Good Time Girls of Arizona and New Mexico: A Red-Light History of the American Southwest.

One of the worst perils a working girl could face was becoming pregnant. Unmarried mothers were frowned on society to begin with. Prostitutes, already burdened with being societal outcasts, could be put out of work by such a malady. Many girls used birth control, but in frontier Arizona there were few reliable remedies. The girls found that using opiates sometimes suspended menses. Diaphragms, the most common type of birth control available, could be fashioned with beeswax, eel skin, a hollowed out orange half or a large glob of Vaseline. Wealthier girls could perhaps afford condoms made from animal intestines or later, rubber. Douching with a choice of anything from water to more dangerous substances such as alum or sulphate of zinc could actually push sperm farther into the uterus. Thus, those who employed these practices were susceptible to their birth control failing them.

If a woman found herself pregnant, she was naturally left with two choices: either have an abortion, or carry the baby to term. But abortion operations could be hard to come by, especially after Congress passed the Comstock Act in 1873, an “Act of the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use.” Such literature included information about abortion and contraception. While women could still access information about such things via a friend, neighbor or other means, the subject remained largely forbidden and the information unreliable. Few frontier doctors were skilled, willing, or even allowed by law, to perform abortions. Within the red light district might be a woman who knew how to perform abortions, but such an operation came with great risk of infection or a botched procedure that could result in dire injury or death. Such back-alley “grannies” were only sometimes charged if their patients died. Abortion in the United States had long been outlawed, and by 1900 the procedure was a felony in every state.

On the other end of the pendulum was how word of such an operation might further deplete a girl’s already tarnished reputation. Those desperate to terminate their pregnancies could try jumping up and down, running, prolonged horseback riding, douching with dangerous chemicals or even throwing themselves down a set of stairs. Some women tried to induce miscarriages with home remedies. Perhaps the most dangerous of these was Ergot, a fungus that was already in use by some doctors to control bleeding after childbirth. The user could indeed induce a miscarriage, but risked other such dangerous side effects as cramps, vomiting, convulsions and even gangrene of the extremities. Quinine could also be used, but the large doses required might damage the kidneys. Consumption of numerous herbs including Black Cohosh, Saffron and other kitchen spices might induce an abortion. Or not. In the latter case, an abortion was the only other alternative. Many women who could not afford such services were forced with no other choice but to give birth. Much of the time, if the infant survived it was given away, abandoned, or turned over to an orphanage. But shame over their unwanted child and the means by which it was conceived could also persuade a woman to keep her baby and try to raise it herself.

In Prescott, the shady ladies of Granite Street, just one block south of “Whiskey Row” along Montezuma Street, were mostly extended freedom and acceptance when it came to selling sex. Prescott was in fact quite lenient in its laws against prostitution, often looking the other way when the ladies violated territorial prostitution laws. Those women who strayed beyond the designated “restricted district” or broke other loosely-worded city ordinances only came into the limelight when a real crime or violence was committed. Notably, little appeared in the newspapers about how officials dealt with children of the women. Various records, though scant, do illustrate how the fine citizens of Prescott accepted, adopted and looked after orphans and abandoned children in their community.

A favorite story from Whiskey Row is about Violet “Baby Bell” Hicks, who was intentionally abandoned by her mother at the Cabinet Saloon. Men in the saloon noticed the “comely young woman” who dropped her off, but apparently made no attempt to stop her. The forty or so men present gathered around the little bundle, and in due course some of them offered to adopt her. Legend states the men played dice with the stipulation that the winner would get the baby. In truth, Probate Judge Charles Hicks, who handled adoptions in town, was summoned and subsequently took charge of the child. They say the men present sent Hicks off with $300 for the baby’s care. What is known for sure is that Hicks and his wife Allie adopted and raised Violet in due course.

Most unfortunately, Violet Hicks proved an exception to so many children who never lived to school age. Lack of prenatal care, qualified physicians in rural areas, and general knowledge of childcare could hinder a child’s growth and make it susceptible to illness and disease. It is no wonder, in the days before aspirin, penicillin and other medicines we depend on today. People, and especially children, were subject to such illnesses as cholera, smallpox and measles. Poor sanitary conditions could produce a number of fatal intestinal diseases. And, there were always colds which easily developed into a deadly flu.

In Yavapai County, the first documented child of a prostitute was Mariana Bran [sic], who is recorded in the first Arizona Territorial Census as living with Santa Lopez. Santa was noted as being the mistress of “Negro Brown.” One-year-old Mariana may have been Brown’s child, her surname misspelled by the census taker. What happened to Mariana remains a mystery, but by 1870 even a well cared for inner-city child had only a 50 percent chance of making it to the age of five. At least three children were surviving in Prescott’s red light district during the 1870’s. In July of 1870, the census noted that one house, occupied by three young women known as Maria Quavaris, Pancha Bolona and Joan Arris, also included an eight month old infant, Savana Deas, who had been born in Arizona. Any one of the women might have been the child’s mother.

Overall, most prostitute mothers did not welcome the idea of a pregnancy or a child interfering with their professional lives. Only a small number of children followed in their mother’s footsteps; most were raised by family members, or sent off to boarding schools by those mothers who could afford it. Other times, the child was left behind with a relative, or perhaps even abandoned along with the father. When Ellen “Nellie” Stackhouse (nee Ellen L. Crane) was murdered in 1877, it was noted she had a husband and child in San Francisco.

Infant mortality rates due to their mother’s doing had become so rampant by 1877 that Arizona Territory enacted a law against women killing or concealing the death of their “bastard” children, as follows:

“If any woman shall endeavor, privately, either by herself or the procurement of others, to conceal the death of any issue of her body, male or female, which, if born alive, would be a bastard, so that it may not come to light, whether it shall have been murdered or not, every such mother being convicted thereof shall suffer imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding one year; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to prevent such mother from being indicted and punished for the murder of such bastard child.”

Plenty of living infants and children were present in Prescott’s red light district along Granite Street. In 2005, archaeological excavations in portions of the red light district revealed marbles and other toys, indicating that at some point, children lived among the ladies. The 1880 census proves this also, revealing that prostitutes Mary Healey, Mollie Martin, Juana Lugo, and Francisa Traney all had children residing with them in their brothels. Mary Healey and Mollie Martin both lived with Madam Ann Hamilton in a plush house on Granite Street. Mary Healey had an 8 month old son, Henry, born the previous September. Very little is known about mother and child, save for the census information. According to that, Mary had been born in 1861 in California. Henry was also born there, and the only information known about his father is that he had been born in Massachusetts.

A little more is known about Mollie Martin and her daughter, Edith. Mollie was born in 1856 in New Jersey, and told the census taker she was married. Edith had been born in Arizona in 1878, and her father had been born in Virginia. Mollie was either pregnant with Edith or had already given birth in April of 1878 when she was involved in a scuffle. The Weekly Arizona Miner reported that she, Willie Beatty and Jennie Warren had appeared in court on assault and battery charges. The threesome pleaded guilty, and were fined $25 each. “The fines were paid,” concluded the paper, “and the damsels discharged.” An excavation of Ann Hamilton’s brothel in 2004 revealed a small porcelain doll head. Did the doll belong to Edith? The truth will likely never be known.

Little is known about Juana Lugo’s three year old daughter, Josephine, except that she was born in Arizona. In the case of Francisca Tranery, the thirty-year old woman actually had two children living with her. One was her daughter, a ten year old named Rosa who was born in Arizona. The other, six year old Francisco Fryo, is listed in the 1880 census as a “boarder”. No other information about the boy, except that he had been born in Arizona and his parents born in Mexico, is known. Children also were present with prostitutes living at the mining camps in the Bradshaw Mountains close to Prescott. At the Peck Mine was 25-year-old Josepa Noreiga of Mexico. Josepa lived with stable keeper W. J. Milvenon and miner Thomas Gormley. Also in the house was Josepa’s son, two year old Charles Noreiga, listed as a nephew of Milvenon. Charles’ birthplace was listed as Arizona. His father was born in Ohio. Since Milvenon claimed to have been born in Massachusetts, and Gormley was from Connecticut, it can be safely assumed that neither man was Charles’ father.

By 1900, the mortality rate for children on average was slightly lower than before, with toddlers averaging a 75 percent chance of surviving to the age of five years. Those who were born into a union, before their mothers turned to prostitution, were probably the most fortunate. There were exceptions, however. In Prescott, Bessie Covell told the 1900 census taker she had been married for two years and had given birth to two children, but that both had died. Several other working girls in the census were widows and likely forced by their station to work as prostitutes. Such women included Daisy Martin, a widow at the young age of 22, who told the census taker she had a child who did not live with her. Thirty-eight-year old Emma Wilson, also a widow, claimed five children who were still living, with no indication of where they might be. Mattie Wasson was not as fortunate as Emma Wilson. She too had been married for ten years before her husband died, and two of her four children had also died. The hard-core harlot Stella Shank, featured frequently in newspapers due to her antics and brushes with the law, had it even worse. Stella became an unwilling widow after nine years of marriage, and only one of her seven children was still living.

Like Stella Shank, Minnie Moore also made occasional headlines. Minnie was an immigrant from Spain who also was a widow. She had given birth to seven children, but only three were still alive. The pain of losing her children aside, Minnie was known to have lived in Tempe in 1893 when she was arrested for prostitution. No mention was made of her children in reports of her arrest. In Prescott, Minnie shared a house with Minnie Smith who recorded no children of her own. Nor were Minnie Moore’s children living with her, leaving their whereabouts unknown.

Surprisingly, the women of Granite Street were quite open with the census taker in 1900, aside from fibbing about their true occupations as prostitutes. The giddy girls of Prescott had no qualms about revealing whether they were married and had children. In all cases, both husband and said offspring were apparently living elsewhere. One of these women was Flora Freese who said she was born in California, had been married for eight years, and had two children. Likewise, Amelia Hernandez also said she had been married, for six years, and had four children. Fifty-five-year old Carrie Neal revealed frankly that she was single but had given birth to a child sometime in her past. When she died in 1918, no known family member came forth to claim her remains.

By 1901, firm laws were in place with regards to furnishing “necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance” for children by their parents. There also was a law against abandoning any child under sixteen years of age “in any place whatever, with intent fully to abandon it”. Violation of this last law could result in prison time. Unfortunately, the law could do little about the reckless behavior of parents, especially those in the red light district. In April 1907, Faustina Cruz and Alfonso Moreno “shot and carved, respectively”, one Angle Perez in a Granite Street saloon. Just a month later, on May 10, Faustina gave birth to a stillborn baby at her home at 219 North Granite Street. Prescott’s funeral home records are full of these cases. Just down the street from Faustina, in 1910, Refugio and Adela Staragosa’s thirteen day old baby, Manuela, died of apparent crib death at 242 South Granite.

Even as Prescott’s known working girls eventually wandered away from Granite Street, the old red light district continued to be a dingy, unhealthy place. Due to its raucous past, no decent citizen would live there, leaving the neighborhood open to inhabitants of the poorer class. Witness Macario Castaneda, the child of Macario Castaneda and Delores y Tuarte who succumbed to colitis in June of 1919. The death took place at 220 Granite Street. Similar deaths were reported between 1921 and as late as 1936, the deaths of these children occurring in quarters formerly occupied, or sometime still occupied, by red light ladies. Such common maladies as whooping cough, pneumonia, scarlet fever and other childhood illnesses were countered with blatant notes on the babies’ care. “Poor food. Lack of intelligence in feeding,” read the cause of death for a nine-month old baby at the home of Aoroa Cruz on South Granite Street in 1926.

For the most part, the fates of babies born into prostitution were seldom covered by newspapers or anywhere else. Local newspapers did make the most of the case of Lucille R. Bedford, the three-year old child of sporting woman Eileen Bedford. Born Eileen Glassel Mitchell, Eileen was the former wife of Charles Bedford, a well known saloon man. The couple had been married at Prescott on July 18, 1901 and lived happily at their home at 232 S. Marina Street through 1904. The marriage did not prove suitable, and the couple eventually divorced in 1906. Charles moved to Los Angeles, while Eileen remained in Prescott. There, she rented Room 16, an apartment above the Wellington Saloon on Montezuma Street.

Despite being from a wealthy family and inheriting part of an $800,000 fortune left by her grandfather, Eileen was “well known to the pleasure resorts” of Prescott. Whether she actively worked as a prostitute is unknown, but she was generally regarded as “a woman of excellent education, quiet, unassuming and of rather fine disposition.”xxi Little Lucille had been sent to live with her grandmother when Eileen grew despondent, probably over the failure of her marriage. In March of 1907 she attempted suicide with a gun, but it was taken away from her. On April 9, after a day of drinking, Eileen was escorted to her room by proprietor B. F. Winn of the Wellington. Both Winn and his bartender tried to talk Eileen out of drinking any more, and Winn retired to his room. Sometime later he heard Eileen groaning and rushed back to her room, only to find she successfully shot herself in the heart with a Colt .38. She was only 25 years old. Eileen’s body was removed to Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles for burial.

Eileen had in fact been planning to visit her mother, Mrs. Susan G. Mitchell, in Los Angeles within a few days. Her reasons for choosing suicide were unknown, but they could have been because she feared facing her mother and revealing her current occupation. And, learning of her daughter’s occupation may have indeed been what caused Mrs. Mitchell to become ill. Following Eileen’s death, the grieving mother made a will and bequeathed her $250,000 estate to be divided between Eileen’s estate and her other daughter, Mrs. Lucie [sic] Lamborne.

A 1908 lawsuit by little Lucy’s guardian ad litem alleged that shortly before Mitchell’s death in December of 1907, Lamborne had drawn up another will and made her mother sign it. The new will decreed that Lamborne would receive her mother’s house, its furnishings and $10,000 in stock in the firm of Lambourne [sic] & Sons. Little Lucille would get half of what remained, but later reports claimed the amount was only five dollars. This suit was apparently dropped. Charles Bedford also filed suit, in 1909, contesting Eileen’s will. Bedford lost his appeal in court; however, Lucy Lamborne agreed to give half of the fortune left to little Lucy on the condition she be allowed to adopt her.

Lamborne got her wish, for in 1910 little Lucy was living at the Lamborne home in Los Angeles. When Lucy Lamborne died in 1930, her obituary stated she was little Lucy’s mother. But little Lucy was long gone from the home, having married Donald Bryant and relocated to Bakersfield, California where she lived happily with her husband and two sons. Either the family fortune was gone as well, or Lucy Bryant turned her back on it. Census records for 1930 and 1940, as well as various California city directories, indicate Donald worked in the oil fields throughout the southern portion of the state.

I Knew You Were Coming! A Psychic in old Prescott, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

The psychics and seers which swept the nation during the 1890’s were not lost on Prescott. Ouija boards and crystal balls were all the rage, making for colorful tea parties and other soirees. Thus Prescott saw more than its fair share of clairvoyants in town. One such person, Mrs. Weils-Bedell of Denver, set up shop for about a week right next to Brinkmeyer’s Hotel in 1896.

But Mrs. Weils-Bedell had nothing on the great hypnotist, psychic and mind reader Dr. Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall. Born in England, Tyndall had immigrated to America by 1893. The earliest articles about his psychic “gifts” place him in St. Louis, Missouri where he not only hypnotized at least one fellow, but also played out his most magnificent talent: driving a carriage, blindfolded, while reading the thoughts of whomever sat next to him to figure out where he needed to go.

News writer Theodore Dreiser later recalled how Tyndall requested several men to accompany him on the ride. “And, amusingly enough, I was ordered to get up the committee,” said Dreiser, “and sit on the seat and do the thinking while he, blindfolded, raced in and out between cars and wagons, turning sharp corners, escaping huge trucks by a hair only, as my thoughts directed him. When written up as true, which it was, it made a very good story indeed.”

At an 1899 appearance in Ouray, Colorado, it was announced that Dr. T’s fees were “not less than $5 in any city in the world. For the next few days, however, he will give his full $5 reading at a special rate of $2.50, and a short reading at $1.00. Those who cannot afford these fees will please not call, as McIvor-Tyndall’s time is limited. He is a busy man.”

Prescottonians surely had their money in hand when Tyndall arrived in town on New Year’s Eve in 1901. The Arizona Weekly Journal Miner called him “the celebrated exponent of the occult”, who “enjoys the distinction of being the most famous scientist along psychic lines of the present day, and his demonstrations are unique, mystifying and highly entertaining.” The good doctor stuck around for over a month, ending his visit with the famed blindfolded carriage ride.

Notably, the Journal Miner recalled a time in the not-too-distant past when the same carriage ride was attempted by Tyndall in San Francisco. After riding around for several hours unsuccessfully, the psychic had become “unconscious and remained in a trance for seven days”. Another time, in Seattle, businessman Herman Miller bet $1,000 that Tyndall could not open his safe by gleaning the combination by reading Miller’s mind. The feat was carried out successfully, but a passing police officer saw the men in the dim light of Miller’s office, believed them to be thieves, and arrested them as “safecrackers.”

The incidents in San Francisco and Seattle didn’t seem to bother the good people of Prescott. They wanted to see the blindfolded carriage ride, and they got it. In this instance, “a committee of prominent citizens” were to hide an item somewhere in the city. Tyndall would then drive around town, blindfolded, and find it. Whether Tyndall’s ride was successful was never reported, but the celebrated carriage ride performance eventually faded in favor of his giving lectures and writing books—as well as a titillating love triangle.

Around the same time he was in Prescott, Tyndall found a new love in his life, just as was predicted by a London psychic many years before. She was an actress named Laura Hughes, who eventually moved in with Tyndall as well as his wife, Margaret. Most surprisingly, Margaret didn’t mind. “Is there any chance for me to fight against fate?” she explained. “It is the cosmic law, the cosmic urge.”

Even after Laura became pregnant and married Tyndall in 1917, Margaret continued living with the newlyweds in Illinois where they were “celebrating, eating ice cream in a world peopled by nomads and tadpoles and Philistines, blissful in their own company and scornful of carping jeerers. It is a strangely contented triangle.”

Predictably, Margaret eventually disappeared from the picture as Tyndall continued his tours and writing under various names. The new Mrs. Tyndall and her husband became pastors of various spiritual churches in New York. By 1940 the couple had returned to California. When he died there in 1940, Tyndall was remembered as “one of the most astounding workers ever to appear on the platform” across America.

The Ups and Downs of Bumblebee, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Much like the fuzzy little insect, Bumblebee—located in southern Yavapai County just off of Interstate 17—has seen several flights of fancy. Since 1863 the tiny community has served as a short-lived mining camp, stage stop, post office, tourist attraction and these days, an historic landmark for ghost town enthusiasts.

There are no less than three stories explaining how Bumblebee got its name, all involving the flying critters and a nearby creek. Only forest ranger L.J. Putsch, however, ever offered evidence of a first-hand account. “Uncle Tom Saunders told me that in 1863 he and some other prospectors found a bumblebee’s nest full of honey in the cliffs along the creek,” Putsch wrote to historian and rancher Will C. Barnes. “Several of the party were badly stung so they named it Bumble Bee Creek.”

It should be noted that Bumblebee was originally not called that at all. The community was first known as Snyder’s Station after rancher W.W. Snyder. The name stuck until the first of several post offices was established as Bumblebee in 1879. Snyder was naturally the first postmaster, but Bumblebee’s series of stop—and—start post offices are indeed an enigma; postal stations were established and discontinued there twice in 1879, twice again in 1888, once in 1901 and a final time in 1928.

Although those early bee-bitten prospectors did find a bit of gold, by 1877 Bumblebee had become most useful as a stage stop between Prescott and Phoenix with several mining camps in between. An article in the Arizona Weekly Miner that year talked of a man named Besler who planned to build a stage station at “Bumble Bee Flat.” Mines such as the Bumble Bee and the Lucky Mack were staked in 1879 without much luck. In 1880 James Bobo served as station agent and postmaster, making around $46 per month.

News of Bumblebee over the next twenty years was scarce, but the town was still buzzing enough in 1902 to merit a postal contract extending to the town of Richinbar down today’s I-17 under J.R. Lowry. The Snyder family was still there too, as evidenced by an article about the marriage of W.W.’s daughter in 1907. Other prominent citizens included pioneers William Martin and Carl Anderson who settled in 1911 and 1912 respectively, and storekeepers William and Edna Martin.

As with so many rural towns, death visited Bumblebee often. Newspapers reported on the deaths of Carl Smith and a Mrs. Jackson’s new baby in 1907. In 1924, widow Susan Neatherland died at the Hidden Treasure Mine near Bumblebee. There were also a few murders, including the 1925 beating death of 75-year-old Thomas Glasgow, the 1929 shooting death of sheep herder Juan Chacon, and the killing of Carl Wester by gunshot in 1931. And in 1933 an unidentified man, apparently a suicide, was also found near town.

During the late 1930’s, business entrepreneurs saw gold in Bumblebee yet, and worked to turn it into a tourist mecca. New construction, credited to one Jeff Martin, added old—fashioned looking buildings to the site. A souvenir trading post and café was established in the old school. The “new” portion of the town was actually located some 250 feet west of the original site, but over time people lost interest in both. Bumblebee in its entirety was put up for sale in 1949.

In 1960 there were still ten souls living in Bumblebee proper. That year, eastern newspaper owner Charles Penn made news when he bought the town. Penn moved to Bumblebee and intended to open a railroad museum there, but died in 1962 before he could achieve his dream. The community was still privately owned in 1969, but the post office remained active until 1972.

Today Bumblebee is home to a large ranch and several private homes. The old faux buildings are gone, the souvenir shop is closed and there are no open businesses at this time. The town is visible from the Sunset Point rest stop along Interstate 17 (see photo) and is accessible via Exit 248. Although the trip to Bumblebee is worthwhile, visitors are advised to drive carefully, watch for off-roaders, and respect private property while visiting.

Ghosts of the Bradshaw Mountains, Arizona

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Frontier Gazette.

Of Yavapai County, Arizona’s many ghost towns, quite a few are located in the beautiful Bradshaw Mountains, located just south of Prescott along a bevy of back roads. Many well-known places such as Bueno and Goodwin no longer exist, while lesser-known places such as Catoctin and Bolada are barely remembered at all. There are, however, enough ruins and fantastic views left to make the trip worthwhile.

One of the earliest towns in the Bradshaws is Bradshaw City. Both were named in honor of William Bradshaw, who came to Arizona in 1863. Bradshaw City was primarily a supply town for the nearby Tiger Mine. Eventually there were saloons, restaurants, two hotels and a peak population of 5,000 people. Saddle trains traveled between Bradshaw City and Prescott weekly. A post office was established in 1874 but only lasted ten years. Although nothing remains of the community, the cemetery is still accessible.

Closer to Prescott, the Senator Mine was staked during the 1860’s. Three miles of tunnels made up the mine, and there was a saloon, store and boarding house. After the mine was purchased by Phelps Dodge in the 1890’s, hotels, restaurants, a school and a church were built. Despite a labor strike in 1903 another mine, the Maxton, also opened. It was named for store owner Max Alwen. Senator’s post office finally opened in 1915 but only ran for three years. Even so, the mine produced until the 1930’s and is still highly visible.

In 1875 prospectors E.G. Peck, C.C. Bean, William Cole and T.M. Alexander were trying their luck in the Bradshaw Mountains. Peck found a rock rich in silver, and established the Peck Mine. When a small town was founded there it was named Alexandra. The town eventually had between 75-100 structures, from stores and saloons to a butcher shop and brewery. The post office opened in 1878 and the mines around Alexandra operated for several years. Even after the post office closed in 1896, mining operations continued into the early 1900’s. Nothing is left of Alexandra, but the nearby Swastika Mine has a few ruins.

As travel increased in the Bradshaws, Alfred and Matilda Spence pursued their dream of building a stage stop. In 1875 they built Palace Station (pictured) halfway between the Peck Mine and Prescott. The Prescott & Phoenix Stage made it a regular stop beginning in 1877. A saloon and rooms were available to travelers. The Spence’s daughter Elsie remembered seeing “fancy ladies” arrive in town to service miners on payday. Today the historic building is occupied by a caretaker for the Forest Service (for more about the good time girls of Yavapai County, see Wild Women of Prescott, Arizona, available by clicking here).

One of the last towns of the Bradshaws in the 1800’s was Oro Belle, named for the Oro Belle Mining & Milling Company that was established in the late 1890’s. Oro Belle’s post office opened in 1904 and the community was lucky to have a sheriff and justice of the peace. After the post office closed in 1918, a bar from the saloon was moved to Crown King. Today, several remnants of buildings from the town survive.

The early 1900’s ushered in a slew of more new towns. One of these was Fort Misery, built by Al Francis as his home. Two misnomers exist about this remote place. First, Fort Misery was never a military fort; Francis so named it for the bleak existence he led there. Second, Francis’ place should not be confused with Fort Misery in Prescott, Arizona’s oldest log cabin that was built in 1864 and is now on display at Sharlot Hall Museum.

The history at Middleton is a little clearer. Middleton was named for George Middleton, who owned the DeSoto Mine above town. Because the railroad ran nearby, there was an assay office, boarding house, blacksmith, warehouse, post office (established in 1903) and several homes to over 100 people. Miners rode an overhead tram to the mine. The post office closed in 1908, reopened in 1916 under the name Ocotillo and closed a final time in 1925. Travelers on the way to Cleator from Mayer will pass through what remains of the town.

Words to the wise: Obey no trespassing signs and stay out of mine shafts which are extremely dangerous. Take only pictures, and make your visit a safe one.