Groom Creek History

Echoes of the Past: Groom Creek History

Excerpts of Groom Creek History

Most Groom Creek history articles are excerpts paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero – published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc. Sometimes we take interesting articles from other sources. If so, that will be indicated on article.

MATILDA LAMBUTH SPENCE Matilda was born on June 26, 1850 in Muhlenburg, Kentucky, the daughter of Richard J. and Mary Langly Lambuth. She married Alfred B. Spence in 1873 and came to Arizona from Missouri in a covered wagon. They settled on Banning Creek where they worked the sawmill. They founded a ranch and constructed a log house in Crook Canyon in the Bradshaw Mountains. The location was selected because selected because it was half way between Prescott and the Peck Mine, which was then one of the most prosperous mines in the territory.

In 1875 the Spences built Palace Station, fourteen miles southwest of Groom Creek. The station served the needs of the miners, ranchers and travelers. Here many a meal was prepared for weary travelers on the Prescott to Phoenix stage route and the horses were also watered and rested.

Matilda had eight children: Belle Johnson Crume, who is also represented in the Rose Garden, Elsie “Dolly” Evans; Ida Appalstill, Florence Beck Dozier, Maude Thompson; M. Olin, and Roy and Willis Spence.

Matilda sold the Palace Station in 1910 after the death of her husband. She was a member of the Methodist Church. She died on April 14, 1929 at the Pioneers Home and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Taken from the Sharlot Hall Museum Website Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden –

Five-cent ride down Gurley Street Part I

by Norman Delucchi

From the Sharlot Hall Website

During the first decade of the last century, it was possible for only five cents, to take a two-mile ride on Prescott’s one and only streetcar line, The Prescott and Mount Union Railway. The route went east on Gurley Street from about Garden Street (near Park Avenue) to Arizona Avenue, and then turned north along the Citizen’s Cemetery and finally east to Fort Whipple.

In 1881, Werner van Siemens developed one of the first successful electrical powered streetcars operating in Berlin, Germany. Prior to this time, power for streetcars was either animal power or an underground cable to which the cars were attached. The power for the Berlin cars was an electrically charged rail, similar to a model train setup. Having this third rail limited the voltage and presented a number of safety issues.

Frank J. Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, overcame the safety problems in 1888. His solution was to hang the power lines above the tracks. The car obtained power through a pole with a trolley (a device, usually in the form of a wheel, that carries electric current from a wire) that rode on top the power line. This is believed to be how the name ‘trolley car’ came about.

With the advent of safe power distribution, it seemed like every city and town wanted to put in a streetcar system. These systems ranged from lines less than a mile in length to over 70 miles, connecting cities and, in some cases, even crossing state borders.

Prescott wanted to be in the thick of things with regards to streetcars, granting a franchise in 1892 to Frank Murphy, whom many considered Yavapai County’s number one entrepreneur. However, at that same time, Murphy had his hands into a number of projects including bringing the Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railway to town, planning additional railroads into the mining districts, and monitoring his personal investments in various mines in the county. Possibly, because of the activities just listed, or for some other unknown reason(s), Murphy never exercised his franchise to build a streetcar line in Prescott.

However, Murphy, even though he did not exercise his franchise, continued his activities with Prescott’s streetcar endeavors. On April 23, 1902, by city ordinance, a new franchise was issued to Frank L. Wright to “lay, construct, equip, maintain and operate for profit, a single or double track street railway for the transportation of passengers and freight, in the city of Prescott, Arizona, to be propelled by electric power.” Frank Wright at this time was also the President and General Manager of the Prescott Electric Company. Wright’s original plans were to extend the streetcar line towards the Groom Creek area and provide freight and passenger service to the mines near Mt. Union. This was probably his justification for naming the line ‘Prescott and Mount Union Railway.’

In an editorial comment in the Arizona Journal-Miner dated May 16, 1902, the Journal-Miner stated that Murphy communicated to the newspaper five pages of typed objectives to the street railway franchise. The editorial further stated that “over one-half is an interrogatory nature asking for the opinion of the Journal-Miner on the ten different points with a direct question to the Journal-Miner in the form as follows: ‘Do you, or do you not think, etc.'” The editorial staff of the Journal-Miner objected to “being on the witness stand… hence declines to take up space which these interrogatories would occupy.” However, the very next day’s edition of the paper published Murphy’s ten objections to the franchise with replies to each of the objections. One objection that ultimately resulted in a change to the franchise was significant restrictions on the carrying of freight. The objection by Murphy may have been raised to avoid any competition with his proposal and the Santa Fe railroad’s plans to service the mines. The line to Groom Creek and beyond was never built, most likely because of the lack of anticipated freight revenue.

The original line built along Gurley from about the area of Garden Street and Park Avenue on the west to just past Virginia Avenue on the east with a short line north on Cortez Street to the car barn was just over a mile in length. “Today will make the beginning of a new era in the industrial progress of the city of Prescott. Today May 19, 1903, sees the beginning of work on the first electric street railway in northern Arizona, and Prescott now takes her place among the up to date cities of the west.” So began an article in the Arizona Journal-Miner of May 19, 1903. The article stated that the first load of material was being unloaded and hauled to the route of the new electric street railway. The article described future plans for the electric line, a line “from the depot to run south on Cortez street to the southern limits of the city”, a “line extending several miles out into the mining districts, passing south through the Groom Creek section, to Mt. Union and adjacent mining camps and on into the Crook canyon country.” None of these planned extensions ever came about. One assumption is that the restrictions on carrying freight could not cost-justify the extensions. The only extension ever completed was the line to Ft. Whipple.

The exact date of the first run of the streetcar is not known, however the first ride with Prescott’s city dignitaries was made on May 27, 1904. “The Courier man yesterday took a ride over the line of the Prescott and Mount Union electric railway, and can say that he saw no difference between that ride and several he took in Los Angeles and San Diego. The car is comfortable and glides over the rails smoothly. There is a mile of the track completed, and this is but the commencement of a system which will connect Prescott with mining camps and suburban resorts which will do much toward building up this city and section,” quoted the Prescott Morning Courier of May 28, 1904.

“Notable Event In The Progress Of The City,” read the headline to an article in the November 15, 1905, edition of the Arizona Journal-Miner. “It was a notable event in the history of Prescott’s progress and advancement when the first streetcar to Fort Whipple made its initial official run.” The article continued on to describe the trip from Arizona and Gurley Streets of nearly a mile in length as it crossed the Otis addition, passed two sides of the Citizen’s Cemetery and then entered Fort Whipple. The line terminated behind the non-commissioned officers quarters (now known as buildings #24 – 27) and close to where the new base hospital was subsequently built (now building #28). A depressed path exists behind these buildings today and is considered to be the site of the original streetcar right-of-way. The Morning Courier of the same date, is quoted: “The construction of this line, without doubt, will be favorably considered by the war department as showing that our people are fully awake to the importance of this post and are giving it every convenience and other facility in their power.” With the extension of the line into the growing eastern section of Prescott, the Journal-Miner continued with “it will do for this city proportionately what the electric system has done for Los Angeles.

Excerpt from Sharlot Hall Museum Website:

From 1929 through 1939, the Girls Friendly “holiday house” in Hassayampa Mt. Club was used. The camp sessions, called Casa Fiesta, featured riding, swimming, and life saving, as well as a Pioneer Unit from 1935 on.

The first camp folder and backpack trip to Big Pine Mine for the Pioneer Unit took place in 1936.

In 1940, there was a need for a permanent camp and a part time director Maxie Dunning was elected as camp chairman and camp was held at the Dunning Big Pine Mine site. This was available to seventy-four girls and eleven adults for three one-week sessions. Gold panning, the visit of a Mountain Lion, and the climb of Mt. Tritle were special events.

Kendall Mine, another deserted gold mine on Mt. Tritle, was the scene of the 194l camp.

In 1942, Maxie announced to the Board that the City of Prescott was willing to lease the CCC site in Groom Creek for two years at $1.00 per year. Later eighty adjoining acres were obtained. This land was to be called Camp Marapai, created from the names of Maricopa and Yavapai Counties.

The camp was filled to capacity, but tents and food were hard to come by. People were generous, particularly with garden products. The camp received many donations, especially carrots. The girls ate carrots morning, noon and night, they even found a recipe for carrot cookies and candy.

It was a primitive camp, but for the city girl it was a wonderful outdoor experience. Electricity did not come to Marapai until 1949.

Nan Kozdruy, who now lives in Prescott, was a camper in 1945 at Marapai. She remembers: “There were only two latrines in use, but new “two-seaters” were going in soon. The creek was our southern boundary as well as our water supply. Water was collected in huge cans and chlorine added. Ugh! Dishwashing was done in buckets, each girl doing her own. Showers were added a year later.” Nan later went back as a staff member and went on to work for the Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scout Council in Phoenix. This council was formed in 1936. Yavapai County became a member in 1963.

The Goldwater family from Phoenix did a lot to make the camp possible with money from Goldwater’s Fashion Shows.

In 1951, the Prescott Girl Scout Association acquired 17 1/2 acres in Groom Creek through the City of Prescott, with the Prescott Kiwanis Club sponsoring the project. The first Prescott Girl Scout Camp was formed in 1958 under the leadership of Mary Fran (Mrs. Jack) Ogg. At the current time Bradshaw Pines is leased from the city by the Kiwanis Club and it is open to all youth in the community. A Girl Scout history was compiled by Mary Fran and Elsie Blanton in 1962. It is included in a time capsule, buried in Prescott, that will be opened in 2012.

Excerpt from Georgia Belle Nichols Johnson Tells

 About Her Life Up Until 1930.


“The school teacher was single and had her sister living with her. She was in the 7th or 8th grade. We went right on in the grades we had started in Nutrioso. The next term we again had a single woman teacher. She had a “gentleman friend” from Prescott whom she later married. His name was Day and the kids use to “sing” in very loud voices during recesses and after school “It’s never night at Miss Shemmer’s on Sunday because Day is always there.” The second term there were 16 pupils and seven of us were in 7th grade.

I remember an Easter picnic and egg hunt that the whole community took part in, and a night when we all went up a mountain trail to rob a bee tree. It was scary and exciting and of the whole crowd I had to be the only one who was stung. There was plenty of honey for each family to fill their bucket. We roamed the hills and played in old abandoned mines where we could all have been buried alive and nobody would have known where to look for us.

Leon was fire lookout on Spruce Mtn. the summer of 1917. He had a cabin at the foot of the tower and I went up and stayed with him. We spent our evenings playing poker for matches. Perhaps the best memory of Groom Creek was the warm summer nights when we sat our on front porch and Mama sang for us. She knew so many songs, some sad, some funny. We never tired of listening”

Paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero

 Published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc

“It was often said that the second Senator Road was “built by the mile” as this meant more money for the builder, the Aubrey Investment Company. With Jack Trenberth in charge, the road was constructed between Prescott and Groom Creek between 1912 and 1914. There were 240 curves in the road owing to rough terrain. Equipment in those days consisted of mules, scrapers, fresnos, picks and shovels. The indian laborers simply followed the contour of the area, having none of the modern-day earth moving equipment.

The road out of town veered to the right at a place now known as Juniper Heights. Later, the third Senator Road shortened the distance between Juniper Heights and the Wolf Creek Junction. In 1941, the road was paved to Upper Groom Creek by the Pierson-Dickerson Company of Prescott. The old road today is still much like a cow trail from the Junction to the new Senator Road. It is to be hoped that this portion will one day be paved also, inasmuch as the scenery in that area would be greatly appreciated by many.”

Paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero

 Published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc

“Entertainment in those days consisted in part of picnics held on the last day of school, on the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Croquet and a card game called “Five Hundred” were favorite pastimes. About once a month a Saturday night square dance was held in a hall near the old post office. There were no babysitters in those days , and the youngsters were brought along and laid out to sleep on the long benches. My parents must have thoroughly enjoyed these occasions, as it was quite a chore to wake up a bunch of sleepy children, load us in wagons for the trip home and then finally get us into bed.

My father had numerous occupations, but one for which he had no charge was the Sunday afternoon haircut. Many boys would line up on our front porch and Papa would cut hair until the last one in line had been clipped or until it got dark. Neighbors were neighbors in those days in the true sense of the word, always doing good for each other…”

Paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero

 Published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc

“The next and third stop on the long road was Buck Horn Station, a saloon where teamsters and miners could again wash the dust from their throats and proceed on to the fourth and final night stop, a place called Maxton, at the head of the Hassayampa River, where the famous Senator Mine was located…

… My father, Peter Mackin, continued through the years in his several ways of providing for his large family, until in 1917 he was critically injured at the Storm Cloud Mine. There was no industrial insurance in those days and, while my mother got a judgment against the mine, the owner skipped out and no financial help was available to our family.

The City of Prescott owns a piece of property on lower Groom Creek which once belonged to the Ben E Major family and was cultivated by them for years.. The Otto Langes owned and operated the P cattle ranch on the Hassayampa river and ran the largest herd of cattle in the area for many years.

Another Groom Creek pioneer was John C. McNelty who served for years as assistant supervisor for the Prescott National Forest. An early day postmaster was John Shaffer, who conducted the business in a room adjoining his living quarters. His home was located just across the bridge on the present Senator Highway. When Rural Free Delivery service was provided, the post office was discontinued.

(This book is available at the Sharlot Hall museum Bookstore)

Paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero

 Published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc

…”The Apache Indians were numerous in those early days and we can recall our Grandmother Bennett telling us of several instances where the Indians tried to set fire to their second home on Banning Creek, which still stands today and is known as Loba Lodge. This property was only out of the hands of the Bennett family for a few years when it was sold to Mrs. Lucene Loba McConnell, who made it her home until her death in 1961.

The Groom Creek community during the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s was made up of families who made their living by ranching, mining, operating sawmills and raising cattle. There were about 500 men working the mines from the top of Spruce Mountain down to where Groom Creek runs into the Hassayampa River.

The old county road from Prescott to Venezia (a mining district beyond Senator Mountain) crossed Granite Creek over the old wooden bridge. The creek was spanned several more times and the road continued up the hill below Lake Goldwater which was known as Slaughterhouse Hill. Here, John Stephens owned and operated a slaughterhouse and butchered beef for the butcher shop owned and operated by a friend in downtown Prescott.

The first stage and teamster stop on this old road was at Rock Saloon, now called Pinehurst Estates. The second stop was known as the Half-way House which had overnight accommodations for the freighters and their teams. This property is known as the Webfoot Mining Claim and was patented many years ago by Peter Mackin.”

Paraphrased from “Echoes of the Past – Tales of Old Yavapai Vol. 2″ by Evelyn Mackin Zuchero

 Published 1964 by The Yavapai Cowbells, Inc

Robert Groom, after whom Groom Creek was named was a native of Kentucky, but came to Arizona in 1862. He was a mining prospector and surveyor, and was appointed by Arizona’s first territorial governor to survey and lay out the streets of Prescott. He also prospected the Groom Lode in the Groom Creek area, as well as other mines in northern Arizona.

“…In the late 1890’s my father became engaged in the mining business in the Groom Creek area, being superintendent of the Silver King Mine. About the time of my father’s arrival in Arizona, my maternal grandparents, Charles Henry and Alvina Bennett, came to Prescott and established residence on Banning Creek in an old log cabin known as Thorbeck Place, which land is now covered by Goldwater Lake.

The Bennett’s had ten children, and their daughter, Alvina, born in 1883, became the wife of Peter Mackin in 1901. They were my parents.”

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