I would wager that one of the predominating conversational topics in Kingman, as well as most of the southwest, as of late is the communities’ explosive growth and how it is transforming the very spirit of the town. I too find myself discussing this quite often, as the changes are both exciting and saddening. However, I have learned that it is historical perspective that provides the balance and that provides the answers on how to ride the waves of change while maintaining a sense of excitement about these changes.
William Kirkland grew up in the verdant hills of Virginia but came to the Arizona Territory in 1856. He was in Tucson when the Mexican army evacuated the town and pulled south to the newly established Mexico/United States border. Legend has it that he became the first to fly an American flag in the territory by climbing to the roof of Ed Mile’s store that day and raising one on an improvised pole.
The following year he drove a herd of cattle north from Mexico and established a ranch at Canoa. In 1863, he loaded his family into the wagon and moved north for greener pastures as well as better prospects to a small valley where the town of Kirkland is located today.
With the establishment of a stage station on the nearby Prescott road, a little farming and some prospecting Kirkland prospered. An increase in attacks by Apaches on outlying ranches in the area prompted him to forego profit for safety so he moved his family to Phoenix.
Undaunted he took advantage of new opportunities presented by growth in the territory and opened a freight service that moved goods from the river port of Yuma to the boom town of Wickenburg and Phoenix. Once again, he prospered.
Bill Kirkland died in 1909. To his credit, he was one of the few who came to the rugged territory in the 1850’s that lived into the twentieth century. Think of the changes he saw in Arizona!
I recently acquired a copy of “Illustrated Road Maps and Tour Book” for Arizona dated 1913. As I looked through the old book and read in another stories about individuals like Kirkland it came to me that Arizona has been synonymous with changing times for more than three centuries. Moreover, few things exemplify those changes or allow an opportunity to step back in time, if you will, as roads.
Therefore, with my newfound treasure and the recent acquisition of a sturdy, rugged desert wagon I have decided that this fall and winter should be spent, as time and finances allow, seeking out the road less traveled. Perhaps tangible links to the transforming changes of the past would better provide a perspective for the transforming changes of the near future.
Now the question is where to begin. The road from Seligman to Williams is intriguing. Then there are those tantalizing “hints.” Just east of “Patterson Ranch” is an arrow with, “good road to Prescott.” A few miles from this on the Williams road are another, “to cathedral caves.”
As winter is an excellent time to explore the deserts and the tour book features maps of southeastern California, perhaps this should be the focus in the months to come. After all, who can resist trying to find the remains of a place listed as Siberia in the desert east of Ludlow?
One place promoted and advertised in the old tour book has long intrigued me, Castle Hot Springs near Wickenburg. The pictures show this to be an extensive resort at the time. What remains?
Scattered throughout the tour book are similar advertisements, some with photographs, which truly pique the interest and spark the wanderlust. “Indian Hot Springs – First Class Hotel and Sanitarium via Fort Thomas” and “Hotel Modesti – Agua Caliente, Arizona.” Then there is “Hamburg, a beautiful resort in Ramsay Canyon.”
The advertisements scattered through the book are snapshots from a world changing at warp speed. There are garages that offer Studebaker cars with safe drivers as well as surreys with matched team. Thorpe’s Restaurant in Safford offered, “…good, clean home cooking and dairy products from our own ranch. White help only.”
Lodging was also in a state of great transition. The Jones Hotel featured, “…American and European plans, good home cooking and no Chinese or Japanese servants.” The Santa Rita Hotel offered, “…local and long distance telephone service.” The Hotel Beale offered, “47 Handsomely Furnished Rooms – All Modern Improvements including running water, baths, electric lights – Thomas Devine, proprietor.” Throughout the book there are some telling reminders of how rapidly the new was overtaking the old. Then as well as now more often than not the new was not always better than the old.
In the Kingman, profile section side notes indicate Mineral Park is only a two-hour ride from the depot. From Safford to Mt. Graham is, “just three pleasant hours by horseback or four hours by automobile dependant upon weather.”
It would seem I have some adventures on the horizon. And as I am in need of material for the forthcoming book, Ghost Towns of the Southwest, there seems to be no better time than now for such adventurers.

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