Dating to 1906, the well worn Sportsman’s Club along Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona is a landmark. With its original bar and other features, the Sportsman’s Club is a tangible link to Arizona territorial history, to the dawning of statehood and to the last major gold strike in the state. It also stands in mute testimony to the many contributions of Henry Lovin, an Arizona pioneer.
Born in North Carolina, Henry Lovin was an ambitious man that always had an eye on the future. After spending a few years in Florida as the manager of a citrus orchard he relocated to the Arizona Territory in 1887, and in partnership with W.W. Ward, established a citrus orchard at Phoenix. Two years later he moved on to Prescott and became the assistant manager for the Phelps Dodge Corporation mercantile store.
In 1893 he again relocated, this time to Kingman and established a small mercantile store. Within ten years he had stores in most every mining camp in Mohave County including Kelvin, Ray, Frisco, Yucca, and Stockton Hill.
His rise to fame and fortune was faster than a jack rabbit on the run from a coyote. Just before the turnoff the century he partnered with John Withers and established Lovin and Withers, a department and grocery store that became one of the largest in northwest Arizona. By 1910 they had branches in Goldroad, Oatman and other mining camps.
The partners also established a freighting business. In 1907 they installed the largest freight scale in northern Arizona at their Kingman yard.
In September 1908, Lovin and Withers again diversified their business. They purchased the store, inventory, and buildings of the Mining Supply Company in Vivian, later renamed Oatman. They razed the buildings and used the materials to establish a store, boarding house, and hotel on the Tom Reed mine property.
In the teens Lovin & Withers entered the construction business in Kingman and began building rental houses in the Bungalow/Craftsman style. They were built using local materials such as stone.
Lovin was also a pioneering rancher. County, territorial, and after 1912, state newspapers published stories about his success as well as innovations on ranches he developed at Francis Creek, Grant Valley and near Chloride. In 1908, in partnership with W.W. Walker he established a hay farm in the Hualapai Valley that was the largest in northern Arizona.
A profile published in 1913 noted that Lovin was, “…one of the men who came West with meager assets and made good. Politically, as well as otherwise, he is today one of the State’s most solid citizens.”
In 1900 he was elected Mohave County Sheriff, a position he held for two terms. It was the beginning of successful political career. He would serve on the constitutional convention committee that was the cornerstone for statehood in 1912. And he would be elected Mohave County’s first state senator. After a few terms in the state legislature, he was elected to the county board of supervisors and served as chairman.
Lovin was often proclaimed the “Friend of the Miner” as he often grubstaked down and out miners and prospectors. But he was also a major investor in mines and mills. He served as the director and vice president for the Carter Gold Mining and Milling Company. Lovin held stock in mines in Ajo, Stockton Hill, Jerome and throughout the territory. He was also half owner of the fabulously rich Lucky Boy Mine at Chloride.
He grubstaked the prospectors that discovered the richest mine in the Weaver District. But it was the grubstaking of Jose Jerez, a former captain in the Mexican Army, that transformed western Arizona.
Lovin had grubstaked Jerez on several occasions. Sometimes it paid off and sometimes the investment was lost. But in 1900, Lovin grubstaked Jerez $13 and he struck the proverbial mother load on the west slope of the Black Mountains.
Together the two men developed the claim and Jerez sunk a shaft to 15 feet. The ore was some of the richest discovered in the territory. Lovin used his contacts and sold the claim to a group of Los Angeles based investors. Lovin and Jerez each banked $25,000 on the deal.
The discovery sparked a rush into the Black Mountains, the last gold rush in Arizona. Lovin’s and Jerez’s discovery proved to be the cornerstone for the establishment of Goldroad. And the gold rush led to the establishment of a boom town named Oatman, and development of the now legendary gold producing Tom Reed and United eastern mines.
Lovin used the money to build an empire. He invested in the Goldroad based Red Top Mining Company and established the Gold Road Club, a saloon. The riches proved to be Jerez’s downfall. He sank deep into alcoholism. And then in August of 1906 he committed suicide by eating rat poison.
His business interests in Kingman were diverse. He established the City Ice Company and a bottling plant for soda pop. He also established a brewery and built a laundry on Beale Street that was leased to Mrs. O’Dea.
A fire that swept along Front Street west of the Beale Hotel in June 1906 claimed his saloon. The loss was estimated at more than $,200. Built he rebuilt a new Lovin Building of concrete and stone with concrete floor.
On October 2, 1906, the Palace Saloon opened in the new Lovin Building. It was promoted as the only “fireproof building in the county.” A.P. Jacobs, the proprietor of the saloon, advertised that the finest selection of wines, beers, and cigars was available.
Lovin sold the building in 1909 for $4,000. Over the course of years, the saloon would go by many names including the Deluxe and Sportsman’s Club. It would become a Kingman institution that remained unchanged through the years.
It survived the Great Depression and thrived during WWII as a popular watering hole for airman stationed at the Kingman Army Airfield. With the bypass of Route 66 and the shift of the city’s business district one business after another closed until the historic heart of the city looked like a ghost town. But the Sportsman’s Club survived.
It remains a tangible link to Kingman’s frontier history. And it stands in mute testimony to the vision of Henry Lovin.
This history will be shared in the narrated self guided historic district walking tours being developed by Kingman Main Street. As the project develops my excitement grows. This will be a game changer in the historic district.
The Watkins brothers drug store was on the corner at the left. It fronted the National Old Trails Road after 1921, and Route 66 after 1926. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
SAN JOSE RESIDENT ENDS LIFE IN ARIZONA – William A. Watkins Commits Suicide by Shooting Top of His Head Off in Kingman. KINGMAN. Ariz., March 31, 1901—William A. Watkins of San Jose. Cal., brother of H. H. Watkins. who Is manager of the Arizona National Bank and a prominent business man of Kingman, committed suicide last night by placing a large caliber revolver In his mouth and blowing off the top of his head. No reason is known for the act. The dead man leaves a mother and brother In San Jose, where his remains will be shipped for interment.
The rather gruesome headline and brief paragraph was discovered while on the trail of the story of the building that houses the El Palacio restaurant in Kingman. As one of the oldest commercial buildings in the city, it will be included in the narrated historic district walking tour being developed by Kingman Main Street.
Born in California in 1858, Howard. H. Watkins came from hearty pioneer stock. His father, B.F. Watkins, had left New York state for California in 1847 and was a survivor of the infamous Donner Party. He was one of the first people to establish citrus orchards in the valleys west of Los Angeles.
After completing business college Watkins bid adios to his family and family business and set out for the Arizona Territory in 1880. He followed the Mojave Road across the Mojave Desert and after a brief stay in Hardyville set out for the mining boom town of Mineral Park in the Cerbat Mountains.
It was in that rough and tumble town, in partnership with his brother F.F. Watkins, that he established the first pharmacy in the northwestern part of the Arizona territory. A sign over the door read, “Drug Store, Watkins Brothers, groceries, dry goods, and notions.”
Sensing opportunity in the newly established railroad town of Kingman, he sold the business in Mineral Park. Then he established a pharmacy of sorts in his home. That was in 1883.
In 1885, shortly after the death of his father, Watkins returned to California to settle family affairs. And that was when he met Miss Jessie Tolman, of Watsonville, California. He returned to Kingman as a newlywed and within a few years the couple had two daughters.
For more than a century this was a local drug store in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Tragedy struck in 1888 when Watkins home and business burned. Undaunted, in partnership with his brother, the Watkins Brother’s Pharmacy, later the Pioneer Drug, was opened in a building on the corner of Fourth Street and Front Street in what would become the Luthy Block.
It was originally an adobe building with a decorative parapet, shaded front, and recessed doorway. After a fire in June 1907 devastated the block, it was rebuilt using brick and adobe. The current façade dates to a 1935 façade remodel.
Howard Watkins also built a new home on the northwest corner of 4th and Beale Streets. The house was razed in 1951 when construction of J.C. Penny’s, now Beale Celebrations, commenced.
At the new store the brothers sold a wide array of goods just as they had at the store in Mineral Park. An advertisement from 1901 notes that in addition to soap, sundries and pharmacy items, customers could buy assay and mill supplies, paints, oils, window glass, wallpaper, stationery, and Kodak supplies as well as cameras.
The Kodak supplies reflected Howard Watkins passion for photography. Many early 20th century photographs of Kingman were taken by Watkins and are today valuable time capsules.
A third brother, William A. Watkins, relocated from San Jose, California and assumed a position of branch manager in Kingman for the Arizona National Bank. For reasons unknown, on the evening of March 30, 1901, he committed suicide.
In 1920 the brothers sold the store. As the Kingman Drug Company and J.H. Knight had both made offers, the Watkins brothers chose to sell it to the highest bidder.
This screenshot from the Kingman Main Street walking tour website highlights the website with audio link, before and after photo and 360 degree photo illustrates the multifaceted nature of the project.
An article published in the Kingman Miner noted that with the sale to the Kingman Drug Company, Watkins was ending thirty-eight years of business in Mohave County. The article noted that the new owners would be closing for sixty days to remodel the store and add a soda fountain.
Kingman Drug remained a Kingman tradition for decades. In 1994 the building was again remodeled and the following year Kingman El Palacio opened.
Jim Hinckley’s America is all about shared adventures. This project allows me to share the adventure in a whole new way.
It is a distinct pleasure to be working on this innovative endeavor. The research, providing audio narration, and seeking old photos is an adventure in itself.
The more I learn the more I realize how little I know. Those words of wisdom were imparted to me many, many years ago by a grizzled old cowhand that I rode with on the Sierra Mesa spread near Faywood, New Mexico.
To illustrate the validity of the philosophy consider the shift pattern in this 1967 International pick up truck. I have been driving old pickups for almost fifty years but this was a bit of a surprise.
The path that led me to this time capsule truck is a long and twisted one. Several years ago I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with tourism efforts in numerous Route 66 communities. These towns were flailing about in search of an economic boost and a way to revitalize blighted historic districts. And yet their knowledge of the Route 66 renaissance and the opportunities that this presented was akin to a frogs knowledge of tap dancing.
So, using Jim Hinckley’s Americaas a platform, I developed a serious of programs to foster a greater awareness of Route 66, its history, its international popularity and the economic potential all of this represented. Then I offered to speak in communities along the Route 66 corridor.
This was followed with a couple of test programs designed for high schools. They were well received at schools in Benld, Illinois, in Germany, and Kingman, Arizona.
Next I used the concept and created a more specific series of programs. Then I pitched the idea of community education classes to Mohave Community College in Kingman, Arizona. The goal was to increase community awareness and spark some excitement.
While all of this was going on I was working with the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership as a member of the economic development committee. And that led to the provision of assistance to a Rutgers University program that was developing Route 66 community profiles as an early phase in the development of a “tool kit” that would enable communities to capitalize on Route 66.
With the Route 66 centennial fast approaching, I dreamt up an idea that takes key components from each program and combines them with a Route 66 road show. The road show would include special educational programs in Route 66 communities, presentations about Route 66 and tourism in communities off the road, and creation of a time capsule of sort for the centennial.
The time capsule component would include interviews, live and recorded, with people on the road. This would include travelers, tourism officials, tour company owners, business owners, pioneers in the Route 66 renaissance movement, and people with a Route 66 connection in the pre interstate highway era.
Now, when this all started I had know real idea on how this initiative would develop. But I knew funding would be an issue and so I established a crowdfunding program on the Patreon platform.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. As I fumbled along the multifaceted project developed a clarity.
There were a few detours along the way but these were folded into project template. One of these is the narrated self guided historic district walking tours that I am helping Kingman Main Street develop. As I gain knowledge on how this is accomplished it becomes increasingly obvious that similar projects could be developed for any community.
Now, is where my eccentricity enters the picture. I have decided that the road show will be more successful if a vintage vehicle is used for the endeavor.
A vintage vehicle would magnify media focus. A vintage vehicle could easily ensure brand recognition for the endeavor. In turn this would magnify promotional and marketing initiatives. A vintage vehicle would make it easier to start a conversation with strangers. And a vintage vehicle would make it easier to engage school students.
Well, I have long wanted a Model A Ford. As I see more and more people driving Route 66 in one of these venerable and durable old Fords, the more obsessed I become.
But I must admit, this might not be the most practical option. So I dusted off my knowledge of vintage vehicles honed through of years spent writing about automotive history. And then in the evenings I spent hours in research.
Well, all that has been accomplished is conviction that a vintage vehicle is crucial. And I am increasingly convinced that with the right vehicle it would be practical. And it would also be possible to go vintage and still be fuel efficient.
And so the quest began. To date I have looked at a number of Model A Fords, and found one or two that are almost perfect.
I have also looked at several hundred vehicles that would work well, if they hadn’t been buried in the brush for decades. Or if they hadn’t been on fire, rolled, wrecked, rusted out, used for a chicken coop or if they had an engine.
I have also looked at a number of vehicles that are ideally suited for the endeavor. But as I want to be the best steward possible of the funds from supporters, I am working within a budget.
And that further limited options. But as I am planning on the launch of the road trip next spring, there is still time.
Today I looked at an incredible time capsule. A 1967 International truck with 81,000 original miles. The smile V8 and an overdrive transmission made it even more appealing. And there is the possibility of also acquiring an Alaskan camper that was mounted to the truck in 1967,
The cost is a bit worrisome and negotiations have commenced. But investing that much money makes me wonder, if perhaps, I should just renovate the tried and true old Jeep Cherokee that is the daily transportation. It is almost 25 years old, but I really want to do this in something a bit more vintage.
I also looked at a ’42 Dodge and ’52 Studebaker today. Both had seen better days. Both might serve as parts trucks. I figure either truck could be restored for $20,000 or so. That would surely make them worth at least $10,000.
But that wasn’t a wasted endeavor. The owner and I will be having some conversations real soon. She has stories to tell that are perfect for the Route 66 centennial time capsule. She grew up in Yucca, Arizona on Route 66, and her family operated the Whiting Brothers there.
All of this has led to a bit of reflection. There was a time when I thought that I knew the answers, at least a few of them. I am unsure if it is due to age but as of late it now seems as though the questions are being changed much faster.
I admit it. The endless stream of absurdities that has poured from the mouths of politicians, presidents, and newscasters over the past five years or so has left me a bit numb. But every once and awhile a headline grabs my attention. “Disabled Chicken Who Survived Weasel Attack Learning to Walk Thanks to Custom Wheelchair.”
Now, you may ask, what this has to do with tourism, travel, automotive history, or Route 66. I can explain.
First it must be admitted that I may be stretching a point here, sort of like saying that the wheel bearing is connected to the muffler. My analogy may seem rather outlandish but the wheel bearing and muffler are connected, in a round about way. But that is far less absurd than something of the things I have heard as of late.
It is not my intent to offend. But I am an old farm boy. I come from a time and place where a chicken crippled by a weasel was called dinner.
It is from that harsh, common sense, realistic perspective that I form opinions, make decisions, and make plans. And that is why it seemed like I was watching a French movie, dubbed in Russian with Japanese subtitles when I listened to Representative Andrew S. Clyde of Georgia explain the assault on the capitol by saying, “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Like or not, absolutely everything changed in just a few months last year. Education. Business meetings. Government. Tourism and travel. Even harder to admit is the hard cold fact that nothing will ever be the same. We are still watching the dramatic paradigm shift unfold.
As an example, consider this recent tagline for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Remote workers are being paid $20,000 to relocate to America’s small towns.” Think of the implications and the ramifications as people from metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Detroit, San Francisco and Boston relocate to small rural communities in the Ozark Mountains, Nebraska or the Dakota’s. This will affect politics, education, community culture, economic development, the tax base, real estate prices and a multitude of other issues.
For most of the past ten years, it has been the international Route 66 enthusiast that contributed the lions share of economic stimulus to the Route 66 community. That came to an abrupt halt last year. Many of the foreign based Route 66 tour companies that I work with, the ones that haven’t declared bankruptcy, have no plans to return to the states until at least summer 2022. There are, however, trends that show promise for Route 66, and concerns, in the years approaching the highways centennial.
International travelers as well as American tourists have discovered the staycation. Will that trend gain in popularity or will people return to old habits?
The trend shows a bit of waning this summer, but last year RV sales and rentals in the United States broke all records. What does this hold for the future of tourism? Interest in mountain biking and day hikes also soared. Will the trend continue and how can communities capitalize on these interests?
A challenge in long term tourism trend forecasting is ringers, think 2020. Another challenge is trying to understand how people will respond to dramatic, world shaking events. Think 2020. Will people make wheelchairs for chickens or will they have a chicken fry? Will tourism bureaus and tourism development consultants will evaluate the current situation from a realistic, common sense perspective or will they put on rose colored glasses?
Only time will tell. But on the backside of crisis and disasters awaits opportunity, especially for those with vision, with grounded common sense, and with a bit of luck.
Every day is good. Some days, however, are better than others. That was but one of the many pearls of wisdom passed on to me from a grizzled and weathered old cowhand that I had the pleasure of working with on a ranch along the Mexican border more years ago than I care to count.
The past year or so I have had ample opportunity to reflect on that philosophy. Finding something good in every day has often been quite a challenge.
A seemingly endless stream of bad news about COVID related issues. Personal loss and illness. Missing visits with friends from across the pond. Political upheaval on the home front. Sitting in my living room and watching an assault on our capitol unfold like a really bad movie. Obviously none of these were highlights.
But there are silver linings to be found here and there. The near complete collapse of the tourism industry last year has sparked an awareness. Communities large and small are coming to a realization that tourism is an integral part of economic development.
And in communities along the Route 66 corridor, there is a growing awareness of the potential the interest in that road holds for economic development as well as historic district revitalization. There is an also a growing awareness about that highways fast approaching centennial.
This is being made manifest in countless ways. Kingman recently unveiled a stylish drive thru Route 66 shield. Tulsa is moving forward with neon sign initiatives. An array of initiatives and projects are being developed in Tucumcari.
COVID related travel restrictions decimated international tourism. Along Route 66 this glaringly illustrated the importance of the international Route 66 enthusiast to local economies. But here too there is a sort of silver lining.
The American love affair with the road trip began to wane several decades ago. COVID related restrictions, and time off work, sparked an unprecedented boom in the sale and rental of RVs, trailers, and vans. I for one eagerly await the return of our international travelers. But I rejoice in seeing so many Americans getting out of their comfort zone and rediscovering what really makes this country special.
On the personal front, the pandemic, the loss of friends, the passing of another birthday, and looming storm clouds had provided a jolt, incentive if you will. I have long wanted to own a Model A Ford.
Over the years finances and family obligations led me to keep that dream in the “some day” category. That has changed. I am making ownership a priority.
Directly linked to this is a vague plan to develop a series of educational programs. These would foster a sense of community and community purpose in towns all along the Route 66 corridor. And these programs would provide communities with information about the economic importance of tourism. They would also provide these places with a framework for developing their unique historic, scenic, and cultural assets to make the community a destination for visitors.
At this point I should note the cornerstone for this endeavor is a simple philosophy. If you make a place people want to visit, you make it a place where they will want to live, to raise a family, to open a business and to retire.
As envisioned the Model A becomes a, pardon the pun, a promotional vehicle. It becomes an educational tool. It becomes a point of interest and a conversation starter. It becomes a point of media focus.
It has been pointed out that a ninety year old car might not be the most practical for extended trips across the US. And so I have been working on a plan “B.”
So, something the search is on for a vehicle equally as attention getting but a bit more practical. The Model A would become the regional vehicle or would be trailered. The secondary vehicle, something like the 1953 Plymouth Suburban station wagon I looked at this past week then becomes the primary transportation.
Stay tuned. We have talked about this ambitious endeavor for far to long. It is time to bring dreams to life. The time has come move beyond planning. The time is now.