The Mohave County Courthouse in Kingman, Arizona under construction circa 1915. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Five county seats in less than twenty years. Political intrigue. Conspiracy theories about voter fraud and stolen elections. A courthouse turned hotel on Route 66. A century old courthouse with unique WWI memorial. This is the story of Mohave County, Arizona
The story begins with establishment of the Arizona Territory in 1862. Two years later Mohave, Pima, Yavapai, and Yuma counties were carved from the vast wilderness, and the small mining camp of Prescott near Fort Whipple was designated the territorial capital.
Of the four original counties Mohave has the most intriguing history. Named for the tribe that lived along the Colorado River near present day Bullhead City, it remains a sort of political oddity. Almost one third of the county is north of the Colorado River. Known regionally as the strip country, aside from using an airplane or boat, that section of the county can only be accessed from Nevada or Utah.
In 1865 the territorial legislature carved several new counties from the original four. One of these was Pah-Ute County that was split from Mohave County. This new county included the strip country and the southern tip of present-day Nevada where Las Vegas, Nelson, Nipton and Laughlin are located. Another adjustment was made in 1871 and the strip country was folded back into Mohave County, and the remainder of Pah Ute County became part of Clark County in the newly designated state of Nevada.
Mohave City on the Colorado River was selected as the first Mohave County seat. Then in 1867 it was moved upriver to the port of Hardyville near present day Davis Dam. In 1873 it was relocated to the mining boom town of Cerbat in the Cerbat Mountains, and then in 1877 to neighboring Mineral Park.
In January 1887, as Mineral Park entered a period of decline when mines played out, the territorial legislature held hearings to consider new sites. Greenwood, a mining town on the south side of the Hualapai Mountains, and Hackberry along the railroad at the eastern edge of the Hualapai Valley were considered.
As an historical footnote Greenwood is a nearly forgotten ghost town near the Big Sandy River. Hackberry along the National Old Trails Road and the earliest alignment of Route 66 still has a faint pulse as a dozen or so residents still reside in the dusty old town.
Territorial newspapers in February noted outrage among some business owners and residents in Mineral Park when it was declared that Kingman would serve as the Mohave County seat. Rampant rumors claimed that the vote to move the county seat was fraudulent. Interestingly those rumors spawned a legend that is still repeated as fact today. A quick Google search will find several stories that Mineral Park officials refused to give up the county records and that outraged Kingman citizens subsequently launched a raid and carried off county documents. Some of these stories claim that the courthouse in Mineral Park was burned during the attack.
The Mohave County Miner, one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in the state of Arizona, followed removal of the county seat to Kingman. It remains in publication as the Kingman Miner. Other businesses relocated as well and within a decade Mineral Park was nearly abandoned.
Before completion of the first courthouse in Kingman in 1890, a two-story wood frame structure on Spring Street built by Orvin Peasley and W.H. Taggart, the temporary county offices and courts were housed in the Taggart Building on Front Street. The second courthouse was constructed at a cost of $62,372 iin a Neoclassical style designed by the architectural firm Lescher & Kibbey based in Phoenix between 1914 to 1915. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The construction contract was awarded to J. M. Wheeler of Kingman, and Collamore & Sons from Arkansas. Stone used in the project was hauled into Kingman from the Metcalfe Quarry in the Cerbat Mountains. The quarry supplied stone for other buildings in Kingman including the Brunswick Hotel and Bonelli House that was also built in 1915,
With completion of the courthouse, the first building was relocated to Front Street (Andy Devine Avenue/Route66) across from the railroad depot. It was then remodeled and served as the Commercial Hotel until the early 1950s.
Plans for landscaping of the courthouse grounds were delayed due to WWI. Still, by the mid-1920s retaining walls had been completed and trees planted. Then in 1928 a monument with plaque that read, “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF MOHAVE COUNTY WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR 1917 – 1918” was erected in front of the courthouse.
Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts
This is a very rare WWI memorial. The “Spirit of the American Doughboy” created by sculptor Earnest Moore Viquesney is one of the most popular WWI statues produced. It is estimated that a full ten percent of WWI memorials used this distinctive sculpture.
But what makes this statue unique is that it is one of three that were dedicated to a Native American. The dedication ceremony for the monument honored Sam Swaskegame of the Hualapai tribe who was killed in action in the Marne campaign battle of Blanc Mont, France on October 7, 1918.
The second statue on the monument is also a rarity. Created by the same sculptor, “The SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN NAVY” was not as popular as the doughboy. Only seven of these statues are known to exist.
Local volunteers started construction of the stone base for the WWI monument and the pond that would surround at the end of April 1928. Ora Gruninger, a Kingman contractor, supervised the work and spearheaded the collection of donations. The base cost $150. The $2,650 for the monument included $1,000 apiece for the statues with the remainder being used for the machine gun, and bronze plaque.
The statues were shipped from Chicago on May 1, 1928. The dedication ceremony on May 30, 1928, started at 9:30 a.m. with a parade from the firehouse near Fifth and Beale Streets. The parade made its way to the Mohave County Courthouse by 9:45. The parade was led by Ed Wishon, the commander of the local American Legion No. 14, Swaskegame Post. At 10 a.m., Mr. Wishon performed as master of ceremonies for the dedication. Judge Ross H. Blakely invoked the dedication.
At some point around the turn of the century the machine gun was stolen. On June 29, 2019, a rededication ceremony was held in commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the battle of Belleau Wood. The ceremony included replacement of the Colt 1895 machine gun with a bronze replica created by artist/sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona, Arizona.
It has been a most interesting week, and it is only Thursday. Last night I attended the Route 66 Association of Kingman meet & greet at the Liquid Coffee Shop and Bistro, a new business in the historic Kingman, Arizona business district.
I had written the associations monthly newsletter last weekend. And so an hour before the get together, I sat for an interview with Evan Stern of the fascinating Vanishing Postcards podcast. As he wanted somewhere quite for the interview, and and as this was his first visit to western Arizona, I drove to beautiful Beale Springs, a true desert oasis less than two miles from Route 66 and downtown Kingman.
Evan Stern is a most fascinating young man with an inquisitive mind and unbridled curiosity about Route 66 and the people that give the iconic highway its magic. It was an honor to be included in his spring 2022 series of podcasts.
We had met the evening before when he joined a community education class that I was teaching at Mohave Community College. I developed the classes to foster an increased awareness of area history and how that history can be a catalyst for tourism development.
This particular class a hybrid. I provided a guided tour to four key blocks along he Route 66 corridor in Kingman. For the second portion we returned to the Beale Street campus and I gave a virtual tour of Route 66 from the old Kingman Army Airfield to the western city limits using historic photos provided by the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.
Afterwards we walked to the historic Sportsman’s Bar that opened its doors in 1907 for a cold beer and some initial conversation. This authentic territorial era saloon is a bit rough around the edges but it is comfortable, sort of like a well worn pair of boots or jeans.
Stern wasn’t the only guest in attendance of the meet & greet. Acclaimed photographer Efren Lopez of Route 66 Images was also in attendance. He is currently traveling Route 66 gathering images for a new product, and introducing his recently released coffee table book filled with stunning images of the historic highway. Afterwards Lopez and I strolled across the street to the recently opened Federico’s for a plate of tacos, and a cold beer. It was great to catch up, brainstorm about projects, and simply get caught up.
At the end of last week I kicked off a test run for a new project, a 15 minute live stream podcast,Wake Up With Jim. Sponsored in part by UK based RouteTrip USA, it will be an interactive fast program about road trips, books, and interesting people. After ironing out a few bugs that resulted from being modern Amish which leads to a trial and error method of development, this week I made it official and will be giving it a full four weeks to determine feasibility. Judging by the initial reaction the 5:30 A.M. MST program is going to be a success.
Research is also my Achilles Heel. On more occasions than I care to count, I will be deep into research for a project with a pressing deadline and distraction leads me down a twisted but fascinating rabbit hole.
That is exactly what happened on Tuesday in the research library at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts. I was working with retired history professor Dan Messersmith to get accurate information about the Kimo Cafe, now Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, the Hotel Beale, Brunswick Hotel and other historic sites in Kingman Arizona.
This is for the self guided, narrated historic district walking toursthat are being developed by Kingman Main Street. This project has provided ample opportunity to wander down more than a few rabbit holes. And even though these detours have led to a frustrating loss of time, each is providing materials for other projects.
In this particular instance the rabbit holes were the amazing McDonald collection of Route 66 and National Old Trails Road post cards, as well as vintage guide books that was recently donated to the museum. It is an astounding archive that I will be delving into often for this as well as future projects.
This photo of Route 66 in Kingman is an example of the materials that were causing a most interesting discussion during a recent research session. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts.
The week has also included development of a schedule for the spring community education classes at Mohave Community College. And as a hint that 2022 might be a return to the normal world of the pre BC era (before COVID 19), I fielded a number of requests for speaking engagements and appearances. It is refreshing to see the calendar through May being filled in with confirmed appearances.
I expect that to this schedule will soon be added tour company dates. Pre COVID it was quite common to meet with four or five tours each week. In addition to signing books and making presentations at dinners or suppers, I also provided additional services. This included arranging dinners, receptions, and serving as a step on guide.
This is always interesting. And it can also be a bit challenging as the Powerhouse Visitor Center with its museums in Kingman is often not usable. Hours for tours are quite limited, last tour at 3:30 or 4:00, and it is closed on Sunday.
Before closing out the week I need to get the Jeep into the garage, attend a breakfast meeting, and prepare for the Sunday edition of Coffee With Jim, our live stream program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. I also need to finalize a presentation about the history of electric vehicles, and their future on Route 66, that will be made Saturday morning for the Tucson Electric vehicle Association.
Looming on the horizon for coming weeks is tax preparation. And I also need to start laying out plans for the promotion of my next book, number 20. Scheduled for release in late January, Here We Are … ON Route 66, is already on Amazon for preorder. This means that soon there will be requests for interviews, and the need to juggle book signing/presentation schedules.
Telling people where to go for fun and profit. Sharing the adventure. Inspiring road trips. Blurring the line between past and present by bringing history to life. And meeting the most fascinating people. In a nutshell this is Jim Hinckley’s America. This is a week in the life of a fellow on a quest to become a writer when he grows up.
There is an old adage about not missing something until it is gone. This aptly sums up the economic impact of Route 66 related tourism. Many communities along the highway corridor either took it for granted, or were not aware of its scope, until the COVID 19 pandemic travel restrictions were imposed.
The Route 66 renaissance has been a literal gold mine for communities along that highways corridor from Chicago to Santa Monica. Surprisingly few communities have really tapped into the opportunity. But to be honest, only a few communities fully harness the power of tourism for economic development, historic district revitalization, and for showcasing their communities to potential new residents.
With that as introduction I would like to tiptoe through the mine field, and test my diplomatic skills. This past weekend the first (annual?) Kingman 66 Fest took place in Kingman, Arizona. And the internationally acclaimed artist Gregg Arnold introduced a campaign sculpture to Giganticus Headicus at Antares Point Visitor Center.
As per request, I shared a few photos from both events on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. I also made an attempt at diplomacy as I responded to notes, emails, and comments about the events, how they were organized, the successes and the failures. As the inquiries have become a tsunami it seemed best to respond with a a blog post since there are simply not enough hours in a day to respond individually.
With that said, please don’t shoot the messenger. Civility may have become an endangered species in our country but it is still the order of the day at Jim Hinckley’s America. And if you have criticisms to share, make sure that it is done respectively and that you provide ideas on how issues should be resolved.
Choosing Lewis Kingman Park as a site for Kingman 66 Fest was innovative. This is an expansive park with access to ample parking. It is a great green space with mature trees and so is a good location for an event such as this. And it has an historic connection to Route 66 as it was a popular roadside rest area at the junction of U.S. 66 and U.S. 93.
Only a small portion of the park was utilized for this initial Fest. There simply were not enough vendors, etc. to fill the space. But it was a first year event so this is understandable.
But I am not sure if it is to be an annual event or if it will be linked to Route 66 centennial events. And that is the first issue, in my opinion. It also underlies the primary issues with the event, lack of promotion and failure to harness the promotional network that was available. If this is to be an annual event, shouldn’t the 2002 Kingman 66 Fest have been promoted during the event? It could have been something as simple as see you next year on … for the second annual Kingman 66 Fest.
Small business owners everywhere have taken a beating this past eighteen months. In an effort to regain some solvency, First Friday is promoted as a means to draw people to the historic business district. Kingman 66 Fest was held the same evening, several miles from the historic district. So business owners were obviously upset. Even worse, business owners learned that the event was taking place at about the same time as the general public, which was just a couple months before the Kingman 66 Fest.
The lack of communication, especially with vested parties, fueled discontent and as a result, contentious post event debates on social media. It left many business owners wondering why the event was not held downtown in Locomotive Park and Metcalf Park. These parks are across the street from each other. They are also the usual location for festivals.
Use of these parks would have had the added benefit of allowing usage of two of the city’s primary attractions, the Powerhouse Visitor Center and the newly installed, and very popular, Route 66 drive through arch. In addition the recently built neon lit Welcome to Kingman arch would have become an instant promotion for the city as it would have figured prominently as a backdrop in many photos.
But, as I said, Lewis Kingman Park was a good choice for the event. But let’s take a moment and unleash the imagination. What if this park was used for a food truck festival and vendors as well as activities such as the zip line? What if the Powerhouse Visitor Center had extended hours, a music festival was held in Metcalf Park, and a car show in Locomotive Park? And what if all the activities had been promoted in coordination with Gregg Arnold’s big reveal just 15 miles east of Kingman? Think of the diverse promotional opportunities!
Kingman Main Street is developing an innovative narrated self guided historic district walking tour. Kingman 66 Fest was in part a fund raising initiative for this project. And so their booth was prominently placed.
That provided a promotional boost for Kingman 66 Fest. There was also local promotion – banners, local press stories, etc.
But the historic district merchants were out of the loop. The Kingman Route 66 Association was not informed about event development until everything was set. This organization has more than 100 members, and international contacts. But they were not consulted or asked to assist with promotion or marketing. Route 66 associations were not provided with press releases. Car clubs and organizations such as the Studebaker Drivers Club did not receive an invitation and they have active chapter just one hundred miles away in Las Vegas.
And Route 66 News picked up on the event resultant of the contentious discussion about the events location. This major source of information for the international Route 66 community had only how divisive the event was as a story.
The developer of the Route 66 Navigation app offers free event listings. And this company also manages the largest Route 66 centered Facebook. They were never consulted about promotion or marketing.
Kingman 66 Fest
This shortcoming was magnified by an array of competing events being held in Lake Havasu City just sixty miles away. Some of these were annual events held for a number of years. And they all benefitted from months, and in some cases a year, of promotion.
So, in my humble opinion there are two key areas that need to be addressed if the event is to be held in 2022, and if it is to be a successful event that builds a sense of community rather than foster divisions. One, is the immediate holding of meetings with key organizations that are in a position to assist with promotion and marketing. The second is to keep downtown business owners apprised as event development progresses.
With the Route 66 centennial fast approaching, Kingman 66 Fest in historic Lewis Kingman Park has tremendous potential. But, first, event developers need to honestly evaluate and address shortcomings of the first Fest. And then they need to utilize all available assets.