A One Armed Lawman & Other Tales

A One Armed Lawman & Other Tales

The ghost towns of Arizona have an entrancing allure. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

He was a legend on the southwest frontier in the late 19th century. He had a well-deserved reputation as a fearless lawman and a career that spanned more than fifty years even though he lost use of his left arm during a gun battle in Fairbank, Arizona.

The incredible story of Jeff Davis Milton, a frontier era lawman, is the subject of the February 23rd episode of Wake Up With Jim, the Jim HInckley’s America audio podcast. And, of course, we also have to share the story of Fairbank.

The podcast is the latest manifestation of our quest to find new ways to tell people where to go. And now, as it looks like we may putting the apocalypse behind us, personal appearances are again being scheduled. Development of both projects will dominate a great deal of the spring.

There are still a few open weekends between today and the National Road Trip Day celebrations on May 27. But I expect the calendar to fill rapidly in the next  few weeks. That is a refreshing change.

Work continues on the Kingman Main Street project that includes the narrated, self gudied historic district walking tour. I am eager for the unveiling of phase one, thirty points of interest, during the festivities on May 27.

A number of Route 66 sites are being included in the tour. One of these is the tarnished relic that is the Arcadia Lodge.

As with Route 66 itself, the motel evolved with the passing of time. In the years of the highways infancy railroad hotels remained a popular option. Campgrounds and rustic cabin camps were also popular lodging choices. By the mid-1930s travelers had become more refined and to compete motels needed to offer modern amenities such as hot and cold water in the room and radios. This was also the era when luxury motels began to replace the lavish railroad hotels such as the Harvey Houses.

Then in the 1950s chains such as Holiday Inn, Ramada, and Hiway House increasingly made it difficult for the mom-and-pop motel to compete. With a decline in profits, maintenance was deferred, the property was abandoned, or the motel complex was converted into low rent apartments. The World Monuments Fund recently listed Route 66 motels as some of, quote, “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.” Prewar motels are increasingly scarce.

In 1935, U.S. 466 was established with its eastern terminus at Route 66 in Kingman. As a result, investors looked toward Kingman and began establishing modern upscale motels.

The Arcadia Lodge in Kingman, Arizona is a rare roadside relic that opened before WWII. Photo Mike Ward collection.

John F. Miller was a pioneer in the development of modern hotels and motels. In 1905 he established the Nevada Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. A few years later he expanded the hotel and renamed it Hotel Sal Sagev, Las Vegas spelled backwards. In 1939 he built the expansive El Trovatore Motel complex and restaurant in the unincorporated community of El Trovatore along Route 66 east of Kingman.

The year before this the Arcadia Court had opened at the east end of Kingman. The Spanish hacienda styled court opened with promotion that proclaimed the motel offered the, quote, “finest appointments for the fastidious guest.”

The AAA Directory of Motor Courts & Cottages published in 1940 noted that the Arcadia was 15 air-conditioned cottages with baths, $3 to $3.50 per night. To provide perspective most motels in Kingman rented rooms for $2 to $2.50 per night.

Shortly after WWII the complex was dramatically expanded, and the name was changed to Arcadia Lodge. The addition of a second story transformed it into a 47-room motel. The 1954 edition of the Western Accommodations Directory published by AAA included an expansive listing.

An attractive Spanish style court on landscaped grounds. Air cooled units have one or two rooms, central heat and tiled showers or combination baths. Baby beds available. Jade Restaurant adjacent. Pets allowed, $4.50 to $10 per night.

A swimming pool was added a few years later to remain competitive with the chain motels and newer motels being built along Route 66. Purportedly this was the first motel in Kingman with a swimming pool.

In the fall of 1962, the motel was again remodeled. An article published on November 1 detailed some of the improvements. They included replacement of the dated neon sign with one that was more modern in appearance which towered above the sign that indicated a best Western affiliation. It was proclaimed to be the tallest promotional sign in the city. This sign remains in place at the Arcadia Lodge.




A One Armed Legend

Jeff Milton Davis, Wiki Commons

At just eighteen years of age he began honing his reputation as a fearless lawman while riding the Big Bend country as a Texas Ranger. His exploits were legendary. And neither his career or his adventures came to an end with a gunfight in Fairbank, Arizona that cost him his left arm.

The amazing story of Jeff Davis Milton, and the Fairbank gunfight, will be the subject of the Wednesday, February 23rd episode of Wake up With Jim, the audio podcast from Jim Hinckley’s America.These live interactive programs are broadcast on the Podbean platform every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 6:30 MST.

This program is the second in a series about ghost towns and legends of the western frontier. To be included in the series are programs about Crown King, Arizona, the railroad that was an engineering marvel, and a backroads adventure along the territorial era Senator Highway.

Also planned are stories about Oatman and Golraod, towns made famous by Route 66 that were are at the heart of Arizona’s last great gold rush. There will also be a program about the county seats in Mohave County, and the Mohave Prescott Road. Become a follower of Wake Up With Jim and never miss an episode!  (more…)

October Adventure

October Adventure

A question often asked is what is the best time of the year for a Route 66 adventure. For my money I prefer late September or October, even though on last years trip I hit some nasty weather (cold, wind, sleet, snow) – in Arizona and New Mexico. Desert temperatures are tolerable with few exceptions (see above), and there is the fall foliage in the mountains of Missouri and in Illinois that add a sense of magic to the overall adventure. There are also some great fall festivals such as Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri.

Even the snow encountered added to the trip as seeing a dusting of white on the ruins of Two Guns, Arizona made for a great photo stop. I should note that even in the high country around Flagstaff, Arizona snow that early in the year is a relative rarity. Chances are that you will encounter rain, and some very brisk mornings but the crowds have thinned a bit. And that means the classic mom and pop motels will most likely have room availability. And personally, I enjoy a hot cup of coffee with a slice of pie better on a fall day that I do in July in Needles, California when the temperatures often exceed 120 degrees.

Maramec Springs Park

A couple of years ago on a Jim Hinckley’s America research trip, my dearest friend and I made a few side trips. We were not disappointed. As an example, Maramec Spring Park located a few miles south of Cuba or St. James, a highly recommended loop drive, is stunning any time of the year but when the park is enshrouded with bright colors … A one eyed blind man would have trouble getting a bad photograph.

So, in answer to your question, I suggest that a Route 66 odyssey be planned for the last weeks of September or the first weeks of October.