Posts Tagged ‘railroad’

The San Pedro Valley Arts & Historical Museum

November 15, 2010


In 1983, the San Pedro valley Arts & Crafts League and the local Historical Society merged to form the San Pedro Valley Arts and Historical Society in Benson. Today’s museum is housed in a 1920’s store building once owned by W. D. Martinez, a local grocer. The grocery display is part of the original store. William D. Martinez, born in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico sold the store to the Steinfeld family who used it as a laundry, grocery store, and promoted it as a place to make soap, but that never materialized. The Ivey family purchased the building in 1937 and from that time until 1983 it was used for storage. The Ivey’s also owned a drugstore and a Phillips gasoline service station in Tombstone. A separate building on the museum premises houses an art display and interactive quilting experience. Museum quilters are available to teach quilting history and give the visitor a chance to help with the quilting. The visitor can also see historic quilts from the area.

            The visitor registration desk, the bookkeeper’s desk and filing cabinet came from the old Cochise County Bank. Harold Edson donated the roll top desk.  It belonged to the Lewis Brothers who had a garage at 4th and Huachuca Streets, current location of the Circle K. The green safe which once served the Benson school, was donated by the school. The black safe was donated by the City of Benson.

            The lovely large museum doors are original to the building. The optometric chair and equipment belonged to Dr. Robert Friske who was Benson’s optometrist for many years. His daughter Tammy took over and operated the business until she left in 1994. The portable sewing machine belonged to Winn Bundy’s mother and the treadle to Merlin Rose. Winn Bundy runs the unique Singing Wind book shop from her ranch just outside of Benson. Anyone at  the museum can direct the visitor to Winn’s “must see” book shop.

            The pot-bellied stove in the grocery store rode the Southern Pacific mail train for many years. Also on exhibit is Benson’s first refrigerator which was used at the Hi-Wo Grocery and Mercantile on the corner of 4th and Gila Streets. Hi Wo, born in China, operated the mercantile for almost a century. The mercantile is still owned by his descendants and is on the National Historic register. The metates and mano were found locally. Vay Fenn found the millstone in Sinaloa, Mexico, near an old Spanish mine. It probably dates to the 1600’s.

            The museum gift shop has local handcrafted items, greeting cards, Benson items, cookbooks, and Arizona history books. Every year the museum hosts a month long series of art classes for students from the surrounding area. A variety of projects are available to fit the children’s interests.

            The museum’s research library consists of hundreds of files on subjects pertaining to the area. It includes old newspapers, photographs, journals, directories and oral history collection from local residents. Contact the museum for terms of usage.

            Don’t miss the horse drawn school bus which carried many a Benson child to school. The museum had to provide a special building to house this vehicle.

Tel. No. 520-586-3070 Web Site: The San Pedro Valley Arts & Historical Museum San Pedro & 5th  PO Box 1090

Benson AZ 85602

Ash Fork Historical Museum

October 18, 2010

            Prehistoric humans found their way into the Ash Fork, Arizona, area and left behind pottery shards, arrowheads, and pictorial writings. Spanish conquistadors and fur trappers also passed near Ash Fork. After the Mexican-American War in 1848, Congress sent a number of exploration expeditions to the Southwest. Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves and Lieutenant Amiel W. Whipple, United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, surveyed the 35th Parallel for a proposed railroad in this area. It was in the Ash Fork area that Edward Fitzgerald Beale as a member of the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers and a retired Navy Lieutenant experimented with twenty-two camels loaded with supplies and tools for himself and his road crew. Local mule skinners found the camels to be “foul-smelling, evil tempered, and ugly.” The camels trudged across northern Arizona while Beale’s crew cleared a ten-feet wide track to allow wagons to travel on the track.

            In 1881, construction began on the transcontinental railroad across Northern Arizona. A year later Ash Fork was founded with the arrival of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian, wrote that the railroad built the line with a peavine of switchbacks and lazy loops which ran to Phoenix and the southern mainline and more kinks than a cheap lariat. Trimble grew up in Ash Fork during its golden years of the rails and Route 66. He began his career as an Arizona folk singer during the 1960’s, and today he is the official Arizona State Historian and the author of more than 20 books. Trimble has taught Arizona history for more than thirty-five years and his letter sweater is one of the museum’s exhibits.

            The museum celebrates the railroad with train exhibits and the Fred Harvey restaurant, Escalante, which was built in 1907. The Escalante was one of the classic Fred Harvey hotels. The museum exhibit was constructed from old photographs and people’s memory of the hotel. Harvey’s meals were served with sumptuous portions that provided a good value for the traveling public and pies were cut into fourths, rather than the industry standard of sixths. The Harvey Company established a series of signals that allowed the dining room staff to feed an entire train in just thirty minutes. Harvey Houses served their meals on fine China and Irish linens. With the decline in train travel and the bypassing of the town by I-40 along with several disastrous fire in the business district the town went into decline. Ash Fork’s economy was helped when it became the Flagstone Capital of the World. Flagstone was quarried for the railroad to build bridges and private industry began shipping the stone for public buildings, churches and office buildings.

            The longest original, uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 still in existence, approximately ninety-two miles long, is between Ash Fork, Arizona, and Kingman, Arizona. Road. Route 66 boosted the town’s economy in the 1950’s, but construction of the divided highway through the town resulted in the destruction of many storefronts, sidewalks and residential streets. Part of the old Route 66 running directly through Ash Fork, is now known as Lewis Avenue.

            Outdoor exhibits at the museum include 1950’s Allis Chalmer Grader #284 donated by the Arizona Department of transportation, farm Equipment and a cultivator from Schucking Homestead, a dump hay rake from Schucking Homestead, a wagon frame from Schaeffer Ranch a fresno from Schaeffer Ranch donated by Roy Hume, a main water meter from the 1930’s donated by Ash Fork Water Service. The 1946 fire truck was donated by the volunteer Ash Fork Fire Department.

            Interior exhibits include Ash Fork building models which reflect the town and railroad life. At the museum you can visit the Golden Slipper saloon and step into if only briefly, the Ash Fork jail. The Ash Fork School exhibit dates from the 1800’s to the new school in 1915. In 1959 a new high school was built.

Ash Fork Historical Society Museum, 901 West Old Route 66, P.O. Box 1234, Ash Fork, Arizona 86320

Phone: (928) 637-0204, Fax (928) 637-0394, Web Site: