Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Protect signage in ‘Wild West’

Sharing the story of Arizona Strip history was this sign, now gone. (Hartt Wixom / The Spectrum & Daily News)

Hartt Wixom
The Spectrum

Adventurous travelers love that sign south of St. George near the Arizona border which says, “Where the West Stays Wild.”

At least it used to say that. It’s now gone. Apparently, the work of vandals. But more about that later.

That sign was a most meaningful introduction to the Arizona Strip. Fortunately, the region remains wild. We can applaud the fact it has been left as the Creator made it. True, there are a few roads — some lead to the Grand Canyon — and a great undeclared wilderness which includes the Parashant National Monument. It’s a natural wonderland of canyons and buttes harboring trophy mule deer and antelope — featuring a great deal of intriguing history.

Some of that history includes the three men who departed from Grand Canyon explorer Maj. John Wesley Powell in 1869. Brothers O. J. and Seneca Howland and James Dunn climbed up what is now called Separation Canyon and then disappeared.

A sign providing this historical lore once placed on private land has also disappeared. Maj. Powell later learned these men were killed by Shivwits Indians who mistook them for men who had abused a squaw. (Laid to rest is the old rumor that this trio was killed in Toquerville. Records now prove that the three who died in Toquerville were a man, woman and child attacked by a jealous husband.)

Another important sign gone is the one commemorating the old Spanish Trail which was sited north of Gunlock at bottom of the hill on the hairpin turn leading east to Veyo. It was another apparent victim of vandalism.

I’ve also seen signs in the high mountains deteriorate with time and fall to the ground and not replaced — causing hikers and horsemen to turn the wrong way. That once cost a friend and me a full day’s travel.

The public is missing out on a vast treasure of history because of these careless acts. Those valiant souls placing them sometimes give up, leaving all of us as losers. If a sign simply wears out after a few dozen years, I presume that one might be replaced. But when futility reigns — as it so often does on public land — agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who place them there give up.

Not only are these signs helpful to learn about our Southwest history but also to mark routes to many valuable places. In addition to the Grand Canyon, we know how to reach Bundyville, Bar Ten Lodge, Mt. Trumbull, Mt. Logan, Dellenbaugh, the Temple Trail, and other (hopeful) destinations. You could easily get lost in such country. Surely, anyone witnessing sign destruction should report it to the proper authorities.

I recall one day trying to find Hack Canyon by matching road numbers to map numbers. The road signs that should have been there were not. We explored in vain for half a day. It happens across the Arizona Strip from the Kaibab Forest to the Nevada border. One frequent visitor I know, Steve Cheuvront from Scottsdale, Ariz., spends every autumn exploring the Strip. But he told me he also relies on road signs which often are not there.

From my experience working as a volunteer for the Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, I saw the hard work the BLM in St. George puts into providing signs to that 10,000 square miles of real estate between the Utah border and the Grand Canyon. Thankfully, they see it as many of us do — nothing man-made more than necessary. (Although I do consider ranching roads for cattle operations as vital; they were there first.)

I was happy the BLM authorized me to place 20 route signs on Buckskin Mountain south of Kanab to note the travels of Jacob Hamblin. After all, he blazed the trails used later by many folks, including the Honeymooners headed for the St. George Temple. (The Honeymoons signs are also there.) Or last time I looked.

Following those signs gave me goose bumps just realizing Jacob Hamblin rode here on his way to the Hopi reservation — and into the hallmarks of history.

As a grade school and high school student, I confess I didn’t have much interest in history. But with age comes the understanding of its value. We can be grateful for those who help us learn more about it. Let’s keep these signs there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"Negro Motorist Green Book" Reveals a Different Route 66 Experience

Negro Motorist Green Book cover, 1949 edition

Arizona Sun Daily

Before the Civil Rights Era, there existed a series of travel books called “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” These travel guides existed specifically to help African American travelers navigate the challenges of finding food and accommodations along the highway that would cater to them.

Publisher Victor Green said the book would “give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable.” In learning about a Route 66 version of the “Green Book,” historian Sean Evans found that only a small handful of the businesses in Flagstaff were deemed friendly to African Americans in the late 40s.

Among them was The DuBeau on Phoenix Avenue, the Nackard Inn and another hotel called the Vandervere that was located on Santa Fe Avenue. Only one restaurant was listed—a small cafĂ© at 111 S. San Francisco St. The travel guide did not offer much else in the mountain town that would be a recommended stop.

And, across Arizona, the choices along Route 66 were generally limited. Evans noted that neither Holbrook nor Winslow had listings in the book, making travel through the region challenging for African American travelers.

“I am pretty schooled in Route 66 and up until four or five years ago, I didn’t even know what that was,” said Evans of the “Green Books.” He has been a longtime 66 booster, historian and frequent traveler and learned of the travel guides through Frank Norris, a historian with the National Park Service. “The shocking thing was there were very few places to stop along 66 … Norris is developing a picture of how different of an experience it would have been for these motorists … They had to plan around where to physically stop for the night.”

Although it is a difficult aspect of history to explore, the “Green Books” reveal yet another aspect of traveling Route 66. It shows a different kind of experience would have existed for different travelers. And it is just part of what is the continued evolution and unearthing of how the famed highway known as the Mother Road is understood.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Colorado River Historical Museum to Reopen for Season

Colorado River Historical Society and Museum
Mohave Valley Daily News

BULLHEAD CITY — History is getting a fresh start in September.

“We’re excited to begin a new season at the museum,” said Colorado River Historical Society and Museum President Elsie Needles. “We’ve got a lot going on this year.”

The Colorado River History Museum is a nonprofit operation of the historical society, staffed by volunteers and run on donations. Closed through the summer months, the museum will reopen Tuesday at 10 a.m.

The Colorado River Historical Society formed in 1963 with two primary missions — the preservation of the area’s heritage and to open a history museum.

“Old Bullhead City is disappearing,” said Needles. “Building after building has been torn down. Some of the earliest structures are now falling apart … it is too late to save them and soon those bits of history will be gone.

“This area may not be rich in dollars, but it is very rich in memories. We’re always looking for information, photos and stories about the area from long-term residents and their families.”

“The museum began with nothing,” said Historical Society founding member and long-time volunteer Virginia Sutherland. “We had lots of support in the beginning from local business and were lucky enough to get some really interesting photos and artifacts.”

The Colorado River Museum is housed in a building that once served as a Catholic church for workers who built Davis Dam in the 1940s and is placed in a corner of Davis Camp, just north of the Laughlin Bridge on Highway 68.

“The museum is jam-packed full of good stuff,” said Historical Society Vice President Karole Finkelstein. “Newly arranged displays in the museum tell of the Mohave Indians, the Katherine gold mine, the history of the Mohave Valley and Fort Mohave, memorabilia from Laughlin, NV, the region’s ties to the space program as well as Louis L’amour and so much more.”

In the children’s room are wildlife displays and a historic doll house. Children are given the opportunity to make a corn husk doll.

“A popular program includes a tour of the museum and then a driving tour to about 15 locations in the area,” said Finkelstein. “For more information about the driving tour, people can call me at 928-219-2582.”

Events planned for the season include a Pioneer Picnic, a presentation on the history of the Harvey Girls, at least one scheduled free day, and ongoing fund raising events to move the Little Red Schoolhouse to Community Park.

“We had a meeting about the schoolhouse a few days ago,” said Needles. “Some people don’t think it will happen (moving the building), but I do. We’re at about $17K in the fund to move the schoolhouse and we need $45K. We’ve been selling bricks, selling ice, having fund raisers — we may not get there this year, but we will get there. The cultural center will be important to Bullhead City — preserving this city’s unique history is our goal.”

The Cultural Historical Center in Community Park is a venture supported by Golden Vertex, the mining company that is reactivating the old Moss Mine east of the Bullhead Parkway. Golden Vertex, in partnership with the City of Bullhead City, started the project by donating the cost to relocate the old Moss Mine Head Frame from the mine site to the new location.

The Historical Society meets the second Monday of every month at the Museum.

“We encourage anyone interested in the history of the area to come to a meeting,” said Needles. “We often have an outside speaker at 5:00 on meeting days.”

“It should be a place of interest to anyone who lives in the area,” said Finkelstein. “The real history of Bullhead City is here.”

The Colorado River Historical Museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Access on Sunday and Monday is by reservation only. A $2 donation is suggested and children under 12 are free.

For more information about the museum call 928-754-3399.