By Al Bates

(This article is one of a series that will appear in this space during this year on historic events relating to the Arizona Territory’s Sesquicentennial and the founding and establishment of Prescott as the Territory’s first capital.)

After months of anticipation and speculation, the Arizona Miner of August 24, 1864, contained Governor John Goodwin’s proclamation that the Territorial Legislature would convene in Prescott on September 26.  His choice of location came as no surprise since the Miner had correctly predicted that outcome a month earlier.

The interim between the elections and the first legislative meeting saw the erection, if not completion, of a number of buildings on the Prescott townsite, including a meeting place for the legislature.  The Miner reported, “The building to be hired of Van C. Smith, Esq., for the Legislature is well advanced.  It is a sturdy and commodious structure.”  However, Judge Joseph P. Allyn’s opinion of the structure was less glowing: “The building erected for the legislature . . . resembled a large livery stable; there was no floor, and the partitions dividing it into rooms did not reach the roof, so the murmur of voices in one [room] could be distinctly heard in all the others.”

Since the first legislature and the third district court session would overlap, it would bring, in the words of Judge Allyn: “ . . . an unusual crowd into town.  Honorable members of the Council and House, and sedate members of the Bar were sleeping on the floors of the stores and in rows, and the bar rooms were in full blast day and night.”

George Lount and associates were in process of bringing both a sawmill and a quartz mill to Prescott.  Difficulties in transport from San Francisco to La Paz and onward were great and only a portion of the equipment had arrived thus far.  Lount remained optimistic, however, and “hopes to have the saw mill in operation in a few weeks, and the quartz mill at a day not much later.”


 Arizona Territory’s “Governor’s Mansion,” seen here, was built in 1864 as the combination office and residence for Governor Goodwin and Secretary McCormick, but lost its status as the Governor’s home when the seat of government moved to Tucson in 1867 (Photo Courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum Call Number: BU-G-534pa).

Earlier that month, the Miner reported on the successful digging of a well on the Plaza that at a depth of 16 feet provided, “cold and excellent water.”  Later Miner issues announced a meeting to devise the means for paying for it followed by a successful subscription campaign.

Work on the house being built for the Governor and Secretary on their “Pinal Ranch” was continuing although they had occupied it since early August.  The Miner commented, “It has been a long time in course of construction, owing to difficulty in procuring certain necessary materials, hardware especially.”  The house was described as having a 50-foot front and 40-foot depth, built of hewn logs of large size.  “It has six rooms besides a kitchen upon the first floor and a very large sleeping room upstairs.  It is handsomely located, and a building which may be made exceedingly comfortable.”  Since all boards used in its construction were made by hand in a sawpit they were used sparingly, thus the initial floor was of dirt.

Expenses for materials such as nails and other hardware were high, and the contract had to be revised upward to cover the cost of roofing shingles.  Specifics of how the building was financed (i.e., who paid) are lost in the fog of history, as is how the ownership changed hands.  Judge Edwin Wells, an early Prescott pioneer, said this: “How Judge Fleury obtained possession of the place no one knows, nor does anyone seem to care.  His title was valid enough, however, to permit him to mortgage the house. . . .”

Possibly more important than any of these positive accomplishments was the lessening of isolation brought on by the establishment of two civilian pony express mail services to California in late July: one via La Paz, the other via Mojave.  These expresses ran semi-monthly, compared to Fort Whipple’s military express running “semi-occasionally” to the east, use of which was kindly extended to the civilians.

Despite all recent progress, news reports from Mexico were troubling.  The Miner’s announcement of the arrival of Emperor Maximilian to the soil of Mexico correctly prophesied coming conflict between Mexican rebels and the French troops there to protect the puppet Emperor.  Given the Indian situation in Arizona and America’s as yet unresolved Civil War, this additional opportunity for regional chaos was not welcome.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to