1/29/2014 9:34:00 AM Gov. Goodwin rides again on... 150th anniversary of Del Rio arrival
Neil Thomas, president of the Prescott Regulators, re-enacts Goodwin’s 1864 arrival to a standing ovation Wednesday at Del Rio Ranch, as historian John Krizek looks on. Insert:Gov. John Goodwin in a photo courtesy of Arizona State LIbrary, Archives and Public Records, History and Archives Division, Phoenix.
Betty Wells, left, greets long-time friend Mary Converse Hardin at the Chino Valley Historical Society’s celebration this past Wednesday. Mary was born at the Del Rio Ranch in 1927 and now lives in Cottonwood; Betty still lives in Chino Valley with her husband, Billy.
Arizona Territory's first governor, John Goodwin, arrived for a re-enactment this past Wednesday much the same way he arrived 150 years ago at the first Fort Whipple site just north of Chino Valley - to an 18-gun salute and dust on his boots.
The Chino Valley Historical Society paid tribute to the Jan. 22, 1864, arrival with a special sesquicentennial observance at Del Rio Ranch, the first site of Fort Whipple. About 150 people attended, and others had to be turned away at the gate because of limited parking at the ranch and seating inside a heated tent for the main presentation. Attendees were treated to an authentic chuck wagon lunch cooked in Dutch ovens over open fires by Joe, Sherry and Casey Farnsworth and provided by the ranch owners, Bob O'Rear and Jim Brown, who were unable to attend.
Neil Thomas, president of the Prescott Regulators re-enactment group, played the role of Gov. Goodwin, entering the tent to a standing ovation and joking that he didn't realize so many settlers already lived in the area. In authentic clothing, Thomas recounted the beautiful area surrounding the fort, thankful to have made it safely. He described his party's four months' trip from Kansas, including an entire week just to cross a treacherous canyon north of the fort, now called Hell's Canyon.
Chino Valley Mayor Chris Marley, who welcomed the governor, jokingly asked what kind of supplements Goodwin took to look so good after 150 years.
The event began with Historical Society President Kay Lauster's welcome to a string of dignitaries and families of early residents of the Del Rio Springs area, and to thank to those who helped organize the event. The society had a table display of the area's first settlers, Hannah Postle and her two children, and her second husband Samuel Rees and their three children, as well as later pictures of the ranch from the Converse family album.
Historians John Krizek and Jay Eby held the audience spellbound with stories of the wild and unsettled Arizona Territory when states to the east were fighting the Civil War. The presentation included several historical slides and a second historical display table.
Krizek had the event filmed for broadcast on Channel 13 at a later date, and to share with local elementary schools.
"We've got a lot of history to celebrate around here," Krizek said.
Videographer Bill Leyden and sound/lighting assistant Ron Chase (former Williamson Valley Fire Chief) filmed several interviews with old-timers, including Loree Rees Baker and some of her family members, descendants of early settlers, Samuel and Hannah Rees.
Leyden said the film will include a segment about Hell's Canyon and one about Al Bates of the "Days Past" features in the Daily Courier.
Reunions of old friends also took place at the Del Rio Ranch event. Mary Converse Hardin, who was born on the ranch in 1927, reminisced with Betty Wells, a childhood playmate. Betty and her husband, Billy, still live in Chino Valley, and Mary lives in Cottonwood with her son, Art.
"I couldn't have asked for a better place to have a childhood - working the fields, helping with the cattle and with branding," said Mary, 86.
Mary's family worked the Fred Harvey Farm at Del Rio Springs, which supplied hay for the mules at the Grand Canyon, and housed the mules for the winter months. Mary recalled a time during World War II when Navy pilots were practicing out of the Prescott Airport. Flying around the valley, one pilot spotted Mary, Betty and Gilbert, Mary's younger brother, baling hay in a field, Mary working with a pair of mules.
"He decided to buzz us," Mary said. "Gilbert came running, scared to death the team would run away. I kept my cool, kept talking to the mules and kept working."
Chino Valley resident and history-lover George Argo, enjoyed the event and lunch with two friends, Rich Poynter and Dick Hedge, both of Prescott.
"I wish they would make the entire ranch an historic landmark," Argo said.
To create an 1864 atmosphere, members of the Prescott Regulators and Shady Ladies dressed in period costume, including soldiers and scouts, and ladies in long dresses, shawls and bonnets.
Chino Valley High School FFA students helped park cars and Chino Valley Fire was on hand.