© Mark Lipczynski
PAYSONOriginally known as Green Valley and Union Park, Payson was founded in 1882 and named for Levi Joseph Payson, who helped establish the town's post office. Two years later, residents held Payson's first rodeo, and since then it's become the "world's oldest continuous" rodeo, with events every year.
Though cowboy culture is big in the Central Arizona town, it's also a draw for artists and storytellers. Author Zane Grey visited in 1918, purchased two plots of land along Tonto Creek and built a cabin. Ultimately, he wrote 28 novels that were set in Arizona. The cabin burned during the Dude Fire in 1990, but local businesses raised funds to build a replica, which is located at Green Valley Park, just down the street from Main Street Mercantile.
"When my wife and I bought a building in Payson nearly eight years ago and opened our antiques store, we thought of the small town as no more than a strip of restaurants and small stores along State Route 87, a stop along the way to the Rim Country," says writer Bruce Itule, the Mercantile's owner. "We were so wrong. Payson is a small town that has not yet grown too large. It has a rich history, a wonderful park system and plenty to offer visitors and residents. It remains a jumping-off point to the Rim, Tonto Natural Bridge and desert and mountain lakes."
— Kelly Kramer
Information: Information: Town of Payson, www.paysonrimcountry.com; Main Street Mercantile, 928-468-0526