From a Reader: A Special Copy of an Old Book

Courtesy of Bill Wheeler

Our April issue, on Sonoita-Patagonia, featured a reprint of a story originally published in the September 1966 issue of Arizona Highways. The story, San Ignacio del Babacomari, was written by Frank Cullen Brophy and recounted the history of the Babacomari Ranch, which the Brophys still own today. And it spurred Bill Wheeler of Upland, California, to send us an email.

"In the second paragraph on page 39, Brophy includes a brief quote from the book by Arizona pioneer Captain James H. Tevis, Arizona in the Fifties (meaning the 1850s, of course)," Wheeler writes. "I found this interesting because I have a copy of Tevis' book in my personal library. It's a very engrossing and enlightening book, and it really gives the reader an idea of just how challenging — and dangerous — it was to live in Arizona during its earlier years."

Wheeler says he bought his copy of the book many years ago in a used-book store. Inside it, he found a name label for a Mrs. A.S. Baillie in Paris, Missouri, who he assumes is the person who owned the book. But there's also a handwritten inscription that appears to have been written by the author's daughter, Minnie Tevis Davenport.

"It makes me wonder if Mrs. Davenport sent this copy of the book to Mrs. Baillie as a gift and decided to add the brief inscription about her father and a few details about his years in Arizona," Wheeler says. "Additionally, on the dedication page in the book, it appears that Minnie Davenport also added some notations, additions and one correction to the names on the page (which I believe were probably all relatives of Captain Tevis."

Wheeler scanned the book's dust jacket and the pages he mentioned, and sent the photos our way. We sure appreciate that and thought we'd share them with all of you. It does look like he's got a very special copy of a very old book on his hands.

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From Our Archives: "Oklahoma!" in Arizona

A spread from the April 1955 issue of Arizona Highways shows photos from the set of "Oklahoma!" in the San Rafael Valley.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As Editor Robert Stieve noted in our April issue on Sonoita-Patagonia, that region of Arizona was the filming location for the musical Oklahoma!, released in 1955. The April 1955 issue of Arizona Highways included a look at the production, along with photos from the set and an account of how Oklahoma! ended up in Arizona. Here's Allen C. Reed's story from that issue.

Just twelve years ago this month, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "Oklahoma!", destined to be a fabulously successful hit, opened on Broadway. In the dozen ensuing years, "Oklahoma!" has played more than 8,000 performances to a delighted world-wide audience well over 12,000,000, with a gross of over $30,000,000. Such a record causes little wonder when taking into consideration the loved musical score that seems to have the immortal quality of never growing old: numbers like "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love," and the title number.

Now the great musical "Oklahoma!" can reach a still wider audience, for the long-awaited screen version about to be released in full color is expected to smash this twelve-year record in a fraction of the time.

"Oklahoma!" is not only being filmed in CinemaScope but this production marks the introduction of a new camera, the Todd-American Optical big screen process, which uses a single strip of 65mm film and is designed to give audiences a sense of participation on the order of Cinerama.

After turning down a host of offers to film "Oklahoma!", partly to avoid outside tampering with their creation, Rodgers and Hammerstein formed their own company, leased facilities and equipment from M.G.M. and hired Arthur Hornblow as the producer. The director is Academy Award winner Fred Zinnemann, who has such top-flight pictures to his credit as "Seventh Cross," "High Noon," "From Here to Eternity," and many others.

The cast of "Oklahoma!" includes Gordon McRae as "Curley," a sparkling and capable newcomer making her film debut. Shirley Jones, as "Laurey," Charlotte Green as "Aunt Eller," Barbara Lawrence as "Gertie," Eddie Albert as "Ali Hakim," Gene Nelson as "Will Parker," Gloria Grahame as "Ado Annie," Rod Steiger as "Jud," James Whitmore as "Andy Carnes," Jay C. Flippen as "Skidmore" and Roy Barcroft as "Cord Elam."

Before the film got under way, more than 250,000 miles were logged by R.&H. officials in search of the ideal location site. An extensive survey crisscrossing the state of Oklahoma revealed that it would be rather difficult to capture the feeling of wide open spaces, that the territory was noted for 50 years ago, with an oil well or some such modern structure showing up in the background. Other drawbacks of the Sooner state were too many airplanes that would disturb the sound system and force costly delays, to say nothing of the great distance to transport tons of equipment and the 325 member cast and crew back and forth from the home studio in Culver City, California.

One day Arthur Hornblow, leafing through the pages of Arizona Highways, saw a color photograph of the spacious San Rafael Valley of Southern Arizona. When research revealed this area was noted, during the summer, for its green grass and picturesque clouds, arrangements were made to film the exterior sequences in this ideal setting 36 miles northeast of Nogales. There, in the shade of stately cottonwoods by a quiet country stream, "Aunt Eller's" farm of 1900 vintage took form, complete with two-story house, barn, silo, windmill and smoke house.

Shooting schedule called for a bearing peach orchard, a field of ripe wheat and a field of corn "as high as an elephant's eye," in July at an altitude of 5,000 feet where harvest time is normally in October. The peach orchard was purchased and transplanted. From the studio prop department came some 2,000 lush looking wax peaches, complete with fuzz, to be hung out each morning and taken in at night. The corn field, running up and down hill, presented an especially tough problem. Each stalk had to be coddled and nurtured with chemicals and a constant supply of water to yield what was doubtlessly the world's most costly corn crop: ten acres at something like $8.95 per ear. Of more than 6,000 props bought, borrowed or built, for this picture, by Irving Sindler and his prop department, the Arizona sky proved to be the most magnificent, with white thunderheads boiling up into the afternoon blue a daily occurrence.

There is nothing small time about the production of "Oklahoma!", with filming cost reported upwards from five to eight million dollars. The fine cast, the excelling abilities of director Fred Zinnemann, the outstanding capabilities of producer Arthur Hornblow, camerman Robert Surtees and of the entire hand-picked crew, along with the musical and story genius of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, are combined to give the world an entertainment experience surely worthy of all the awards and "splendiferous" adjectives that Hollywood can come up with, one in which Arizona can surely be honored and proud to have played such an important role.

To learn more about Sonoita and Patagonia, pick up a copy of our April issue, on newsstands now.

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From a Reader: Arizona's Other State Song

Jim Greer | Phoenix

Mike Harris of Poneto, Indiana, has spent several summers in Arizona. He recently wrote to us to ask about a piece of the state's past.

"I was just made aware of the state song (I Love You Arizona by Rex Allen Jr.)," he wrote. "If I can make it out, the third line is "A raise of Dos Cabezas." I know Rex Allen was raised at Willcox, and just southeast of Willcox is Dos Cabezas. Is he hoping for a rebuild of Dos Cabezas?"

As it turns out, the song is simply called Arizona, and according to the Arizona State Library, it was named Arizona's alternate state anthem in 1982 (the primary anthem, Margaret Rowe Clifford's The Arizona March Song, was adopted in 1919).

The line Mike asked about is actually "The rise of Dos Cabezas," and it refers to the Dos Cabezas Mountains, which are near the old mining town of Dos Cabezas. So Allen was referring to the mountains' iconic profile, rather than to a rebirth of the town named for the mountains.

We did some Googling and found what appears to be Allen's version of the song on YouTube. Check it out below. Several cover versions are out there as well.

Thanks for writing, Mike! And if you have other questions about Arizona that you'd like answered, feel free to get in touch with us.

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How Did Those Petrified Logs Get 'Cut'?

Patrick Fuchs | Petrified Forest National Park

Our February issue, which focused on Petrified Forest National Park, generated a lot of reader interest in this Northern Arizona gem. And a few readers wrote to ask about something we didn't mention in the magazine.

"If the age of the trees and, I assume, tree pieces are more than 200 million years old, why is it that many of the petrified tree sections appear to have been sawed cleanly apart?" asked Bob Klages of Oxford, Michigan. "A bit more of the scientific explanation of the actual process of petrification would also have been fascinating to read about."

To answer Mr. Klages' question, we turned to Bill Parker, the park paleontologist we featured in the issue. "The fossilization process itself is fairly complex," he says, but it goes something like this:

A tree dies, falls over and is buried in a river channel or floodplain, under layers of mud, sand and gravel. In the groundwater table, the tree becomes saturated like a sponge and expands. The water, sand and gravel cut off exposure to oxygen, so the tree doesn't rot. Volcanic ash in the water breaks down, and the silica that was in the ash goes into solution — forming silicic acid, which enters the waterlogged tree and interacts chemically with the wood, altering it to silica and replicating the features of the wood. Over time, you end up with a silica replica of the tree.

The process actually happens fairly quickly, geologically speaking — within "a few 10,000s of years," Parker says.

Eventually, the log leaves the groundwater table and goes through a process of "dewatering" and recrystallizing, this time as solid quartz. "Thus, all of the Triassic logs at Petrified Forest now consist almost entirely of quartz," Parker says. This process takes much longer — tens of millions of years, according to the fossil record.

But why do so many of the logs appear "cut"? It has to do with how they got to their present location, Parker says: "About 60 million years ago, forces of geology started the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. This area went from deeply buried to being uncovered and raised more than 1 mile above sea level. As a high point, it is continuously eroding away, exposing old rocks and their fossils, such as the petrified logs from the Triassic."

So the movement and erosion of the land is what caused the logs to break. And the inner surfaces where they've broken are flat because quartz doesn't break neatly across its crystal faces, so instead it snaps across the log's shortest area across — sort of like when you snap a piece of chalk, Parker says.

"These logs are pure quartz, and to cut them would require a diamond saw," he adds. "Rock shops use these saws to cut log portions and polish them for sale," but here at Petrified Forest, this has happened naturally over very long periods of time."

We hope you found this explanation as informative as we did. To learn more about Petrified Forest National Park, visit the park's website or sign up for a class through the park's field institute.

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Saguaro Lake: Then and Now

This Harry Vroman portfolio of Saguaro Lake appeared in the January 1957 issue of Arizona Highways.

Russ Glindmeier was so taken by a photo in this month's Arizona Highways that he set out to re-create it — 60 years later.

"I was captivated by the double-page spread photo of Saguaro Lake in the March issue," Glindmeier writes in an email to Photo Editor Jeff Kida. The photo was published in our January 1957 issue and shows the lake's marina, where Glindmeier is a long-standing member of the "great boating fraternity" described in that issue.

Glindmeier was out on the lake last week, and before heading home, he set out to find the place where Harry Vroman, who made the 1957 photo, set up his tripod. "My mission was to replicate his photo as it would look in modern day," he says. "I crawled among the boulders, looking for the particular rocks in the foreground of Harry's photo. Once I found them, I then attempted to compose the same image."

He says he didn't get as close as he'd hoped, but we think he did pretty well. The photo at the top of this post is Vroman's original, and here's a GIF that matches his shot up with Glindmeier's present-day photo.

Glindmeier shot his photo on a Nikon D800E, using a focal length of 19 mm. He notes that Vroman may have stood a bit farther back from the rocks and used a slightly longer focal length. Regardless, these two photos are an interesting look at how the area has changed over six decades. Thanks for sharing, Russ!

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Mission San Xavier del Bac Featured on NPR Program

Greg McKelvey | Mission San Xavier del Bac

One of Arizona's oldest and most-photographed structures is receiving national attention after it was featured on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered this month.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, located on Tohono O'odham land near Tucson, was featured on the show the week of January 9. It was part of "Finding America," a series intended to share the stories of communities across the country.

In the piece, Gabriel Otero, a Tucson resident, discusses the mission's history, culture and importance to his family. In his words: "If someone's hungry, we feed 'em. That's just our culture. It's Native, Hispanic, Mexican, Chicano. Our culture is very colorful, and you know, if you come here, you'll feel that. And you're gonna love it."

To learn more about Mission San Xavier del Bac, visit its website.

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Petrified Forest Complex Named National Historic Landmark

The Painted Desert Community Complex serves as Petrified Forest National Park's headquarters. | Courtesy of National Park Service

The federal Department of the Interior named 24 new National Historic Landmarks this month, and one of them is right here in Arizona.

The Painted Desert Community Complex, located in Petrified Forest National Park (the subject of our February issue), became the 46th National Historic Landmark in Arizona on January 11. Several nonprofit groups worked with the Arizona State Historic Preservation office, a division of Arizona State Parks, to help secure the designation for the complex. Another Petrified Forest structure, the Painted Desert Inn, has been a National Historic Landmark since 1987.

The site's buildings were constructed in the early 1960s, as part of the Park Service's Mission 66 program to modernize park facilities, and now serve as the national park's headquarters. Designed by architects Richard J. Neutra and Robert E. Alexander, they're considered an excellent example of Modern architecture and a successful balancing of park needs and limited impacts to natural resources.

"We're excited to continue revitalizing Painted Desert's Modern legacy for future generations," said Juvenio Guerra, a spokesman for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the advocates for the designation. "This recognition not only energizes our restoration efforts, but also serves as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 structures throughout the National Park Service."

To learn more about the designation and the complex, click here.

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Pah-Ute County: An Oddity of Arizona's Past

This 1867 map shows the counties of Arizona and New Mexico after part of Pah-Ute County was transferred to Nevada, but before the smaller Pah-Ute County was merged with Mohave County.

Arizona has 15 counties today. That's not the fewest among U.S. states (Delaware has only three counties), but it isn't many — especially given the size of our state. In fact, 13 of the 15 counties rank among the 100 largest counties in America, and Coconino County is the country's second-largest, behind only San Bernardino County in California.

So it's hard to imagine that long ago, before Arizona became a state, the Arizona Territory had just four counties. And in the 1860s, a fifth county came along — and became an odd footnote in Arizona history.

Mohave, Yuma, Pima and Yavapai were the original four counties, created in 1864. A year later, the Territorial government split Mohave County in half to create Pah-Ute County. The new county, in the northwest corner of the state, included much of present-day Clark County, Nevada, including the site that one day would become Las Vegas.

But the new county was short-lived. In 1867, Congress expanded the state of Nevada to include land west of the Colorado River, including part of Pah-Ute County. When that happened, there was no reason for Pah-Ute to exist, and shortly thereafter, it was merged back into Mohave County.

Do you know any other odd facts about Arizona's history? Let us know in the comments!

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Echoes of Childhood in an Emry Kopta Photo

Starlie Polacca and Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca hold two of their children in an Emry Kopta photo. | Museum of Northern Arizona

In the November issue of Arizona Highways, we featured photos by Emry Kopta, an early 20th century sculptor and photographer whose primary subject was the Hopi people. As we noted in the issue, most of the photos, which we licensed from the Museum of Northern Arizona, didn't include much information about their subjects. We asked our readers to contact us if they recognized anyone in the photos.

As it turns out, the young couple in this photo are the parents of Angelita Thompson and Maxine Morris, who got in touch with us through Thompson's granddaughter. Their reaction to seeing the photo in Arizona Highways? "Wow! We've never seen our parents this young!"

We asked Angelita and Maxine a few questions about the photo, their parents and their lives since then. Their father, Starlie Polacca, and mother, Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca, had 14 children, two of whom are pictured here. The women say they're not sure which of their siblings these are, but they're definitely older siblings. As Angelita and Maxine were born in the late 1930s, this photo must have been made much earlier.

Both parents were born on Hopi Tribe land and lived there until their late 40s. Starlie was a rancher, while Elsie was a housewife. Later, the family relocated to Parker, along the Colorado River; as Angelita and Maxine put it: "The Mohave people were fighting for their water rights against the U.S. government, and their enrollment number needed to be increased in order for them to keep their land. Our parents relocated, and we all became enrolled tribal members in the Colorado River Indian Tribes."

Starlie died in a tractor accident when Angelita and Maxine were young, while Elsie lived to be 97 years old. Of the 14 siblings, Angelita and Maxine are two of the three still living; the other, Anthony Polacca, lives in Kansas.

We so appreciate Angelita and Maxine taking the time to share their family's history with us!

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A Unique Way to Tell the Grand Canyon's History

Meagan and Debbie Gipson with some of their Grand Canyon Project creations. | Courtesy of Meagan Gipson

Meagan Gipson really loves her home state. As a fifth-generation Arizonan, her roots in the Grand Canyon State are well established. Her great-great-grandfather, William Wallace Bass, is credited with constructing a cableway across the Colorado River, establishing the first school at the Grand Canyon and creating trails throughout the Canyon, including the Mystic Spring Trail.

To Meagan and her mother, Debbie, the history and stories from their family were too interesting to keep to themselves.

Over the past few years, the two have researched the Bass family history, using just about every resource available: letters, diary entries, trips to cemeteries and libraries, phone calls to historical societies and more. They worked to find all the details — or “sparkly bits,” as Debbie calls them.

The result of their investigations: the Grand Canyon Project.

“The whole concept of Grand Canyon Project is multi-sensory. It’s multimedia-based; it’s driven by all of the senses coming together to truly feel the experience and feel the journey of past meets present,” Meagan says.

Debbie’s book, Stories the Canyon Keeps, tells tales of life at the rim and shows what it was like to live in Arizona 100 years ago. Bass' wife, Ada — Meagan’s great-great-grandmother — wrote in a diary for much of her life and detailed life at the Canyon.

“She wrote in the diary how she would hold an umbrella over the stove when she was cooking, because rainwater would come through the cracks of the cave [they lived in],” Meagan says.

But when Ada wrote, it was to the point, Meagan says. She didn’t write with a lot of emotion, anguish or joy.

Meagan found inspiration for her album, 100 Years Away, in Ada’s diary.

“I was starting to read through the diary, and it was just so fascinating," she says. "There were so many clips and phrases that, as a songwriter, you can work with. All of a sudden, you have a splash of an entire story line. I started putting those pieces together and writing the album."

The unique aspect to Grand Canyon Project is the relationship between Debbie’s book and Meagan’s album. While writing the book, Debbie noted parts where Meagan’s songs work. For example, during one part of the story, when Bass is gazing over the Canyon watching a monsoon move in, readers will see a note about Meagan’s song Monsoon.

“Each piece enhances the other,” Meagan says.

For Meagan, who has synesthesia, the connection between song and text is special.

“It’s like this blending of everything, just like what my brain does with my every day," she says. "I think that heightens it, too, for me with the memories. I can just taste them; they’re right there. It makes it feel like I’m sitting there having coffee with Ada while I’m writing a song about her, or I’m talking with Bert and Edith about their love letters. We’re all present again.”

In the end, Meagan and Debbie hope Grand Canyon Project helps to bring the Bass family to light and share their voices again, as well as inspire others.

“The idea that Grand Canyon Project really speaks to is that everyone has family stories and how rich and wonderful that is, and taking pride in that, learning from your roots,” Meagan says.

— Kirsten Kraklio

To learn more about Grand Canyon Project, or to see more of the product line — which includes T-shirts, a kids book and other merchandise — visit the website or find it on Facebook.

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