by Melissa Ruffner, Historian and Author
On May 30, 1864, Prescott, Arizona’s first territorial capital was named during a meeting at Fort Misery (now located at Sharlot Hall Museum) attended by members of the Walker Party—who had discovered placer gold in area creeks—and government officials appointed by President Abraham Lincoln. After numerous suggestions, first Secretary of State Richard McCormick proposed the name of the author of The History Of The Conquest Of Mexico by William Hickling Prescott, feeling this name would be recognized by citizens back east because Prescott’s grandfather was a hero of the Revolutionary War in Boston.
Independence Day was celebrated that same year on July 4th. Our first restaurant was called the Juniper House, although it was not an actual house, but near some Juniper trees, which at that time, covered the public Plaza. The menu was venison and chili, bread, tea and coffee with milk, which was a rare commodity in a wilderness.
In 1888, our rodeo was organized by city fathers concerned about “goings on” over on Montezuma Street ( by now, it was nicknamed “Whiskey Row”).Today, more genteel crowds participate in numerous Frontier Days activities around the Plaza, including a patriotic 4th of July parade.
I loved growing up in Prescott, and our rodeo was a huge deal every year. My Great-Uncle George Ruffner (shown carrying the American flag) helped start our rodeo in 1888. My Granddad Lester Lee Ruffner was involved every year as was my Dad Lester “Budge” Ruffner. My sister and I participated in the Kiddie Parade, as did our children. It was “Cowboy Christmas,” visiting with friends from the ranches we only saw that week.
Hope to see you at our fun event! Stop by and visit with me, if you can.
To book a historical walking tour, step-on guide services or historic presentation for your organization or event…in full Victorian regalia…please call Melissa Ruffner at (928) 830-4930 or e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO FROM RUFFNER FAMILY ARCHIVES