by Drew Desmond for the Prescott Western Heritage Foundation, Inc.
At the beginning of the 20th century, several aged pioneer miners could no longer work and had no place to live after contributing so much to Arizona’s economy.
Their plight was answered by the first-ever, government-instituted retirement home. Even now, the Pioneers Home is one of only two such institutions in the nation.
In 1907 a bill unanimously passed to create the home, but was left unsigned because of a lack of funds.
The bill was reintroduced the following session. Again, it passed without a dissenting vote, and on March 11, 1909, Gov. Kibbey signed it into law. Still, the bill was conditioned upon the donation of land upon which to build it.
It was Frank M. Murphy who donated a 4.5-acre plot on July 9, 1909.
Maj. A.J. Doran became the first superintendent. His foremost duty was overseeing construction of the building, which was completed ahead of schedule in January 1911. Doors opened Feb. 1.
That first year, Buffalo Bill Cody enjoyed one of his “happiest experiences in many years” at the home, reminiscing with several residents he knew.
Soon, leadership realized that women needed a home just as much as the men did. So on April 8, 1916, an addition was opened with capacity for 20 ladies.
After women were admitted, one couple wanted to get married. Since there were no accommodations for couples, the superintendent turned the matter over to the state Legislature. After serious debate, they were turned down. Despite this, the couple eloped and after returning from their honeymoon, the superintendent relented and gave them a room together.
For years, food was served family-style until Dynamite Joe once turned a bowl of gravy over the head of Six-Shooter Smith in a quarrel over a chicken leg. Thereafter, meals were served in individual portions.
In 1926, a hospital wing was constructed, increasing the floor space of the facility to 53,564 square feet. At its height, 200 guests were housed.
Today, a person must be at least 70 and a resident of Arizona for 50 years to be eligible to stay at the home. Each pays only a percentage of his or her monthly income.
- Dale Sams, Interim Superintendent, Arizona Pioneers’ Home
- Sharlot Hall Museum Archives