Pioneer Living History Village

On the Arizona Trail - by Rod Timanus - Published WWG Vol 2 No 6 Nov 2008

Probably the two best kept secrets in the Valley of the Sun, except to schoolchildren who have visited on class fieldtrips over the years, are steeped in so much tangible history that it is hard to imagine that they remain virtually unknown to the general public.

Pioneer Living History Village, open since 1969, started out as the vision of several prominent politicians who lamented the loss of Arizona’s territorial past to the sprawl of urban development and population increase. Senators Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater, among others, helped spearhead a drive to save many of the state’s older buildings from the wrecking ball and relocate them to a safe site. On a state land lease property donated by the Robert Lockett family in 1962, Pioneer Living History Village was born in 1966 with the relocation and reconstruction of two one-room log buildings dating back to 1875-80. The Schoolhouse and Teacherage which once stood in Gordon Canyon, 30 miles east of Payson, became the centerpieces of the Pioneer Village experience.

Over the years many more buildings were added to the site, including a Ranch cabin (1870) from Gordon Canyon, the Opera House (1876) from Prescott, the Ashurst Cabin (1879) from Anderson Mesa near Flagstaff, the Northern Cabin

(1885) from Newman Canyon also near Flagstaff, and the Flying V Cabin (1880) from Pleasant Valley near Young. From Phoenix came the Holsum Bakery building (1880), the Wheelwright Shop (1890), and the Victorian House (1890). From Glendale came the Jack Farmhouse (1885), and the Meritt House (1890).

Many recreated buildings were constructed, patterned after real structures that no longer exist, to fill in time gaps and represent other aspects of frontier living. All together they help create the experience of walking the unpaved streets of a town that might have existed during the days of Arizona Territory (1863-1912). To further enhance the feel of stepping back in time, most of the buildings are outfitted with period furniture and implements the early pioneers would have been quite familiar with.

Interpreters in period clothing can also be found in several buildings, ready to answer any questions and share stories of Arizona history.

Although there are gun safety demonstrations for the schoolchildren, a very important part of the experience, and tongue-in-cheek cowboy action shootouts staged for the entertainment of the audience of visitors, Pioneer Living History Village is still the real deal. It is not a reconstructed or false-front town where behind every door can be found a restaurant or gift shop ready to relieve the visitor of his cash with an array of food, drink, and baubles. It would be safe to say that there is more collective and real Arizona history here than anywhere else in the state.

For more information click here Pioneer Living History Village

Photo credit Barbara Prichard aka Tumbleweed Tillie Official Photographer of the Wild West Gazette & Pioneer Living History Village. Rod Timanus is an accomplished, published western writer and member of Western Writers of America.