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.
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).
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.
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
For more information
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.