The Southern Pacific Railroad was laying track from west to
east along a southern route of the United States to form the
Second Transcontinental Railroad. When workers reached
the eastern side of the Arizona Territory in 1880, they
stopped at a site on the San Pedro River to establish the
town of Benson. The site was chosen to facilitate travel not
only from coast to coast, but to accommodate the needs of
ranches, settlements, and farms up and down the river.
From desert in Apache territory to a major railroad hub to cattle country and a layover on the southern transportation routes across the United States. Settlers transformed their town several times and grew instead of becoming a ghost town as many of their neighbors had.
Experience life as the pioneers did, decade by decade: the fires that burnt downtown three times, the floods that washed away homes and roads, the droughts, the epidemics, the cattle that roamed down the streets and into their yards. Residents were no strangers to national issues either: World Wars I and II, the Depression, the Dust Bowl. Read their own words describing how they dealt with adversity. Of course, life was not all adversity. The community also banded together for town events and recreation.
True stories of murder and mayhem from the Old West.
Benson, Arizona was founded as a railroad town in the San Pedro Valley in 1880 when Geronimo still roamed the valley and terrorized settlers and travelers. Because Benson was a small town, it never received the notoriety of its neighbor Tombstone. But the images one conjures up of the Wild West—shootouts, saloons, hangings, fights—could be found in early Benson.
"The gang was invited to leave town before sundown and promised a necktie party in their honor if they didn't." (Benson Museum Oral Histories)
"... the few people who lived 'in town' found it prudent to stay in their houses at night if they did not wish to take the chance of stopping stray bullets." (Benson Museum Oral Histories)
The printed version is illustrated with numerous old photographs.
A compilation of the eight individual volumes under one cover. Volumes also sold separately.
After the Civil War, people began migrating westward. When the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the line connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco in 1876, it brought hordes of people to Southern California.
Spying the opportunity for new fortunes, speculators rushed to California. "They came here not to build the country, but to make money, honestly, if they could not make it any other way." (Robert Glass Cleland)
Relive the settling of the West by experiencing the beginning of a typical small town founded during the Land Boom of the 1880s.
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Land Promoters of the 1880s promised a perfect life of health, wealth, and pleasure in Monte Vista. Although their promises fell short of reality, the village did grow and prosper in the hands of farmers and was renamed Sunland.
Two robbers posed as passengers to flag down the train. When the engineer recognized danger, he opened the throttle and sped past. The bandits threw the spur switch, and the train careened full speed off the tracks.
Parson Wornum was so loved that when he died, the whole village attended his funeral. Years of neglect of his cemetery spelled disaster in 1978 when heavy rains tore open graves and washed bodies down the hillside.
When a student pulled out his gun and laid it on his desk, the tiny one-room school found itself needing a new teacher. That brought Virginia Newcomb, who married Loron Rowley two years later. Together they helped develop the town, leaving behind a detailed account of pioneer life in a small village.
Joe Ardizzone, a local grape grower, doubled as a hit man for the Mafia. During Prohibition, Joe's bootlegging activities caught him in the middle of in-house quarreling. In 1931, he left on a short trip and disappeared into the pages of history.
When Edgar Lancaster dredged the swamp on his land, he created a lake which became a treasured landmark. For 25 years, visitors flocked to its cool shores. It also served as a set location for many of Hollywood's early movies.
Early settlers, like the Johnson family, found their way into the canyon bristling with wildlife and dense with woodland. Fifty years later, the Webber family faced the wrath of a river now winding down a denuded mountainside.