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49. Harry Wheeler was Captain of the Arizona Rangers
formed in 1900 to clean up all the outlawry and cattle rustling in the Territory
so we could become a state.
He was involved in the famous Bisbee Deportation in 1917
and charged with kidnapping.
He was also pitcher on our local baseball team.
Several of the Rangers lived in Willcox and five are buried here.
50. In 1911, Cal Rodgers landed across the tracks on his history
making flight across America in the first ever transcontinental flight.
His plane was named the Vin Fiz advertising a new grape drink.
He was followed by a train carrying his wife and his mother, who did not get along,
8 mechanics, and parts to repair the plane.
It took all 8 of his mechanics to guard the plane that night
as no one had ever seen a plane before and tried to take pieces as souvenirs.
The flight took him 49 days and he crashed 19 times.
It is an amazing story and we have published a monograph titled
“The Vin Fiz Lands in Willcox”.
51. Anna Morgan, wife of our Mayor,
was president of our local and the statewide Woman’s Club,
head of the Eastern Star and the Methodist Ladies Aid Society.
52. The Womans’ Club began in 1911 and brought culture to Willcox
with programs on music, art, history, literature, gardening,
and ways to improve your home and family life and community service.
These women were three of the charter members:
Julia Huffman, Elizabeth Johnson, and Edith Cummings, wife of the barber.
53. The Woman’s Club immediately began raising money for a Club building.
It took about 20 years to raise the money,
then this building was built in 1936 by the WPA.
They started the lending library and it was in this building for many years.
Later they deeded the building to the city for the Community Center.
54. The first high school was built in 1911
with only one girl graduate in the first graduating class of 1912.
55. In 1920, this twin-towered high school was erected surrounding the original building.
It was torn down along with two old hotel buildings in the 1970s.
The townspeople were very upset over this and started the Historical Society,
got all the old buildings on the National Historic Register
and created a historic district.
We have saved all the buildings since then.
56. The rough and rowdy days of Willcox had just about ended with statehood.
But one more shooting would occur on Railroad Avenue in June 1912.
My husband’s uncle, Roy Wiley, was shot and killed by the bartender in
the Midway Saloon which was half way down Railroad Avenue, hidden here by the trees.
57. As more and more settlers and homesteaders arrived in the area,
the real estate business boomed and there were additions to the townsite
and many buildings erected.
The Commercial Hotel was built in 1915,
(where Isabel’s Mexican Restaurant is today).
58. Huffman’s Toggery clothing store started
in the first floor of the Commerical Hotel in 1916.
Then moved to its new quarters in 1925 across the street,
and is our research library today.
We still have these same showcases.
The family owned the store until 2002.
59. This is the NE corner of Haskell Avenue or stop-light corner.
The building on the left was the Central Bank built in 1915.
The wooden thing in the middle of the street
was called a “dummy policeman” in lieu of center line,
and drivers were instructed to stay right of the dummy policeman
when going down the street.
60. At the next corner was the first site of Valley Hardware.
When prohibition started in 1915,
all the saloons became stores or billard halls.
This had been the site of the Headquarters Saloon.
61. Also at stoplight corner was the Palace Hotel on top
and Simms Sweetshop and Liberty Movie Theater on the first floor.
Our boys had gone off to fight in WWI and the movie was
“The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin”.
Notice they have a grave and headstone for him in front.
This building later became Riggs Bank.
62. Gorgeous Ginny Simms came with her family to Willcox in 1916.
After high school she headed to Hollywood,
where she became famous as a singer in Kay Kyser’s orchestra
and starred in several movies and radio shows.
She is pictured here with Rex Emrick who lived in Willcox for many years.
He performed with her after WWII.
On the right is actor and bandleader Phil Harris.
63. In 1916, the new Masonic Lodge was built.
The local Masons were the 10th lodge in the state when they began here in 1891.
They still meet upstairs. Several different businesses have used the downstairs.
64. The Willcox Bank and Trust was built in 1917.
It was the first bank in Willcox and started in 1909
in Norton & Morgan’s Commerical store.
It is now Keeling Schaefer Vineyards tasting room.
65. In the early 1930s, a young singer named Leonard Slye
came to town with hometown singer “Cactus Mack”,
who said he had had enough of trying to earn a living as a singer
and wanted to come home.
Their group the O Bar O Cowboys
performed in the movie theater on Railroad Avenue.
They were starving and shot a chicken hawk,
but it was “so tough, we couldn’t cut the gravy”.
Slye later became famous as “Roy Rogers”.
66. Cactus Mack was cousins with Glenn Strange and Rex Allen.
All of them were in the movies,
but Rex Allen became the most famous
and of course has a museum here dedicated especially to him.
67. Most people don’t realize
how many famous people actually came from Willcox.
“Chalky Wright” was born here in 1912.
He was a grandson of Caleb Martin, a former slave
who fought here with the Buffalo Soldiers,
then had 600 head of dairy cattle supplying Fort Grant and Bonita.
Chalky was the World Featherweight Boxing Champion in 1941
and is in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
After he retired, he became the chauffeur
and body guard for Mae West.
68. Tanya Tucker lived in a trailer house in Willcox
and sang on stage here when she was 9 years old.
In 1972 at age 13, she left for Nashville,
where she recorded her first song, Delta Dawn.
It became a huge hit and started her
on her very successful career in country music.
Another Willcox graduate to become famous is Ted DiBiase,
the professional wrestler known as the “Million Dollar Man”.
69. Welcome to Willcox, Arizona,
as you can see Railroad Avenue
has not changed much since historic times.
HISTORY OF WILLCOX I
By Kathy Klump
HISTORY OF WILLCOX II
By Kathy Klump
HISTORY OF WILLCOX III
By Kathy Klump
MEET KATHY KLUMP
2. Goodie Bag
3. Journey and Arrival
4. Exploring Willcox
5. Huckster Room
7. Exploring Willcox II
8. Fort Grant I
9. Fort Grant II
10. Fort Grant III
11. Wind Up
12. Rex Allen Museum
13. Marty Robbins Museum
14. Chiricahua Museum
15. Billy the Kid
16. Willcox History I
17. Willcox History II
18. Willcox History III
19. Meet Kathy Klump
20. ERB at Fort Grant
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