By Al Bates

Not only was Territorial Prescott home to the first Arizona historical society, it also was home to the second: First came the Arizona Historical Society incorporated by the first territorial legislature and organized in November 1864; second was theArizona Pioneer Society formed late in 1865.

The original Historical Society officers included: Richard McCormick, president and W. Claude Jones, corresponding secretary.  County vice-presidents were Gilbert Hopkins, Pima; Thomas J. Bidwell, Yuma; William Walter, Mojave; and A. L Anderson, Yavapai.

Little is known of the activities of the originalHistorical Society except that: “Its seal is a representation of Casas Grandes on the Gila, the best preserved ruin in Arizona, with the sun rising, and the motto, Only a Shadow Remains.”

Converse W. C. Rowell, a political ally of Richard McCormick from Mojave County, is credited for organizing the Pioneer Society(with 63 charter members) immediately following close of the second territorial legislature.  The earliest surviving mention of the new society’s existence is found in the Arizona Miner in January 1866.

Three categories of membership were established for the Pioneer Society: active, honorary and corresponding, with new members added by member vote.  Active members were limited to those in residence prior to January 1, 1864.

Like the Historical Society, the Pioneer Society had territory-wide ambitions, and in their constitution specified that they have a resident vice-president plus a corresponding secretary in each county.  The earliest Pioneer Society officers included: James Grant, president; F. G. Christie, secretary and two County vice-presidents, W. J. Berry, Yavapai; and Wm. H. Hardy, Mohave County (no mention was found for Pima, Yuma or Pah-Ute county vice presidents).

Both societies were exclusively male, although there were well qualified women available including Mrs. Mary Catherine Leib Brooks and Mrs. Sara E. Robinson Boggs.

The Pioneer Society’s goals and structure were so similar to that of the Historical Society that the older group began considering a merger at their January 5, 1866, meeting, appointing James Giles, Henry Bigelow and T. J. Bidwell as a committee “to consider the propriety” of a union of the two societies.  Another factor favoring the merger was that five of the most prominent members of the Historical Society(including its president, Acting Governor McCormick) were among the Pioneer Society’s 63 charter members.

Merger of the two societies was announced at thePioneer Society annual meeting in November 1866 when the Historical Society dissolved and agreed to turn over their “books, charts, maps and other effects” to the younger organization, now renamed the Arizona Pioneer and Historical Society.

Society librarian G. W. Barnard set up a library and meeting room in 1866 which was supplied with: “home and foreign newspapers, journals, periodicals and [illegible word] standard works.”  The shelves also contained mineral specimens from the territory and “curious relics of the past.”  In August 1867, Librarian Barnard issued the following plea: “Persons allowed the privilege of reading the papers and magazines of the Arizona Pioneer and Historical Society, are requested not to tear strips from the margin of the papers, or in any manner mutilate them.” . . . “Harper’s Magazine for July 1866 has very mysteriously disappeared.  Don’t destroy it, but please return it.”

The constitution and by-laws of the new organization were amended May 6, 1867, formally recording the name change.  Most of what else was changed had to do with record keeping and finances.  First came the addition of a Board of Auditors and then came rules for tracking dues payments with rules for expulsion and restoration of membership of those in arrears.

An indication that the society was in trouble came in an unsigned item in the Arizona Weekly Miner at the end of 1874: “We are in hope that ‘The Arizona Pioneer and Historical Society’ will soon be reorganized, and that every important town in the Territory will keep a branch of the same running, continuously, not that we wish use the society as a means to political or other nefarious ends, as did some of its first members and promoter, but because we wish to see old timers enthuse each other and unitedly assist in keeping bright the pages of our history.”

And then no more.  But what became of their records and artifacts? I’m still looking.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com.Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.