CENTENNIAL: Every car ride a long one in 1912September 26, 2011
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles celebrating 100 years of Arizona. Through February, we will publish several short stories from our Wick Communications newspapers about the people and places in Southern Arizona.
Drivers frustrated about traffic through the Gila Valley from Globe to Clifton on Highways 70 and 191 should consider the undertaking it would have been when Arizona first became a state.
George Platz, a part-time Safford resident and son of the creator of the Valley’s first golf course, wrote the following story of what that automobile trip may have been like nearly 100 years ago:
Imagine that it is 1912. To celebrate Arizona’s admission to the union, you decide to drive your new 1912 Reo motorcar from Globe in Pinal County to Clifton in Greenlee County — 140 miles. Here are some things that you may encounter on the trip:
•There are no paved roads from Globe to Clifton. Paving in Graham County didn’t begin until the 1920s. You won’t see many other cars — there are fewer than 5,000 registered automobiles in Arizona.
•There are few, if any, road signs for guidance, but you have a copy of the Arizona Good Roads Association Tour Book that describes your route. The book contains pictures of buildings and other landmarks that can be used for guidance.
•The state-of-the-art motorcar in 1912 averaged 12 miles per hour. Frequent stops for tire and mechanical repairs are the norm, as are cattle wandering on the road. It’s a good idea to carry a spare set of four tires and eight inner tubes.
•The route from Globe to Solomon — then called Solomonville — roughly parallels the route of the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad — now called the Arizona Eastern Railway. You will make frequent rough-grade crossings as the road winds back and forth across the railroad tracks.
• Just like today, you will travel through the San Carlos Reservation from east of Globe to Geronimo.
•As you travel along the north side of the river a short way past old San Carlos, your car will have to ford the river. You may need to hire local Apaches to help you get across and pull your car up the steep bank on the other side.
•After traveling through the farming and ranching community of Fort Thomas, the road turns northward through Ashurst and Cork, and you must again ford the Gila River. Soon you come to the Indian Hot Springs Hotel, which burned down in 2008.
•You must cross the river again to get to Pima, which is a well-established town with a clothing store, drug stores, a barber shop, numerous liveries, a newspaper office, railroad station and an ice plant.
•The road from Pima to Thatcher is not well marked. Thatcher does not have a defined town center, but it does have Brinkerhoff’s Hotel and the Gila Academy. The academy is the forerunner of the Eastern Arizona College.
•After crossing the railroad tracks four times in Thatcher, you have a straight road to Safford, which is the center for financial activity in the county. You also can have your Reo serviced in Safford.
•After leaving Safford, you will go through Lone Star to reach Solomonville. The Graham County Courthouse is located there because Solomonville is the county seat. Safford became the county seat in 1915.
•Your route from Solomon to Clifton will roughly parallel today’s Highway 191. You will travel on a toll road through the Pelonicello Mountains that was built around 1880 and continued in use until the Old Safford-Morenci Road — now the Black Hills Scenic Byway — was completed in 1919.
•Your journey from Globe to Clifton will likely take you about three days and subject your Reo to considerable wear and tear. Did you pack enough sandwiches?
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