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On February 24, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Organic Act creating the territory of Arizona (and New Mexico). Later that year, officers were appointed. The officials assembled in Cincinnati, Ohio along with Governor Gurley who was the first appointed governor of the new territory. However, just as the westward expedition was bout to start, he died in August of 1863. A new governor, John Goodwin, was then appointed. By September of 1863, the expedition arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico where they met General Carleton. He told the party of an area near the San Francisco Peaks and Chino Valley where there was placer mining going on. The governor took up the general’s advice and in January of 1864, set up a temporary capital there. It was called Camp Clark after the General of New Mexico. Smaller trips were made to the creeks where hundreds of placer miners were working.
A spot was chosen and is where Prescott still stands. This decision was greatly influenced by the nearby placer deposits of Lynx and Granite Creeks and the Hassayampa River. The location decided was also very beautiful, scenic, and untouched. A road was built through the dense forest so government wagons could cross nearby Granite Creek. Just north of this, officials selected a spot and cleared 60 square feet to build the house. Logs were cut and pulled to the site by mules and oxen. Messrs (Blair, Hatz, and Raible) were contracted to build the house. An armed guard was said to be present to ward off any Apache Attacks. Construction began in July of 1864 and was fairly cheap. Materials cost $1.75 a pound and the total cost of the building was $6,000. By September of 1864, the officials moved into the nearly completed, 8 room mansion. The first legislature met across the street in Fort Misery (not to be confused with Al Francis’ Fort Misery on the Backway to Crown King). However, this building had no doors or windows and quickly, the legislature moved back to the Governors Mansion.
This house had hard earth floors as well as two fireplaces. The mansion even had a small patio. The upstairs room was large and accessible with a ladder. Many men slept on its the hard wooden floors. A year later, glass was brought from St. Louis to make windows.
The mansion was so nice that the governor used it for his office and the commander at Fort Whipple lived here and used it as headquarters. In March of 1864, Secretary McCormick created the Great Seal of the Territory of Arizona. During the legislature of November, 1864, the seal was changed and bared the motto, “Ditat Deus,” which means, “God Enriches.” In spring of 1865, the Masons of the Territory of Arizona met here. In April of 1867, McCormick’s wife Margaret died during childbirth in the mansion.
However, in1867, the territorial capitol was moved to Tucson. But, territorial legislature decided in 1877 to move the capitol back to Prescott. Although, the Governors Mansion was not used for the capitol. In 1889, the capitol was permanently moved to Phoenix.
Henry Fleury, former Justice of the Peace was given the title to the property in 1876. He mortgaged it later though to C. G. W. French (Chief Justice). As part of the agreement, after his death, the property was given to the Congregational Church of Prescott who housed many in it.
On February 9, 1899, the property of the mansion was sold to Joseph Dougherty who greatly restored the run down buildings. Floors were installed on the bottom floor, large windows were added, and new siding covered the old logs. He also added a large windmill and tank (still present) to the house. On May 5, 1917, a Prescott citizen by the name of Hon. Tony Johns bought it and insisted it should become a museum.
After no success, in 1929, the mansion was purchased by Sharlot Hall. She used it to store her collections was well as preserve the house. She renovated the building with her own money. After some great additions, the property was finally preserved. Sharlot died on April 9, 1943 but her legend still lives on.
The property was turned into the Sharlot Hall Museum. The museum grounds preserves well the history of Arizona and of Prescott. Buildings include the Governors Mansion, Fort Misery (moved here from across the street), the Freemont House and much more! This museum is a truly great place to visit to learn about the growth of Arizona. Many buildings on the museum grounds are also Historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The McCormick's parlor in the Governor's Mansion
Governor's Mansion at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott
Merritt, Evelyn B. Arizona's First Capitol. Prescott, AZ: Prescott Printing Co., 1971. Print.