Monday, October 7, 2013

The Mesa City - Globe Wagon Road

September 30, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There was an old mill town named Pinal City located a few miles west of Superior on Queen Creek. This was a booming mill town in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Small rolling hills lead up to Iron (Irion) Mountain just north of Pinal City, and these hills provided small springs and good grazing for cattle.

The area also had a canyon called Haunted Canyon. This canyon was filled with small caves. The region is known today as the Roger’s Mining District and includes upper Hewitt Canyon, Iron Mountain and Roger’s Canyon. According to a July 17, 1880 Pinal Drill newspaper article, a group of Mormons tried to build a wagon road from Mesa City to Globe through this region. They followed a route east from the Bark Ranch, then up Fraser Canyon. The promoters of this toll road idea finally ran out of funds and the road was never completed.

Early in February of 1891, Surveyor William M. Breakenridge, a famous Tombstone deputy, A.J. Halbert and William Kimball made a trip into the mountainous region west of Globe. They were in quest of a suitable route for a wagon road between Globe and Phoenix. This party found the mountainous region west of Globe extremely difficult to cross with a wagon road.

Billy Breakenridge and his party left the Mesa City-Pinal Road about six miles east of Desert Station and swung around the southeast end of Superstition Mountain to Marlow’s (Bark) Ranch, some twenty-seven miles east of Mesa City. A road was surveyed up a canyon to the Fraser Ranch (JF Ranch) on a slight grade. From the Fraser Ranch, Breakenridge surveyed a line that ran four miles up and over the mountain range east of the Fraser Ranch. From the summit, the road would follow the course of the West Fork of Pinto Creek to the Horrell Cattle Ranch. One mile below the Horrell Cattle Ranch and a few miles to the east of Globe the road would connect with a county road leading to Globe.

Breakenridge believed this route to be the most feasible from Mesa City to Globe. The construction of a wagon road between Mesa City and Globe was attempted again in 1892, but failed because of a lack of funds.

Caption: Allen Blackman leading a ride along a portion of the old
Mesa City - Globe Toll Road that was never completed. Photo, c. 1979.

The railroad arrived in Phoenix from Maricopa in 1879, allowing a rail connection to the Globe-Miami area through Safford by 1898. The King Trail provided sufficient access to the area for many years and discouraged the spending of funds for a wagon road. The citizens of Arizona Territory were not too keen on tax funded transportation routes. The concept of public funding of roads did not reach Arizona Territory until well after the turn of the 20th century. The original Mesa City-Globe Wagon Road was planned as a toll road.

Shortly after the Mesa City-Globe Wagon Road survey project, Breakenridge became involved with locating a site for the Tonto Dam (Roosevelt Dam). Breakenridge soon realized the government would be building a road from Phoenix to the Tonto Dam site. This road would eventually connect with the old Tonto Basin Wagon Road, therefore providing a wagon road to Globe via the Tonto (Roosevelt) Dam. Breakenridge soon realized there would be very little need for a toll road from Mesa City to the Globe area through the mountains west of Globe. The Mesa-Roosevelt Road was bonded in 1903 and completed in 1905. The Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail) was used for wagons and self-propelled vehicles from 1905 until 1922.

The Globe-Superior Road, U.S. Highway 60 today, was completed in May of 1922. This road provided Phoenix merchants an opportunity to tap into the rich economic markets provided by the copper mining towns of Globe and Miami.

Globe was a rich mining area prior to the turn of the 20th century. When copper became king, Globe and Miami became very important Arizona cities. The remnants of the old Mesa City-Globe wagon toll toad attempted by a group of Mormons road are still visible along the course of Fraser Canyon southwest of the JF Ranch today.

Sources: Arizona Republican, 02/28/1891. Pinal Drill, 07/17/1880.