By Fred Veil
The Arizona Miner was not the first newspaper published in the geographical area that would become the Arizona Territory. That distinction belongs to the Weekly Arizonian, a Tubac newspaper that first came on the scene in March, 1859, well before the Territory was officially established by the federal government. The Miner, however, was the newspaper most closely identified with the newly established government of the Territory. In fact, its printing press was brought to Arizona by Territorial Secretary Richard McCormick, who set the Miner up for business at the site of the original Fort Whipple near Del Rio Springs in the early months of 1864.
The first issue of the Miner––on March 9, 1864––is a primer of the historical background for the establishment of the Arizona Territory, and the events that ultimately led to the founding of the wilderness capital which came to be known as Prescott. Its front page contains a contemporary description of its geography, boundaries and natural resources, and a summary of the legislative activity that resulted in the passage and enactment of the Organic Act, which when signed by President Abraham Lincoln on February 24, 1863, created Arizona as a territory of the United States.
The inaugural issue of the Miner continued its lesson in Arizona territorial history with a brief description of the travails experienced by the party of governmental officials, all appointed by the president, who traveled across the plains and mountains of the western frontier to reach Arizona Territory in late December, 1863, when the gubernatorial appointee, John Noble Goodwin, proclaimed:
“… that by virtue of the powers with which I am invested by an Act of the Congress of the United States, providing a temporary government for the Territory, I shall this day proceed to organize said government.”
Goodwin further announced that “The seat of government will, for the present, be at or near Fort Whipple.”
The Fort Whipple site at Del Rio Springs was short-lived. On May 17, 1864 it was relocated to a place approximately 20 miles to the south on the banks of Granite Creek where, a few weeks later, the town that would soon become the first capital of the Territory was founded. The Miner likewise moved to Prescott, and on June 22nd published its first edition there, recapping the public meeting of May 30th at which Prescott was established and named. Subsequent 1864 editions of the Miner documented the events that established and organized the territorial government, including the election of a legislature, the proceedings of the First Legislative Assembly in Prescott, and the adoption of a code of laws by which the Territory would be governed.
The Miner, and its successors in name and frequency of publication, continued to operate until 1934. One of its best-known owner/editors was John Huguenot Marion, who purchased the Miner from McCormick in 1867. Marion was a frontier newspaper editor in the best tradition of “yellow dog journalism,” praising his friends, castigating his enemies and generally entertaining his readers with wit and humor. He was, wrote historian Thomas Farish, “a man of great force of character; of bulldog tenacity, exceptional ability, and great perseverance.”
A staunch Democrat, Marion constantly battled with Republican administrations in both Arizona and Washington. He was especially bitter towards McCormick, whom he referred to as “his littleness,” blaming him for the move of the territorial capital from Prescott to Tucson shortly after Marion’s acquisition of the Miner. The fact that the move cost the Miner the government’s printing business no doubt contributed to Marion’s animosity toward McCormick.
Marion sold the Miner to Charles Beach in 1877, who also served as its editor until 1883. William O. “Buckey” O’Neill had a brief stint as its editor in 1885 before it was sold again and consolidated with the Arizona Journal as the Arizona Journal-Miner in September of that year. The Journal-Miner lost its plant and files in the great fire of 1900 but resumed operations within weeks and continued in circulation until it published its last edition on April 15, 1934.
Meanwhile, Marion apparently could not get the newspaper business out of his blood. For a time, he edited other publications, and in 1882, he founded the Prescott Morning Courier which continues to be published to this day as The Daily Courier.
“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 https://www.sharlot.org/articles/days-past-articles.l. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.