Jessie Ruth Gilpin illustrates the life of a genuine pioneer. She came to Arizona with her family in 1923 when she was nine years old. Her parents, Orville and Essie Pownall, founded the town of Paulden, naming it in memory of their son Paul. Paulden consisted of a U.S. Post Office, a grocery store, café, a gas station, garage and cabins.
Ruth married Lionel Gilpin in 1934. She continued to be active in the family’s town business, which they later bought from her parents, that’s where they raised their four children. Following in her mother and father’s footsteps, Ruth was appointed postmistress in 1960, a position she held for seventeen years.
Ruth’s interest in preserving the history of ranching in the area inspired her to author the book Paulden Pioneer Family and Ranching History, detailing the first settlers which were her parents and ranchers who were instrumental in the growth of the area. Her book is placed in area libraries. A second book she published was her memoirs.
An active leader in her community, Ruth has lobbied over the years to make Paulden and Chino Valley a better place to live. She spearheaded the drive to bring a fire station to Paulden as part of the Chino Valley Fire Department District.
Ruth’s special project was building a swimming pool for the town of Chino Valley. She created the Chino Valley Recreation Fund in memory of Lionel Gilpin. The project was finished in fifteen years. Ruth is known as the Mother of the Chino Valley Swimming Pool. She is chairperson of the annual Memorial Day celebration held at the city park.
An accomplished musician, having won many awards over the years in state fiddling competition, Ruth is the cornerstone of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association, Mile High Chapter. She is focused on preserving the old time fiddling style by implementing a program which awards scholarships to area youth.
At age 94, Ruth continues to be active in community events and the preservation of history and culture preparing the way for others.
Ruth’s pioneer mother, Essie May Pownall, is honored in the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden at the Sharlot Hall Museum.