Frederick Rawson


Unknown Unknown po0991pa.jpg PO-0991 B&W 1700.0991.0001 po0991pa Print 3x5 Historic Photographs 1931 Reproduction requires permission. Digital images property of SHM Library & Archives


Frederick Seward "San Diego" Rawson (b. 1858 – d. 1951) was born December 2, 1858, Perry, Wyoming County, New York. He was the son of Porter Rawson (b. 1832 – d. 1864) and Lucy C. Mattison (b. 1834 – d. 1905). His mother married Abner Harwell, following his father's death during the Civil War. He had a twin brother, Frank Summer Rawson (b. 1858-1925).

Rawson was a man with a remarkable history. It is said that he spent a couple of years of his childhood enslaved by Plains Indians. Returned to his family after a US Army engagement with his captors, he went on to have multiple careers as a prospector, circus animal trainer and emcee, philosopher and author. He mule-waggoned from Colorado to the coast, and from Canada to Mexico, at a time when western travel of any sort was precarious.

He came to Joseph City, Arizona, an unincorporated community located in Navajo County, just after the commissioning of Highway 66 and operated a museum there, displaying his personal collection of early western family household items, furniture and tools. Business was too slow and he sold his collection, moving to a small log building at the west end of town and opening an enterprise called "Frontier Days Trading Post.” Later he built a larger log-cabin like building from telephone poles and opened "San Diego's Old Frontier" and offered Navajo Indians space to make their jewelry, blankets, and quilts.

After twenty years in business, Rawson sold the trading post in 1947 to Ramon Hubbell, son of the famous Indian trader Don Lorenzo Hubbell. Ray Meany, who owned the Hopi House Indian Trading Post in Winslow, Arizona acquired the trading post a few years later, and his wife Ella received the property as part of a divorce settlement. It was known as "Ella's Frontier" until she died in 1984. Later owners used the building for various purposes but it has been abandoned and lies in ruins just west of Joseph City on the south side of old Route 66.

Rawson died November 26, 1951 in Prescott, Arizona and is buried at the Arizona Pioneers Home Cemetery in Prescott.

A book, titled The West wasn’t wild says San Diego Rawson, was written by O. Arnold in March 1941.

Sources:;;; Whittier News, Whittier, California.


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