Payson's Historic Oxbow Inn & Saloon

The History of Payson

The Town of Payson is nestled in a valley on rolling hills at the base of the Mogollon Rim, surrounded by the Tonto National Forest and bordered by the largest stand of ponderosa pines in the world.

Payson was settled in 1882, and established with a post office in 1884, and incorporated in 1973. In 1884, the town residents changed the name to Payson to honor U. S. Congressman Lewis Edward Payson of Illinois who was instrumental in obtaining a post office for the settlement. Prior to this, the area had been known as Big Valley, Long Valley, Green Valley, and Union Park.

Payson considers its founding year as 1882, at which time it was known as Green Valley or Union Park. On March 3, 1884, the town officially established a post office. Postmaster Frank C. Hise recommended that the town be named after Senator Payson.

Payson had its first rodeo in 1884, with Charlie Meadows being one of the founders. Payson considers its rodeo the "world's oldest continuous" as it has been held every year since.

In 1918 author Zane Grey made his first trip to the area surrounding Payson. He would come back with regularity through 1929, and would purchase two plots of land near Tonto Creek, including 120 acres from Sampson Elam Boles under Myrtle Point. Grey wrote numerous books about the area and also filmed some movies, such as To the Last Man, in the Payson area in the 1920s.

During prohibition the manufacture, sale, and distribution of liquor was plentiful. The transactions took place on historic Bootleg Alley.

During the 1930s an effort began to try to get Payson a better road to connect it to the outside world. At that time Payson was very isolated with a trip from Phoenix to Payson taking four to five hours. Throughout the 1950s work on a paved road from Phoenix to Payson progressed and the paving was completed in 1959. A few years ago this highway, Arizona State Route 87 (also known as the "Beeline Highway"), was expanded to four lanes.

Historic Payson Landmark National Register Historic Places
Listed 10/01/04  #04001073
Payson, Arizona, USA
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