By Nancy Burgess
This is a true story about an automobile—a 1913 Studebaker SA25 “machine” and the people who took it on an approximately 1,000 mile tour of Arizona in 1913.
“An Arizona Auto Adventure: Clarence Boynton’s 1913 Travelogue” is the story of the excitement, sights, experiences, trials and tribulations of a road trip in the early days of automobile travel in a place and time when the “Wild West” of Arizona was still in evidence.
In 1912 there was no statewide road system, and many of the “roads” were nothing more than cattle trails, wagon or stagecoach roads or tracks across the forest or desert. Pavement was practically non-existent. Creek and river crossings were, for the most part, un-bridged and treacherous. “Gas stations,” such as they were, were few and far between. Maps were incomplete or incorrect. It was no country for an auto.
In the fall of 1913, Clarence N. Boynton, his wife Marquita and his friend, physician William Warner Watkins, along with Watkins’s wife Bessie and their nine-month-old daughter Merial, took a driving trip in Dr. Watkins’s 1913 Studebaker. Starting and ending in Phoenix, the trip was to cover a circle of approximately 1,000 miles in central Arizona. The trip took the Watkinses and the Boyntons from Phoenix to Wickenburg, Castle Hot Springs, Kirkland, Skull Valley, Prescott, Clarkdale and back to Prescott, Chino Valley, Ash Fork, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Williams, Strawberry, Pine, Payson, Roosevelt, the Apache Trail, Mesa and back to Phoenix with numerous exciting, interesting or dreaded places in between.
It was a 36-day trip with several days of unplanned stops for repairs and other interruptions. For the most part, Dr. Watkins and Mr. Boynton camped out. The ladies and Merial stayed in hotels when they were available. If not, they camped out, too.
Clarence Boynton’s travelogue of the trip, which he entitled “An Account of the Watkins-Boynton 1,000 Mile Tour Through Northern Arizona, August 28 to October 3, 1913” is a treasure and an eye-opener.
Any description of road travel in the early days of Arizona statehood included sharing the “road” with travelers on foot, stagecoaches, freight and ore wagons, riders on horse, burro and muleback, along with other non-motorized conveyances; and, indeed, the Boyntons and the Watkinses took advantage of some of these conveyances when the “machine” was “out of order.”
One of the more exciting and unplanned adventures encountered by the travelers was described by Clarence Boynton:
“Leaving Granite Dells, we got out into the open country, with beautiful desert roads once more, and made fine time. Through the little town of Jerome Junction and within sight of Del Rio we passed and began planning what we would do when we got to Ash Fork. At about one o’clock we stopped on the brink of a stream, little knowing that we were to spend the next week here.
“We put everything up above what we thought would be the water level and, with the ladies’ feet perched on the back of the front seat, we slid down into the water and there we stopped. We did not know that the bottom near the side we were on was very soft. A council of war, with the water up to the seat, decided that I should walk to the ranch which we could see to the west of us… Soaked to the skin, I started out across the desert to the ranch.”
The travelers were reluctantly “put up” at Puntenney’s Ranch. The Studebaker was towed into Prescott for repairs, and after eight days, the travelers set out on the road to Ash Fork again. This time they made it without mishap, although there were certainly many more “mishaps” to come!
Nancy Burgess’s book, “An Arizona Auto Adventure: Clarence Boynton’s 1913 Travelogue,” is available for purchase at the Museum Store. Stop by and check it out, along with her other titles!
“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 archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to email@example.com Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or assistance with photo requests.