Mesa Arizona is only 1,126 feet above sea level. As a result our summers can sometimes be unbearable. It has been known to reach temperatures of up to 122 degrees with it reaching 115+ for weeks at a time. Although we are having a “mild” summer this year, heat is heat and the urge to escape can be overwhelming.
My husband and I decided to make the hour trip north to Payson, elevation 5000 feet. Here their daytime highs are our night time lows. We just wanted to get away and explore a city that we didn’t know much about. We did know that the famous author of Western Novels, Zane Grey (1872-1939), had a cabin just outside the city where he would spend 3 months a year hunting and writing. His original cabin burned down in a forest fire in 1990, but the Rim Country Museum raised the money to build an exact replica on their property. So the decision was made to make a quick stop to see the cabin.
Payson is a small, quaint town. It is situated in the Tonto National Forest and has everything an outdoors person would love. I fell in love with the beauty of the place. Pine trees, willow trees, green grass and flowers were everywhere. Remember, I live in the Desert with cactus, mesquite trees, and dirt so this was a treat. We easily found the Rim Country Museum and the cabin. We paid our admission and were lead by a very nice woman up to the cabin door. Once inside she told us the history of how Zane had come to Arizona back in 1905 and what happened during the years that he continued to come back. She spoke about the books he had written of the old west and the Rim Country. During his lifetime he had written over 90 books! Then she showed us a copy of the very first book he ever wrote. It was titled “Betty Zane” and it wasn’t about the Wild West or his adventures or about fishing. It was a historical account of his family, lead by Colonel Ebenezer Zane, his Great Grandfather and them being the first to pioneer a town in 1769 high above the Ohio River at a point near Wheeling Creek. I was immediately hooked.
Growing up, only boys read Zane Grey books. I never really liked reading Westerns and I suppose it was because I was raised in the area most of these types of books are written about. I was surprised to find that Zane’s first attempt at writing was of his own family’s history. In it he gives detailed accounts of their travels, their struggles, their loves, and their triumphs. He draws you into their involvement in the Revolutionary War and enthralls you with the story of his Great Grand Aunt Betty Zane who, as a young girl, witnessed the death of her father during a Revolutionary War battle against the Indians who sided with the British at Fort Henry. In spite of her grief and fears she made her way through the enemies forces and retrieved some much needed black gunpowder and brought it safely back to the Fort.
Although it is said that most of what he wrote concerning his family was taken from oral traditions passed down through the family, it has since been proven that almost ever account is indeed true. What I want to take from this book and his style of writing is how he doesn’t just “tell the story”. He describes the scenery and the smells to such an extent that you feel you are there. It is so much more than dates and facts; it is the incredible story of their lives.
I am now more determined than ever to not just remember my Ancestors, but to find their stories and write them in a way that will transport future generations back to the time of those who have gone before.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.