Originally Published: June 6, 2012 10:51 a.m.
Nancy Burgess has delved into the history of greater Prescott and surrounding areas, writing and co-writing books about her discoveries. Now, Mayer residents and others interested in the area's past can enjoy Burgess's book about the community, 10 years in the making.
Burgess became interested in Mayer's history while working as a paralegal in Prescott.
"We had a client who inherited property in Mayer, and one of the things she wanted done was to have the property listed in the National Register," she said.
That was a new task for Burgess, but completing it opened a new career for her. She since has had a consulting business and for the past 25 years, has seen 800 buildings registered, two at the national level.
It long has been her goal to write a history of Mayer, Burgess said. A collector of post cards and photos, she amassed many of the Mayer area, and hit the proverbial jackpot when, at an auction, she purchased a collection of photos and documents from Winnie Thorpe's estate.
"A lot of it was irrelevant, but it lead me to people to talk to," Burgess said. "I don't rely on oral history, because I find that everyone has their own point of view and version and they usually don't jibe."
Burgess researched articles in the Daily Courier, the Arizona Republic and other documents. She met Don Dedera, who moved the Mayer train depot and incorporated it into his own home in Phoenix.
She had the concept for the book early on, Burgess said. "I wanted a biography of the Mayers, but it's not just about them. Mayer was the center of the whole area for mining, ranching and railroad. Those three things were key to a lot of small communities through the west."
Burgess promises a lot of photos (more than 300 in all) that many people haven't seen and information many don't know about.
"People brought me things, and I took some photos myself. There are a lot of great old photos from the first 25 years, between 1898 and through the 1920s, but there is nothing to speak of after that, until, in 1941, a Mayer woman took a lot of photos for her brother, a Mayer High graduate, who was going off to WWII," she said.
Burgess heard about a man in Sun City who grew up in Mayer, and visited him. She then found out that he had the same set of photos she had purchased at auction.
"I started to show him the pictures and he said, 'I have the same pictures, because my sister took them.' He helped me identify them and gave me some more photos from when he was a little boy."
Like any good book, Burgess's history of Mayer also has a little bit of controversy that she inadvertently stumbled across in her research.
"Mayer celebrated its centennial in 1981, but it wasn't until the summer of 1882 that Joe Mayer bought the Big Bug Station, so they were a year off. I'm sure there will be a little squawking about that, but I have documents to back that up," she said.
Joseph and Sarah Mayer built the community around the Big Bug Stage Station, purchased for $1,200 in 1882.
This and many other facts are revealed in An Illustrated History of Mayer, Arizona: Stagecoaches, Mining, Ranching and the Railroad, published by McFarland and Co., Inc. Burgess will sign copies of the softcover, 7" x 10" tabletop tome at the Old Post Office, now the Mayer "Past" Office on Central Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 9, and at the Big Bug Station, also on Central Ave., from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12.
People also may order the book for $45 plus $5 shipping and handling from McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640. Order by calling 800-253-2187, or online at www.mcfarlandpub.com. People also may purchase the book at Sharlot's Treasures at Sharlot Hall in Prescott.