Days Past: A Thanksgiving to remember

Moeller’s  building, which sat where today’s Hotel St. Michael’s is located, became the popular Diana Saloon. Call number 
BU-B-8166PA.

Moeller’s building, which sat where today’s Hotel St. Michael’s is located, became the popular Diana Saloon. Call number BU-B-8166PA.

In October 1868, after Albert Noyes, early Prescott’s lumber magnate, completed his much anticipated 3600 square-foot, two-story building on the southwest corner of Montezuma and Gurley Streets, he decided to sell it to Andrew “Doc” Moeller, owner of Granite Street’s legendary Quartz Rock Saloon. Prescottonians were excited, because “Moeller’s new building” marked the newest step in Prescott’s evolution. It would function as the village’s centerpiece, go-to saloon, and meeting place for civic organizations for many years.

photo

Courtesy Brad Courtney

Soon after its completion, someone hatched the thought that, because of this new “mammoth building,” it was now possible for Prescottonians to congregate in larger numbers in one place at one time. The idea spread, and hence, a grand ball was planned. With Thanksgiving nearing, the timing was perfect.

On November 21, a one-time advertisement appeared in the Miner announcing a “Thanksgiving Ball and supper.” A separate report promised this event would “be the biggest and best blowout ever given in the Territory.” The public’s curiosity was further aroused after it was revealed that it would indeed be held in Moeller’s new building, “the finest and largest in Arizona.”

Perhaps that is why the event’s organizers felt it was okay to charge an outrageous ten dollars for the affair, outrageous because a complete meal could be bought for fifty cents or less anywhere else in town. The Miner called it “Radical money, to pay for participating in the enjoyments.” Of course, there would be more than just good food. Musicians, the best in the region, had also been hired to play all night long.

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Photo courtesy Sharlot Hall Museum

In this oldest known image of Prescott, Moeller’s building is seen as the young village’s centerpiece. Call number CI-TN-184P.

When Thanksgiving evening rolled around, the pristinely floored room was quickly packed wall-to-wall with a fair amount of ladies and a lopsided number of men who had come to trip the light fantastic, which they did, some until dawn. The Miner sent reporters. One was surely John Marion, its irascible editor who may have actually gone alone and reported as “we.”

On November 28, the tongue-in-cheek account started with “We are neither a dancist nor the son of a dancist; nevertheless we take great pleasure in gazing upon lovely women and brave men as they glide, majestically, gracefully and bewitchingly, through ‘the giddy mazes of the dance.’”

With difficulty, “we” trod the dance floor, wading through the dancers. Hoping to get a headcount of the ladies, a corner was found that would “keep their corns from being trampled upon.” Also cornered there was an elderly gentleman, who was asked if he knew how many of the fairer sex were present. He was unable to answer. The object of his hopedful affections was otherwise occupied, dancing with another, and he was too filled with the “green monster” to respond.

“We” went about counting the women and came up with forty, not counting the married ones, “for they have no hearts to give away.” The other gender? Four times more, making for the woeful sight of men waiting on the sidelines.

The night concluded for the writer of the report after an encounter with an auburn-haired girl, one of the few of her sex waiting for a dance. After her request to dance was rejected—“we muttered something about awkwardness and told her that to please her we would do anything but dance, even marry you sooner than dance with you” —the Miner recounted that “we” were bade in specifically certain terms to go home. “We” complied. But enough had been observed to perceive that the ball, except for “one or two slight circumstances,” had indeed been grand and a marvelous success.

As memorable as the Thanksgiving ball was, it was not the grand opening of Moeller’s new drinking and billiard saloon. That occurred eight days later on December 5. Using his experience as bartender and proprietor of the Quartz Rock, Moeller soon made his “new billiard and drinking saloon [the] best finished and furnished in the Territory.” The Diana Saloon was so dominantly successful that Moeller felt no need to advertise. Being abundantly and consistently peopled, it hosted a surfeit of good times and a handful of tragedies. The Diana prospered until 1883 when it was dynamited to the ground for the purpose of stopping a fire that threatened all of Prescott.

Brad Courtney is the author of Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row.

“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 www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.