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The Jail Tree

by Betty June Maxwell Fee and Larry DeSpain

[Webmaster Note: Betty June Maxwell Fee sent this as an e-mail message to me in response to Larry DeSpain’s Guest Book comment. I appreciate getting first-hand information about Wickenburg from folks who lived here long ago and hope everyone learns something from her comments. Here’s the entire message.]

I happened to be browsing and discovered your Web site on Wickenburg.While visiting your site I came across this letter.

As a child I lived in Wickenburg from 1947 through 1951. I attended first grade in the one-room school house that is now the Garcia Bank. My father was the manager of what then was the Standard Station Inc. service station on the corner of Tegner and Route 60. I believe that there is a Chevron station there now. I lived on what is now Coconino Street across from the old ice plant. At that time my address was 55 East First Street South. I can attest that the Jail Tree was used to hold people. Mainly it was men who were intoxicated so they could sober up or for people who were waiting for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department to pick them up and take them to Phoenix. I last visited Wickenburg in 1988 when I was visiting my parents who lived in Phoenix. I wanted to show my children where I had grown up. I had always used the line, “When I was a kid, I had to walk clear across town to go to school.” They finally got to see that it was only three blocks. I enjoyed your Web site. Keep up the good work.

– Larry DeSpain

I was born at my Grandmother’s house in Wickenburg in 1931 and spent all my youth there until I married in 1948 and went to live in another state with my new husband. The reason for my letter is just this—I can understand the tourism generated by the “landmarks” such as the Jail Tree, but I truly do not like this to be perpetuated by things not quite true. Mr. DeSpain could not attested to this as a fact, because in 1948 there was indeed a proper jail house in Wickenburg.

I never ever saw anyone “chained” to that tree while I was growing up until I left. As children we all were told the stories about the “tree” but in the 1930’s seems it was only that, a story. The last time I went home for a visit I was surprised to see shackles on the tree. No such thing there even in 1958. Let us have our “tales of the old West” but let’s try to keep them true. And as for a “Hanging Tree”, never heard of one before I read you web page info.

I must say there have been many changes made in that sleepy little burg. I did appreciate the old school house being preserved (how well I remember that!). I loved looking at the photos you posted and trying to figure out where what was. Keep up that good work, but look to the embellishments that are not needed.

– Betty June Maxwell Fee

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