Prescott History

Prescott has a long and storied history, and is is estimated that over 100,000 people inhabited the area over 9000 years ago, most likely being early ancestors of the Yavapai tribe, or “people of the sun” as they were known.

Prescott’s military history began with the establishment of Fort Whipple in 1863 just a mile northeast of Prescott on what is now the site of the Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

This US Army post served as Arizona Territory’s capital prior to the founding of Prescott. It was named for Lieutenant Amiel Whipple who established the first access routes to nearby goldfields, and later died of wounds suffered in the Civil War. The post was moved in 1864 to Granite Creek, closer to Prescott.

For years cavalry and infantry soldiers stationed at the fort protected miners and settlers from Indian raids, and fought in a number of skirmishes with the marauding Indians.

In 1869 new buildings replaced those first erected and the Whipple Barracks became the Headquarters for the Military Department of Arizona in 1870, at the same time serving as a tactical base for the US Cavalry during the Indian Wars of 1864 to 1882.

The post also served as General George Crook’s District  of Arizona headquarters in 1882.

The post was discontinued in 1898 but re-garrisoned in 1902 with new officer’s quarters being built in 1904. The post closed for the last time in February 1913, but was re-activated in 1918 as a US Army Hospital to treat World War 1 veterans.  It ceased to be a military installation in 1922 and was later converted into a Veterans Administration Hospital which it still is.

Most historic buildings are gone but the Fort Whipple museum still remains and is open Thursday through Saturday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Living History presentations are held on a regular basis in and around the museum

Prescott was established in 1864 by Congress and President Lincoln in an effort to secure the area’s mineral riches for the Union Forces during the Civil War.  It was one of the very few cities built entirely of wood and its town plaza and many Victorian homes reflect the influence of the early settlers who came here.

Prescott was the first territorial capital but lost its place as the  territory’s legislative seat to Tucson and finally to Phoenix in 1889. The Arizona Territory  was formally declared the State of Arizona on February 14th, 1912.

Prescott’s wooden buildings had always been a fire problem and  the town suffered two major fires, one on July 4th, 1883, which destroyed most of Montezuma Street and a second more devastating fire which almost completely destroyed the downtown area on July 14th, 1900, burning Whiskey Row, Gurley Street and part of North Cortez Street.

Today Prescott is recognized as one of the top tourist and retirement areas in the country, and has many sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  A thriving venue for many types of entertainment, and home to the prestigious Embry Riddle Aeronautical University as well as Yavapai College, Prescott offers something for everyone who enjoys recreational, educational and historical activities.