Show Low Historical Society Collection Highlights
The Show Low Historical Museum at 561 E. Deuce of Clubs opened its door in 1995. The museum is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is no admission fee. However, donations are accepted. You are welcome to call 928-532-7115 for information about private tours.“Show Low was Named by a Turn of a Card”
Show Low began as a ranch claimed by Marion Clark and Corydon Cooley. Virgin ponderosa pine forest surrounded the valley. This area had water, provided by a creek, which allowed irrigation and cattle to graze on the lush grass.
Corydon Cooley became very involved with Fort Apache and began to spend too much time there. His partner, Marion Clark, became discontented. By 1876, the partners decided to part ways.
The legend is that a card game called “Seven Up” is believed to be the game that settled the issue. As the game wore on through the night, Clark finally told Cooley, “Show low and you take the ranch.” Cooley turned over the lowest card and won a reported 100,000 acres, the cattle, crops and buildings. Marion Clark went off into history. Show Low’s main street is called the “Deuce of Clubs” because that is the lowest card in a deck.
Mormon settlers began to arrive in 1876. Their early diaries mention going to Cooley’s ranch called Showlow. Corydon Cooley became the first postmaster of Show Low in 1880. By 1888, he sold his holdings to Henry Huning and moved to land near present day Hon-dah.
In 1903, more Mormons settled this area. William J. Flake, James C. Owens, John Henry Willis, Abner and Frank Ellsworth and Hans Hansen bought the land, water rights, buildings, stock and crops for $13,500, plotted the town, divided it into four and one-half shares, and took up residence in the existing building on their own share.
In time the settlement became known as Show Low.
Show Low Historical Museum Highlights
The Show Low Historical Museum consists of more than fifteen rooms of historic material.
In June of 2002, Show Low experienced the worse scare in its history. The Rodeo Chediski Fire began to bear down on our community. The first room in our museum honors this event and the men and women who worked tirelessly to save our town.
A room celebrating Eb Lewis was presented to the museum by his family in 1996. This is a favorite place for the many children that tour each year. Among his treasures are the famous black derby, skin of the mountain lion Eb killed with a spear, a miniature brass canon, and his Fourth of July Parade entry, the independently traveling Maytag automatic washing machine.
The Woolford room exhibits George Woolford’s old roll top desk, which he used in his long service to the community as Justice of the Peace from 1912 to 1916, Navajo County Deputy Sheriff from 1921 to 1933, Judge from 1933 to 1936 and then as Justice of the Peace again in 1941 to 1948, is on display. Seeing the desk makes you feel that Mr. Woolford has just stepped away for a moment. George and his wife, Lillie, also, operated one of the first cafes in Show Low. Lillie was known for her big heart in our community because she gave away more food that she sold. You are able to see a table and ice cream dishes, sugar dispenser and butter dishes that were used in the café.
In 2006, the Show Low Historical Society Museum has a new exhibit on loan from the University of Arizona in Tucson. The objects on display are just a few items that were found in the Show Low Ruin in 1929.
At the turn of the last century, scientists were wondering when did the ancient ones lived in Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Show Low and other places. The scientists began studying the materials that were used to build the pueblos. Dr. Andrew Ellicott Douglass, of the University of Arizona, realized that a dating system could be devised with the use of the information found in the logs the ancients used. By carefully analyzing the wood tree rings, Dr. Douglass developed the science of dendrochronology. Every year a tree lives, it places a ring on its trunk. Wide rings mean it was a wet year, thin rings mean the area experienced drought. He began to build a time line. For example: Casa Grande was built in 725 A.D., Chaco Canyon was dated at 919 – to 1130 A.D. and so on. However, his time line had a gap that included the years 1260 AD to 1286 AD. Those years include the era when pre-historic people inhabited the Show Low Ruin.
In 1929 the National Geographic sponsored Dr. Douglass’ archaeological dig here in Show Low. A charred Douglas fir log used for the building of the Show Low Ruin found here in Show Low became known to scientists as HH-39. That specimen filled the missing gap in the time line.
HH-39 is at the University of Tucson in a special environmental chamber.
The McNary room is dedicated to the town of McNary. It was about 19 miles south of Show Low. It was truly the main town on the mountain from 1920 through 1970’s. McNary had the lumber mill, hospital, doctors, bank, a movie theater, general store, and a barber shop. People from Show Low went to McNary for almost everything, including work.
The Show Low room is full of interesting items from Show Low’s early days. Photographs of people and places adorn the walls. A wooden aqua duct found under East Cooley, as well as a telephone switch board, similar to the one Jenny Stock used, triggers lots of smiles.
We include 16 photos of the past old post offices. The U.S. Postal Service used the museum’s post office exhibit as a Celebration Station on Friday, May 2, 2003. The City of Show Low celebrated in 50 years of Incorporation that year.
Everyone loves the jail cell. Because the building was formally used as a police department headquarters, it housed a holding cell.
The Blacksmith shop was donated to the museum by George Matkin. The blacksmith tools on display belonged to George’s uncle.
The last room on the tour is the Angie Borrego kitchen. Angie was the first person to donate to the museum. You can see her old wood cooking stove that she said was, “Just the right size for her.”
Everyone is invited to come to the museum to hear “The Rest of the Story”.