Local museum offers a look at town’s past

The Weekly Bulletin – January 8, 2014

Even if you didn’t get to experience the teens and roaring 20s in Patagonia, you can still relive it on line thanks to the efforts of The Patagonia Museum, the Patagonia Public Library and the Friends of the Patagonia Museum, who recently partnered to purchase and reformat 693 editions of the Santa Cruz Patagonian.

German Quiroga, president of The Patagonia Museum, said the copies were originally restored by the Arizona State Library Archives. Over the last few months, they have been reformatted by volunteers Maeploy Schwartz, Murphy Musick and Bob Ollerton, who spent many hours putting the editions into a user-friendly medium.

The Santa Cruz Patagonian was originally published in December 1912, and the available editions range from 1915 to 1929. However, it’s not certain who was behind the project or where the paper was printed, Quiroga said.

The fate of the presses, which were said to have been put together by a local blacksmith, is also unknown.

“I would really like to do some more research about that,” said Quiroga, adding that he hopes the newspaper will be not only be useful to news junkies but also students wanting to learn a little local history.

“There are some good nuggets of information in there,” he said.

Like many of the newspapers of the era, the front page mentions everything from international to local news. The Dec. 7, 1923 edition features stories on deadly flooding in Italy, the Teapot Dome Scandal rocking Washington, rules for Christmas tree cutting from the Canelo ranger, and the latest comings and goings of visitors to the Patagonia area in the “Personal and Social” column.

“Robert Bergier and family of Alto were Patagonia and Nogales visitors Saturday,” one entry reads, referring to an expedition that might take a good part of a day but would now take no more than a half-hour by car. However, the trip was probably justified by the big “Dance Saturday Night” which cost a whopping 50 cents per couple.

Also Mrs. Albert Gatlin is mentioned as the “champion nail-driver of the community” after receiving a prize for “her ability to drive five 10 penny nails faster than her competitors.”

Patagonia’s mining history is illustrated by the exhortation to “Buy something made of copper” in large letters across the top of the page.

“Patagonia is in the heart of the world’s richest copper, lead, silver and gold districts… Join Patagonia’s Chamber of Commerce and Mines and be a booster for the town and district,” the mast reads. “Buy something made of copper.”

Bill Eifrig, who helped pull papers for the project and discovered the state library had them on microfilm, said: “This is a valuable resource because it tells the history of the area – especially Patagonia – in critical years.”

Copies of the newspaper can be viewed here.