Fremont once owned the Mariposa Mine, and mines in Arizona. How could he have been so unfortunate to not make any money? I suspect this poverty was a ruse. Fremont and his foreigners – with money – was a great threat to his enemies which includes powerful ex-Confederates who might assassinate him – and his family! I suspect Susan Boileau’s family were in danger.
by Gretchen Eastman
The house that was built on the southwest corner of Gurley and Marina streets in 1875 (location currently of the Carnegie Library building) has become one of the jewels of the Sharlot Hall Museum campus. William Zadoc “Zed” Wilson built the house never dreaming it would become known as the John C. Fremont House, home of Arizona’s fifth territorial governor with visitors from all over the world.
The Arizona Weekly Miner of April 23, 1875 describes the house as a “fine house” of “Gothic Style with a bay window on Gurley Street. The Parlor is 14 x 40 feet, but can be lengthened by a sliding door between it and the sitting room.” The building was 43 ½ feet on Gurley Street by 46 ½ feet on Marina Street. It was built in an “L shape with three verandas in elegant shape.”
The house is made of wooden planks from Wilson’s own sawmill, varying in size from 12 inches to 24 inches. The outer walls are 3 planks thick, nailed together. The inside walls are two boars thick. They were covered with pieces of cotton, then wallpaper. The planks were then “cross-tied” to the rafters, giving the house its high ceilings. Today, in the front bedroom you can open a door where you may peer into the internal construction of the house.
Mr. Wilson added a kitchen on the back of the house. It also had a pump and an “out house” at the back. The Fremont family moved into the house the day before Thanksgiving of 1878, renting the house for $90 a month. They chose the Wilson house as it was the only three bedroom house available at the time.
John and Jessie Benton Fremont’s daughter, Lily, describes the house and the view from the parlor in her diary: “To the east is the Fitches’ cottage on the corner, diagonally. Above the Fitches’ house is Mr. Churchill’s little octagon brick house (still at that location) with a tall central chimney. There is a beautiful view of Granite Mountain. The Plaza is one block below the house. It is the business center of the town.”
Jessie and Lily set to work “fixing up the house.” The Fremont’s room and Lily’s room were both papered in a warm brown with fall leaves. The curtains were brown-grounded chintz, which had oats, “daffadowndillies” and narcissuses on them. The curtains in Fremont’s room were lined, while Lily’s curtains were to be bound with “soft red cottony stuff.” Son Frank’s room (now the kitchen) was painted in a warm grey and red and contained oak furniture.
The parlor was papered with a “good New York” red and gold paper. The carpet had a red background with small bunches of flowers in red, yellow, brown and purple. The furniture was made of Rosewood and upholstered in horsehair. The parlor furniture was very solid and comfortable.
The furniture for the Fremont’s room was borrowed and was made of Walnut. Mary’s room (their maid) and Lily’s room were both decorated with cottage sets made of “make believe oak.” The dining room was of oak colors.
The Fremont family lived in the house until the spring of 1881 when John Charles Fremont moved his offices to Tucson. The house was rented out until the death of “Zed” Wilson in 1887 in an explosion at his saw mill. In 1888, the city sold the house at auction. It was bought by the widow of Coles Bashford. In 1902, the land and house was sold to Frank Murphy, son-in-law of the Vicar of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Marina Street. That same year, he sold the lot to the “The Monday Club” for construction of the Carnegie Library, Prescott’s first free-standing public library. The house was moved from the lot in 1903 to Union Street behind where the Elks Theater would be built three years later. The house was given to the Episcopal Church and was used as a rectory for their ministers for 22 years.
In 1925, the church sold the house to Bessie Brown (of Piggly Wiggly). Bessie converted it into a boarding house with four apartments. In 1956, Bessie was not making as much money as she thought she could and sold the house back to the church. The house fell into poor repair and, in 1972 the Parrish and the Diocese donated the house to the Prescott Historical Society. It was moved to the grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum and was completely restored. The “Fremont House” today is a popular attraction at the museum.
(Gretchen Eastman is a volunteer at the museum archives. More photos and articles available at sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122 for information.)