Guest column<br>Traveling entertainers at Williams Opera House

A January comedy called ‘Hans Hanson,’ and the March appearance of a magician named Cillo The Wizard who astonished his audience with feats of magic and demonstrations of hypnotism and mind reading.

Also in March of 1906, a concert of popular and classical music by 54 members of the Ellery Band who toured the country aboard their own train.

That June, a combined melodrama and comedy based on the life of outlaw Jesse James was stated. People who bought tickets were promised “realism, sensationalism, comedians, cowboys and Indians rain or shine. If laughing hurts, you stay away.”

In October, a company of actors presented Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice.’ And for one night only that December, there was a performance of ‘The King of Tramps’ which was advertised as “Yankee Doodle Comedy.”

There were meetings, political and social, at the Opera House, and there were dances sponsored by local groups. One was a ‘Grand Ball’ honoring the memory of Mexico’s Benito Juarez.

People gathered at each other’s homes for parties and to conduct the business of the town’s various community service organizations including the Ladies Aid Society whose members met for afternoon sewing bees.

They got married at home, too. That’s what Mabel Adams did at her parents’ house when she tied the knot with Fred Ferguson. Vows were said under a large bell covered by sweet peas.

Mabel’s lace-trimmed dress was made of cloth from the Philippine Islands. After the ceremony, she and her groom were escorted to their new home on Fifth Street.

Twelve inches of snow fell one day the first week of May, 1906 while the Salzman Store was trying to sell men’s spring and summer suits priced from $12.50 to $27.50.

Businessmen were looking for ways to keep Grand Canyon Railway passengers in town longer so they’d spend more money. Horseback rides to the top of Bill Williams Mountain and carriage drives to where the golf course is today were suggested.

North of Seligman, a rancher poisoned a large wolf. And the Williams Home Missionary Society met for tea and to hear speakers discuss missionary work among Chinese and Japanese living in the United States.

Warnings about skunks with rabies were heard as warm weather began and residents were told to be extremely cautious when they went camping. There were reports that a man had been bitten on his hand south of Flagstaff and was rushed by train to Chicago’s Pasteur Institute for treatment to keep him alive.

Motion pictures of damage caused by the San Francisco earthquake and fire earlier in the year were shown at the Opera House.

Two hundred Navajos were hired for the summer to re-ballast the Grand Canyon Railway’s tracks. Most were teenage students from various Navajo Reservation government boarding schools. They played baseball games with the Williams team.

There was a greased pig chase by small boys and singing by Havasupai Indians from the Grand Canyon during the Fourth of July celebration. There also was a cowboy relay race, bread baking contest and a parade.

The engine and three cars of a Santa Fe passenger train derailed between Williams and Flagstaff. The fireman was killed and the engineer was badly burned. Passengers were not seriously injured.

J. D. Newman purchased 3,000 sheep in Utah and had to trail drive them to his ranch near Williams. At Lee’s Ferry downstream from present-day Page, 1,800 of the sheep drowned trying to cross the Colorado River.

Three Williams men hunting on San Francisco Mountain near Flagstaff killed six bears in four days. Each bear was worth a $10 bounty paid by Coconino County. A wolf or mountain lion earned a hunter $20.

Train service from California was interrupted when heavy August rains west of Kingman washed out the tracks. Old timers here were saying 1906 was the wettest year in living memory. It rained in Williams every day for seven straight weeks during the summer.

A cord of firewood sold for $1.75 the autumn of 1906. A new restaurant called the Pullman opened. And enterprising Hettie O’Neil was selling cosmetics by mail.

Clothing stores promoted the sale of linen underwear as the weather got colder. It was believed linen was better than wool as protection against low temperatures and the best choice for those at risk for rheumatism and pneumonia.

The drug store offered these Christmas gift ideas: violins, guitars, mandolins, pocket knives, stiletto razors and cigars.

At year’s end, for unknown reasons, Mrs. E. N. Crawford said she wanted to sell her household furnishings, two reclining baby buggies a “19th Century washing machine,” and an “elegant variety of house plants.”


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