A crowd celebrated the first shot poured on Prescott’s Whiskey Row.

Then and now, Prescott, Arizona’s, great calling card has been Whiskey Row. For nearly 160 years, it has been a center for entertainment, libation and even a bit of history. And it all started in 1864.

Entrepreneur William Hardy was the man with a vision. He saw a town that was recently named the territorial capital; it also had an Army post, Fort Whipple, nearby. A lot of people with a lot of thirst would be coming to Prescott, and Hardy wanted to profit in that.

And so he opened the Quartz Rock on November 14, 1864. The event drew a large crowd—in part because the saloon was offering a sampling of liquors on the house. It also featured the best billiard table in town. The opening was a huge success.

There to enjoy the festivities was
a group self-proclaimed as “The Bar-barians.” Contrary to their name, the members were some of the leading lights in Arizona Territory: Judge William Berry, Governor John Goodwin, Secretary of the Territory Richard McCormick and several officers from Fort Whipple. 

The debut of the Quartz Rock coincided with another glorious event in the annals of The Barbarians. The night before, Arizona’s first speaker of the house, William C. Jones, entered into wedded bliss with Caroline Stephens. It had been a whirlwind courting, as Stephens and her family had been in Prescott for around six weeks. It also got local tongues wagging, since Jones was 55 years old, and his blushing bride was just 15.

The Barbarians celebrated by mocking the pair—even breaking into the home where they were enjoying their nuptial privacy. The kidding apparently had an impact. Mr. and Mrs. Jones left for Tucson the next day, only to return the next April. They stayed in Prescott for another month before Jones ran off, leaving his teen wife behind.


William Hardy (above) opened the Quartz Rock Saloon in Prescott, Arizona Territory, on November 14, 1864. The first saloon in the territorial capital attracted a crowd, including Territorial Governor John N. Goodwin (below). Courtesy Brad Courtney



But back to The Barbarians’ favorite watering hole…

The Quartz Rock quickly became “the” social place in town, attracting the best and worst clientele. Founder Hardy, who never really lived in Prescott, turned to John “J.P.” Bourke to run the place. Already a popular figure, Bourke later became a lawman, founder of the Prescott Hotel, county recorder and the father-in-law of future Cochise County Sheriff John Behan. Bourke was ably assisted in the Quartz Rock operation by bartenders Doc and Joe, again familiar and popular figures who helped create a genial atmosphere in the place.

But it wasn’t always peaceful. What’s believed to have been the town’s first murder occurred there in 1867, when a card game turned deadly. Local pioneer William Murray was shot down by young hard-case George Crafts. That same year, William Hardy sold the Quartz Rock to one of his bartenders for $6,600.

Meantime, other purveyors followed in the footsteps of Hardy. Numerous other saloons opened, most of them within a block or so of the Quartz Rock. It was the beginning of Whiskey Row. But it suffered from issues that would plague the area for decades.

Like no fire department. Or available water supply. In 1871, a fire started in the saloon. Several kegs of whiskey exploded, adding to the conflagration. A determined effort by locals managed to limit the damage, but the Quartz Rock was nothing but rubble. And for whatever the reason, the current ownership decided not to rebuild.

Thanks to Whiskey Row historian Bradley Courtney for his help with this column. His book Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row has more tales of the noted block.  

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