By J. J. Lamb of the Vail Preservation Society
As reported by Andrew Gorski, in his Condition Assessment Report from the Pima County Cultural Resource Office, in 2005, “The 1908 Old Vail Store & Post Office is a physical reminder of the national economic and cultural forces that converged at Vail in the late 19th and early 20th century. All other traces of Vail’s railroad, mining and ranching roots are gone; erased by time, population growth, and development.”
Located at Colossal Cave and Old Vail Roads, at Vail’s original town site, this humble adobe is a reminder of the hardy settlers, who made a life for their families in Vail, Arizona Territory.
Early homesteading families like the Leon’s, Cranes, Fraker’s, Estrada’s, Johnsons, and Monthan’s collected their mail, purchased supplies or a pound of dried beans, inside the adobe Vail Store & Post Office. They were wranglers, miners, railroad workers, farmers, and ranchers, whatever it took to make a living. Others who picked up their mail at the adobe post office included WWII Medal of Honor awardee Audie Murphy, Caroline Beach who financed and built the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert, a Native American named Maiyo (phonetic spelling based upon name from three interview sources), who claimed to have ridden with Geronimo; and, his son, who enjoyed the sounds of his wind-up Victrola as he grazed his goats along Cienega Creek.
The 1908 adobe was the center of civic life for the area stretching from the Santa Rita’s to the Rincon’s and to the Empire Mountains. It has been a store, livery, bar, post office, gas station, feed store, and had one of the area’s first telephones. It has witnessed commerce, confrontation, joy, hope, despair, death, and the everyday life of ordinary people who passed through its doors daily for over 100 years. Postmistress Dovie Woolsey’s family of five lived in the east end of the building from 1927-1934. She once remarked, “With every three-cent stamp sold, we get thirty minutes entertainment.”
Everyone in Vail connected to each other, to the outside world, and to far away loved ones through the Vail Store & Post Office. Postmistress Mary Jane Warner (1934-1973) said it best, “Vail may seem like a small place to some. But, to those of us who live here, it is the center of the world.”
Learn more about the 1908 Old Vail Store & Post Office at vailpreservationsociety.org