8/2/2012 12:01:00 AM
LOSS OF A LEGEND
'First Lady of Paulden' Ruth Gilpin dies at 98
Brett Soldwedel/The Daily Courier, file
Ruth Gilpin. a prolific fiddler, began playing Prescott’s Acker
Night in the early 1990s.
By Matt Santos
PAULDEN - Jessie Ruth Gilpin, who many considered the mother of Paulden,
died Tuesday at the age of 98, after suffering from
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Born May 20, 1914, Gilpin and her family traveled west from Ohio in 1924,
settling in what is now known as Paulden, Ariz.
In her autobiography, "Mile Post 337," published in 2010, Gilpin, an author
and musician, stated that when her family arrived, the area was home to
"only seven people, but now it is rated as having a population of over
In the decades since the family arrived, traveling down Route 66 in a 1922
Ford, Gilpin spent much of her life documenting the history of Paulden, the
small town that drew its name from her brother, Paul, and another local boy.
In the first of her two books, "Paulden Pioneers," published in 2001, Gilpin
writes that following the death of her brother in a hunting accident, "The
name Paulden was derived from the names of the first two boys to settle here
- my brother Paul, and Tom Dryden. My brother was accidentally shot and
killed only three months after my folks had settled here. They thought this
would serve as a memorial to perpetuate his memory."
Gilpin's father, Orville T. Pownall, was the first postmaster in Paulden,
running the post office from the family's store, Midway Grocery, at the
location now occupied by the Paulden Park Place, or "Pink Store" as it is
known to the locals.
Gilpin herself took over as postmaster, serving the community in that
capacity from 1960 to 1972, retiring from the post office in 1977.
"When my grandparents and mom moved out here, there was nothing, just land
and a few ranches," said daughter Barbara Cook. "Our family, my mom, really
put the area on the map."
Cook says that one of her mother's strongest qualities was her kindness.
"If she ever told you off, you never knew it," Cook recalled with a smile.
"She would get mad in the sweetest way, just a very kind person. She also
was very active and her mind was very sharp."
One of Gilpin's passions was playing the fiddle as a member of the Mile High
Chapter of The Old Time Fiddlers Association.
"My sister Mary played the guitar, she was very musically inclined, and my
mother had played the fiddle as a child," recalled Cook. "After both my
father and my brother in-law died, my mother moved in with my sister, who
was involved with the Old Time Fiddlers Association. She hadn't played in
over 50 years, but started again with Mary. Through Mary, mom picked it up
again and really got involved with the group."
In addition to her two books, Gilpin also recorded a CD of fiddle music,
"Sweeter with Age," at the age of 93.
Gilpin was also instrumental in the creation of the Chino Valley Aquatic
Center, was recognized as the Woman of the Year in 2008 by the
Sharlot Hall Museum, was nominated for the
Governor's Art Award in 2009, and was inducted into the Arizona Fiddlers
Hall of Fame in 2010.
"Last week, she wasn't feeling well," said Cook. "She had been given some
medication, to help her relax, and as we pulled out onto the highway on the
way to Hospice Care in Prescott, she was very tired. I told her to try and
sleep. I'd wake her when we got there, but she said 'No, I'll never see this
place again.' She stayed awake the whole trip from Paulden to Prescott,
watching the area, watching out the window. She just wanted to see Paulden
one last time."
When asked what she hoped her mother would be remembered for, Cook answered
"Paulden. That is her legacy. I think there are so many people that don't
know where Paulden came from, but she loved the area. She loved the land,
she loved the people, she loved the town." Funeral services Tuesday, Aug. 7,
at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 441 W. Perkinsville
Road, Chino Valley. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. with services at 10 a.m.
A graveside service will be at 2 p.m. at Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Arizona Old Time Fiddlers
Association Mary Hill Memorial Scholarship Program c/o Ruth Gilpin, at P.O.
Box 297, Paulden AZ 86334 or to the Hospice Family Care, 3195 Stillwater
Drive, Suite B, Prescott, AZ 86305.
Matt Santos is a reporter for the
Chino Valley Review.
Sharlot Hall Award Recipient 2008
Jessie Ruth Gilpin, with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (left) and
Museum Director John Langellier. Jessie Ruth Gilpin, the 94-year-old
author, historian and fiddler whose parents founded the town of Paulden, has
been honored as the 2008 recipient of the Sharlot Hall Award for valuable
contributions to the understanding and awareness of Arizona and its history.
The award presentation took place at Sharlot Hall Museum’s annual membership
meeting on Thursday, June 18 on the Museum grounds. Arizona Secretary of State
Ken Bennett, the meeting's keynote speaker, presented the award to Gilpin and
congratulated her on her life achievements.
In accepting the award, Gilpin said, “I would just like to say thank you to
everyone who had a part in choosing me, and to Mary Leavitt who nominated me for
this award. I had no idea it was going to turn into something like this. It's a
thrill of my life, especially with Ken here. I knew Ken when he was just a
little guy, not very old. I was good friends with his mother and dad. I'm very
happy to have gotten this award tonight.”
Gilpin, much like Sharlot Hall, came to Arizona as a young girl and soon
became deeply rooted in the State’s history. Her parents founded Paulden, which
consisted of a grocery store, café, gas station, garage, cabins, and a post
office where she ultimately served as postmistress for some 17 years. She and
her husband Lionel Gilpin raised their four children in Paulden.
Her interest in the area’s ranching history inspired her to author Paulden
Pioneer Family and Ranching History, detailing the lives of her parents and
other early settlers of the area. Gilpin’s second book details memories of her
most interesting life. Over the years, she has played key roles in bringing a
fire station to Paulden and a municipal swimming pool to Chino Valley.
At age 94, she remains active in community events and the preservation of
local history, and continues as a cornerstone of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s
Association. An accomplished musician, Gilpin has won many awards over the years
in state fiddling competition.
September 17, 2015