Ed Whipple was born in Iowa in 1856. He ran away from home at an early age to seek his fortune in the West. Like most men of his era, Whipple met the demands of the frontier with wit and versatility.
“Soon after my arrival (at Antelope Spring) I opened a saloon and restaurant combined,’’ he told the Coconino Sun in a 1928 interview. “I was later a carpenter, a deputy sheriff for a number of years, and in fact I have been almost everything. It was some years after I came that I opened up the only undertaking establishment here, and have been here from that time on.”
Other structures sprang up near Whipple’s saloon, including a general store – P.B. Brannen & Company – which would house a post office as well.
In 1922, the Coconino Sun brought together six old-time Flagstaff residents—Whipple included—to identify structures in this and several other old photographs. The oldtimers identified the buildings from left to right, beginning with the gabled structure to the right of the tent, as: Court and Hanner’s saloon, another saloon and dance hall they were unable to name, P.B. Brannen & Company’s general store, an unidentified store, Beal’s restaurant, John Drain’s saloon and the J.H. Hawks bakery and restaurant. Whipple’s saloon was not identified.
Like many frontier settlements, the drinking establishments at Antelope Spring far outnumbered the retail businesses. In fact, it can be said with some certainty that the inhabitants of Antelope Spring were a thirsty lot.
And like many frontier settlements, Antelope Spring was short-lived. When the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad arrived in August 1882, the company chose a site for its depot three-quarters of a mile northeast of Antelope Spring—the land now occupied by the Santa Fe freight office in Flagstaff.
A new town was started near the depot. P.B. Brannen & Company erected a building nearby and moved the business. Others soon followed. And in the way of the frontier, Antelope Spring became the “old town” and soon was known as Old Town Spring.
The end to Old Town Spring came on Tuesday, July 22, 1884, when fire swept through the settlement, destroying most of the buildings. The Flagstaff Champion reported: “The fire is attributed to carelessness on behalf of a female in a dance hall who knocked over a lamp.”
— Photo and research: W. Lane Rogers