Old Stockman’s Bank tabbed for new museum home

During Saturday's symposium, the Graham County Histrocial Society announced the old Stockman's Bank, on Main Street at 7th Avenue in Safford, will be the new home to the society's museum. - David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

SAFFORD — There was exciting news at the annual symposium for the Graham County Historical Society last Saturday.

“We’ve been working with (Graham) County, who owns the old Stockman’s Bank building at 7th Avenue and Main Street (in Safford), and that is going to be the location of our museum,” said Deanna Moeller, secretary of the Historical Society.

In addition to its savings from fund-raisers through the years, the Historical Society will use a $150,000 grant from the Freeport Community Investment Fund to remodel the interior of the building and relocate artifacts and displays from storage.

Moeller said the Historical Society estimates it will take about 18 months before the museum will be open to the public.

The Historical Society’s collection of artifacts had been housed in a museum at the old Thatcher Middle School building, but the museum was closed and the exhibits placed in storage in the early 2000s when Thatcher Unified School District demolished the building in order to build the current middle school.

In 2017, the Historical Society received the disassembled Safford Carpet building in donation from Circle K, when Circle K announced its plan to build an upgraded, bigger convenience store and fueling station on U.S. Highway 70, east of Safford.

The plan was to re-assemble the building on land made available by Graham County at the Fairgrounds, but the cost to build proved too great for the all-volunteer Historical Society.

During Saturday’s symposium and annual meeting, Harvey John was unanimously re-elected president of the Graham County Historical Society. – David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

In addition to the museum announcement, the symposium saw the re-election of Harvey John as president of the Historical Society’s board, and two historical presentations — Landsman Camp by Hal Herbert, and Where the Water Comes From by Jay Dee Colvin.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the Heritage Award to former Historical Society President Charles Robert Pursley, which included sharing of family memories by his two oldest sons, Robert and Tom.

Robert Pursley, center, is presented with the Graham County Historical Society’s Heritage Award by society President Harvey John during Saturday’s symposium. – David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

Pursley was born in 1936 on the family farm in Lone Star. He graduated from Safford High School and attended Brigham Young University. While at BYU, he joined the Navy and attended flight school, becoming a helicopter pilot.

After 10 years of active duty service, and a short stint with the FBI, he attended the University of Arizona’s law school. Following graduation he was in private practice, eventually moving the family back to the Gila Valley in 1978. He taught criminal justice at EAC for one year, before being appointed a judge in the Superior Court, where he remained until his retirement in 2003.

Pursley and his wife, Carol, have six children, 26 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.

Carol and Robert Pursley, seated, were joined by their six children for the presentation of the Graham County Historical Society’s Heritage Award to Robert. – David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central