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Find the heart of Arizona along State Route 69

Dewey, Humboldt, and Mayer
“It was a really jumping town in the early 1900s. ... It's just a quiet, nice little town now."
“It was a really jumping town in the early 1900s. ... It's just a quiet, nice little town now."
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 2:54 PM MST
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DEWEY-HUMBOLDT, AZ (Arizona Highways TV) -- The more you travel, the more you realize the reward is sometimes the journey, not just the destination. For years, we exited Interstate 17 and drove along State Route 69 on the way to the Prescott area. But recently, we started noticing more and more businesses popping up along SR 69.

“Arizona’s Country Town”

Dewey-Humboldt is a rich farming community started by King Woolsey.

Dewey-Humboldt is a rich farming community started by King Woolsey. He was not actually a king, but he was a larger-than-life character. He was with the Walker Party in the 1860s when he came across a spot along the Agua Fria River that he thought would make a perfect homestead.

“After he put his ranch in, a number of other ranchers came in and basically settled with cattle and farming, and eventually they needed a name for their community,” explained David Nystrom, the president of the Dewey-Humboldt Historical Society. “Right about that time in history, Adm. [George] Dewey had had his great victory in the Philippines in Manilla Bay. So, the farmers and ranchers up there, they decided they would name their town Dewey in honor of Adm. Dewey.”

Great riches from the mountains

Humboldt’s history goes back quite a bit more to the early 1800s and German geographer and explorer Alexander von Humboldt’s visit to the Americas.

“One of the things he predicted is there would be great riches from the minerals in these mountains,” Nystrom said. Humboldt was right.

“As we get into the 1860s, 1870s, and ‘80s, we see more and more prospecting and mining in the area,” Nystrom continued. Val Verde Copper Company built a smelter in 1899. When it burned down in 1904, mining in the area was so prosperous that Consolidated Arizona Smelting moved it. “They built an even bigger, grander smelter.”

When it came time to name the town, they turned to the man who had predicted great riches from the mountains 100 years earlier -- Humboldt.

“There were a dozen saloons, bordellos, meat shops, restaurants, mercantiles -- everything you can imagine in a Western boom town was right here,” Nystrom said.

End of the boom town

“Right at the end of World War I, copper prices plummeted, and as we get into the 1920s and start 1930, there’s less and less business at the smelter until it finally closes. So, that would be the end of the boom town.”

Copper wasn’t the only thing being mined from the mountains around Dewey-Humboldt. You only had to look as far as the other end of Main Street, where gold, silver, lead, and zinc were coming out of the Iron King Mine.

“The Iron King Mine was profitable enough that it provided jobs and so forth and continued the boom town of Humboldt into the ‘40s and ‘50s -- all the way into the late ‘60s when it closed,” Nystrom said.

“And that brings us to today,” he continued. “The Iron King Mine closed, but the people of Dewey and Humboldt, they liked the rural character of the town, so they decided to incorporate in 2004 to kind of keep it like it is.”

Mamma’s Kitchen and Café, where everybody knows your name

“It is like the ‘Cheers’ on TV where people swap stories. They know when somebody's, you know, having trouble at home or they need help on their farm.”

Nestled in Dewey-Humboldt is a quaint little restaurant. Friendly and quiet, Mamma’s Kitchen Café is a fun place with good food and good service. And everybody knows everyone else.

“It is like the ‘Cheers’ on TV where people swap stories. They know when somebody’s, you know, having trouble at home or they need help on their farm,” explained Wendy Archer, the manager. “It wouldn’t be unusual for you to be sitting in here, and somebody yells across the restaurant and say, ‘Hey George! Can I use your tractor?’”

Like “Cheers,” Mamma’s is full of regulars, including the town’s longtime former mayor. He stops in two or three times a week to catch up with folks.

“We have an artist here that comes in every day, works on her artwork in the corner here,” Archer said. “We have a lot of people that have been here a long time. Some of them even worked in some of the mines around here, so you’ll get into some interesting stories.”

The sense of community and camaraderie adds some extra comfort to the food.

“One of our hottest-selling items for breakfast is chicken fried steak with the two eggs, Mamma’s homemade home fries, and a biscuit and gravy,” Archer said. “Another one of our favorites is our fruity French toast, which comes with fresh strawberries and a strawberry sauce and whipped cream.”

Locals and travelers alike love the place.

“We have a lot of people coming up from the Valley that are interested in our Reubens and our homemade potato salad, Archer continued.

Aurora, the artist who is at Mamma’s every day, came up from Phoenix. Now she calls Dewey-Humboldt home.

“When I came in here, it was almost like instantaneously having family,” she said. “Everybody talks to you and asks you how your day is going, where you from, how you’ve been. I get to just sit down, and throughout the day, I’ll have people stop by while I’m doing my art and check in on me and see what I’m drawing. … It’s a very warm feeling.”

Mamma’s Kitchen and Café is open seven days a week, but only for breakfast and lunch. Plan to get there early; they close at 2 p.m., 1 p.m. on Sundays. The restaurant is a family business.

“Mamma does most of the cooking,” Archer said. “The two daughters have been working here since they were very young. Everybody chips in, and everybody helps each other, you know? Mamma’s is just warm and it’s inviting.”

And they’re always glad you came!

Mogollon Vineyards is “our diamond here in Dewey”

“Our mission statement is each vintage is a labor of love, produced with the intent to bring people together, stimulate conversation, and inspire happiness.”

“Wine’s a very social thing,” says Keith Moore of Mogollon Vineyards. “Once we open a bottle of wine, everybody -- friends and family -- starts chit-chatting and telling stories. Everybody relaxes, and it’s just a very fun catalyst for people to get around and enjoy themselves, and that’s kind of what we portray here. Everybody comes here just to have good wine and enjoy themselves.

“Our mission statement is each vintage is a labor of love, produced with the intent to bring people together, stimulate conversation, and inspire happiness,” D’Alene Moore explained.

Keith had been a mechanical contractor in Phoenix for more than 35 years when he and his wife D’Alene decided they wanted a different, more rural life. They got into cattle ranching in the White Mountains.

“In that process and growing hay for the cattle, we realized the cost just didn’t pan out,” he said. “So, we were looking for less water use, more value per acre crop, and in our research, we came across wine grapes.”

The Moores found a program at Yavapai College. Keith said he liked college better the second time around.

“I had to relearn chemistry, which I really enjoyed that,” he said. “And then I also discovered this new budding industry, the Arizona wine industry.”

The Moores wanted to get in on the ground floor.

“Our very first blend was a cab-Syrah-Grenache blend,” Keith recalled. “We loved it instantly. That’s right when we moved the whole operation from the Mogollon Rim down to Dewey-Humboldt. Because it was our first blend, and because we liked it so much, we decided to honor the town. We named it Humboldt, so that is kind of our signature wine here.”

“They’re just tasty,” one wine-lovers said of the wines from Mogollon Vineyards. “They’re drinkable wines. You don’t have to lay ‘em down. You don’t have to put them away for five years. You can come out and grab a bottle and drink it right away; it’s beautiful.”

Keith also loves their Grenache rose, made with fruit from Carlson Creek Vineyard in Willcox.

“It’s very versatile,” he said. “We won best in class in the Arizona Republic wine competition with it.”

The tasting room at Mogollon Vineyards is laidback and family-friendly. There’s live music on the weekends, and local artists come in for paint nights.

“We strive to make a clean, flawless wine here,” Keith said. “And we also try to promote an environment where people can relax and enjoy the wines here.

“It’s our diamond here in Dewey; it really is,” a resident aficionado said.

Agritourism at Mortimer Farms

“Anything we can do to have a party, that's what we're doing here at the farm.”

Mortimer Farms is a working farm that invites the public in to learn about farming and ranching. The land it sits on was slated for development – 500 homes, but it never got off the ground. Ashlee Mortimer says her family moved there in 2010 or 2011. Her parents spent their early years in the agriculture community.

“They knew that they wanted to raise us kids on a farm and a ranch to instill us the values and traditions and the passions that come along with the community we’re involved in,” she explained. “So, in 2003, our family had the privilege to purchase a ranch that’s about 15 miles away from here, and that’s where we grew up, raising cattle and pigs, and doing a little bit of farming there. And in 2010, 2011, we had the opportunity to come to this farm, Mortimer Farms.”

“The community is very, very supportive,” Sharla Mortimer said. “They love the farm and are so glad we’re not having rooftops here. They want to see the farm continue.”

“As an agritourism farm, we open our gates to the public. Our main goal is to educate the public and to share the stories of farming and ranching,” Ashlee said.

But it’s not all work and no play. Mortimer Farms hosts a Friday night barn dance that’s very popular and has more than 20 festivals and events throughout the year. There’s also The Country Store, you-pick harvesting, and the Farm Park, which has farm-inspired games, rides, activities, and animal encounters.

“Anything we can do to have a party, that’s what we’re doing here at the farm,” Ashlee said with a huge smile.

“I love the country store! Every time I walk in, it reminds me of grandma’s kitchen,” Sharla said. “The smells are just so great. The bakery and our bakers do a great job of putting all kinds of fresh pastries on the counter every day, and all kinds of fun things to taste and enjoy, so that’s a lot of fun.”

The store also sells produce and meat grown at Mortimer Farm. The deli is open seven days a week, every day of the year.

“We get lots of locals coming in or even families that are here having fun at the farm,” Sharla said. “They can go inside and grab a sandwich that’s all made right here fresh for them.”

The Country Store also is where the you-pick experience begins.

“You check-in in the country store. You get your baskets or containers, and you come out into the fields with a list of all the things that we’re harvesting, and you can come out to that specific area and harvest that fruit or vegetable for yourself,” Ashlee explained. “We also have signs at every vegetable or fruit that’s ready to be harvested, so you know and can understand how you harvest it, how you store it, and the best things to cook with that dish. So, it’s an educational experience that’s mostly self-guided, and you’re able to come out and grocery shop in our fields and take it right to your home to eat for dinner that night.”

Permanent crops are a big part of Mortimer Farms. They have strawberries, blackberries, and a peach and apple orchard.

“We have over 3,600 peach and apple trees. Not only are we going to harvest them and have them available in The Country Store and also use them for fresh-pressed cider at the Pumpkin Fest, but our guests will also be able to go to the orchard and harvest those for themselves.”

“Driving to Mortimer Farms from other parts of the state is so worthwhile,” Ashlee said. “Not only is our weather perfect – we are at least 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix all year round -- but also the experience that you get. It is so worth it to be able to connect to the story of your food and understand where it grows and teach those kiddos that the food you’re serving them is healthy and raised by passionate people. And you’ve got to have fun while you do it!”

Mayer – Mining boom town turned quiet community

“It was a really jumping town in the early 1900s. ... It's just a quiet, nice little town now."

“Joe Mayer was an entrepreneur that would travel,” said Roselynn Fernwalt, the unofficial historian of Mayer. She said Mayer left Tip Top when the ore started running out. He was headed to Prescott to find a new business when he stopped to see a friend who owned the stagecoach stop in Big Bug Station.

“He ended up making a deal and bought the Big Bug Station and eventually moved his family. They built a bigger stage stop, and the town became the name of Mayer.”

The area was the site of many mines – gold and copper – so they built a smelter. There were also sheep and cattle ranches.

“It was a really jumping town in the early 1900s,” Fernwalt said. “It was very, very busy.”

“Then, as the mines played out, people started eventually just leaving,” she continued. “And it’s just a small community now. The business district is historic, and that is being restored by a new owner that’s going to open some of the business there.”

Creekside Lodge and Cabins, literally just off State Route 69

All you have to do is turn off of State Route 69 and you've arrived at the Creekside Lodge and Cabins.

Just an hour north of Phoenix, there’s a 60-acre property lush with cottonwoods that create a cool canopy along the winding Big Bug Creek. All you have to do is turn off State Route 69, and you’ve arrived at the Creekside Lodge and Cabins.

John Papuga recently bought and remodeled the lodge.

“We have brightened it up with the true black and white Santa Fe colors, where it really pops now when you’re coming by,” he said. “It’s actually making people turn around.”

“We have a total of 19 rooms, seven of which are Santa Fes and seven which are cowboys,” he continued. “They’re 410 square feet, all individual cabins. The cowboy cabins have heart-shaped tubs in them.”

John was about to pull out those red heart-shaped tubs until guests told him they were an important part of their memories.

“We have four lodge rooms which have adjoining doors in case you have family members,” he continued. “And then we have one private suite, which has a full apartment that has its own balcony, its own private area. Usually, that’s for special events, weddings, bridal parties, things of that nature.”

John says the Creekside Lodge is in the heart of Arizona. “If you truly drew crosshairs on an Arizona map, it puts you pretty close to Mayer.”

“We’re close enough to where people can bring their families, enjoy a trip,” he continued. “There’s horseback riding close by. There’s a winery close by. Crown king is a great day trip from here. … There’s really a lot to do. The Agua Fria River is close by. There are two casinos close by. It really makes Mayer a unique launching place to get to a lot of fun places.”

There’s also plenty to do on the property – from their steakhouse and its famous prime rib to their bar. It’s called The Cellar.

“We’re unique in that you don’t often get to find a lodge that has a basement,” John said. There’s live music inside and creekside in the summer. It’s popular with visitors and locals alike.

“The concerts are amazing, and just the atmosphere, the atmosphere is insane,” one regular said. “You get addicted to it because everybody becomes like your family. We know everybody here; everybody gets a hug.”

“We wanted to provide a place that had a unique environment that gives folks who wanna come here for an event different opportunities, different areas to have their experience,” John said.