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John Tabor Alsap (1832-1886)

        Most contemporary sources suggest that John Tabor Alsap was born 28 February 1830 in Frankfort, Kentucky [1]. He was the only son of Rev. John Alsap (sometimes spelled Alsop) and his wife Keziah Randall [2]. The family soon moved to Ohio and later to Indiana. After studying medicine in Ohio, young John went to California in 1853, intending to practice medicine there. Once in California, however, he developed an interest in mining--an interest which brought him to the Walker diggings in Yavapai county, in November 1863 [2].

        Alsap’s medical skills came in handy in 1864 when he accompanied King Woolsey's second punitive expedition against the Apaches as the party's surgeon [3]. His reputation thus established, he was appointed territorial treasurer in late 1864 by Governor John Noble Goodwin [2].

        Alsap opened the first saloon in Prescott, a shrewd business move which brought him into contact with much of Prescott’s electorate [3]. On 6 June 1866, he married Louise A. Osborn, daughter of pioneer John Preston Osborn [4]. Tragically, she died barely a year later.

        In 1868, Alsap became Yavapai County's representative to the territorial legislature. However, his larger political ambitions were not to be fulfilled in Prescott, possibly because he was still a relative newcomer to an established community. In 1869, therefore, he moved south to the Salt River Valley, where he helped to select the 320 acres comprising the original Phoenix townsite. He was one of the original commissioners of the Salt River Town Association, formed in 1870 to promote settlement along the Salt River [3].

        From medicine, mining and saloon-keeping, Alsap now turned his attention to public service and the practice of law. As the fledgling community along the Salt River gained a foothold, he petitioned to have a new county created, with Phoenix as its seat [3]. Following the creation of Maricopa County from Yavapai County in 1871, Governor Safford appointed Alsap its first probate judge [2]. In his capacity as judge, he sometimes officiated at civil weddings when no minister was available. He also served as superintendent of public education. In 1874, Alsap reported 20 children attending public school in Phoenix, district 1; 41 in Riverside, district 2; and 47 children in Tempe, District 3 [5].

        Between 1873 and 1879, Alsap served in the territorial legislature [2]. On 7 September 1876, Alsap wed Anna Dugan Murray, one of the eight daughters of William P. Murray and his wife Margaret [6]. All the Murray girls married well-connected men and founded some of Phoenix’s ‘first families’.

        Alsap's contributions to the city of Phoenix were recognized when he was elected its first mayor in 1881 [5].

        John T. Alsap was an ardent Mason throughout his life. A photograph taken in Contra Costa, California, shows him dressed in his Masonic regalia. He was the first master of Aztlan Lodge No. 1, F&AM, in Prescott and also of the Arizona Masonic Lodge in Phoenix, and he chartered the Royal Arch Masonic Lodge [7]. Upon his death in 1886, he was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Phoenix.

        Alsap’s second wife, Anna Dugan Murray, died 20 December 1902 and is buried next to him. A modern granite headstone marks their graves, although for some reason Anna’s dates were never added to it [8].

Copyright © 2011-2014 by Donna L. Carr. All rights reserved. Last revised 2/18/2014.

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© Copyright 2004-2014, Pioneers' Cemetery Association, Inc. Last revised 18 February 2014.