John Tabor Alsap was born 28 February 1830 in Frankfort, Kentucky. He was the only son of Rev. John Alsap (sometimes spelled Alsop) and his wife Keziah Randall. 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.
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. His reputation thus established, he was appointed territorial treasurer in late 1864 by Gov. John Noble Goodwin.
He soon opened the first saloon in Prescott, a shrewd business move which brought him into contact with much of Prescott’s electorate. On 6 June 1866, Alsap married Louise A. Osborn, daughter of pioneer John Preston Osborn. Tragically, she died barely a year later.
Alsap became Yavapai County's representative to the territorial legislature in 1868. However, his larger political ambitions were not to be fulfilled in Prescott. In 1869, 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.
Alsap now turned his attention from the practice of medicine and mining to 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. Following the creation of Maricopa County in 1871, Governor Safford appointed Alsap its first probate judge. As judge, he sometimes officiated at civil weddings when no minister was available. He also served as superintendent of public education.
Between 1873 and 1879, Alsap held a seat in the territorial legislature. On 7 September 1876, he wed Anna Dugan Murray, one of the eight daughters of William P. Murray and his wife Margaret. 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.
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 the Azlan Masonic Lodge in Prescott and also of the Arizona Masonic Lodge in Phoenix, and he chartered the Royal Arch Masonic Lodge. Upon his death in 1886, he was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Phoenix. A modern granite headstone marks his grave.
©Donna Carr, 2013. Last revised 7/24/2013.