Downtown Tucsonan - February 2008 - (Page 27)
Historic Downtown Charles Rivers Drake A Glimpse of a Renaissance Man by Jamie Manser his year marks the 130th anniversary of the construction of the Blenman House, and its builder’s character proved to possess quality attributes similar to those of the stately structure. Located at 204 s. scott ave., the Blenman House is now the elegant Royal Elizabeth Bed and Breakfast. charles Rivers drake was born in walnut Prairie, Illinois on July 26, 1843. according to the 1915 “Press Reference Library: notables of the west,” his paternal lineage could be traced back to England’s sir Francis drake. Before volunteering for the united states navy in 1863 at the tender age of 20, drake was a drug clerk, a profession he resumed in new York at the civil war’s end. He wouldn’t be out of the military for long, though. By 1871, drake was assigned to serve under the army’s General crook as a hospital steward. He was assigned to Fort Lowell, tucson, arizona territory. while locally serving in the army, drake met agripine Moreno and the couple married in 1872. the union produced numerous children (the number of which varies between different accounts) and a letter from agripine to charles indicates a warm, loving and supportive relationship. the undated scribe reads: Most beloved husband of mine, You cannot have any idea of the great desire I have to see you. It already seems a century since I have seen you. Beloved, since you left, the boy has been sick with temperature and a bad cough and Charles too was sick but now is well thanks to God. Beloved I am very happy that everything is going well for you there; well here you hear nothing other than that you are going to win the election. Well, come back soon my adored one, because my life ackes [sic] to see you and be very careful with those of the party (faction – political party) de ? Nothing will happen to you; the adobe wall of the corral which was the shelter fell down, and there is no more news, many kisses from your wife. A. Drake T It is impossible to surmise which election agripine is referring to, as charles was very politically and f rate r n a l l y involved during his time in the old Pueblo after retiring from the army in 1875. a few years later, in 1878, he would build the residence now known as the Royal Elizabeth. a sense of community service saw him in various public capacities, such as: assistant Postmaster, county Recorder, school Board member, city councilman, member of the territorial senate (twice elected), as well as serving as the President of the territorial senate. additionally, the “Press Reference Library: notables of the west” states that “colonel drake was appointed by President Harrison to the office of receiver of Public Moneys at the u.s. Land office in tucson.” Beyond his civil service, drake had his hand in numerous business ventures. a shirt biography included in his files at the arizona Historical society (aHs) listed these manifold civilian pursuits: “he conducted an active mining and real estate agency, owned rental properties in tucson and Florence, was the resident agent for the safety nitro Powder co. of california, for the Mutual Life Insurance co. of new York, and for several fire insurance companies. “In 1893, he and John H. norton formed the arizona new Mexico commercial co. which provided labor and provisions for the southern Pacific” Railroad. news clippings, letters and various other documents in drake’s aHs file show him to be a man who was highly regarded, probably due to his fair and moral nature, not to mention his unwavering work ethic. His aboveboard nature was likely the reason his associate James Henry toole entrusted drake with power of attor ney over rsome property toole owned. James Henry toole was tucson’s second mayor who served two terms and was a prominent and popular figure in the city’s society. toole was also a builder and a bank partner with charles Hudson, a partnership which would dissolve with the bankruptcy of Hudson & co. in May 1884. Press coverage of the bank’s failure blames the closing of mines and the dishonesty of Hudson, exonerating toole as blameless except for “reposing too much confidence in the integrity of others.” toole had lost everything. on october 13, 1884, toole gave drake power of attorney over his property when he left to visit his wife and children in wisconsin who had previously lived in tucson. drake was empowered to collect and accept rents and take charge of the premises as toole’s agent. two days later, while en route to see his family, toole shot himself in the heart as the train approached trinidad, colorado. drake would fulfill his obligations to toole, and would ultimately be the executor of his will. tragedy would strike again four years later when agripine died on april 15, 1888. an outpouring of sympathy manifested in letters, letters he kept. two years later, drake married Kate astrea seeley. In 1900, drake retired to california but remained very active in his community until his death in 1928. february.08. downtown tucsonan 27 Photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society/Tucson #B13508
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