Theresa Franks, Proprietor, The Shady Victorian
Prescott's Love Affair With Tom Mix "The King of Cowboys"
Updated: Mar 3
Tom Mix loved Prescott and Prescott returned that love every time he visited. He always received a Royal welcome. His name was on the lips of every young boy in Prescott. To them, Tom Mix was the epitome of all things western.
I was very happy to have been given an original, black and white photograph of Tom Mix by a friend of mine to add to The Shady Victorian historical photograph collection archive. I repaired the photograph and then hand-colored it. It is a wonderful image of the famous men of their day.
Johnny Agee (standing) was an old-time circus man and horse trainer. Once a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, he served for many years as equestrian director with Ringling and other circuses. He was also a horse trainer for Tom Mix for 14 years and also trained horses for Gene Autry.
Fred Leggett (seated next to Tom) was the Equestrian Director of the Sells-Floto Circus shows. He, too, had a long and storied career in the circus and Wild West shows.
Mix settled in Prescott, Arizona, in 1913 at the Bar Circle A Ranch (now known as Yavapai Hills). He and his wife and actress, Olive Stokes Mix, and his new baby girl, Ruth, lived on the ranch until 1917. Though it was widely believed that Mix purchased the Bar Circle A Ranch, it is believed that he never did actually own the property.
Four years after arriving in Prescott, Tom's wife, Olive (a southern heiress), sued for divorce in 1917, claiming Mix had abandoned her after having fallen in love with Western film star, Victoria Forde. Olive claimed Victoria was a home wrecker and a bitter divorce ensued. The following article from the Weekly-Journal Miner, dated May 2, 1917, spells out the sordid details of the dramatic divorce proceedings:
Olive was not one to mess around with. She was beautiful, an heiress with a good business head, and one heck of a cowgirl herself. She was raised on her family's ranch in Dewey, Oklahoma, and could ride, rope and bulldog with the best of them.
Ultimately, Mix married the "home wrecker," Victoria Forde, but divorced her in 1931, only to remarry again. Mix's love life was a tumultuous one. His relationship with his daughter, Ruth, seemed to be strained as well. Ruth performed with her father in the circus and wild west shows. She ended up managing the circus and shows when her father left for Europe on theatre tour. Sadly, the circus and shows went bankrupt and Tom Mix wrote Ruth out of his will.
Tom filmed many movies in the Prescott area. In particular, on location at Granite Dells and his home on the Bar Circle A Ranch. The wild western town of Prescott gave Tom Mix the authenticity he was looking for in his films and he delivered to his audiences both on screen and off.
Though Tom Mix is well-known for his movies (produced by Selig Polyscope Company and later Fox Studios), he was also quite the showman performing live shows as a skilled horseman, expert shooter, and competitor in Prescott's Rodeos, his first in Prescott being in 1909, winning the bulldogging and steer riding events. He was once employed at the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch where he also performed in the touring 101 Ranch Wild West show.
On Saturday, July 5, 1913, Tom Mix competed in a number of events at the World's Oldest Rodeo in Prescott, Arizona. He took the first place price in Steer Riding, winning $25.00. The Weekly-Journal Miner reported on the weekend's exciting events as follows:
Note in the article above that Tom Mix played second fiddle to famous cowboy, Harry Knight, when it came to the "Fancy Trick Exhibition" event, stating that Knight "was a marvel with the riata, and his feats were a revelation to the throng." Interestingly, Harry Knight would later become Tom Mix's son-in-law. He married Mix's daughter, Ruth, in 1935.
Don't you just wish you could have been there in the early years of the Prescott Frontier Days? Sadly, those days have long passed. We will never see the likes of these cowboys again.