History

R.H. BURMISTER
History of Arizona, 1896

The Bashford-Burmister Company stands foremost in general merchandising in Prescott Arizona. This large and flourishing establishment was started in 1864 by L. Bashford, but on a very small scale and became a firm in 1867. In 1870 it became L. Bashford and Company and thus continued until 1886 when L. Bashford withdrew and the firm title was changed to The Bashford-Burmister Company which was incorporated April 1, 1892 with R.H. Burmister as president, F.M. Murphy, vice-president and W.C. Bashford secretary and treasurer. These gentlemen are also the directors.

In 1876 a one story brick building was erected, 125 x 50 added on the present building, making a fine three story brick with a basement. This is the largest store in the Territory. It has arches and partitions on the first floor and the firm carries a large and select stock of goods. This company buys principally from the Eastern market and fifteen courteous and obliging clerks are employed. In connection with the store this firm has five warehouses and a lumber yard. A large stock of lumber is carried and they furnish a great deal of building material for the northern part of the Territory.

Robert H. Burmister, president of the company, is a native of Germany, born in Mecklenburg, August 17, 1847 and son of Frederick and Bernatine (Zellener) Burmister, both natives of Germany. The father was a tailor by trade and carried on his business in Mecklenburg up to 1850. He then crossed the ocean to America with his family and located in Buffalo, New York, where he carried on his business for one year. From there he went to Cleveland Ohio, remained there eleven years and thence to Liverpool, Ohio. In 1863 he removed to Waupun, Wisconsin and there engaged in farming until 1865 when he removed to Indianola, Iowa. There he resides at the present time and is retired from the active duties of life, being now eighty-two years old. The mother died in February 1883. Their family consisted of eight children: William, who resides in Chicago and is in the employ of Marshall Field and Company; Henry of Indianola, Iowa; Ernest, died in the hospital at Cleveland, Ohio during the Civil War; Robert H; Albert J., in Arizona; Amanda C., manager of the lumber yard in Prescott; Minnie B. and Rosella C.

Our subject was reared and educated in the various points to which he parents moved and in 1864 left home to begin the battle of life himself. Previous to this, however, when but fifteen years old, he began working out and in 1862 entered the store of Clark and Forbes at Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he clerked on a very small salary at first but soon became the highest salaried clerk in the place.

In 1873 he went to California and located at San Diego where he clerked for Steiner and Klauber for six months. In the month of May 1874, he came to Prescott and bought an interest with L. Bashford and has continued in the mercantile business up to the present. He has made a complete success of this enterprise. When he first embarked in this enterprise the business amounted to about $35,000 per year, but in 1895 it reached the sum of $347,200, a vast difference. The capital stock is $150,000 with $131,000 paid up.

Mr. Burmister is largely interested in mining with W.C. Bashford and they own the famous “Jersey Lily” gold mine, the “Tiger”, “Old Reliable,”, “Silver Bell” and numerous others. He also owns considerable real estate in Prescott, also stock in the Prescott National Bank which he and his partner helped to organize and has quite a herd of cattle. Mr. Burmister is president of the Board of Trade, school trustee and a member of the city council.

In 1873 he married Miss Maggie F. Bashford and they have three children: Robert D., Howard C. and Helen F.

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Will Gibson and the Bashford-Burmister Company

From Sharlot Hall Museum Days Past
Article printed November 14, 1999

By Mona Lange McCroskey

It took three health-seeking trips to Prescott to convert Will “Gib” Gibson into a permanent resident. In 1902, at age sixteen Will traveled to Arizona from Morgantown, Indiana, seeking relief from “bronchitis”. He rode the narrow gauge railway to Poland where he worked for a summer in the Bashford-Burmister store for James A. Whetstine (later mayor of Prescott from 1943-1947). Gibson, a tall, thin lad, was teased unmercifully by the miners, who sent him up the creek for a left-handed monkey wrench and otherwise made his life miserable. He returned to Indiana, married, and when he contracted tuberculosis in 1913 Gibson came to Flinn’s renowned sanitarium for treatment (the original buildings still exist at the Southwest corner Gurley and Willow Streets). After the birth of their son, Thomas, in Morgantown, his wife Opal journeyed to Prescott and rented a house in Pine Crest to be near him during his two-year convalescence.

The Gibsons then went back to their native Indiana, Will built a home for his family and went to work for his father, a merchant. Within a year he suffered a serious relapse, and once more the Gibson family moved to Prescott. Gibson built a house in Pine Crest, recovered slowly, and was finally able to work full-time at the Bashford-Burmister Company (commonly referred to as the B-B). James Whetstine was then working as a manager in the Prescott store, and when James and Mary Hope decided to retire Will sold his home in Indiana to invest in the business as a partner with Whetstine.

Will and Opal Gibson became active in their community. He built a home on the corner of Park Avenue and Gurley, across Park from the Brinkmeyer house, and a daughter, Julia, was added to the family in 1924. They were charter members of the new Hassayampa Country Club. Gibson was also a Mason, and his wife played bridge and was active In the Monday Club. Frontier Days was a big event for the family. They had a great vantage point for watching rodeo parades from the huge balcony windows of the B-B.

The Bashford-Burmister Company took up the buildings on Gurley Street that now comprise the BashfordCourt and Solt’s Clothing Store, and the store sold everything “from fur coats to mining machinery, and soup to nuts, inclusive.” The main floor had sliding doors that opened to the green grocery section, a new marketing strategy. The grocery also sold canned goods, prime beef, dairy products, and chocolates made by Brinkmeyer’s confectionery. A men’s department separated the hardware, stationery, and shoe departments.

To one side was the dry goods department, behind which were elevators and a stairway leading to the mezzanine and, later, to the third floor. On the mezzanine were the furniture department, china, and glassware, ladies’ ready-to-wear, and offices. When the third floor was added it became the ladies’ department–ready-to-wear, restrooms, and a beauty shop. Behind the store and across the alley was a large warehouse, later demolished to put in a parking lot. The loading docks across the back of the store received shipments of goods.

“Gib” Gibson was the buyer and wholesaler for the Bashford-Burmister Company. He bought and wholesaled to the other B-B stores, in Mayer, Poland, and Jerome. He also serviced the accounts of ranchers who bought in large quantities; the store stayed open late on Saturdays to accommodate them. Will worked six days a week, traveling throughout Yavapai County. On Sunday mornings he picked up the mail, separated what pertained to his part of the business, and did his book work.

A frequent misconception is that the Bashford-Burmister Company went broke. Gibson’s daughter was quick to point out that it never did. It was in fact not in very good financial shape, and Will Gibson insisted that it be sold before it did go broke. In 1941, Whetstine and Gibson sold their stock to a Los Angeles company that specialized in fire sales. The store employees, including Israel and Minnie McCash, H.D. Aitken, and Gene Weiland, continued to work there until all the merchandise was sold and the store was closed.

Information for this article came from an oral interview with Will Gibson’s daughter, Julia Ann Matheny — 1924-1994. Recently her husband, Doug, donated her collection of Yavapai and Pima baskets to Sharlot Hall Museum. Will Gibson took them in as payment on unpaid accounts during his tenure at the Bashford-Burmister Company. Mona Lange McCroskey is a research historian for the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Hours

Monday through Thursday - 10 am to 5:30 pm 

Friday and Saturday - 10 am to 6:30 pm 

Sunday - 11 am to 5 pm

Location

Bashford Courts Atrium Mall

130 West Gurley Street

Prescott, AZ 86301