The lives and accomplishments of Hyrum and David Henry Weech are intertwined with Smithville’s (Pima’s) beginning.
Hyrum was one of the founders, arriving here the second time on April 8, 1879, 140 years ago. David was brought here as a 4-year-old later that same year, the first son of Hyrum and Sarah Dall Weech. He was born in Goshen, Utah, after the couple had five girls.
Because of the cold weather and some water problems, when they heard stories of Arizona, the Weech family was interested. In the winter of 1878-79, Hyrum left his family in Utah and went south to find a new home.
David helped his dad on the farm and clerked in his parents’ store, and grew to manhood in the early community. His ventures were many and varied, bringing the first piped water into the homes of Pima. He built a cement storage facility on Tank Hill to store the community’s water.
Another way he helped the locals was by building an electric plant near his home on North Main and First North (later site of Broadway Camp). He ran electricity to his home, the Weech Store on the northeast corner of Main and Center, the theater, to other businesses on Main; then wired and furnished power to the nearby homes.
He would turn the electricity on at about dusk, according to the season, and turn it off at 10 p.m. Soon, people grumbled, as they wanted it on longer. So he extended it to 11 p.m., then to midnight. Before turning it off, he would blink the current to let people know they needed to light a lamp, go to bed or be left in the dark.
Soon the women wanted electricity to run their newly available washing machines or an iron. Ironing was hot, heavy work, especially in the summer, as irons were heated on wood stoves. So, to accommodate the women, David turned the power on from 8 to 10 a.m. every Monday and Tuesday morning. The women adjusted their schedules to do those chores at that time. Again, he would “blink” the current so they knew they had five minutes to finish the job.
Later, David moved his plant up by the depot to run it in conjunction with the gristmill he built.
David also brought the telephone line from Thatcher, extending it to Bryce and Eden, the first telephone being in Weech’s Store. The switchboard was put in the Pima Hotel. Wyona Taylor Bryce was one of the first operators. The board was shut down during her lunch hour and at 5 p.m., with after-hours calls being connected to the doctor’s office. Who else would one need to call after 5 p.m.?
The two-story building on the northwest corner of Main and Center was started by David in 1914 (for the last 56 years, the Eastern Arizona Museum) for the Bank of Pima. Mr. P. K. Lewis and Mr. J. W. Brown, of Phoenix, were his partners in the beginning. He later purchased the entire stock of the bank, and then sold some of it to Andy F. Carlson. David was the president and manager, and son Ellis was the cashier.
After WWI ended, the economy was very depressed; times were hard and the farmers were unable to meet their obligations to the bank, thus causing it to fail. The Arizona Trust & Savings Bank of Safford purchased it and paid depositors 65 percent of their funds. Weech lost all he had accumulated in the last 45 years.
Within a short time, he also lost his wife, Estella, on Oct. 31, 1918, in the flu epidemic. He and Estella Newell had married March 20, 1895, and become parents of seven boys (Halvei, Earl, Ellis, LaRue, Onzell, Newell and Irvin) and one girl, Lanola, who passed away in 1914 at age 8.
David and May Allen were married July 3, 1921, becoming parents of eight more children: Berell (Cherrel), May Louise (Taylor), Lanair, Lawana (Morris), Bulan (Joanna), Norlene (Robinson), Verla (Wheeler) and Davida (Baumgardner).
Earlier, David attended Brigham Young Academy, taking a commercial course and graduating Dec. 22, 1893. He used this education in business, accounting and bookkeeping for the remainder of his life.
In addition to the “firsts” mentioned above, he also operated the first ice plant in the building now known as Bush & Shurtz. The first streetlights in Pima down the middle of the street were his achievement. He played a leading role in the Mt. Graham Lumber Co., which constructed the flume to bring logs from the mountain to the Valley floor. He did carpentry, electrical and plumbing work for many years. Many of the homes in Pima and in the Valley he built, remodeled or repaired.
He was personally a religious man and very civic-minded. He was the Pima Ward bishop at age 26. For many years, he was choir director and sang in the choir. He played the guitar in a dance band that held dances above the Weech Store.
He gave service on the school board, on the town council, was mayor and justice of the peace. He was postmaster for 18 years and Pima’s town clerk for 20 years, a position his daughter, Norlene Robinson, also filled many years later.
Mount Graham was a special place for him, and he was happy throughout his life to spend time there. He had a cabin there, and his families spent summers in the cool. He helped build the ward church cabin at Columbine. Another of his firsts was the water tank for cabins at Columbine.
David Weech was a patient, kind, compassionate man, a man of great energy and vision, always thinking of ways to improve things in the community for his family members and fellow men. He passed from this life March 21, 1958, at the age of 82, leaving a great posterity.