Sometimes, history stands and stares at you in the face. Monuments command your attention saying, “Remember me.” Other times, history whispers from the dust. For the Crismon family in Mesa, history whispers from a curve in the road.
Born in Kentucky in 1807, Charles Crismon, Sr., is one of four men recognized as a founding father of the Mesa settlement.
As a grown man, Charles joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His parents didn’t approve. As a result, he changed his name from Christman to Crismon. Charles’ wife, Mary Hill, also called Polly, also did not share Charles’ sentiment towards this new religion until years later.
Anywhere the Crismon family went, their entrepreneurial spirit seemed a Midas touch in businesses such as milling, freighting, sheepherding, mining, and farming. Charles built the first grist mill in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. When gold was discovered in California, he took his family and, according to his daughter, harvested $100 a day from the American River. Charles even hired Wyatt Earp in his freight business. Later, Charles, Sr., George Sirrine, Charles’ son-in-law, and Isaac Williams secured and developed land in the San Bernardino Valley.
Based on his accomplishments, Charles and his family didn’t seem to shy away from risks, starting over and traversing the road less traveled.
Called by the prophet Brigham Young, Charles Crismon, Sr., turned 70 years old on Christmas Day en route to resettle in Arizona. Upon his arrival, he secured a desirable area for his family to begin farming near ancient canals. Despite naysayers, Crismon and others would overcome obstacles to bring water to the mesa.
East of Gilbert and McDowell, the homestead was built in the late 19th century. The farm remained in the family for three generations. Not a decade after its construction, the Crismons installed indoor plumbing. The farm peaked nearly 60 years ago, diminishing to four acres in 2006.
Almost twenty years ago, Charles H. Crismon, great-grandson of Charles Crismon, Sr., sold the farm to Mesa for $244,504, with a verbal assurance that the homestead would be turned into a hub for a trail network being developed near the farm.
As ADOT drew a path for the 202 freeway in northern Mesa, the Crismons applied and received a historical exception. The freeway’s path curved around the property. Despite its ties to Mesa’s history and promises to memorialize the area, the homestead was demolished nearly fifteen years ago.
The large swath of lilies of the Nile along the front porch are gone. The porch is gone, too. The citrus and pomegranate trees are gone. Occasional hoodlums no longer frequent the watermelon patch. All that remains are memories, a dormant hope for a promise kept and a distinct curve in the road.