What the Inspector Found

Apache County, Arizona, Court Administrator Sueanne Czarnyszka stands next to the door to an elevator mechanical room in the courthouse basement where historic documents were discovered. The note on the door reminds everyone that storage is not allowed in the room; photo by Trudy Balcom/The Independent.

A routine elevator inspection isn’t always routine — problems that need correcting may be uncovered, and, in a worst-case scenario, the elevator may be shut down for safety reasons. But, a recent inspection at the Apache County Courthouse in St. Johns, Arizona, was unusual for an entirely different reason: it turned up a treasure trove of old papers that document the county’s early history, the White Mountain Independent reports. While conducting his check of

This colorful 1918 plat map of Apache County includes the handwritten names of property owners and a legend of the county’s original wagon trails. The map was in use until 1937; photo by Trudy Balcom/The Independent.

an elevator at the courthouse, the inspector entered a mechanical room in which boxes had been inappropriately stored. He told Court Administrator Sueanne Czarnyszka that the boxes would have to be removed, so she had the boxes taken up to her office and began inspecting their contents. What she found was amazing: For one, a 1918 color plat map of the county that had handwritten names of landowners; but, there was also a variety of legal documents, including court proceedings and attorney records. Among notable items were documents relating to landowner and pardoned criminal Phin Clanton, whose brother, Billy, was killed in the famous “Gunfight at O.K. Corral.” Phin was later suspected in an apparent revenge ambush of lawman Virgil Earp, though he was never charged.

The priceless documents are to be sent to the state archives, but they provide a valuable reminder: you never know what will turn up during a routine elevator inspection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.