Zane Grey Q&A w. Lita Nicholson
When was Zane Grey born?
He was born on January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio. His name was originally Pearl Zane Gray. He changed it to Zane Grey after he wrote his first western novel.
Was he married?
Yes. He married Lina Roth in 1905. He always called her Dolly and she called him Doc. She managed the family business and did all the editing of his manuscripts. He traveled extensively all his life, gathering material for his stories – she never traveled with him.
Did he have any children?
He had two sons and a daughter. His daughter Betty died in January 2007, in California. His oldest son Romer is deceased, and his youngest son Loren died in February 2007, in Woodland Hills, California.
Zane Grey in Payson
How did Mr. Grey discover Payson?
Grey heard about Payson from guide Lee Doyle, who introduced him to Babe Haught. Haught became Grey’s hunting guide and friend.
How did he travel to Payson?
Grey came by train to Flagstaff and then rode by horseback to Payson, stopping at Tonto Natural Bridge. The ride from the bridge to Payson took four and a half hours.
His Books and Movies
How many books did he write?
He wrote 64 novels and over 300 short stories.
Is it true that he was the best-selling author of all time?
Yes. Only copies of the Bible exceeded his book sales. So far, over 250 million copies of his books have been published in 23 languages and continue to sell today.
How many books did he write about Arizona?
He wrote 23 books about Arizona, and 13 of those were written about the area around Payson. The most popular western of all time, Riders of the Purple Sage, was written about northern Arizona.
How many movies were made from his stories?
113 movies were made from his books and stories, and 129 TV shows were produced.
Are his books still available?
Yes. They still publish approximately 250,000 paperbacks a year, and nearly every library retains a set of his books.
Did Mr. Grey record or base his books and stories on actual events (wars, feuds, etc.), or were they all created in his imagination?
Most of Grey’s stories were based on actual events and people.
What observations of Payson, its history or its people are described or immortalized in Mr. Grey’s books and articles?
Grey described Payson as an old hamlet, retaining many frontier characteristics such as old board and stone houses with high fronts, hitching posts, and pumps on sidewalks, with one street so wide that it resembled a Mexican plaza. Payson contained two stores.
Can you suggest three or four books that people should read to get an idea of Mr. Grey’s work? (One or two should be Arizona based, if possible.)
Everyone should read Grey’s Tales of Lonely Trails (the Tonto Basin section). The Drift Fence, The Hash Knife Outfit, Under the Tonto Rim, and To the Last Man.
His Hunting Lodge in Payson
Did Mr. Grey build the original cabin himself, or did he rent or purchase it?
In 1921, Zane Grey sent Anderson Lee “Babe” Haught $3500 to have a cabin built. A carpenter named Barton was in charge, with the Haught family helping with the construction. Included in the $3500 was 3 acres of land for the cabin site.
What is the name of the nearest river or stream?
Tonto Creek is the nearest stream to Zane Grey’s original cabin.
Did Zane Grey want a log cabin when he asked Haught to construct one?
Yes. Haught told Grey that the carpenters couldn’t get the logs cut, peeled, and cured in time, so Grey sent them another set of plans which was used to construct the original cabin and was identical to the one you are in now.
I’ve read descriptions of the cabin as sparse and bare. I understand Mr. Grey was an outdoors type, sleeping in a tent outside the cabin.
Grey slept in a tent.
How far away was Mr. Grey’s cabin from town?
The original cabin was 17 miles east of Payson.
Where else did Mr. Grey have cabins?
Grey also had a small fishing cabin in Oregon.
Before the cabin was destroyed in the Dude Fire, was it a museum? Private property?
The cabin was a museum on private property before it burned in the Dude Fire in June 1990.
Why wasn’t the new cabin built at the original site?
The original site is now gated private land and was not available. The current owner did allow us to retrieve approximately 3 tons of the original stone used in the foundation and chimney, and some of that was incorporated into the cabin you are in.
Hunting and Fishing
Was he a sportsman?
He was a great hunter of bear, deer, turkey, and mountain lion here in Arizona. He would spend every fall in the 1920s at his hunting lodge (Zane Grey Cabin). In 1929, over a dispute with the Game & Fish Commission, he vowed to leave Arizona and never return. He never did return. He was also a world-renowned big game fisherman, who set many world records, several of which still hold.
Was he rich?
He was one of the richest men in America in the 1920s but spent it very extravagantly. They were nearly broke in the depression of the 1930s, and Grey finally had to allow the printing of Zane Grey comic books – which he disliked – to bring in more income.
When did he die?
He died in 1939 at his mansion in Altadena, California, of a heart attack.
For additional reading Rim Country Museums recommends Thomas H. Pauly's book ZANE GREY: His Life - His Adventures - His Women, currently available to order from our online Gift Shop and for purchase at our Gift Shop in Payson.