Arizona Highways

When I shared a few rare pictures from the Stofer family scrapbook while writing about Ben Stofer proudly showing off his new automobile on the streets of Lovewell circa 1913, and about his father Jacob’s jaunt to the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, and the party of family members mourning the death of Ben and Mary Stofer’s baby in 1898, I wasn’t aware of a particular thread that directly connects all three.  What those events have in common is Arizona J. White, the man who married Jacob G. Stofer’s daughter Mary Belle in 1888.

Arizona White and Mary

He's standing at the side of Mary Belle among the somber group which gathered to support Ben and Mary Stofer in a moment of grief.  Five years earlier he had accompanied his father-in-law Jacob Stofer to Chicago, where the pair probably took in an early performance of “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” before strolling the streets of the White City to have a peek at the wonders waiting for America just beyond the horizon.  And, finally, Arizona White may have been the man who sold Ben Stofer his first Chevy.

Arizona or “Zona” James White was the son of George L. White, a Civil War veteran from Ohio who moved to Kansas in 1875.  While running a hotel in Belleville, White was elected to two terms in the Kansas Legislature.  Five years later he moved to Scandia where he was quickly appointed the town’s postmaster, had a later career as a druggist, and was elected mayor in 1901.  When George White died in 1906 his loss was worth a double headline and a photo in the Belleville Telescope.  Only three years later a story involving his son Arizona made headlines of its own.


Rock Island Passenger Knocks Zona White’s Buick Auto From Track at Rydal - Total Wreck

Mr. White left Belleville about the middle of the afternoon for Scandia.  In going over the heavy crossing grade at Rydal his machine went “dead” squarely upon the crossing, with the train approaching a few rods distant under full steam.  There was no time to consider ways and means of escape, so close was the approaching train, and the best Mr. White could do was to jump for his life.  Mr. White says he has been placed in more or less embarrassing positions before, has looking into the ends of large sized guns, etc., but that the headlight on that engine that day looked to be about fifty feet in diameter.

We understand Mr. White, through his attorneys, has filed a bill against the Rock Island for damage to the value of his auto, holding contributory negligence on the part of the railway company.

As early as 1910 the census was describing Arizona J. White as a salesman in the automotive industry.  According to a later item in the Telescope, White had opened the official Chevrolet dealership in Belleville by 1914.  Another advertisement in the Scandia paper in April 1917 for “this fine NEW little car” boasted of  booming Chevrolet sales while trying to tamp down persistent rumors of hardware problems.

Zona White of Belleville has sold 50 since the first day of last December, and he is having no trouble.  We know the first ones sold in Concordia, gave some spring trouble and some rear axle trouble.  This has all been fixed by the Chevrolet Motor Company and the car is now making good all over Kansas.”

Judging from the 1913 or 1914 photo of Ben Stofer’s early edition of the Chevrolet, by 1917 automobiles had come a long way in a short time.  Later verbiage in the advertisement almost make them sound like  modern machines.

This little car has the things on it (besides being a fine little Automobile) that you want on a car you drive.  Electric Starter, no cranking your head off, the wife can drive this car.  Electric Lights, Adjustable wind shield, Mohair top, same sized tires, 30 x 3 ½ all around, (demountable rims if you want them).  Speedometer, sight feed on dash for the oil, foot feed for gas, electric horn, honey comb radiator, fenders put on the car good and strong, they do not rattle and annoy you, thirty horse power motor, we could devote a whole page to telling you about this fine little car.

Come down and see it, ride in it, buy it.

 Many did just that.  1914 was a great year to get into the automobile business.  It was the year when final plans were drawn up for the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, a time when all of America seemed primed to take a road trip of historic proportions.

Photograph courtesy of Ashley Gresham

© Dale Switzer 2023