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Father of the Western Novel

Zane Grey Cabin In Payson, AZ

Zane Grey Cabin In Payson, AZ

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Zane Grey, the greatest storyteller of the American West, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on January 31, 1872. Zane's ancestors had been vigorous, illustrious pioneers in America's "First West", the historic Ohio Valley, and his boyhood thrill at their adventures would eventually motivate Grey to novelize both his family's own story and the stories of many another pioneer homesteader, farm wife, rancher, cowhand, naive Eastern belle, camp follower, miner, Indian youth, trail driver, railroad man, desperado, buffalo hunter, soldier, gambler, wanderer and poor wayfaring stranger, as the great migration Westward coursed in waves across the continent.


In his youth Zane Grey was a semi-professional baseball player and a half-hearted dentist, having studied dentistry to appease his father while on a baseball scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. But he wanted

above all to write, and taught himself to write with much stern discipline so as to free his innate and immense storytelling capacity. Many a lean year came and went as he waited for a publisher to finally recognize a best-seller when it saw one. For Zane Grey became the best-selling Western author of all time, and for most of the teens, 20s, and 30s, had a least one novel in the top ten every year.


His marriage in 1905 to Lina Roth, whom he called Dolly, was a triumph of the old-fashioned "complementary" model of matrimony, wherein the husband ranges freely to sustain the inspiration for his calling, in this case the writing of adventure-romances, and the wife tends the family, edits the manuscripts, and makes deals with the publishers. It is fair to say that Dolly's belief in Zane's calling was the single factor most responsible for the success of his lengthy career. Their first home was a farm house on 3 acres that Zane Grey bought before they were married, but the couple soon moved to a home on land her family owned on the Delaware River in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

Zane and Dolly had three children: Romer, Betty, and Loren. Romer and Betty were born in New York City while Loren was born in Middleton, NY.

The breakthrough success of Heritage of the Desert in 1910 enabled Zane Grey to establish a home in Altadena, California, and a hunting lodge on the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Arizona; and the family of five moved West for good. A lifelong passion for angling and the rich rewards of his writing also allowed Grey to roam the world's premier game-fishing grounds in his own schooner and reel in several deep-sea angling records which stood for decades. A prodigiously prolific writer, Grey would spend several months each year gathering experiences and adventures, whether on "safari" in the wilds of Colorado or fishing off Tahiti, and then spend the rest of the year weaving them all into tales for serialization, magazine articles, or the annual novel.

Zane Grey wrote to live and lived to write -- surely a balance rarely attained -- until his untimely death of heart failure on October 23, 1939. When all the posthumous works were finally published, many years later, he left us almost 90 books in print, of which about 60 are Westerns, 9 concern fishing, and 3 trace the fate of the Ohio Zanes, the rest being short story collections, a biography of the young George Washington, juvenile fiction and baseball stories. Readers of Zane Grey today will feel cast over them the same spell of adventure, character, natural beauty and uniquely American idealism as did his readers half a century ago.

Early Zane Grey History written by: Marian Kester Coombs 


The First Zane Grey Cabin In Rim Country

Zane Grey first came to Rim Country in 1918.  Two things happened:  One, he met Babe Haught and the rest of the Haught family and two, he fell in love with the area.  By 1921 he had the original Zane Grey Cabin built which he always called his “hunting lodge” under the Rim and came, most years, in the fall to hunt and write until 1929. 

In 1929 he brought a film crew to Rim Country to film a bear hunt, apparently unaware that the hunting season had been changed.  He attempted to get a special license but was denied.  This disagreement led Grey to vow to never return to Arizona.  The cabin was left abandoned for over 30 years.  For several years Babe and Elma “Ellie” Haught looked after the cabin and Ellie continued to look after it even after Babe died until she was no longer able to spend the summers at their cabin.  Eventually, time, the elements, and vandalism, reduced the cabin to a tattered shell.


The Second Zane Grey Cabin

In 1963, Bill Goettl purchased the cabin and restored it with the intention of turning it into a summer place for his family.  After Mr. Goettl died, his family turned it into a private museum.  When people say they have seen the “original” cabin, this is generally the one they are talking about.  The picture to the right is of the Zane Grey Cabin after Dude Fire destroyed it.


The Third Zane Grey Cabin (Replica)

In June of 1990 the Dude Fire burned the cabin to the ground along with 58 other homes, 28,000 acres of forest and, most tragically, took the lives of six firefighters.  Over the years some attempts were made to acquire the property but in 1998 a partnership purchased a large parcel of land, including the site of the cabin, and began to subdivide it.  The Zane Grey Cabin Foundation was organized, with Dick Wolfe as president, and this organization led a successful campaign to raise the funds necessary to build a replica cabin on property owned by the Northern Gila County Historical Society, Inc.  The replica is a faithful copy of the original made from local Ponderosa pine trees.  The replica was dedicated in 2005.


We would like to publicly thank all members of the board of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation and all others who were involved with this project for making it possible for so many people to renew their acquaintance with Zane Grey’s life and writings and for others to be introduced to the master of the American Western Novel.


  • Dick Wolfe, President

  • Conrad Okerwall, 2nd Vice President

  • Marilyn Wolfe, Treasurer

  • Jim Buettner

  • Beth Lynch Counceller, first Vice President

  • Barbara Gustafson, Secretary

  • Duane Atterberry

  • Tom McGuiggan

  • Beverly Okerwall

  • Judy Smith


Cabin information provided by the Northern Gila County Historical Society - All Rights Reserved.  For more info visit

For more detailed information, please see the following references:

Zane Grey: A Documented Portrait. G.M. Farley. Portals.
Zane Grey First Editions. 1986. Lloyd Rogers. Portals Press.
An Annotated Zane Grey Checklist. G.M. Farley. Amereon House.
The Many Faces of Zane Grey. G.M. Farley. Silver Spruce Publishing.
Zane Grey: Romancing the West. Stephen J. May. Ohio University Press.
Maverick Heart. The Further Adventures of Zane Grey. Stephen J. May. 
Ohio University Press.
Zane Grey's Arizona. Candace C. Kant. Northland Press.
Zane Grey: A Photographic Odyssey. Loren Grey. Taylor Publishing.
Ace of Hearts: The Westerns of Zane Grey. Arthur G. Kimball. TCU Press.
Zane Grey: Man of the West. Jean Karr. Grossett & Dunlap.
Zane Grey: The Man and His Work. Autobiography. Harpers and Brothers.
Zane Grey. Carleton Jackson. Twayne Publishers.

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