Southern Utah News Articles
Heritage Happenings - The Roll Away Saloon
“This is quite a notorious story on the Arizona Strip because it involves liquor. As far as I can remember, all the cowboys liked to drink alcohol. Oh, boy, they’d drink home brewed; they’d drink lemon extract and vanilla extract. The freighters couldn’t get it in there fast enough. The stores would sell out right away. That’s a fact.
So they built this little saloon and it was right on the Arizona-Utah line four miles south of Kanab and four miles north of Fredonia about seven or eight rods to the west of the present highway. It was kind of a two-room affair, with a bar at one end and the barkeeper’s bedroom at the other end.
It wasn’t very large, maybe twelve by eighteen feet, but it created a bit of disturbance among the Mormon housewives of Fredonia and Kanab because their men would come staggering up home on their horses, too late for dinner, unable to take their saddles off. So the men of these towns, fearing their women, built this saloon on rollers, log rollers that went clear under the joist.
Well, one day when the women of the Relief Society up to Kanab got together sewing and having a quilting bee, they decided among themselves that too many of their men were going down imbibing at this Roll Away Saloon.
So they organized a posse to go and burn the thing down. And their plans were kept a secret from their husbands, of course. So when the men all went out on the range or out in the fields or doing something, the women saddled up their horses, a lot of them rode, and some of them took their white tops (four wheels with a framework like a small covered wagon), and they headed for this saloon.
Just fortunately for the saloonkeeper there, there’s a little raise of land to the north about a quarter mile from the saloon, and on the south side there’s also a little incline up to a little ridge there, what we call Halfway Hill.
And sure enough, this saloonkeeper saw the dust coming from these women on horseback, and these four or five white-tops as they came over the rise. And he got the crowbar and rolled the saloon back into Arizona.
The women got down there and were all ready to light their torches, they had their bundles all ready, when the saloon keeper said, “You can’t touch this business; it’s in Arizona. We don’t belong to Utah at all. There’s the line.”
It was well paved, the line was, and it always had been. So they had a little confab, then said to the saloon keeper, “Well, if you sell our men anymore liquor, we’ll get you next time.” So they went back home all disgusted that they couldn’t go over into Arizona and wreck that place, and went back to their quilting.
Well, anyway, in a few days or a few weeks maybe, why the women down in Fredonia would be doing the same thing, quilting and making things for the needy and so forth. They would find out that their husbands had been spending all the spare cash up there at the Roll Away Saloon, so they’d organize a posse and here they would come.
They’d come over that little ridge down there a quarter mile from the saloon and the saloonkeeper’d see them coming, and it’d just take a few little pushes on those crowbars under the logs under the saloon, and over she’d go, over into Utah. The women would come up and the same thing would happen.
“You can’t touch me, I’m over here in Utah. Look there, there’s the line.” So the women would give up, threatening, and go back to Fredonia. And this went on for years.
Well, now, that’s the Roll Away Saloon story and I guess I’m the only one that ever told it. And I think if you want to take a picture, you might find a few of those old rollers still rotting over there.”
(Roland W. Rider as told to Deirdre M. Paulsen, “The Roll Away Saloon,” in “The Roll Away Saloon: Cowboy Tales of the Arizona Strip.” – Utah State University Press, 1985)
(Historical research selections presented by James Page, a volunteer historian at the Kanab Heritage Museum.)