No discussion about Grand Canyon is complete without a tip of the hat to the entrepreneurs, visionaries, and hustlers who developed Grand Canyon Village around the turn of the last century. William Owen “Buckey” O’Neill was one of the most ambitious (and colorful). A Missouri transplant, Buckey lived throughout Arizona and made a living as a newspaperman, sheriff, tax assessor, miner, school superintendent, and mayor of nearby Prescott.
His most ambitious endeavor was to attempt to finance and build the first railroad to reach the Grand Canyon. He and his business partners went broke in the effort, though the Santa Fe railroad finished the job in 1901, cementing Grand Canyon Village as the primary tourist destination forevermore.
Buckey was fatally shot during the Spanish-American War while fighting alongside Teddy Roosevelt as one of the famed “Rough Riders.” Buckey’s former cabin still stands along the South Rim adjacent to the Bright Angel Lodge. A magnificent rock formation beneath the South Rim was named “O’Neill Butte” in his honor.