The first Maricopa drug store, on the left in this south-facing photo, opened in 1956 and was owned by Dave and Nellie Kimball. Photo courtesy Maricopa Historical Society

By Maricopa Historical Society

David Patton Kimball opened the first drugstore in Maricopa in 1956. He and his wife, the former Nellie Nash, came from hardy pioneer families of Arizona.

Kimball was Maricopa’s first druggist and had been very active politically in Maricopa County. He owned and operated the first drug store chain in Phoenix and throughout Arizona called Apache Drug Stores. He was one of the oldest members of the State Board of Pharmacy and gave exams to all Arizona druggists.

Dave Kimball served as publicity chairman for the Rotary Club’s first Stagecoach Days in 1959, which also provided momentum for the new hat he was wearing the following year as Rotary’s president. Kimball was not short on references for this responsibility or for any other endeavor. He had previously served on the Phoenix City Council, was the acting mayor of Phoenix, a former supervisor of Maricopa County and a state senator.

Dave Kimball’s cousin was Spencer W. Kimball, later the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their grandfather was Heber C. Kimball. St. David, Arizona, was named for Dave’s father.

Kimball was raised on a farm in Thatcher and helped his father in the freighting business. He married Nellie when he was 21, and they became parents a year later. After Kimball returned from an LDS mission to Australia, Dr. Harvey Platt, the only physician in the Thatcher area, took him aside.

Kimball’s son Thomas later wrote: “The good doctor was very capable of expertly diagnosing illness and prescribing medicines for treatment, but had no pharmacist to formulate the medicine. Dr. Platt recognized that Father was an exceptionally intelligent and ambitious young man, so he approached him with a proposition. Dr. Platt would assist him financially if he would enroll in the school of pharmacology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and upon graduation return to Thatcher and serve the area in association with Dr. Platt as a pharmacist.”

With a growing family, Kimball took Platt up on the offer. While studying in California, he took a side job as a bookkeeper for vendors at a local farmer’s market, which also provided the Kimball family with free fruit and vegetables.

After earning his degree, Kimball and his family returned to the Gila Valley so he could fulfill his obligation to Platt.

In 1919, he opened the Apache Drug Company, reported to be the first drug store in Phoenix with a college-trained pharmacist. It was on the northwest corner of First Avenue and Adams Street.

Nellie Kimball frequently talked about the experiences of owning and operating a drug store across from the capitol building in Phoenix in the ‘40s and personally knowing most of the politicians. Also, she served for many years as chairman of the Democratic Party.

The Kimballs opened stores in Mesa, Casa Grande, Chandler, Gila Bend, Litchfield Park, Thatcher, Flagstaff, Superior, Yuma and, of course, Maricopa.

Mrs. Kimball served lunches and other goodies at the long fountain in the drugstore in Maricopa. Every day she made a huge pot of chili beans that was a favorite of the farmers. The farmers not only appreciated the food but enjoyed teasing her about current political events. She was a most devout Democrat (not a pinto Democrat, heaven forbid) and she never stood on the fence or crossed it. She had rock-solid convictions and was not afraid to voice or act upon them. She was a unique individual with a kind heart who was much-loved by all who had the privilege of knowing her.

Maricopa historian Patricia Brock wrote: “Dave and Nellie Kimball were not only loved and appreciated by the citizens of Phoenix and Maricopa, but also played an important role in my life. They allowed me to finish high school by providing me employment in the Maricopa Drug Store around my school schedule and by giving me the opportunity to live in their Phoenix home during the summer months while taking classes at a nearby high school. Their generosity will forever be remembered and treasured by all who were touched by their kindness … and especially by me.”

Nellie Kimball died in 1965. David Kimball died in 1978. They are buried at Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery in Phoenix.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.


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