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Early Pioneers Connected Sedona to the World

by Janeen Trevillyan

The ‘Y’ in Sedona is a landmark used by residents and visitors alike. This crossroads handles millions of vehicle-trips per year. But 120 years ago, the transportation routes leading in and out of town were a far cry different.

The army’s presence in Camp Verde stimulated settlement and roads. As settlements grew, roads were extended from the Camp to the Upper Verde and to Lower Oak Creek. People traveled up the stage road and followed Dry Beaver Creek into Big Park where the road branched with one branch going north into Sedona. A wagon could be driven through this landscape with little road work.

In the early 1880s, James Thompson was one of the first to take a wagon west across Dry Creek to the Upper Verde (Cottonwood area). The trip entailed using ropes to anchor the wagon to a tree to keep it right side up when crossing Dry Creek. In 1884, Henry Schuerman Sr. moved to Red Rock (near Red Rock Crossing) and worked on a road out of his place (along current Lower Loop Rd) and then to Cottonwood.

There was a strong motivation for produce growers to access a ready market in Jerome. Within a few years, local settlers had constructed usable roads that connected Sedona and Red Rock to the Upper Verde. In the 1920s, Yavapai County built a graded, but unsurfaced, two-lane road from Cottonwood to the county line (just west of today’s ‘Y’).

Originally, the only way to get to Flagstaff from Sedona was to follow a cow trail out of the canyon to a road that ran from Flagstaff south to Beaver Head Station (approximately where I-17 runs today).

sedona history

A favorite trail was the Munds Trail that came into Sedona about where Schnebly Hill Road is today. Around 1896, John Loy first undertook the construction of a road along this route. Loy hired first one other man and then a crew of three to dig a trench along the hillside to make a rut for the uphill wagon wheels to run in so that a wagon would not tip over as it traveled up the steep inclines.

Next, money was collected by subscription from mostly local    residents to help build the road. By 1901, the road was considered    passable as far as the “Merry-Go-Round” area. It was then that D.E. (Ellsworth) Schnebly, Sedona Schnebly’s brother-in-law, started a subscription petition and a small crew worked until they found that the money didn’t come through from the subscribers. A 1902, subscription petition finally finished the job.

The road was known as the Munds Road, but after the Schnebly family built a hotel near the end of the road, it became referred to as Schnebly Hill Road. The USFS quit maintaining this road in the last few years.

To exit north out of Oak Creek, settlers had a trail up to the rim of the canyon and there they left their wagons. When they traveled to Flagstaff, they would pack their horses with supplies and walk to the top of the mountain, then hitch their horses to their wagons and drive to town.

Sometime after 1900, Louis H. Thomas started work on a road from Flagstaff to his ranch on Oak Creek (at the junction of West Fork and Oak Creek). In the fall of 1906, he finished the road. It was passable by wagon. From 1907 to 1908, Albert Purtymun extended the road south to his place where Junipine Resort is today.

And, in 1912-13, Jess Purtymun, Frank L. Pendley and Charley & Jim Thompson Jr. worked to extend the wagon trail into Sedona. At this point Coconino County stepped in, built a bridge and finished the road in 1914. It crossed the creek 16 times, and every flood washed out the crossings. Beginning in 1923 and through the 1930s, a highway was built, including Midgely Bridge.

And so, Sedona became connected to the world.

 

[Sources for this story were Albert E. Thompson’s story in the Sedona Westerners’ book ‘Those Early Days,” and from other sources at the Sedona Historical Society]

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The Sedona Historical Society operates the Sedona Heritage Museum on the Jordan Farmstead at 735 Jordan Rd in Jordan Park. The Museum is open daily at 11:00 am with the last tour beginning at 3:00 pm. The Museum’s exhibits include stories of area pioneers, movies made in Sedona, cowboy life, vintage vehicles and antique orchard and fruit processing equipment demonstrations. This farm dates from Sedona’s earliest homesteaders. The red rock home and apple packing barn were built by the Jordan family in the 1930s and 1940s and are Historic Landmarks.

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