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H2O Spelled Development for Sedona

By Sedona Historical Society

Back in the early days of Sedona, the only water source was Oak Creek. From the late 1800s, settlers spent many back-breaking hours hauling water.

By 1945, Sedona was still a tiny community on the banks of the creek consisting mainly of a school, a ranger station and a combination general store/cafe/ gas station/post office/ice house.

A mile from town, west on Hwy 89A, was an open area near beautiful red rock cliffs. It was an ideal building site and property sold for $10-25/acre, less if you were talking cash. Sounds like a good deal, but several people had tried dry farming the land and had starved out. There just wasn’t enough water.

Then, in 1948 Carl E. Williams, son of a well driller and holder of a degree in geology, came to Arizona to recover his health, and Sedona would never be the same.

In 1946, Williams was pronounced an arthritic invalid whose only slim chance of survival was to sell his prosperous business in Oregon and move to Arizona. Fanny Belle Gulick was one of the area’s largest land holders, including several acres along Hwy 89A in now West Sedona.

Known as a sharp business woman (she denied being a former madame), the widow Gulick called Williams and they made a deal. A well would cost her nothing unless it came in. If it came in, Williams would get a deed to several acres of her property and they would part friends.

Coming to Sedona, he met with all the “local experts” who were skeptical at best. The U.S. Forest Service ranger was a geologist and as far as he knew there was no appreciable underground water. A member of the geology department of the University of Arizona concurred.

Williams studied the 12 inches or less of precipitation the area received. He studied the heavy snowfall on the Mogollon Rim and observed natural artesian springs in the area. After comparing precipitation minus evaporation minus transpiration minus run-off, there was a lot of unaccounted-for water. Where was it? Water wasn’t pouring out of the cliff faces. And how about Page Springs’ high output and Montezuma Well as an unfailing water source for centuries!

His instincts told him there must be fissures and crevices feeding the excess flow into aquifers under the redlands. And so he dug, and the widow Gulick’s well came in a few feet from where Williams predicted it would.

This well was an occasion of tremendous celebration for the whole area. Williams staged an open house picnic and hundreds came. After that, Williams and his son Earl, drilled more than 50 successful wells in the area. For a time, they kept two well-drilling rigs busy year around and their business expanded around the state. People stopped Williams on the street to order a well or simply to shake the hand of the man who brought water to this dusty little village.

With water in Grasshopper Flats and Big Park, the real estate boom began, and housing moved from the canyon to the flats.

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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 am with the last tour beginning at 3 pm. 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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