H2O Spelled Development
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.
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
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
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
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
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
With water in Grasshopper
Flats and Big Park, the real estate boom began, and housing
moved from the canyon to the flats.
* * *
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