Genealogy Trails     Arizona Trails


Coconino County is one of the vast slices pared off in the early days of Arizona's history from Yavapai County — the mother of Arizona counties. Imagine an area as large as all Vermont and all Massachusetts, with little Rhode Island thrown in — an area across which 'the Grand Canyon is cut in all its sublime glory, an area in which stands in solemn majesty one of the most, if not the most, beautiful and inviting mountain cluster in the United States — the San Francisco range, 12,611 feet above sea level — this is Coconino County.

In this county is Sunset Crater, and the vast lava- fields, which with their outlying connections are far larger and more wonderful than the classic lava flows of southern France; in these are found wonderful ice- caves, and in prehistoric times Indians made their cave- dwellings in holes which they found almost ready-made for the purpose. Near by are deep clefts in the earth locally known as Bottomless Pits, made by the flowing of the acid-charged waters which disintegrated the limestone and washed it away to deeper depths, and a few miles further on one's pathway is barred by another deep gash in the earth — Walnut Canyon — in which are many of the earliest cliff-dwellings made accessible to tourists in this country of cliff-dwellings. To the east is Black Mountain, from which one can carry away a million tons of disintegrated lava that, to the eye of the initiated, appears exactly like coarse gunpowder: and still further is Canyon Diablo — the Canyon of the Devil — doubtless so called by the early day pioneers, who, with their slow going ox-teams, felt it was an invention of the devil to retard their progress to the " glorious land of Californy " to which they were hastening as fast as their plodding oxen would take them. Slightly to the east and south of Canyon Diablo is Meteorite Mountain — it, Sunset Crater, and the Lava Fields having already been described in another chapter. To the north is the Painted Desert, these Lava Fields, Black Mountain and the rest being but outposts or sentinels, as it were, to the land of the vivid color beyond. In the Painted Desert, swimming like ocean birds in the blue of the pure Arizona atmosphere, are the Mogollon Buttes, remarkable basalt figures that tower 10,000 feet or more into the air. Yonder, a little north and east, is the noted Spanish province of Tusayan — the home of the Hopi Indians, whose marvelous Snake Dance has attracted savants and curious sight-seers from all quarters of the globe. Not far from this region of marvels is the Navaho Reservation with its Monument Valley, where are rocky towers and temples that dwarf into insignificance the figures of the Garden of the Gods and Monument Park in Colorado. Within a few miles is Sagi Canyon in which are found Betatakin and Kitsiel, those astounding cliff-dwellings first seen by a white man less than a couple of decades ago. Here, too, close by as distances are reckoned in this country of big distances, is Navaho Mountain. This peak is just over the boundary line of Coconino County, in Utah, and it overlooks what is commonly known as the Four Corners. This is the place where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet. Here is a radius of the wildest, most rugged, most tumbled, rocky waste in the United States, an area half as large as the State of New York that no white man has yet explored, or even prospected. A few have seen it, fewer still have skirted its wild edges, half a hundred, perhaps, have dared to cross it, and one-tenth of that number have made strenuous endeavor to find out a little more of its marvels. Why go to Asia, or to the heights of the Himalayas, or the Andes of the South, when here are places that challenge the strength, the power, the endurance of the explorer? And it is a region of color, too, that surpasses the most extravagant endeavor of either writer or painter to portray. A La Farge, a Reid, a Moran, a Turner, a Tintoretto, a Titian, a Velasquez aided by all the more and most daring of the modern painters of the greatest of schools might suggest its color extravagances, but even though the artist were to paint it ever so well there isn't a person in the world who would believe it meant anything real — so why imagine the artists attempting it ?

In the eastern part of the county the Little Colorado River flows, coming down from the far-away White Mountains, its course beautifully lined with giant willows and cottonwoods until it reaches Grand Falls, where it descends one hundred and twenty-five feet over the solid cliffs, four hundred feet wide, and soon thereafter enters a narrow, deep and abysmal canyon ere it unites with the water of the main Colorado River.

On and near the Little Colorado many cliff-dwellings and other ruins have been found; indeed, these have been made the subject of a monograph by Dr. J. W. Fewkes, of the Smithsonian Institution, and many scores of fine pieces of prehistoric pottery now adorn the shelves and cases of the National and other museums collected from this region.

Working around to the southeast one passes bridges which have recently been constructed — and nine miles south of Flagstaff Lake Mary is reached, a beautiful camping and fishing rendezvous in the heart of the pines. Still further to the south one drops over the rim of the Mogollon Plateau and finds himself in Oak Creek, where trout abound to the delight of the fisherman.

Twenty-three miles from Flagstaff, to the southeast, is Mormon Lake, a fine body of water five miles long and three miles wide.

In the next chapter, devoted to Williams, many more interesting facts about Coconino County are related, which have supplied the scientist and novelist with more material than, perhaps, any other similar sized area in the world. Within the borders of Coconino County Capt. Clarence Button gained the major part of the material incorporated in his Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, a heavy and ponderous tome, which, however, contains some of the most vivid and enchanting prose-poems of powerful description in the English language ; here Major Powell gained much material for his writings on Indians and Cliff- and Cave-dwellings, and his trip through the " Canyons of the Colorado " naturally brought him directly across Coconino County. The great biologist, C. Hart Merriam, wrote one of his earliest and most treasured monographs on The Biology of the San Francisco Mountain Region, and to this day this fascinating account is referred to and quoted liberally.

While the experts of the Forestry Service have found the trees of the county a worthy subject for a large and illuminating monograph, Professor F. L. Noble came and studied the Grand Canyon, in the region of the Bass Trail, and wrote his interesting bulletin entitled: The Shinumo Quadrangle, Grand Canyon District, Arizona.

One of the professors of the Geological Survey spent some time in the Petrified Forest and has written much and learnedly upon the Fossil Forests of Arizona. Many scientists, also, have been interested and have written much about the wonderful Meteorite Mountain referred to in another chapter, and almost the entire portion of a large folio volume was devoted by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes to the Cliff-Dwellings and open ruins of the Little Colorado River region, most, if not all, of which, are in Coconino County.

Nor is this all: Betatakin and Kitsiel — the great Cliff-Dwellings of the Navaho Reservation — have a special bulletin devoted to them written by Dr. Fewkes, and Dr. Byron Cummings, the eminent archaeologist of the University of Arizona, has a monograph ready for publication upon these interesting memorials of the past.

Then when one thinks of the scientific monographs of the U. S. Bureau of Ethnology upon the Hopis and their ceremonies, and the Navahos and their equally interesting dances and other ceremonies, together with the monographs issued by the Field Columbian Museum of Chicago, written by Professor George A. Dorsey, and the Rev. H. R. Voth; of Marah Ellis Ryan's remarkable Love Letters of an Indian, in which a white woman seeks to penetrate into the mysteries of a Hopi Indian's heart experiences, and with flashes of intuition and insight and a rare literary delicacy presents them to her readers, and in addition considers the numberless magazine and newspaper articles upon the Indians, their varied ceremonials, their life, their industries, their social customs, etc., the list becomes considerably enlarged.

Then it must be noted that the pages written by Charles F. Lummis and others, in The Land of Sunshine and Out West, devoted to Coconino County alone, would fill a good-sized book.

In addition there are the novels of Zane Grey, half a dozen of them, referring to the region of, or contiguous to, Coconino County, and all of which are well worth reading. Especially worthy of note is his Last of the Great Plainsmen,— the story of Buffalo Jones's experiences on the Kaibab Plateau, on the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, giving thrilling and exciting adventures lassoing unusually large and ferocious mountain lions in the tall timber and among the rugged cliffs of that land of tumbling and gigantic rocks. I have overlooked Kirk Munroe's fascinating novel, The Painted Desert, and General Charles King's Sunset Pass, both dealing with the country either in or very close to Coconino County.

What, then, does this recital mean? Nothing more than that Coconino County has been the inspiration for a large literature, and that fact alone reveals its fascination, interest and allurement to the traveler, sight-seer, and scientist.

The chief city of Coconino County is Flagstaff. This is on the main line of the Santa Fe transcontinental line, six thousand nine hundred and eighty-seven feet above sea level, and so located that its citizens have the most wonderful views daily of the great San Francisco peaks that overshadow it. I have watched these mountains in the early morning hours from the west when they were a deep maroon, shaded here and there with the snow which had a softening, lace-like effect. The ridges in front were a deep greenish black, the color becoming more intense, until the sun burst over the mountain's shoulder and flooded the whole scene with its vivid morning light. Then, through the day, I have watched change after change, until, an hour before sunset, the eyes were dazzled by the glory, beauty and sublimity of the scene, the sun finally setting in a blaze of gold and scarlet, leaving maroons, lakes, pinks, reds, and grays upon the peaks behind.

Climatically, Flagstaff is highly favored. Owing to its close proximity to the mountains it is never excessively hot in summer. In winter it has a decided winter climate, ranging from warm to cold. At times snow falls heavily, giving that real dash of winter feeling that stimulates one to activity and vigor. In the summer months it is especially adapted as a pleasure resort, its elevation, its coolness, its glorious pines, its bodies of water and excellent fishing combining attractions not dreamed of by those who only know Arizona of the south.

The perfection of its atmosphere may well be understood from the fact that when the eminent astronomer, Percival Lowell, was looking for a site for his astronomical observatory to follow up his remarkable studies of Mars, he finally chose the crest just overlooking Flagstaff. There all his important telescopic observations and photographs of Mars were made that have led to so much discussion throughout the astronomical world, and attracted the attention of all astronomers to Arizona and its pine-clad city of Flagstaff.

Then, too, when it was decided to establish a State Normal School for the northern portion of Arizona, Flagstaff was unanimously chosen as the natural location, and one has but to see the healthy, vigorous, robust young men and women now taking their courses here to realize that the choice has been perfectly justified. A more ruggedly healthy set of students it has never been my privilege to see.

Located on the National Old Trails Highway, it is essentially the pictorial and scenic route between the East and the West. When Lieutenant Beale crossed the continent from Galveston, Texas, with his herd of camels, just prior to Civil War times, it was over the 35th parallel, the one practically followed by the Santa Fe Railway today. One might write many pages of romantic fact about this interesting and almost forgotten page in the history of American transportation, when Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War for the Federal government, was induced to experiment with camels as beasts of burden for use over the desert areas of the West. In every way the camels proved satisfactory as carriers. They were able to bear heavy loads and to travel long distances between sun up and sun set, but there were two serious objections to them: First. They ate so much that it was impossible to carry food for them, so they were turned loose at night to forage for themselves. When their drivers sought them in the morning they found the camels had traveled such great distances that the day was gone ere they were able to capture them and return to their starting points. Then, second, they so dreadfully scared the mules of the rest of the train that they would run away, scatter the contents of their peaks over the desert, and generally cause demoralization on every hand. Hence the experiment was denounced as a failure, and Lieutenant Beale was sent with the camels to see if they could not be used somehow on the Pacific Coast. The same objections held here, and the animals were finally sold or turned loose, a solitary creature even to-day now and then being seen by hunters in the remoter corners of the Colorado Desert.

Travelers, therefore, whether riding on the trains or coming in their own automobiles are on an historic and famous road. And at Flagstaff they find a suitable radiating spot for a large number of the wonders of our marvelous Arizona. The chief drawback is that Flagstaff has no first-class tourist hotel, and until this great need is supplied the city must naturally suffer. Yet those who are prepared to care for themselves should not fail to enjoy what this region affords. For instance, who can resist the temptation to ascend the San Francisco peaks? One may drive half of the eleven miles to the summit, and then ride or climb the rest of the way. On the summit, on a clear day,— and most days are clear here — one sees two hundred miles in every direction, to the faraway Buckskin Mountains of the Kaibab Plateau, north of the Grand Canyon, over the Lava Fields to the Painted Desert of the.east, into the Tonto Basin and Red Rock country and the Verde Valley to the south and southwest, while to the west are the wonderful miles of pine-trees, comprising the greatest untouched yellow pine forest in the United States.

Nine miles to the east are the Cave-dwellings, where the ancestors of the Havasupai Indians used to live, and from which innumerable prehistoric implements and pieces of pottery have been taken. On the second arm of the triangle one drives ten miles to Walnut Canyon, where the Cliff-dwellings are, passing the Bottomless Pits on the way, and then ten miles completes the journey by returning to Flagstaff.

Oak Creek — a most delightful resort for camping, fishing and hunting — is but twenty miles away, while forty-five miles brings one over the fine state highway, to that prehistoric Cliff-dwelling, Montezuma's Castle, and another equally interesting phenomenon, Montezuma's Well, both of which are fully described elsewhere.

Twenty miles to the southeast is the famous Natural Bridge of Arizona. This was discovered by Dave Gowan in 1873. He built a small shack there, cleared off some land and planted a number of fruit trees. According to Garth W. Gates, in Arizona:

" For twenty-five years the whereabouts of Gowan were unknown to his Scottish relatives, when one day in the early nineties Mr. Goodfellow read in his copy of the Newcastle Chronicle a story by a British traveler about a remarkable natural bridge in far-off Arizona and of the old Scotchman who lived there. Thinking it might be the long-lost uncle, he wrote. Months afterward came the reply and sure enough, the Gowan of the story was the wandering kinsman. Anxious to get back to his old life of prospecting, Gowan finally prevailed on his nephew to take his young wife and three little children and make the 6000-mile trip by steamer, rail, wagon and horseback that led from the quiet little Scottish home to the wild mountain spot that seemingly offered so little.

Some day there will be a book written about Dave Gowan, his adventures as a sea captain, later as pioneer Arizonan sheep-raiser and prospector, of his work in beginning the development of the little ranch at the bridge, of the Goodfellows, of how they came, of what they did. There will be a chapter about the winding trail over which the burros hauled down a board or two at a time for the little buildings that were put up before the road was blasted out. There will be chapters about the remarkable orchard, the delicious apples, pears, apricots, peaches, flavored perfectly by the mile high climate. There will be a chapter on the old-fashioned vegetable garden, and, best of all, the old-fashioned flower beds with the hundreds of big velvety butterflies that add another lovely touch to the fairyland nature of the place. And the meals that Mrs. Goodfellow prepares are famous from Roosevelt to Flagstaff, and for a wonder are really as good as we were told they would be."

One of the Government scientists thus describes the bridge and its origin:

" The vertical distance from the top of the bridge to the creek bed is about one hundred and twenty-eight feet on the north and one hundred and fifty feet on the south end. The opening beneath the bridge averages about one hundred and forty feet in width, and the length at the narrowest place, approximately four hundred feet. The thickness of the arch is approximately seventy-five feet, leaving the height of the opening beneath the arch between sixty and seventy feet. The altitude of the bridge above the sea level is approximately four thousand seven hundred feet. The origin of the bridge is as follows:

"Several large springs that flow into the valley from the east side contain lime in solution, which, upon evaporation or loss of carbon dioxide, is deposited as travertine. For many years these springs have been depositing travertine in an old valley of erosion cut into red porphyry. As a result of this an almost level floor of travertine of approximately the same height as the springs increased in width toward the west, filling the valley until it has forced the stream against the porphyry wall on the west side. In one place the travertine was strong enough to support itself, until it was built over the stream to the opposite side of the valley, thus forming a natural bridge. The rock of which the bridge is composed is stalactite in structure and quite compact. Beneath the arch of the bridge are several caves of considerable extent, from the roof of which hang stalactites and from the floor of which stalagmites arise. These caves are reached from below by ladders which have been erected by Mr. Goodfellow, the owner of the bridge.

" The extent of the terrace above and including the bridge, is about twenty-five acres, and is covered with a good soil which is irrigated from the springs and produces abundant crops of fruit and alfalfa. A small portion of the north end of the cultivated tract is apparently not underlaid with travertine, but is formed by sediment carried in by a small stream."

Again to quote Mr. Gates:

"The first glimpse one gets from the hilltop of the little emerald gem of a ranch hundreds of feet below is as thrilling as it is beautiful, and its charm grows as one learns the story of the bridge, the farm and the road that winds so invitingly around the big hills. Of the twenty-five acres in cultivation over four are right on top of the bridge, and one walks through the alfalfa and a fine old vineyard on the way to the trail that leads down into the canyon and under the arch, and unless the guide has told you, the fact that you arc walking on the bridge is never suspected, for it's too big to be seen from the top."

Flagstaff is also the natural outfitting or starting point for the Painted Desert, the Navaho Reservation, and the Hopis. Thousands of people have already seen the Hopi Snake Dance, and hundreds of thousands will yet wish to do so, as they cross the continent. On the way to the Hopi village one may go by way of Leupp, crossing the Little Colorado River on the new $45,000 bridge now being built by the Indian Department, and where a school for the education of the Navahos is in active operation. Here about one hundred and thirty of these young Bedouins of the Painted Desert may be seen, absorbing the knowledge of the white man, and at the same time the interested visitor may see the Navahos in their summer or winter hogans, weaving their remarkable blankets, or, if one is fortunate enough to strike them at the proper time, he may see their wonderful dances. Few people dream of the fascination and thrilling enhancement of, for instance, the Navaho's Fire Dance. To see twenty, thirty naked aborigines dancing around a flaming fire of burning coals giving out so fierce a heat that an ordinary spectator must stand fifty or more feet away to be able to bear it and yet to see these natives reach down and light wands that they are carrying in their hands—these are astounding facts that one can scarcely believe. Then, when this unbelievable thing has been done, they take large handfuls of cedar bark, set fire to them, and chase each other, until one is caught and then sponge him down with the flaming brands, and one doubts whether he is not hypnotized into imagining that he sees things that do not exist. Yet a reference to the Fifth Annual Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, page 442, will reveal that what I have written here is the serious and sober truth.

So, too, with the Hopi Snake Dance. Several of my own trips to see this wondrous ceremonial have been started from Flagstaff. This dance has been so often described that to attempt it again here would be a work of supererogation. Yet no description can ever equal the reality, and no American should deem his education upon his own country complete until he has seen it. Elsewhere in these pages a very brief and condensed account of the dance will be found.

Flagstaff has long lacked a first-class tourist hotel, but just as this book is going to press the agreeable announcement is made that two of Flagstaff's most solid citizens, David Babbitt and T. A. Riordan, are about to supply the need. Plans have been made and arrangements completed for the erection of a four-storied, reinforced concrete structure, with white marble cement facing, to occupy the quarter block of one of the finest streets in the city. There are to be seventy-five rooms, each with individual bath, and the hotel will be the most complete in northern Arizona.

A theatre capable of seating four hundred people will be part of the same structure, so that two great needs of this thriving community will be met at the same time.

To the west of Flagstaff, eight miles away, is Fort Moroni, a fortress built by the Mormons to defend themselves from the Apaches, when, in 1880, they were on the warpath. The Mormons had a contract to cut ties for the new railroad, the Atlantic and Pacific — as the Santa Fe was then known. Everything seemed to be at peace until the report came to them that the Apaches were killing every white man and woman they could find. Immediately consternation reigned, and the Mormons gathered together, retreated to this spot, built the fort, and remained within or near its shelter until all danger was past. This was the last raid the Apaches ever made to the north.

It was about this time that Lieut. Charles King, now general, was seriously wounded at Sunset Crossing, some fifty miles or so east of Flagstaff, and the story of which he graphically tells in one of his novels.

The principal industries of Coconino County are cattle, sheep, and lumber. Over 100,000 cattle and 300,000 sheep are now roaming the ranges and day by day adding wealth for their owners.

A feature of the cattle industry is now being made available for the entertainment of tourists. Every August and September there occurs the annual round-up, where the cattle are gathered in from the ranges, sorted, branded, and disposed of at the will of their owners. This is a sight for a life-time, and under proper guidance can be seen by everybody who is willing to drive out into the cattle country. With such a guide as my old friend Al. Doyle, of Flagstaff, women may go with perfect confidence, assured that they will see one of the most fascinating and thrilling sights of their lives.

The largest part of Coconino County is within the Coconino National Forest, and from the trees of this forest come the logs that keep the two great lumber mills of Flagstaff, as well as three others, in active operation. The first and largest of these mills was started and operated for several years by Edward E. Ayer, who was afterwards associated with Marshall Field in the establishment of the Field Columbian Museum, of Chicago, of which he was the president for several years.

The five mills, the other three of which are located at Williams, Riordan and Cliffs, are now cutting 350,000 feet of lumber a day.

Source: Arizona, the Wonderland: The History of Its Ancient Cliff and Cave Dwellings, Ruined Pueblos, Conquest by the Spaniards, Jesuit and Franciscan Missions, Trail Makers and Indians; a Survey of Its Climate, Scenic Marvels, Topography, Deserts, Mountains, Rivers and Valleys; a Review of Its ...By George Wharton James Published by The Page Co., 1917

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