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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : people, places & past September 24, 2016

1/3/2012 1:09:00 PM
The Verde Volumes: Brief and focused glimpses of the Valley’s past
Among the dozens of written accounts of the Verde Valley are numerous books that contain a chapter of two on early exploration or early life along the Verde. The authors range from former Territorial Justice Joseph Pratt Allyn to former Camp Verde doctor Ralph Palmer, M.D.
Among the dozens of written accounts of the Verde Valley are numerous books that contain a chapter of two on early exploration or early life along the Verde. The authors range from former Territorial Justice Joseph Pratt Allyn to former Camp Verde doctor Ralph Palmer, M.D.
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Local histories
Most of these are available at valley historical societies

"Those Early Days" by the Sedona Westerners (Sedona mostly)

"By the Banks of Beaver Creek" by Till Lightbourn and Mary Lyons (Beaver Creek)

"Jess Goddard: One of Arizona's Last Old-time Cowboys" by Margaret Goddard Myhr

"Arch of Time" by Bud Purtymun (Sedona)

"Turning Back the Pages of Time" by Ellen Thompson Graves (Sedona)

"The Ghost of Cleopatra Hill" by Herbert Young (Jerome)

"They Came to Jerome" by Herbert Young (Jerome)

"Verde Valley Railroads" by Russell Wahmann

"Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Cornville History" (self described)

And any one of the half dozen Images of America Series books: Sedona, Jerome, Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Verde Valley

Steve Ayers
Staff Reporter

The all-encompassing history of the Verde Valley is a story waiting to be told.

When put in words it will have much to say about the unique landscape. It will tell of the ancient cultures and critters that once walked the land. It will tell of the European visitors and the inevitable clash between the native people and the American settlers and soldiers.

It will be a sweeping epic by any standard and a work that will, at last, paste together in a single volume the hundreds of brief and focused glimpses we now use to tell the valley's story.

What follows is a brief and focused look at those brief and focused glimpses into the past -- some old, some new, some well know, some relatively unheard of.

"Argonaut Tales" by Edmund Wells

First published in 1927, "Argonaut Tales" is the recollections of the many who would one day become Arizona's first millionaire, Edmund Wells. Long before he made his fortune, Wells was among the first men to settle in the Verde Valley, living here between 1866 and 1868.

It was a time of "troubles" with the Indians, and a time when tall tales were ripe for the picking. If there is a problem with Wells' biography it is that it was written years after the fact and many tall tales worked their way into his "history."

Nevertheless it is a good read and punctuated with many, many facts. It is out of print, but copies are available on line.

"Verde River Almanac," Diane Joens Ed.

This brightly and imaginatively covered paperback, published in 2003, is a treasure trove of fact about the valley, written by some of the valley's most gifted and passionate storytellers.

Entries by Jim Byrkit, James Bishop Jr. and Bennie Blake, mixed with the general information that makes an almanac an almanac, make this a favorite primer to learn about Verde Valley stuff in general.

The editor, now Cottonwood mayor Diane Joens, says she recently discovered a box of mint copies stowed away in her home and has them for sale while they last. She can be reached at 634-4112 or emailed at

"Verde to San Carlos" by William T. Corbusier

When the great earthquake and fire ravaged San Francisco in 1906, it took with it more than life and property. It destroyed a vast collection of dispatches and documents generated by the U. S. military as it carried out its manifest destiny in the western half of the country.

As a result, the only extant record we have of the expulsion of the Yavapai and Apache people from the Verde Valley to San Carlos is contained in the diary kept by Army surgeon Dr. William H. Corbusier, published by his son in 1971.

"Sedona Through Time" by Wayne Ranney

As a young geology student at NAU, Wayne Ranney came to the valley to write a thesis paper on the House Mountain Volcano and became enamored with the rest of the geologic record written across the landscape.

"Sedona Through Time" is his dissertation on the red rocks, the white rocks and the forces that made the valley what it is. It is a love story as much as an interpretive guide to the cryptic pages of history written in stone. It's for sale all over the place and well worth having a copy.

"Pioneer Stories of Arizona's Verde Valley"

This out-of-print classis is the closest thing we have to a history of the early Anglo settlement of the valley. Originally compiled in 1933 by the Verde Valley Pioneers Association, it is a compilation of personal recollections that includes at least one entry from nearly every pioneer family.

Hidden within the various stories is a vivid and nearly complete picture of the life along the river when little was taken for granted.

The Camp Verde Historical Society has the rights to the book and is currently trying to find all the original photos so it can be reprinted for the third time.

"A Log of the Verde" by Jim Byrkit

Just 24 pages long including a brief bibliography, "A Log of the Verde: the Taming of an Arizona River," is an obscure but important pamphlet.

Originally published in the spring 1978 edition of The Journal of Arizona History it is perhaps the earliest ode to the joys, wonders and threats to the Verde River.

Byrkit, who passed away in 2011, was the valley's consummate historian and an advocate for the Verde River when advocating for the river wasn't cool.

He wrote a number of other publications about the valley including one on the Palatkwapi Trail from the Hopi villages to the Verde, the Chaves Trail and a biography of mountain man Pauline Weaver. They are hard to find but worth the effort

"Surviving Conquest" by Timothy Braatz

There are plenty of good books on the military conquest of the valley's Yavapai and Apache, including Dan Thrapp's classics "The Conquest of Apacheria" and "Al Sieber Chief of Scouts." But histories of the conquered are rare.

The best book about the Yavapai, and by default the Apache people who inhabited the Verde Valley, is "Surviving Conquest" by scholar historian Timothy Braatz.

Meticulously researched and footnoted, it has much to say for those wishing to get a perspective from the other side of the battlefield. It's still in print.

"A Past Preserved in Stone: A History of Montezuma Castle N.M."

The National Park Service's official history of Montezuma Castle and the Montezuma Well, Josh Protas' book is also a well-researched, historically accurate view of early exploration of the valley as well as the early efforts to protect its archaeological treasures.

Buy a copy when you stop by the Castle.

This is by no means a complete list, nor is it intended to be. It is only a taste of what's out there. There are dozens of books that have chapters containing important pieces of the valley's past.

Examples are "King S. Woosley" by John Goff, which tells of Woolsey's early explorations of the Verde Valley and "The Arizona of Joseph Pratt Allyn; Letters from a Pioneer Judge," which also relates thee story of an early expedition to the Verde, by the territory's first governor, John Goodwin.

Copies of almost all of these books, and more, are available through the Yavapai County Library Network.

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