'Post Towns' of the Verde Valley
According to the web site ghosttowns.com, ghost town busters have uncovered at least 275 ghost towns in Arizona.
Of those 275 ghost towns, 101 of them are in Yavapai County.
Over half had a post office.
According to the book Arizona Territory Post Offices and Postmasters, there were almost 100 Yavapai County communities that existed prior to statehood, which at one time or another had a Post Office and, which now, no longer exists.
It's a narrow category of communities we will call "Post Towns."
Six of them were in the Verde Valley.
The story of those six lost sites is the story of the evolution of the Verde Valley.
Some of the communities established some degree of permanence, some evolved into other things, and some simply blew away.
Some were little more than gathering places for local farmers or some one's centrally located ranch. Others were actual towns that fizzled out with the Verde Valley's mining boom.
Some of their history drifted away with the residents, but much it is recent enough to have survived in either old and worn photographs, family histories or brief mentions in obscure books on the valley's history.
Here are the six communities. Some you have probably heard of, others probably not.
Camp Verde may have the oldest Post Office in the Verde Valley, established in 1873, but the second oldest was the small ranch community of Cienega, at the head of Cienega Creek.
Interestingly, the two communities shared a common denominator.
The first Postmaster in both communities was a gentleman by the name of George Hance.
The community of Cienega first began when Hance had gave up his lucrative position at the suttler's store in Camp Verde and purchased a ranch at the head of Cieniga Creek, overlooking the Valley.
The year was 1877.
The ranch is strategically located on the road from Prescott to Camp Verde at a point when travelers stopped and rested before starting the long descent in to the valley.
We know that the Post Office only remained in its official capacity for five years, which all things considered, is not a bad run for a one-horse town.
Hance, however, was a little more resilient. After giving up his job his postal career, the life long Republican and rabid anti-prohibitionist spent the next 30 years as a Verde Valley Justice of the Peace.
Perhaps the most well known "Post Town" in the Verde Valley is the smelting town of Clemenceau. It is famous primarily because it remains one of the few communities in the country that no longer exist, but has a museum and historical society devoted to its former existence.
What many people don't know is that it began life two years before the little settlement down by the river that would one day grow to absorb it‹Cottonwood.
In its first incarnation it was known simply as Verde.
According to the records of the U.S. Postal Service, the Post Office at Verde only lasted from 1878 to 1880.
However, it was tenacious enough to hang on as a community, with or with out a Post Office.
An article in Yavapai Magazine from October 1918 describes the community, which was by then at least 40 years old, as a "temporary town of 80 frame houses, General Merchandise Store, Amusement Hall for dances and picture shows."
The article also said that the community would be receiving "a Club House for church services, pool hall, barber shop and baths for workers of the new smelter."
On April 23, 1920 the Verde Copper News announced in bold headlines, "VERDE TOWN PASSES: IT'S CLEMENCEAU HEREAFTER."
Enamored by the Prime Minister of France during World War I, some citizens of the town (obviously not all) decided to change the name.
Less than a month later the same newspaper reported that "The way citizens of Clemenceau DON'T take to their new name is marvelous, simply marvelous. Few of them know how to spell it. Not many pronounce it alike."
Some things are best left alone.
In 1960, Clemenceau shed its awkward name and became a part of the newly incorporated city of Cottonwood.
The next "post town" to emerge was in Aultman. Its tiny Post Office lasted the longest of any of the post town's Post Offices, surviving for 22 years from 1885 to 1907.
Its longevity was likely due to its location.
The little crossroads community was located south the confluence of the Verde River and Oak Creek, where the road from Cherry met the road from Camp Verde to Cottonwood. Another road went north out of town across the river to Cornville.
The community was composed of a general store, originally established by Mr. George Hull and later operated by the Marr brothers.
In April 1890 the store burned down, causing a brief (two year) interruption in its long tenure as a mail stop.
R.W. Wingfield, the man who would eventually build the longest running business in Yavapai County history, Wingfield Mercantile Company of Camp Verde, got his start in the business and met his wife Margaret while working in the Aultman general store.
The town site was abandoned in 1923. A windmill now stands at the site of the general store off of Old Highway 279 and new highway 260.
A lot is known about Montezuma's Well, but what few people know is that for nine months between October 1892 and July 18593, the folks that lived around it had their own Post Office.
There are few records of the community, and even less is know about the town's first, last and only Postmistress, Amanda Mehrens.
The Mehrens name does not appear in the records of residents vigilantly searched by Mary Lyons and Til Lightbourn when they wrote the seminal book of the area, "On the Banks of Beaver Creek."
The settlement is mentioned as being located at the well site in the book "Arizona Place Names."
According to postal records, there was first a Post Office at the Equator Mine that was open from 1899 to 1903. Then in 1904, with the completion of a centrally located mill, the Post Office moved down the hill a few hundred yards to the mill site known as Macdonald.
This obscure little community actually consisted of three different mines and the mill site.
Located just south of the Cottonwood Airport on the Allen Springs Road, the three mines were the Equator, the Iron King and the Copper Chief.
In 1904 the United Verde Copper Company opened a stamp mill at a site that was centrally located to the three mines and named it after the company's first President, James Allen Macdonald.
An astute businessman, Macdonald never sold his shares of the United Verde when William Clark acquired the company. The move made him a rich man and forced the Clark family to wait until he died in 1926 before they gained full ownership of the company.
According to local historian Bill Cowan and Jerome State Park Director Mike Rollins, the reduction plant at Macdonald also served a number of smaller mines, some as far a way as Cherry.
Another one the more obscure communities, and the last on the list, was Rutherford. It didn't become a Post Office until 1907, and according to postal records, was closed by 1911.
However, it had a longer life as a community.
Elizabeth Hopper came to the Verde Valley in 1896 with a sick husband and seven children. She settled on the banks the Verde River near its confluence with West Clear Creek. There she opened a general store.
One pioneer recalled that Hopper's store was little more than a room in the family's house, but it served a number of the ranches along the river, saving the residents the five-mile trip to Camp Verde.
If you do the math it appears the store was a store for 20 years before it became a Post office It was located on the now famous Camp Verde to Payson Mail Trail and is mentioned as a regular stop in the memoirs of the trail's last rider, Tuffy Peach.
How the town got the name Rutherford remains a mystery.