Here’s where you’ll learn about the early days of the Village of Oak Creek/Big Park (why the two names?) and all about the reconstruction of SR-179 (our Main Street) and much more. Each month we’re featuring a different Village story from Loretta Benore’s wonderful 2016 book, “History, Hilarity and Heartbreak.” These stories were part of Loretta’s popular column in The Villager called “Days of Yore” that ran in the early 2000s. The stories have been updated, expanded and compiled for this book and The Villager will be exclusively excerpting some of them.
Fannie Belle Gulick, one of the more colorful characters in Sedona’s recent past, had a major role in the development of both Big Park and West Sedona.
She was born in Michigan in 1883. Fanny was married to and divorced from Mr. Gulick long before she came to Red Rock Country.
Her early history is sketchy at best, but she did get her start to riches in the mining fields of Nevada. She made her first gold strike in about 1907. Fannie used those profits to stake other claims, many of which were successful.
Mrs. Gulick was a shrewd businesswoman. Diversification was the name of her game. Since prospecting was pretty risky, Fannie moved to Las Vegas and opened a rooming house for miners, a successful operation for more than 40 years. Most accounts agree the rooms were rented on a very short-term basis, with accommodating female companions included as part of the room rental.
In the 1940s, she moved to Sedona. Somehow she had acquired about 1,000 acres in Big Park and another big parcel in Grasshopper Flats (West Sedona).
Fanny had found a new calling. Buying up land became an obsession. The land was cheap because, supposedly, it could not be developed -- it was too far from reliable water. Fannie Belle trusted her own instincts -- or her own luck -- and in 1947 hired Carl Williams, a well driller, who successfully sank a deep well. Fanny got richer.
She always had a soft spot in her heart for her miners. In 1957 she had plans to open “The Fannie B. Gulick Home for Elderly Folks” which would cater to retired miners. That deal never worked out but in 1959 she was offered $1 million for the Big Park land.
She agreed to it if the investors would deliver it to her in cash by March 17, 1959. They had been able to raise $750,000 “and would deliver the rest in a few days.” Fannie told them to “forget the whole goddam thing” and walked out. (Her language was as colorful as she was, and would make a longshoreman blush.)
She later established an “eleemosynary” [charitable] trust which did little but entangle her estate in litigation after her death.
Fannie Belle died in 1963 at the age of 80. One of our more colorful locals, Charlie Piper, described her as being “rough as a cob, but a real nice woman.” Not a bad epitaph for a lady who lived her life her way.
Loretta Benore is a 20 year resident of the Village of Oak Creek. She has a B.A. in History and a M.S.S. in Social Science with emphases in both criminal justice and public policy with a professional background working for the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Colorado. Loretta and her husband David retired in 1998 to the Village of Oak Creek where she focused on her first love—history. She has been a docent at the Sedona Heritage Museum since it opened in 1998 and is a former Board Member of the Sedona Historical Society. ‘History, Hilarity, and Heartbreak’ makes a great gift and available for sale in the Sedona Heritage Museum Gift Shop, 735 Jordan Rd, Uptown Sedona, AZ. Open daily 11am-3pm. Call 928-282-7038 or visit https://sedonamuseum.org. Also available at Amazon.com.