Thu, Dec. 05

The Casner Saga

Casner Mountain, Casner Canyon, Casner Draw, and several other "Casner" place names. Who or what prompted such recognition here in the Verde Valley? That honor goes to a unique family by the name of Casner. Much of their story comes to us through the words of Rebecca Casner, the wife of Riley Casner.

Riley Casner was a widower with two children when he married Rebecca Frezell in California. She had been orphaned as a young child when her parents disappeared while looking for land on which to settle. Rebecca grew up and married Riley. They left California in a covered wagon and in 1875 settled near Jerome. Riley kept looking for the "right spot." For the next fourteen years, that right spot eluded them.

They continued to live out of a wagon, along with several children (Rebecca gave birth to 12 children) and Riley's 100 year old mother, Jencie Jane. Rebecca cared for Jencie when she became an invalid until she died at age 104. Finally in 1889, their nomadic lifestyle ended. They moved to and homesteaded land near Beaver Creek. Their ranch is the present site of the Southwest Academy, southeast of the Village of Oak Creek.

They continued to live out of the wagon while Riley was establishing a reputation as a successful farmer and orchardist. The Casners slowly improved the homestead, eventually building a log house. But Rebecca continued to cook over a camp fire for several years. She used her egg and milk money to finally get a cook stove.

However, Riley took it upon himself to trade Rebecca's cook stove for a horse he fancied! She never forgave him, although she again traded enough butter and milk to get another cook stove.

Rebecca's responsibilities didn't stop with the housework, sewing, preserving food, and raising their large family. Since Riley was "sickly," she also did most of the farm work, including the haying and the plowing. Rebecca outlived Riley. After his death she sold the ranch and moved to easier living in Camp Verde. She and Riley are buried in Middle Verde Cemetery.

Dan and Bill Casner were brothers to Riley. They arrived in the Verde area in the early 1870s. Dan and Bill were successful sheep men and often carried large sums of gold coins in their camps.

One year when they were moving their sheep from Mormon Lake to Winslow they were both killed and the cache of gold coins disappeared.

Mose, another brother, was a colorful character. He and his mother (at a younger age) had run cattle near Sycamore Canyon and Casner Mountain. He later settled along Beaver Creek (currently Rancho Roca Roja). Mose was a miser, and stories about his wealth abounded. Supposedly he hid his gold coins in coffee cans and buried them in various spots.

Legend has it that there is still Casner gold to be found in Sycamore Canyon and along Beaver Creek. When he was dying, he refused to tell anyone except his son where the gold was. His son arrived too late.

There may be gold in "them thar hills."

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