Fri, Sept. 20

1865 SETTLEMENT: Exploring and Building the Fort

"Soon after the organization of the Territorial Government and the settlement of Prescott, parties of hardy pioneers began to branch out and form settlements in other parts of the Territory. One of these parties, headed by James M. Swetnam, now a practicing physician and surgeon in Pheonix," ... wrote "the following account of this settlement" in the Verde Valley.

Early in January, 1865, a party consisting of James M. Swetnam, William L. Osborn, Clayton M. Ralston, Henry D. Morse, Jake Ramstein, Thos. Ruff, Ed. A. Boblett, James Parrish, and James Robinson left Prescott for the purpose of locating a colony for farming purposes in the valley of the Verde River, if a suitable place could be found." The 9 men "were all on foot, taking along a single horse on which was packed their blankets, cooking utensils, and provisions for ten days." They camped on the east side of the river, leaving 3 men in camp, with the "others, dividing into two parties, started out to explore; one the region about Clear Fork, the other going north toward the next tributary called Beaver Creek. ... Three or four days were spent in the valley. ... It was finally decided ... to locate in the 'V'-shaped point between the Verde and Clear Fork. ... The location being determined upon, the party returned to Prescott, and began preparations for making a success of the enterprise."

"Early in February the party, numbering ninteen in all with supplies loaded into six wagons drawn by oxen, bade farewell to their friends, and set forth to try the experiment of making a permanent settlement."... "Four days later these adventurers reached and passed over the Verde River." At this camp, James Parrish and eight of the men decided to settle in an upper valley. The others, "J. M. Swetnam, W. L. Osborn, H. D. L. Morse, Jo. Melvin, Thomas Ruff, C. M. Ralston, Mac Foster, Ed. Boblett, John Lang, and Jake Ramstein, ten in all, pulled out, and that evening pitched their camp at the place already selected on the point between the river and Clear Fork."

"The first work was to build a place to secure the cattle and provide for their own defense in case of an attack. ... The next morning before the sun was up they had begun work. The stone of an old ruin ... was used to make an enclosure sixty feet long and forty feet wide. The walls were built to a height of seven or eight feet, being four feet thick on the bottom, and two feet thick at the top. The stone enclosure being completed, they built a cabin in each corner. These cabins were built of poles, notched at the ends, and made a very substantial habitation. The floor was mother earth, wet, leveled, and pounded so as to make it hard and smooth. The cracks between the logs were chinked and plastered with mud. There was one door and one window in each cabin, and these were closed with strong shutters. There were also loopholes looking out from the exposed sides and end of each cabin. The covering was made by using poles round or split for a foundation, covering this with grass, and then piling dirt to a depth of fifteen to eighteen inches on top of that. The timber for these purposes was got from the grove which fringed Clear Fork on each side for a distance of over two miles from the mouth. This was willow, cottonwood, and ash."

"The next work was to open a ditch to bring water to the Fort, as they now called their camp, for irrigating purposes."

"Jake Ramstein and John Lang, refused to join in with the main party, but took out a small ditch on the south side of Clear Fork. This ditch was less than half a mile long, and covered about forty acres of land, so that reduced the number to work on the main ditch to five at a time."

(see: History of Arizona; by Thomas Edwin Farrish, Arizona Historian; Volume IV; 1916; Dr. James M. Swetnam Account; pages 215-223.)

More Information: Verde Independent; "Verde Valley's First Settlers;" by Steve Ayers; December 30, 2008.

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