Library Humanities Series highlights Northern Arizona pioneer

Flagstaff Pioneer John Elden (colorized)

Flagstaff Pioneer John Elden (colorized)

Sedona Public Library, in partnership with Arizona Humanities, is pleased to kick off the 2018 Arizona Humanities speaker series on Wednesday, January 10, when Dr. John Westerlund will present “Flagstaff Pioneer John Elden: Murder, Mystery, Myth, and History.”

The program begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Church of the Nazarene, 55 Rojo Drive in the Village of Oak Creek.

You may be familiar with Dr. Westerlund. His book “Arizona’s War Town: Flagstaff, Navajo Ordnance Depot and World War II” has won several awards for preservation of Southwest culture. Last fall many of us were fortunate to join Dr. Westerlund for a guided tour of Camp Navajo in Bellemont, Arizona.

Westerlund’s upcoming presentation concerns a tragic incident in the history of the Eldens, one of Flagstaff’s earliest pioneer families. In 1877 John Elden and his new bride settled at the base of the mountain five miles east of Flagstaff. Ten years later, Elden’s young son Johnny Elden, Jr., was shot and killed by itinerant mule skinner Bob Roberts during a dispute over water. Today, Johnny rests alone in a rock-covered grave at the base of the mountain named for his father and family. A beautiful U.S. Forest Service interpretive panel nearby describes the awful crime. Johnny’s murder has haunted Flagstaff for well over a century, and his gravesite is perhaps one of the most visited in Northern Arizona.

This presentation will look at the story of Flagstaff pioneer and Civil War veteran John Elden, the violence and prosperity that rolled in with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1882, the horrible shooting of Elden’s young son Johnny, and the contribution of myth to history.

Dr. John Westerlund is an independent scholar and American West historian. He was a career Army officer and served four overseas tours. He was a seasonal National Park Service ranger for 11 summers with the Flagstaff Area National Monuments. He has published numerous articles in “The Journal of Arizona History” along with articles in French and U.S. defense-related journals. He has been a speaker with Arizona Humanities for over a decade and is a member of the Flagstaff Corral of Westerners.

Funded by Arizona Humanities and Friends of the Sedona Library, the presentation is free and open to the public. Donations are always welcome! The program’s location offers plenty of parking and seating. For more information about this program, please contact Cheryl Yeatts at Sedona Public Library in the Village at 928.284.1603 or email Thank you for supporting library services in the Village of Oak Creek.

Sedona Public Library is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization. We are grateful for the support of the City of Sedona, Yavapai and Coconino Counties, businesses and foundations, and individuals like you. Your tax-deductible donation may be sent to: Sedona Public Library, 3250 White Bear Road, Sedona, Arizona 86336.


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