VERDE HERITAGE COTTONWOOD CEMETERY STORY, Part 1
The story of the graveyard and school is also the story of the pioneers of what became Cottonwood in 1885. Land was already being used for a burying ground and school before Alexander and Malinda Strahan came to the Verde Valley in 1878.
The Rio Verde Indian Reservation military headquarters were located at what is now known as Haskell Springs. During February of 1875, Native Americans, civilians employed by the Agency, and others began walking to San Carlos, and "the soldiers abandoned their adobe buildings. ... Mr. Kell came over from Prescott and purchased what is now the Haskell-Kerwagen ranch for $300, where he made his home for 7 years." (Arizona Republican; Phoenix; September 29, 1899.)
According to the 1875 Great Register of the County of Yavapai, George W. "Keel" or "Kill" was 40 years old and had been born in Kentucky. He was joined in April by the extended family of Jincy Jane Casner (born about 1786). Rebecca Jane Frezell, who had married her son, Riley Casner, at Lake Tahoe, wrote, "My husband and I came from California in 1875 and settled on the old Kerwagner place near Jerome." The other sons were: John, Willaim, Daniel, and Moses (who ran for Sheriff of Yavapai County in 1876). The Casner brothers claimed several parcels of land near the Verde River, then rented them out or sold them. (Pioneer Stories of Arizona's Verde Valley; 1933, 1954; The Verde Valley Pioneers Association; page 50.) George Washington Casner, the first child of Rebecca and Riley, was born on August 17, 1875, the day the Hawkins and "Parson" Bristow families arrived at Central Verde.
LAND OPENED FOR SETTLEMENT: President Ulysses S. Grant, who had signed an Executive Order establishing the Rio Verde Indian Reservation on November 9, 1871, signed an Executive Order on April 23, 1875, which revoked and annulled the 800-square-mile reservation. Notification was sent out from the U. S. Surveyor-General's office in Tucson on May 20. Notice that the "Camp Verde Indian Reservation was thus restored to settlement" appeared in the local newspaper on June 4, 1875. (Arizona Weekly Miner; June 4, 1875.)
David Strahan, age 29, born in Illinois, and his brother, Peter W. Strahan, age 23, born in Texas, arrived early enough to establish "squatter's rights" on the abandoned waterwheel, ditch, and irrigated land that had been cultivated by Native Americans. Within a short time there was a need for a centrally located school and burial ground in the community, and a piece of land unsuitable for cultivation was made available by the Strahan brothers.
On the week ending July 30, 1875, the list of undelivered letters at the post office at Prescott included one for David Strahan, who was expected to be in the area. Another letter was for G. Clum, who claimed the Indian Agency land across the Verde River. There was an abandoned ditch, land irrigated and cultivated by Native Americans, and an adobe building where he and his family lived. G. Z. Clem, age 26, was born in Arkansas. Another letter was for James O. Bristow, age 50, born in Kentucky. He and his family had started out with the wagon train from Humansville, Missouri, but were soon traveling with others, probably arriving at Central Verde during August. The family settled on land originally claimed by the Casner brothers just up the Verde River from the Strahan families. (see: Arizona Weekly Miner; July 30, 1875; page 3.)
The Wingfield families settled down the river from the Strahan families. The 1875 Great Register lists: Edward Wingfield,, 69, William G. Wingfield, 34, and James H. Wingfield, 28, all born in Virginia, and Francis W. Wingfield, 25, born in Iowa (who married Mary Ann Strahan), and Robert Pleasants, 30, born in Arkansas. William "Bill" Wingfield wrote about the family traveling from Oregon to Arizona. "We landed in the Verde Valley and bought the Mose Casner farm." (Pioneer Stories of Arizona's Verde Valley; page 31.)
The wagon train from Humansville caught up with the Hawkins family and they traveled together to New Mexico. The families of William Hawkins and "Parson" James C. Bristow with James Human traveled a different route to the Verde Valley and arrived at Central Verde on August 17, 1875, a week earlier than the main wagon train. Talitha Cumi Bristow and David Erastus Hawkins went to Prescott to get married, acquiring a license on September 3, 1875. The Hawkins family continued up the Verde River to the area of Peck's Lake and what became Tuzigoot and purchased "improvements" from M. Andrew "Andy" Ruffner, who continued to live in the area.
"In 1876, Mr. [George] Kell discovered strange horses in the valley and set out to find their owners. Near what is now the Jordan ranch he came upon John O'Dougherty, who conducted him to camp, where he found Captain John Boyd and Ed. O'Dougherty." The party was out prospecting, so they went toward the mountain, named Deception Gulch, and made their camp there. (Arizona Republican; Phoenix; September 28, 1899.) According to George Kell's records, they finished staking 3 nearby claims on February 17, then moved northward to stake claims during the rest of February on what would become the main part of the United Verde Copper Company mines. Valley settlers went to investigate and claim mineral lodes. East of the "Gift," the "Sarah" was located and claimed in the names of Sarah Isaac, Andrew Ruffner, and David Strahan, on March 15. The Verde Mining District was organized on April 17, 1876, and Mr. Kell was elected to be the District Recorder. (Arizona Weekly Miner; May 12, 1876.) "Mocking Bird" was staked south of Bitter Creek in the names of G. V. Kell, H. I. Thornton, and John Garber on April 18, 1876.
DISTRESSING ACCIDENTS AND DEATHS:
"Some days ago a young son of P. B. Hawkins, aged 15 years, in attempting to dismount from a horse, in the Verde Valley, got his foot fast in the stirrup which still further frightened the animal, which had jumped in the beginning, and though the boy held on to the bridle, he was dragged round and round for some time and badly bruised against the ground. Hopes were entertained that he was not fatally injured, but after lingering for several days partial paralysis set in, and on Wednesday morning, March 15th, he breathed his last at Williamson Valley. The remains were brought to town [Prescott] the same day and yesterday morning were buried in the City Cemetery. Mr. Hawkins' family resides in Ventura County, California, and he, with the deceased and a still younger son, had just arrived here with a band of sheep, and were seeking a place to make a permanent home. P. B. Hawkins, the father of the deceased boy, was formerly the proprietor of a newspaper in Boise City, Idaho." ... Deceased: "At Simmons' Ranch, Williamson Valley, March 15th, 1876, of injuries received in dismounting from a horse, Jefferson Davis Hawkins, son of P. B. Hawkins, aged 15 years." (Arizona Weekly Miner; March 17, 1876; page 2.)
"A young man named Hawkins, who resided with his parents near Camp Verde, was thrown from a bronco horse and died about last Friday [November 3 or 10?]. Deceased leaves a sorrowing father and mother, and was brother to Mr. Hawkins of Chino Valley." (Arizona Weekly Miner; November 17, 1876; page 3.) John Sylvester Hawkins was born at Stockton, California, on January 23, 1859. He was 17 years old, but nearly 18 when he died. Biographical information indicates he died on Sunday, November 5, 1876. He was buried in what became the Hawkins family plot in the Cottonwood Cemetery.
According to Inez (Loy) Lay, "John Hawkins' grave was the first in the cemetery. He was killed when thrown from a horse when he was only 18 years old in the year 1876." (Those Early Days ... Oldtimer's Memories; 1968; Sedona Westerners; pages 146-147.) David W. Wingfield wrote, "There was only one grave in the cemetery, that of John Hawkins, brother of Lee Hawkins." (Pioneer Stories of Arizona's Verde Valley; page 143.) Lee Hawkins became a well-known dentist and photographer at Jerome.
"Upper Verde, Feb. 10, 1877: The first settler here was Mr. David Strahan, who came here about one year ago; and now there are 7 ranches which are all well-watered. The main and most important of the irrigating ditches is the Old Government Ditch, which is now being extended and enlarged sufficiently to afford an abundant supply of water for all the following ranches; J. O. Bristow's, D. W. Strahan's, W. G. Wingfield's, William Cliff's, Barney Bros., and J. W. Anderson's; the length of the ditch being 7 miles. The next ditch of importance, on the opposite side of the Verde, is the one covering the ranches of Lanne, Clem, and Jones, which is being enlarged and extended the entire length of which when finished will be 6 miles, and also covering the ranches of Conway Bristow and Erastus Hawkins. We have erected a neat and comfortable adobe school house, 20 x 22 feet, in which there is now a school in progress, being taught by Mrs. Rubottom, recently from Kansas. We have divine service the second Sunday of each month by the respectable Elder Groves." (Arizona Weekly Miner; February 16, 1877; page 2.) Mrs. Rubottom had previously taught in the Camp Verde area. She taught at Cottonwood during the 1876-1877 school year. Alice Rubottom married William Mullin on November 27, 1877. (Yavapai County Marriage Licenses/Certificates, 1865-1928; page 69.)
North of the Hawkins family plot, the oldest headstone in the Strahan family plot may be for E. A. Strahan, born in May, 1848, and died on March 12, 18 ? The year may have been 1877, making the person 28 years old.
By July of 1877, about 60 people lived in the prosperous "Upper Verde," as they have named this settlement, according to F. E. Jordan. (Weekly Arizona Miner; July 6, 1877.)
The government survey of the land was done during April and May of 1877, as Township 16-North, Range 3 East, of the Gila and Salt River Meridian. It includes the location of the river, creeks, springs, irrigation ditches, cultivated areas, wagon roads, names of people "squatting" on public land, and the location of the school. After approval of the survey, it was officially filed on April 23, 1878. Claims could then be made for "homestead" land, and after making improvements, cultivating, and occupying the land for 5 years, etc., an application for, a Patent could be made. A Patent conveyed up to 160 acres of public land into private ownership. The first Patent in this area could not be issued until 1883.
James Harmon Strahan (born in Texas June 12, 1863) wrote: " In 1864, we moved to Fort Scott, Kansas. Two years later we moved to Cincinnati, Arkansas, where we enjoyed poverty for 12 years. June 1878 (when he was 15 years old) with mule teams, we started out for 'Arizona or Bust,' as our motto. ... In our bunch were the famous old explorer, cow puncher, and hunter, Dick Mason, Joe and Elige Mason, George Beavers, my father and mother (Alexander and Malinda Strahan) and my brothers and sisters; Al (Alfred M. Strahan, born August 13, 1847, his wife, Calodonia "Callie" Goddard, and their son Charles Strahan, born August 15, 1871) and Pete Strahan (who had been in the Verde Valley in 1875, and had married Eda Wilson), Lucinda ("Lillie," born December, 1852), Mattie (Martha Ellen, born October 5, 1867, Susan May, born in 1876), and John Ricketts. ... On August 12 we arrived at the end of the trail at Cottonwood, the old Strahan Ranch near by where we lived 25 years among the saloons and gambling dens. ... My father died at 83, mother at 75. They are sleeping in the graveyard, the whole plot of which they donated to the community forever in their will." (Unpublished Manuscript; "How I Got My Start;" by James H. Strahan.)
Sara E. (Hawkins) Alderson, of Peck Lake, about the 18th, while standing near a fire, had the misfortune to have her clothes take fire and nearly all burned from her person. Her husband discovered her situation and in an instant came to her rescue, but was unable to extinguish the flames ... and was compelled to carry his wife to a small lake of water adjacent to their dwelling. Mrs. Alderson was badly burned, and died from the effects of her injuries on Sunday night last. (Weekly Arizona Miner; January 31, 1879.) Sara was born at Independence, Missouri, on December 25, 1854, and died on January 26, 1879. Mourning her loss were 2 children, her husband, James M. Alderson (1875 Great Register listed him with the Strahans as age 23 and born in Missouri), her parents, William Henry and Harrieta Melissa (Strayton) Hawkins, brothers and sisters.
Ninian Willard, age 23 (born at Sacramento, California, on July 3, 1855), who had spent the winter in the Verde Valley, and his brother, Alexander Joel Willard, age 10 (born at Franklin, California, on May 7, 1869), and others were repairing a diversion dam on the river. On June 18, Nin and Alex were loading rocks into a boat and taking them to reinforce the dam. The boat tipped and sank and the current pulled them under. L. M. Olden, George Scrivner, G. V. Kell, and Mr. Duran were able to get them out of the water, force water out of their lungs, but were unable to make them breathe. Justice of the Peace James Leroy and 9 persons held a coroner's inquest. The deceased brothers were followed by a large group of people to the Upper Verde burying ground, where they now rest. (Weekly Arizona Miner; July 4, 1879.) During the trip from Nevada to Arizona Territory, while in winter quarters at Dolan Springs, their father, Joel Willard (born in Gasconade County, Missouri, on March 9, 1822,) died on January 17, 1879, and was buried nearby. His remains were moved to the Cottonwood Cemetery during 1915, and buried near his sons and the family of his brother, Lewis Willard.
The Wingfield family plot began with Edward Mariah Wingfield, born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on March 2, 1807, and died after his 73rd birthday on March 4, 1880.
Edie (Wilson) Strahan was born in Arkansas on January 6, 1858, and died during March of 1880. She was a housewife who died as a result of pregnancy complications. (Sharlot Hall Museum and Library Archives.) She was the wife of Peter Strahan, and their son was William C. Strahan. Peter married Edie's sister, Mary Ann Wilson, on November 3, 1881.
On September 3, 1884, Alexander Strahan received a patent for 40 acres. David Strahan received a patent for 160 acres on December 5, 1884. The graveyard and school were still located on public property.
In connection with a new stage and mail route between Camp Verde and Jerome (named in 1883), in the Upper Verde the Cottonwood Post Office was established on June 9, 1885. George MacDonald "Mac" Willard was the first postmaster. The barn, corrals for the stage horses, and the postal building were located west of where the brick home was built in 1887 by contractor James H. A. Marsh and the Willard brothers for Mary G. Willard (now, the Burnett home on North Main).
Susan May Strahan (born November 23, 1875), the youngest child of Alexander and Malinda Strahan, was 13 years old when "she was attacked by a malignant type of malarial fever, which commenced with rigor on Friday evening, followed on Saturday by convulsions. She lingered in great pain" until she died Tuesday morning, January 8, 1889. (Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner; January 23, 1889.)
Alexander Strahan (born in Green River, Kentucky, on August 26, 1811) prepared a Will and signed it on March 18, 1890. His estate went to his wife, Malinda (born in Wayne County, Kentucky, on May 20, 1828), and when she died the executor would be David Strahan, who would receive half of the homestead (80 acres). Alexander wrote, "I give, devise and bequeath to the Territory of Arizona, for a public graveyard and common school purposes the following piece of land: The North half of the North East quarter of the North East quarter of Section 34, containing 20 acres." The rest of his property was to be equally divided among his named heirs. The Will was witnessed by L. M. Olden, William W. Nichols, and Joseph Chaadowine.
President Benjamin Harrison, representing The United States of America, through the General Land Office, conveyed a "Patent" for 120 acres of public land to Alexander Strahan on January 30, 1892. This document was recorded in Yavapai County on January 15, 1919. (Book 116 of Deeds, page 201.) Once he owned the land, Alexander was able to convey part or all of it to any person or organization. The land occupied by the graveyard and school was surveyed and the corners were marked.
A few months later, on April 22, 1892, Alexander Strahan and Malinda Strahan, residents of the Upper Verde, donated, gave, granted, and conveyed to School District No. 6, in the Upper Verde Precinct, a plot of land located in the Northeast quarter of the Northeast quarter of Section 34. ... The school trustees were to have charge and control of the property. The land was "to belong to School District No. 6 forever subject to the following conditions: 1st - That the foregoing deed will be recorded within one year. 2nd - That the aforesaid lot of land shall be used for public graveyard and public school purposes. 3rd - That in case of the foregoing described lot of land shall cease to be used for common school purposes or held and used as a graveyard, the the afore described lot or tract of land shall revert back to Alexander Strahan and Malinda Strahan, their heirs and assigns." The document was acknowledged by Notary Public Charles D. Willard on April 30, 1892, and recorded in Yavapai County on July 7, 1892. (Book 31 of Deeds. page 464.)
Alexander Strahan died on his 83rd birthday on August 26, 1894. His widow, Malinda, asked to have James H. Strahan appointed as executor of the will and administrator of the estate. The court appointed him on April 9, 1897, and also appointed Godfrey Van Deren, Charles Willard, and William Nichols to appraise the estate. Malinda died on October 9, 1898. She was buried next to her husband and other family members in the Cottonwood Cemetery. The Probate Court authorized the sale of property on March 13, it was sold to Peter W. Strahan on April 1, the sale was approved on April 28, and an Order confirmed the sale on May 5, 1899. (Book 47 of Deeds, page 538.)
James H. Strahan, administrator of the estate, conveyed to Peter W. Strahan, the East half of the Northeast quarter of Section 34, less that part of said tract heretofore deeded to the public by Alexander Strahan, deceased, during is lifetime, for a public graveyard and for public school purposes, on May 6, 1899. (Book 47 of Deeds, page 546.)
Peter W. Strahan, of Cottonwood, conveyed to his brother-in-law, William Marshall, of Cottonwood, the "East half of the Northeast quarter of Section 34, less that part of said tract heretofore deeded to the Public by Alexander Strahan, deceased, during his lifetime for a public graveyard and for common school purposes," on April 9, 1900. (Book 50 of Deeds, page 52.) Martha Ellen Strahan and William Marshall obtained a marriage license on October 25, 1885. (Marriage Licenses/Certificates; pages 208-209.) They became the parents of 4 children. William was the Cottonwood Postmaster from August 31, 1899, until January 14, 1901.
William Marshall, of Cornville, conveyed to David Scott, of Cottonwood, "the East half of the North East quarter of Section 34, ... less that portion of said tract heretofore deeded to the public by Alexander Strahan (deceased) during his lifetime for a public grave yard and for common school purposes," on April 3, 1909. David Scott subdivided the land as Scott Addition in 1917.