Pioneers Connected Sedona to the World
by Janeen Trevillyan
‘Y’ in Sedona is a landmark used by residents and visitors
alike. This crossroads handles millions of vehicle-trips per
year. But 120 years ago, the transportation routes leading
in and out of town were a far cry different.
The army’s presence in Camp
Verde stimulated settlement and roads. As settlements grew,
roads were extended from the Camp to the Upper Verde and to
Lower Oak Creek. People traveled up the stage road and followed
Dry Beaver Creek into Big Park where the road branched with
one branch going north into Sedona. A wagon could be driven
through this landscape with little road work.
In the early 1880s, James
Thompson was one of the first to take a wagon west across
Dry Creek to the Upper Verde (Cottonwood area). The trip entailed
using ropes to anchor the wagon to a tree to keep it right
side up when crossing Dry Creek. In 1884, Henry Schuerman
Sr. moved to Red Rock (near Red Rock Crossing) and worked
on a road out of his place (along current Lower Loop Rd) and
then to Cottonwood.
There was a strong motivation
for produce growers to access a ready market in Jerome. Within
a few years, local settlers had constructed usable roads that
connected Sedona and Red Rock to the Upper Verde. In the 1920s,
Yavapai County built a graded, but unsurfaced, two-lane road
from Cottonwood to the county line (just west of today’s ‘Y’).
Originally, the only way to
get to Flagstaff from Sedona was to follow a cow trail out
of the canyon to a road that ran from Flagstaff south to Beaver
Head Station (approximately where I-17 runs today).
A favorite trail was the Munds
Trail that came into Sedona about where Schnebly Hill Road
is today. Around 1896, John Loy first undertook the construction
of a road along this route. Loy hired first one other man
and then a crew of three to dig a trench along the hillside
to make a rut for the uphill wagon wheels to run in so that
a wagon would not tip over as it traveled up the steep inclines.
Next, money was collected
by subscription from mostly local
residents to help build the road. By 1901, the road
was considered passable as far as the “Merry-Go-Round” area.
It was then that D.E. (Ellsworth) Schnebly, Sedona Schnebly’s
brother-in-law, started a subscription petition and a small
crew worked until they found that the money didn’t come through
from the subscribers. A 1902, subscription petition finally
finished the job.
The road was known as the
Munds Road, but after the Schnebly family built a hotel near
the end of the road, it became referred to as Schnebly Hill
Road. The USFS quit maintaining this road in the last few
To exit north out of Oak Creek,
settlers had a trail up to the rim of the canyon and there
they left their wagons. When they traveled to Flagstaff, they
would pack their horses with supplies and walk to the top
of the mountain, then hitch their horses to their wagons and
drive to town.
Sometime after 1900, Louis
H. Thomas started work on a road from Flagstaff to his ranch
on Oak Creek (at the junction of West Fork and Oak Creek).
In the fall of 1906, he finished the road. It was passable
by wagon. From 1907 to 1908, Albert Purtymun extended the
road south to his place where Junipine Resort is today.
And, in 1912-13, Jess Purtymun,
Frank L. Pendley and Charley & Jim Thompson Jr. worked
to extend the wagon trail into Sedona. At this point Coconino
County stepped in, built a bridge and finished the road in
1914. It crossed the creek 16 times, and every flood washed
out the crossings. Beginning in 1923 and through the 1930s,
a highway was built, including Midgely Bridge.
And so, Sedona became connected
to the world.
[Sources for this story were
Albert E. Thompson’s story in the Sedona Westerners’ book
‘Those Early Days,” and from other sources at the Sedona Historical
The Sedona Historical Society
operates the Sedona Heritage Museum on the Jordan Farmstead
at 735 Jordan Rd in Jordan Park. The Museum is open daily
at 11:00 am with the last tour beginning at 3:00 pm. The Museum’s
exhibits include stories of area pioneers, movies made in
Sedona, cowboy life, vintage vehicles and antique orchard
and fruit processing equipment demonstrations. This farm dates
from Sedona’s earliest homesteaders. The red rock home and
apple packing barn were built by the Jordan family in the
1930s and 1940s and are Historic Landmarks.