When People Asked Questions, Part 2

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Last week we were looking at the answers to some of the questions people ask about the Payson area. Like this one:

WHERE ARE THE MUD SPRINGS?

Mud Springs Road is named for a spring that flowed for many years near the junction of south Mud Springs Road and east Cedar.

Raymond Cline’s cattle allotment came that far, all the way from Star Valley, and it was a watering hole for those cattle as well as for wildlife. Raymond says that when the C.C.C. boys protected the spring with concrete in the 1930s, they made a small ramp for the small animals to climb and gain access to the water. According to Marguerite Nobel, who lives nearby, the spring later became simply a seep, and today is covered by the pavement of Mud Springs Road. One might speculate that the cattle trampling around the spring gave it the term “Mud.”

WAS OX BOW HILL NAMED AFTER AN OXBOW FOUND ALONG THE TRAIL, OR DOES THE OLD TRAIL TWIST AROUND LIKE AN OXBOW?

Early Payson Ranger Fred Croxen wrote of Oxbow Hill (spelled as one word), “A hill five miles in length, on the Roosevelt-Payson highway; named for the old Oxbow Mine which is near this road and about two-thirds of the way to the top of the hill.”

That mining claim was filed in 1876 as the Ox Bow (two words) by retired Army Scout Al Sieber, along with his old army buddy Sam Hill.

During their army days with General Crook, the two had done a good deal of prospecting through the Sierra Ancha range. By 1878 William O. St. John had arrived and settled on Ox Bow Hill. He became a fellow prospector with Sieber and Hill, but no attempt to develop the Ox Bow Mine was made until after the turn of the century when the Atlantis Mining Company bought it.

It is very possible that Croxen is correct, and Sieber named the mine first. The hill ascending from Tonto Basin to Payson would then have taken its name from the mine claim.

However, another story appears in Will Barnes’ famous book Arizona Place Names. The Rim Country History picked up on that story and states that the hill “was named after the ox yoke or bow that remained there after the Apache had killed a team and left the bow along the trail.”

This interpretation originates from an account of an expedition into the Tonto Apache country in June 1871. A combined army of ranchers and soldiers were seeking to retrieve cattle stolen by the Indians. John Townsend led the citizen army from the Prescott area, and en route they teamed with a military detachment from Camp Verde led by Lt. Morgan. Second in command of the citizen army was Charles Genung, who wrote an account of the expedition. It was published in the Los Angeles “Mining Review,” May 13, 1911, and later reprinted in Thomas Edwin Farrish’s History of Arizona (Vol. 8, page 170). Genung traces the action and at one point says, “The soldiers soon came stringing along and overtook us about the time we got to the top of what was known as Ox Yoke Mountain. There we found several ox yokes, which had been taken off of oxen that had been run off in other raids by the Indians. The Mexican guide told us that it was twelve miles down the mountainside to the Verde River from that point.”

It is after that statement he says something to indicate they were nowhere near our Ox Bow Hill, but rather between Prescott and the Verde River. “We reached the Verde River about two o’clock in the afternoon, horses and men all pretty tired and hungry, but all safe and sound. We crossed the river at the mouth of the East Fork and camped to let our horses rest and graze while we got something to eat ourselves.”

After a couple of hours rest they continued up the East Verde River from its mouth, got into “one mess of lava boulders and the trail so steep that most of the men had to dismount.” He goes on to describe the deep canyon of the East Verde. It sounds like a place where previous detachments of soldiers had been harassed by Indians rolling boulders down on them as they snaked along the narrow trail at the bottom. None of this shapes up to be the location of our Ox Bow Hill.

Nevertheless, Will Barnes took this account and listed it under the place name of “Oxbow Hill.” He also states the Oxbow Mine and the 1935 Oxbow Post Office derived their names from the same instance.

We would disagree, as does Dan L. Thrapp in his book, Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts. He says Genung’s reference to Ox Yoke Mountain had to come far to the west of the present Ox Bow Hill.

Probably an ox yoke was indeed found along the trail of “our” Ox Bow Hill, lending its name to Sieber’s mine claim. Names are often given for things found along the trail, like Dead Man’s Creek or Cracker Box Canyon.

Or we could return to the name the Tonto Apaches had for the hill, as told by matriarch Ola Smith in an oral history, “An Old Coyote Trail.”

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