Life In Gisela Wasn't Always This Quiet


There are anywhere from 500 to 550 people living in the Gisela and Tonto Creek Shores area, according to one of the few people who actually work at the one business in the community.

Lisa Haught Orozco works for Ginger Cunningham and Jim Kennedy, owners of Gisela's sole business, the Roundup Steakhouse and Bar.

The Roundup also employs different bands Fridays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., and has other musicians come in and jam on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The quiet of the Gisela community has a colorful history.

It has served as home base for cattle ranches in recent years, saw a racial murder in its early days and went through a series of name changes, according to Rim country historian Stan Brown.

One of the most interesting aspects of the little community's history is how it was named.

Davy Gowan, who found the Tonto Natural Bridge, and his partners first settled in the Gisela area and began to dig irrigation ditches in 1876. However local Apaches, who resented this presence on their traditional land, constantly harassed them.

In 1879, Gowan sold his claim to John and Martin Sanders, Mormon settlers who had been sent from Utah by their church. In the summer of 1890, church leaders ordered the abandonment of this settlement in favor of other locations, and non-Mormon cattle ranchers were quick to take land claims up and down Tonto Creek.

At first, the area was called Upper Tonto. Then, with the coming of the Mormons, it was dubbed Grass Valley. However, Carrie Sanders was the community's first school teacher and she had more sophisticated idea for a name.

After reading a book by E. Marlitt, entitled, "Countess Gisela," she influenced Frederick Stanton, who would be the first postmaster, to register the post office in the name of this fictional character.

That first order for a post office at Gisela, April 9, 1894, was rescinded after a few months, perhaps because there was no one to ride the mail trail yet.

Jan. 30, 1895, the post office was officially established, with Emer Cole as the postmaster.

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