Stories From The East Verde River, Part 7



Several miles north of Payson, one turns right, off State Highway 87,on to Flowing Springs Road. It follows the river several miles past two homesteads and one squatter's right that was never "proved up." All three locations are steeped in pioneer history.

Last week we looked at Flowing Springs itself, first settled by the Apaches and later by Henry Sidle. It is still thought of by settler families as "Sidella."


This homestead along the East Verde River, just below Flowing Springs, was known to settlers as "Lower Sidella" because it was downstream from the Sidle's place. The land was patented in 1917 by Forest Hale.

Just downstream from Sidella is a homestead that was called locally "Lower Sidella." It is not clear who lived on this ranch at first, but the land was patented by Forest Hale in 1917. Hale was 22 years old when he became the first Forest Ranger stationed at Gisela in the newly formed Tonto National Forest.

The year was 1906. There he met Dollie Neal, whose family had come to Gisela in 1891, and after a whirlwind romance they were married on Christmas Eve that same year.

After Forest did a year-long stint for the Forest Service in Luna, N.M., he quit that work and the Hales claimed a homestead on the East Verde just below the Flowing Springs in 1910.

The Flowing Springs ranch had been claimed by Arthur and Bessie Neal, so this was a natural move for the Hales because Dollie Neal Hale was Arthur's sister and Bessie's closest friend.

Dollie and Forest had a son in 1914, Clarence "Cooney" Hale, but the next year their home burned down. They ran some cattle on the East Verde, and at times would hire Indians as cowboys, among them Chief Melton Campbell's father George Campbell.

Because of the several families living along that stretch of the East Verde a school was established, called the Hale School, District No. 11. In 1920 there were 13 children, including one unnamed Indian from the Webber Creek camp.

The records show not only the Hales' two children, but children from the Neal, Belluzzi, Lazear, Francis, Evans and Harris families.

Forest Hale served as the marshal for the school.

He and Dollie lived at Lower Sidella for almost 20 years, moving with their children back to Gisela in 1929.

By that time their daughter Myrtle was married and together the two families bought the old William Riley Neal ranch in Gisela from Dollie's mother. This is where Dollie had been raised.

Forest Hale died of a stroke in April 1956 and Dollie continued to live there until she died Jan. 3, 1983.

Now we continue moving down the river, where our next stop is just over the concrete slab where the road crosses the East Verde.

For many years this flat area running along the river had been a Forest Service campground, but in 1900 it had become the settlement of Angora. Here the John Holder family had moved to get closer to the main road with the ranch headquarters.

John Francis Holder, his wife Sarah and their eight children (in addition to several from John's first marriage) had experienced a difficult year. For one thing, the whole family had contracted undulant fever from their large goat herd and its milk products. It is a form of brucellosis, but is not contagious between humans. The illness is acute the first few weeks, producing chills, fever, severe headache, pains and malaise but seldom death. There is a remission, but it has reoccurrence.

On top of that, their daughter Arminta died that year at age 11, and was buried near their house along the river in Beaver Valley. The cause of her death was never established. Some believed it was due to the undulant fever, but it could have been from one of the several diseases so many died of in those days, like diphtheria or typhoid fever.

Transporting the goat mohair to the main road and securing mail and supplies was difficult over the poorly maintained trail, and gave yet another reason to move closer to the main road.

John's brother Sidney had established his ranch close to the river crossing downstream, and the two families would be closer. So it was the John Holders who moved a little more than three miles downstream, where they had a stone and adobe house built, as well as out-buildings and a store that could also serve as a post office. It was called Angora, after the goat herd, and the Holders hired Tonto Apache Indians from the nearby East Verde settlement to help.

The little store and post office became a center for the growing East Verde community. It serviced the Indian families, who earned money from the Holder brothers and in turn spent it for food, clothing, and trinkets at the store. John was a friend to the Apaches, and led the way among his neighbors in hiring them for ranch and domestic chores.

John discovered he could trade items in the store for baskets made by the Tontos. In turn he would take the baskets to Globe along with the goat hair, and trade them for staples with which to supply the store.

For the most part it was Lewis Pyle's pack train from Phoenix that supplied the Angora store, as well as the Payson merchants.

A copy of the original application John Holder filed with the federal government for the Angora Post Office, dated April 6, 1900, states, "The house is 180 feet from, the road." It was also stated the mail carrier would only have to travel 330 feet farther from the main trail to deliver the mail. This is confusing since the ruins of the post office are a half-mile upstream from the East Verde crossing.

The same year Holder established the store, 1900, the family began holding school in the store building. Mae Holder Haught said, "One of my cousins taught school." However, since she was a newborn in that year other information may be correct, that the teacher was one of the older Holder boys (by John's first marriage), probably William.

By 1901 he also had a child enrolled. Nine of the 14 children enrolled were Holders, and five were from a family named Cockran, probably workers in the nearby Grand Prize Mine. The school, District No. 20, was called the East Verde School.

The winter of 1901-02 brought an unusually heavy snow and many of the goats died. John decided they needed to establish a winter pasture, and purchased the rights to property in Gisela at a lower elevation.

He sold the rights to his East Verde ranches to his brother Sidney, who took over the store and operated the post office from June 1902 until June 1905. At that time the Sidney Holder family disappears from local public records, and George A. Randall (father of Julia Randall) became postmaster until the the post office was discontinued in February 1908.

(Next Week: the East Verde Crossing and Sycamore Creek.)

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