We are taking a helicopter ride south over the East Verde River, looking down on storied places and listening for the local lore.
Last week we had arrived at the thriving community of Whispering Pines. It is one of those lovely meadow lands in the forest, where eons of river flooding have cleared the land from one side of the canyon to the other, and run-off from the hills has created the plain. During those centuries before the appearance of White settlers, the Indians farmed and hunted here in season. The old Moqui Trail to the top of the Rim, used by the ancient people for trade, passed by here and is incorporated today in what we call the Houston Mesa and Rim Trailroads.
It was the year 1877 when John Meadows brought his family from Visalia, Calif. to this place. His oldest son John Valentine Meadows had preceded them, located the spot, and then returned to lead the family here.
Jean Beach King, whose husband was a descendant of one of the Meadows girls, writes in her book about the family, "John Valentine Meadows led them to a small, isolated and tranquil valley nestled deep within the Mogollons and the East Verde River meandered through the thickly wooded hollow. Every rock and pebble was distinct in the cool, transparent water that flowed from underground springs, nurturing thick masses of wild watercress along its banks. The valley floor was carpeted with thick, juicy black gramma and pine bunch grasses that stood up to three feet high in great clusters. These were the very best grasses for grazing and the prudent old pioneer farmer, John Meadows, could not have been happier, and the decision was made to settle there. He named his new homestead Diamond Valley because of its shape. Weeks later he traveled the 80 odd miles to Prescott, the Yavapai County seat, where he filed his two brands. One was diamond-shaped with a ‘J' for the blooded stock and the other was diamond-shaped with a quarter circle for the half-breed stock.
It is notable that pioneer settlers often named their valleys by the shape of them, so we have Long Valley, Round Valley, Diamond Valley and the like. Mitchell Holder suggested to me that even Star Valley was named because of its shape, not after old man Starr who lived there only a short time.
The Meadows established their ranch house next to a huge spring that gushes from the earth on the west side of the river. The spring water flows down to greatly increase the flow of water in the East Verde. The infamous Apache raid of July 1882 took place here, as a large band of renegades stole the Meadows' livestock and killed father John, mortally wounding son Henry and severely wounding son John Valentine. The remaining sons valiantly continued the ranch until 1888 when their squatters' rights were sold to the Haughts, who in turn sold to the Frank Hendershot family.
The homestead was officially patented Jan. 28, 1913, and from then on was called The Hendershot Place by local ranchers. Hendershot sold to the Cold Springs Cattle Company in 1918. The Vaughn family bought it in 1925, and so it went until developer Bill Miller took ownership and subdivided the old ranch with the name Whispering Pines.
After coming south through Whispering Pines, the old Rim Trail road (by this time called The Houston Mesa Road) does a hairpin turn down the hill to cross the East Verde River again.
We never traverse that hill without remembering one Thanksgiving when our station wagon simply would not climb that slippery mud road. My children and I got out to push while my wife drove, and of course we were thoroughly splattered with mud by the spinning wheels.
At the bottom of the hill is what has traditionally been called "the third crossing". It is so named because coming out from Payson on the Houston Mesa Road this was the third time travelers had to cross the river. Until recent years these crossings were made without the help of cement slabs or bridges. Folks simply took their chances through the water on the soft gravel bottom.
Between the third and second crossing, the riverbanks are home to numerous city-folk during camping seasons.
As the river approaches the second crossing it flows between a vertical mountain of rock and a flat flood plain. It was here that Grant L. Wright staked a gold claim and built a cabin. The mine was located behind a big rock at the pool formed just where the road crossed the stream. Wright was a summer resident, who came from the Valley in his Model T Ford by way of the Apache Trail, camping one night at Roosevelt Lake before making the rest of the journey. He raised some very fine vegetables and sweet corn on the land, which we would buy from him in season.
However, this was never private land, and when he could not prove to the Forest Service there was enough production from the mine to make it viable, he was forced to tear down his cabin and leave the claim. The cabin was taken to Gisela by a couple who bought it. Since then the area is packed with Valley escapees during the hot summer weekends.
Next week: Cold Springs and the Waterwheel Campground.
Editor's note: Tracking history can often be a tricky thing. Stan Brown has a talent for condensing volumes of Rim country history into entertaining and informative articles. But he freely admits that he's not immune from making mistakes. If anyone finds inaccuracies in any of Brown's article, please contact him directly at (928) 474-8535, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.