The Pioneers Of Star Valley

Keeping family stories alive best way to save area's history


Sarah Luckie nee Pyle is a walking encyclopedia of Star Valley and its history and heritage.

Luckie is a fourth-generation Star Valley resident, and her daughter is the fifth-generation of her family who has lived in the town. Her two granddaughters are sixth-generation residents.


Sarah Luckie stands in front of the Cline Ranch building where her father, Malcolm, was born in 1918.

Luckie, the town clerk of Star Valley, is one of many residents whose family roots go back to the late 1800s.

Luckie takes pride in her connection to the area's history.

She is the current president of the Daughters of Gila County Pioneers.

Pioneer families are few in Star Valley, but there are still a scattering of those with deep roots in the area, such as former mayor Ronnie McDaniel and Star Valley local Mark Freegard.

Luckie, her five sisters and her parents moved back to Star Valley when she was 7 years old.

She remembers how sparsely populated the area, originally settled by John Star, was back then.

"There was nothing here except for a few ranches," she said. "Where I live now was the base home of our ranch."

Another Star Valley pioneer family, the Pyles, got their start in Star Valley when her great-grandparents -- Elwood and Sarah -- left their home in what is now downtown Los Angeles.

For health reasons, the couple traded their land in California for approximately 260 acres in Star Valley.

Luckie said back then almost all of the residents worked on farms or ranches.

"They ranched and did their thing," she said, adding that was what her father did as well.

Luckie said there were very few people in the community when she was growing up, and added that the town of Payson did not have even one stoplight.

"Everyone knew everyone," she said.

The highlight of the year for Star Valley residents was the Gila County Rodeo where all families of the community gathered to release their "frustrations."

However, she said, there were advantages to living in a small ranching community because the members of the town were a close-knit group that cared and looked out for each other.

"When you think about it, a lot of (our residents) are related," she said, adding that she once worked with a woman at a bank and later found out the two were relatives.

Luckie said she wants to keep the history and heritage of the town alive for future generations.

She said most people came to Star Valley to put some roots down and never left, and most of those who have left still call the town home. The president of the Daughters of Gila County Pioneers said it is not uncommon for former residents to come back to the town to attend meetings.

Luckie, herself, left the community for 27 years in 1971 and always planned to come back. She visited often, partly because her parents were still living in Star Valley.

She said events in her life allowed her to return to her hometown in 1998.

"It's like I was coming home," she said. "It is still a small town, and we want to keep it a simple community."

She said the town had branched out with some businesses and shops, but was still much the same community she remembered from her childhood.

She said there is a lot of history in the town that is being lost, and she wants to ensure that there is information available for future generations, including her granddaughters.

"There is a lot of history here, and it takes books to write about it," she said. "When my granddaughters ask about their great-great-great-grandparents, I want to be able to tell them about it."

She said she remembers her great-grandmother, who lived in Star Valley and Bonita Creek most of her life and has gathered information on her great-grandparents from discussing the history of the town with her grandparents.

I want my kids to grow up knowing those stories, like what life was like in the log cabin on the lot where she now lives.

Luckie said no one kept track of the history for decades. So, she is trying to find ways to reclaim and find that heritage.

"It's really grown, but it's still a small town, and I want it to stay that way," she said. "I want it to remain simple. It's just home."

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