Outsiders often assume that Star Valley was named after its beautiful nighttime skies, but the residents who voted overwhelmingly last week to rename their fledgling town know better.
In fact, over 80 percent of the 553 citizens who voted chose to change the town name from Diamond Star to Star Valley, and the reason most cited was the latter's historical significance.
Star Valley was actually named after a Mr. Starr, probably spelled with two Rs. According to local historians, Starr -- whose first name is not known -- was the first resident of the valley that bears his truncated name.
What is known, according to former Payson town historian Stan Brown, is that Starr and his Indian wife were murdered around 1875 by Apaches shortly after they settled in the area.
"He and his Indian wife were among the earliest settlers in the Rim Country, if local folklore is to be believed." Brown said. "The Apache War still raged in the early 1870s when they came here."
Jinx Pyle, current co-town historian (along with his wife, Jayne Peace), doesn't know the circumstances of the murders either, but he understands the political climate that fostered them.
"The Apaches were unpredictable, and he was a white man in their country," he said. "They were pretty emotional."
Rich Pinkerton, a Star Valley resident who served on the state's Geographic Names Board back in the 1980s when the community's name was registered, concurs with the basic story related by Brown and Pyle, although he says the details are pretty murky.
When the Diamond Star Water Coalition organized the incorporation petition drive, it chose the name Diamond Star because the area being incorporated encompassed two communities -- Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows -- and because the incorporation area was the same as the area covered by the Diamond Star Fire Department.
It was only after the fact that a group of residents came to the Diamond Star Town Council and asked them to consider a name change.
In November, the council voted unanimously to ask the Gila County Board of Supervisors to grant the name change. The resolution passed by the council read, in part:
"The town council finds it is in the best interests of the citizens of Diamond Star to change the corporate name from Diamond Star to Star Valley so that the longstanding (association) of the name ... will clearly identify the town."
At the time, Town Attorney Fredda Bisman believed a name change would be a fairly simple process, but the county's attorneys begged to differ.
"We sent it over to Gila County and their position was that they didn't have any authority, so we thought, ‘Let's take it to the voters to be sure we get this done right,'" Bisman said.
Vice Mayor Randy White said, before the election, that the voters' decision would be final.
"We're covering ground that has never been covered in the state, so we think the most legal thing to do is to put it on the ballot and let the people vote on it," White said. "However that turns out, we're going to drive on it."
Speaking of covering ground, Brown said, that Mrs. Starr was buried in Star Valley "on a ridge south of the historic ranch house currently owned by Raymond and Pat (Haught) Cline." But apparently no one knows what happened to Mr. Starr's body.
Pinkerton, who moved to Star Valley in 1997 -- over a century after the Starrs -- was one of 441 residents who voted to change the name.
"I've always been for Star Valley," he said.