Discovering Tonto Village


The quietness and solitude are two of the primary reasons why people move to the small community of Tonto Village.

Tonto Village is about 18 miles east of Payson, about one mile north off Highway 260.

Kendra Garrett and Sandra Fitch remember what Tonto Village was like in the 1950s.

Their mother, Nedra, got her real estate license in the ‘50s and began to sell lots in the community.

Nedra Fitch worked for Howard Standage, who owned the land.

In the 1950s, Garrett said. The Fitch family built the second home in the community.

She said there was no phone service. Elk and fireflies made up the majority of traffic.

"That was when everything glowed," Garrett said. Since then, the community has grown and split into three areas -- Tonto Village I, Tonto Village II and Tonto Village III.

Their mother petitioned to bring the first bar to the community, which is now the Double D Restaurant and Bar.

She said her family discovered the area after their father got tired of the rain on their annual trips to Show Low from the Valley.

She said the first home was, and is still, owned by the Watsons, which is the first home visitors see when entering the community.

They spent three months of the year there and were among the ones who dug trenches for septic tanks and other necessities.

"There was no one who lived here," Garrett remembered. "It was all dirt roads. It was an awesome time."

Garrett also said that was when the people in the community could view the meadow from their porches.

Garrett said she decided to come back to Tonto Village to live permanently when the Valley temperature on June 26, 1990, reached a record of 122 degrees.

Fitch said her father always talked about retiring to the pines, but died seven months after retiring.

"I am not going to wait to retire to move to the pines," she told herself.

Garrett said the community now has about 400 year-round residents, as well as many summer visitors.

She said about once a month she will drive to Payson to buy necessities.

She said when it snows in the community, everyone in Tonto Village is snowed in.

"We get the whiskey and the all-terrain vehicles out," she said. "No one goes to work."

She said the lots, which once sold for $1,500, now sell for more than $60,000.

There are 255 lots in Tonto Village, 200 of which are occupied by families.

Chuck Stailey, who has lived in the community for 34 years with his wife, said he likes the area where he raised his family.

When he moved to the community in 1973, there were only six families who lived there for the entire year.

He said he likes being away from the noise and pollution of larger cities and towns.

Kevin Martin, who works at the Tonto Village Fire Department, said he likes living in the small community where he can ride quads and watch elk.

"It really is laid back, and the neighbors and people here are friendly."

He said he retired to the community from Mesa, and he likes that he does not have to be concerned about his grandchildren's welfare when they come to visit him.

Martin said he learned about the community from his wife, who previously lived there.

Tonto Village Fire Chief J.R. Alliger said his firehouse in Tonto Village was built in 1982 in three to four different phases.

He first heard about Tonto Village during his days as a scoutmaster when he took the scouts to the area that he now calls his home.

"It's the solitude, the weather and the quad riding," he said about Tonto Village. "I was tired of the Valley, and it was too hot."

Janet Snyder said the community is very diversified with people having many interests and hobbies.

Ethel Cain, who owns the Double D Restaurant and Bar along with her husband, has opened up a small convenience store where the people in the community and visitors can pick up a few items.

"It does come in handy when they need some things," she said, adding the Double D is the place for get-togethers for the people living in the community.

She said she and her husband moved to Tonto Village and became the third owners of the Double D.

"We added on where the store is now," Cain said.

In the Tonto Village center, beyond the Double D Restaurant and Bar, there is a Tonto Village school that is used for kindergarten to 12th-grade students, a nursery and a motel.

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