Myrtle Point, Myrtle Lake -- Have You Ever Wondered, ‘Who Is Myrtle?'


This story was written by local historian, Jayne Peace Pyle, in honor of Women's History Month.

The majestic Myrtle Point that juts high on the Mogollon Rim was named after 16-year-old Myrtle Clara Pyle who died on Christmas Day, 1899. Although Myrtle was here only a short while, she left more than one mark in the Rim Country of Payson.


Myrtle Clara Pyle (1884-1899)

The daughter of Elwood and Sarah (Corder) Pyle, Myrtle was born April 13, 1884 in Larned, Kan. Her father was a Midwest farmer and her mother a housewife and photographer. Myrtle had two older siblings born in Kansas -- a sister, Nellie (1880), and a brother, Lewis (1882).

Her father, Elwood, decided to leave Kansas after a tornado picked up his barn, carried it out into a pasture and dropped it on one corner. Soon after, he moved his family to Los Angeles, Calif.

There, his wife's asthma was aggravated by the coastal climate, so the Pyles decided to move to the drier climate of Arizona.

Sarah read an ad in the Los Angeles Times newspaper that described land in Star Valley. It was for sale or trade by Kate Sidles, wife of Henry Sidles, one of the earliest settlers in the Payson area.

Sarah contacted Kate Sidles by letter and the ladies cut a deal. Sarah traded their 160 acres in Los Angeles, Calif. to Kate Sidles for 160 acres in Star Valley.

Elwood, Sarah, and their three children, Nellie, 10, Lewis, 8, and Myrtle, 6, made the trip from Los Angeles to Flagstaff by train. The day before they reached Flagstaff, the children were excited to see tall pine trees. At Flagstaff, Elwood bought a wagon and team of mules and joined the Alfred Peach Freight Line to continue their trip to Payson and Star Valley.

When they dropped off the Mogollon Rim above Strawberry, big pine trees were cut, tied to the backs of the wagons and dragged top-first so the limbs would slow their descent. This was hard and dangerous work in steep, rugged country, but exciting for 6-year-old Myrtle and her siblings.

The Pyles arrived in Star Valley in October 1890 and settled on the land they had traded by letter. It had not been homesteaded, but that wasn't important in 1890.

Most of the land in the Payson and Star Valley area had not yet been homesteaded. Cattle were included in the trade and the brand was KS, which stood for Kate Sidles. Elwood Pyle recorded the brand in 1892 in Globe.

The following August, 1891, Myrtle, 7, was pleased with the arrival of a new baby brother -- Floyd Monroe Pyle -- the first Pyle to be born in Arizona. Myrtle was happy to help her mom and older sister, Nellie, care for Floyd.

In 1892, Elwood started a burro pack train that carried goods from Fort McDowell to Payson and Star Valley. Myrtle's oldest brother, Lewis (Lewie) who was 10 years old at the time, helped his dad with the pack train, and by age 18, took over the operation.

After three years of dry-farming the Star Valley property (1893), Elwood and Sarah traded their place to Joe Ezell for 160 acres with a beautiful trout stream under the Mogollon Rim. Bonita, meaning "pretty" in Spanish, was the perfect name for this creek and that is what Elwood called it. Others often called it Pyle Creek, but after a few years, it was known as Bonita Creek.

Elwood and Sarah were particularly interested in the good rich soil there and the beautiful gardens and flowers they could grow. Sarah planted flowers of all kinds and colors and the place was one of beauty. Elwood planted apple, peach, pear, apricot, plum and mulberry trees. The Ezells had also planted trees. Hundreds of fruit trees produced tons of fruit every year. Bonita Creek held an abundance of Native trout fish, and the forest was alive with deer and turkeys. Soon, the place was called "Bonita Gardens." Young Myrtle and her siblings grew up in a paradise.

In July 1897, Nellie Pyle married John Delar Fletcher Beard. So, Elwood and Fletcher built a room onto the Pyle house and that is where the newlyweds lived. In August 1899, Nellie delivered her first baby, Laura, there. Myrtle loved holding the baby and helped care for her.

Beyond helping her mother and sister with cooking, canning, washing and sewing, Myrtle enjoyed fishing and swimming. She and her brothers rode four miles to school on burros. She loved school, but four miles each way five days a week was tiring. She also liked to write letters, but had to wait until someone went to Payson or Pine to mail them. In fact, it was a struggle for everyone living under the Rim to post or receive mail.

Myrtle saw a solution. She decided a post office was needed for the families living under the Mogollon Rim. The Pyles from Bonita Gardens, the Babe Haught and John Haught families from Tonto Creek, Andrew Pyeatt from Pyeatt Draw, Al Tompkins from Tompkins Draw, the Boles family from under the Rim at what would be named Myrtle Point, the Pappy Haught family and the Goswick families from Apple Valley (the lower place on Ellison Creek), and the Pete Haught family at the upper place on Ellison Creek at what would later be called "the Myrtle Ranch," all needed easier access to postal services.

Young Myrtle wrote letter after letter to congressmen, and, after a few months, a much-needed post office was established at the upper place on Ellison Creek, later called the Myrtle Ranch in her honor, a few miles east of Bonita Gardens. The post office was given her name -- Myrtle Post Office -- and the first postmaster was Alfonso Landry. He began his duties Dec. 23, 1899.

The next day, tragedy struck the Pyle family. Sixteen-year-old Myrtle was making divinity for Christmas. It was raining and the humidity made it difficult for the candy to set.

Myrtle was not feeling well and exclaimed, "I am going to make a good batch of divinity if it kills me."

On Christmas Day, 1899, young Myrtle died. After her death, her mother could never again let someone use that saying in her presence. At the time no one knew the cause of death, but later, they thought it to be a ruptured appendix.

Myrtle was first buried at Bonita Gardens. In the 1940s, her brother Floyd with the help of his son, Gene, moved her to the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

Since Myrtle Pyle's death over a century ago, many landmarks have been given her name -- Myrtle School, Myrtle Post Office, Myrtle Ranch and Myrtle Cattle Allotment have mostly been forgotten. But Myrtle Point, Myrtle Lake and Myrtle Trail remain.

A young beautiful girl who died before she could marry or bear children, left a legacy through her service to her surrounding community. Not another person in the Rim Country has had so many places named in their honor.

Eighteen months after Myrtle's death, her mother, Sarah, gave birth to twin daughters, Myrth and Myrl, born July 17, 1901 at Bonita Gardens. Sarah was 39 years old. What fun Myrtle would have had with these babies.

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