The recent Water Wheel Fire was near three old homesteads, two of which have since been developed into subdivisions. This provides a perfect chance to take a glimpse at the past of this general area.
The first item of note is the Houston Mesa Road. It’s named for the Houston Brothers, who were in the area in the late 1870s and 1880s. The Houstons were predominantly in the Star Valley area, though the mesa that you cross onto going from Payson to the Mesa del Caballo subdivision is named for them. This mesa provides a great view of Star Valley.
Beaver Valley is a subdivision that was created on the old homestead of Bert Belluzzi. Bert’s father was Bartholomeo Belluzzi, who patented land in the Rim Trail area. Bert was born on Jan. 17, 1885 in Flagstaff and died Jan. 9, 1951 in Florence, Ariz. His patent for the land was issued on Aug. 31, 1916. According to the patent application, he established residence on the property in October 1910 when he was 25 years old. Out of the 114 acres, he claimed that only about 40 were cultivated at the time. More specifically he stated the following about what he was growing:
“I have cultivated about 30 acres of the land for five years past; ten acres in alfalfa, the balance of the tract used for corn and potatoes, the alfalfa has averaged about 3 tons to the acre; and the corn has averaged about 1000 lbs to the acre; only plant enough potatoes for my own use.”
Belluzzi’s four witnesses for his homestead were William H. Hilligass, Henry F. Haught, William W. Gibson, and Arthur Neal. All were said to be of Payson. But the homestead is not where Beaver Valley’s fascinating history ends. Enter the 1960s.
In the late 1950s, Dr. G. Robert Barfoot began developing the property, according to “Beaver Valley, Then & Now,” a history published by homeowners in 2001. He started by building some cottages, cabin, and a pond, and eventually a railroad track with depot, tennis courts, and some other items. However, by the early 1960s, he was proposing even more improvements. According to Beaver Valley history, Dr. Barfoot had bigger plans and may have even wanted to create an even more elegant resort to be used by only physicians.
The resort concept in Beaver Valley was resurrected in the late 1960s to no avail. Even with the nationally known personality Lew King and his radio show being performed live in Beaver Valley for a time, the resort concept failed. Eventually Beaver Valley was split up into the lots known today.
A little bit further and a little bit east of the spot that the Water Wheel fire started is Cold Springs. This 156.2 acre parcel is one of the few remaining homesteads in Rim Country not to be developed into full fledge subdivisions at this point in time. It was patented by John “Hi” Fuller on Nov. 19, 1913. There Fuller and a number of others ran cattle through the years. Today it is a fenced area that many swimmers know because there is a nice swimming hole just west beneath the property.
Whispering Pines is a place with some serious history. Originally it was home to the John Meadows family in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The Meadows were there when the infamous Apache raid of July 1882 occurred, taking the life of the elder John Meadows. Later, Frank Hendershot patented just under 160 acres on Jan. 28, 1913. Whispering Pines was later developed in the late 1950s into the subdivision we know today.