The ‘Story’ Of Preacher Canyon

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Just east of Star Valley sits Preacher Canyon, a wild canyon with a little bit of water in it. Nearby is Little Green Valley, a place with a great history to it. Here’s a look at Preacher Canyon and surrounding area.

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Tim Ehrhardt photo

Preacher Canyon has some incredible rock formations. A Highway 260 bridge now cuts across the canyon.

Preacher Canyon is one of those rare places in Rim Country where there’s really no good back-story to how it got its name. Joe Bartels and HikeArizona.com provided the following history: “Preacher Canyon was named after a preacher that homesteaded in the area. His name is not known. History reports he shot his gun off during the Pleasant Valley War of the late 1880s to detour intruders entering the canyon. The Pleasant Valley War was a feud between the Grahams and the Tewksburys. Basically an argument over sheep and cattle, go figure!”

On the local level there doesn’t seem to be any information to support the tie to the Pleasant Valley War, though undoubtedly it had to have been a hideout for some during that time, given its many nooks and crannies.

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Tim Ehrhardt photo

A nice flow of water exists in some places in Preacher Canyon.

Jinx Pyle and Jayne Peace Pyle claim that there was simply an old preacher who lived out there, and that the name seems to date to the 1930s. However, they have not found anything concrete to support that.

Old maps don’t offer much more help either. Back in the day you had two ways to go east from Payson via Star Valley. One of the ways was through Gilliland Gap, on Diamond Rim to the west of today’s lookout tower. This was a more direct path to Ellison Creek and was also likely used by Sampson Elam Boles to access his place under the Rim. (Note, this old trail is now used by ATVs and comes out near the Pyeatt Draw Road and Control Road.)

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Tim Ehrhardt photo

Preacher Canyon has some incredible rock formations.

The other route headed toward Preacher Canyon and Little Green Valley, curving around, eventually to Kohl’s Ranch and to Christopher Creek. The name Preacher Canyon does not appear on maps until the late 1940s. Therefore, it doesn’t seem likely that the preacher was there pre-1900. It’s more probably to date the person somewhere between 1910 and 1950.

Preacher Canyon is interesting terrain. There are a couple decent sources of water in it, including Wildcat Springs. But the soil does not appear to be very workable and the canyon is very shadowy. One can’t help but think that outlaws once hid out there.

Nearby is Little Green Valley, a wonderful large meadow that is perfect for cattle. The settlement in more recent times goes back to the 1880s and was once owned by John Hise, who helped Payson get its post office, and ultimately its name. Hise was from Illinois and was important enough to merit a mention as one of the leading Democrats in one of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates. Later it was owned by the Henry “Pappy” Haught family during the time that Zane Grey was in Rim Country and it was patented by Henry Haught in 1919. Since the late 1940s, Charlie Henderson and later his son Fred Henderson have helped run cattle for various owners whose operations have been based out of Little Green Valley.

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A Highway 260 bridge now cuts across the canyon.

If anyone has any further information about Preacher Canyon, please e-mail me at timothy@zanegrey.net

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