In the late 1800s, wagon roads were forged by the military through the thick forested, mountainous terrain, penetrating the land of the Tonto Apache. Adventure seekers and Mormon homesteaders were first to journey into the vast, unexplored territory now attainable by horse, sled and wagon, and discover its magnificence and challenges. With faith, courage and determination, an oasis called Pine Creek and Strawberry Valley sprang up in the Arizona wilderness.
In 1884, the first Pine post office was established in the home of Mary D. Fuller, and mounted mail carriers followed a trail forged by General Crook from Camp Verde to Pine, Payson and Globe. Word spread that Pine was “one of the prettiest villages in the Southwest.”
A strong sense of community was instilled by these early pioneers as schools were built and became a place for social gatherings. Settlers came from near and far to enjoy fiddle music and all-night dances in the Pine and Strawberry Schoolhouse.
Frontier life was rigorous and demanded hard work, but at the end of the day it was time to shake the dust off the cowboy boots with some dancing up at Pine and Strawberry.
By the 1930s, A. Carl Paul recalls in the book Pine Memories, the town’s annual Pioneer Day event brought crowds to town for horse racing and a greased pig chase down Main Street, food, speeches, games and fireworks.
A spirit of helping others was cultivated in the early days with the creation of a Relief Society, and accounts of soldiers with diminished food supply receiving provisions from “the good folks at Pine Creek.”
In the 1950s, the first paved roads to the area were completed, and Strawberry and Pine’s legacy as a place to travel for good times, people and events was solidified.
Modern technology has transformed our cities and the past has gone the way of the dinosaur, but people can still find the oasis in the wilderness with the structures and spirit of the land as it was 100 years ago.
The Strawberry Schoolhouse — the oldest schoolhouse in Arizona — still stands, fiddlers still entertain, a sense of community still prevails and people still come to unwind in “the prettiest place in the Southwest.”
Pine Thrift Store contains echoes of the past
The building that houses the Pine Thrift Store has long been a focal point of the community. Operated by the Senior Center Affairs Foundation (SCAF), proceeds from the Thrift Store are used to fund vital programs for seniors in Strawberry and Pine.
The building was originally the Pine High School, revealing how the community has long valued the schooling of its children.
You can imagine the rooms filled with benches and the hustle and bustle of teens rushing to class with textbooks in arms.
The rooms where students once studied reading and penmanship now hold appliances, books, craft supplies, clothing, dishes, furniture and more. The hallways that I envision once held the students’ coats, and echoed with laughter, now display artwork and home decorating items for thrifty shoppers to peruse.
Where teachers once greeted students, now shoppers are warmly welcomed by volunteers like Judy Mueller, SCAF Volunteer of the Year, a six-year volunteer who has served on the board, as well as volunteering at the food bank.
It is the dedication of volunteers like Judy and others who are the heart of this community and retain and preserve the spirit instilled by the pioneers.
The Pine Thrift Store is a place for value, low prices and sales. Now through Jan. 21, small kitchen appliances and children’s items such as clothing, toys, shoes and books are 50 percent off.
Lunch is served Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m. in the Senior Dining Room for SCAF members. Full- or part-time residents of Pine and Strawberry, age 50 and older, are invited to join for $5 per year and participate in meals, recreation and other programs. Volunteers are also needed.
For further information, contact SCAF at (928) 476-4633.
Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library
The library has a wonderful selection of Southwest and Western books, for those who love the rich history of this great land and area. The library also has a rich history in the community.
They have numerous books, magazines, newspapers, videos and DVDs. You can also find a fax machine, copy machine and computers including a children’s computer with games.
They offer many programs starting with a Children’s Story Hour every Wednesday at 10:15 a.m.
Free, hands-on computer classes return to the Activity Room in February, and a new, hands-on program for parent and child called “Tots n Toddlers Playtime” will begin Feb. 3.
They also have a See’s Valentine Candy sale that you won’t want to miss.
For further information, call (928) 476-3678 or log on to www.pinepubliclibrary.com.
Fire On The Mountain
Plans are under way for the second Fire on the Mountain Bike Race.
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction group (PSFR), who work to protect our area from wildfires, started this fund-raising and awareness event bringing mountain biking into fire prevention strategy.
The 20-mile bike trail, including a 3-mile beginner loop, also accommodates intermediate and advanced mountain bikers in the trail built along the fuel break area surrounding Pine and Strawberry.
The two- to three-day event is set for the weekend of Sept. 15 and anticipates bringing about 100 bikers to the area.
The first public meeting to organize this year’s race is scheduled Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. in the Senior Dining Room. Anyone who would like to be involved in planning is encouraged to attend.
A PSFR meeting to discuss the event will also take place Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Senior Dining Room. All residents are encouraged to attend to learn more about this important event for our community.
I hope you enjoyed the historical perspective on how our town became what it is today.
Please send your feedback or Pine Strawberry happenings to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (602) 790-0248.