It was the autumn of 1871 when General George Crook first stopped to drink from the spring that would be named for him.
General Springs (as it has come to be called) rises one-half mile north of the edge of the Mogollon Rim. These springs create a cienaga (a wetland meadow) that flows south under the surface to emerge a mile down the canyon. From there numerous other springs form growing rapids and pools to become the East Verde River.
Crook in his autobiography speaks of “striking a large and well-defined trail leading to the north. After following it for a short distance we came upon a nice spring of delicious water in a little bottom covered with grass ...”
John G. Bourke in his book “On the Border With Crook” gave it the name “General’s Springs” clearly referring to Crook.
This place became a major camp site on the Crook Military Road, although unknown to the general at the time it was also a stop on the ancient Moqui Trail. For centuries this trail brought Native traders north from the deserts to trade at Hopi villages. Then in 1882 the band of Apache renegades, led by Nan-ti-a-tish stopped here long enough to roast a beef they had stolen from the Meadow’s ranch in (today’s) Whispering Pines.
In the last century a cabin was built there in July 1914 by request of the District Forester in Albuquerque, Supervisor Willard Drake. It was to be used by the ranger fire guard who hauled the logs and made the shakes for the building. It was 12 feet wide by 14 feet long, with a lean-to shed on the back. The walls were not keyed to each other, but were freestanding, held to one another by diagonal braces that are covered by vertical boards.
One year later, 1915, the District Forester took an inspection tour and then ordered the new supervisor to do a better job of chinking the walls and add a wide porch and a fireplace.
This background of the General Springs cabin illustrates how errors in history often get passed along. A 1970 report says, “The General Springs cabin was built in 1918 ... by a fellow remembered by the local people only as ‘Old Dutch.’”
A few years later early-day Forest Ranger Fred W. Croxen recalled, “The cabin was built in 1916 or 1917 by Louis Fisher.”
In 1978 a forest archaeologist found an old photo of the cabin dated 1915. This confused her since in the photo the sign in front of the cabin read “Built in 1918 by Louis Fisher.” The supervisor then called for more research to be done; apparently those reports did not have the advantage of original correspondence ordering the cabin in 1914.
Today the place remains a lovely picnic spot, easily reached off Forest Road 300. It provides a touch with Rim Country history, symbolic of an era before tall fire-watch towers were built. Meanwhile, many fire watch rangers lived in the General Springs cabin over the years.