HISTORY OF SEDONA
The date on which humans first lived in Sedona is lost in the mists of time and might be as far back as 11,500 B.C.
According to archaeologists, big game hunting Paleo-Indians lived in Sedona by 9,000 B.C. A Clovis projectile point found here is evidence of the Paleo-Indians’ presence.
About that same time, Archaic people who were hunter-gatherers arrived in the Verde Valley. Due to ecological diversity and many natural resources, these people stayed in the valley until about 300 A.D., leaving behind an interesting assortment of rock art.
The next to arrive were the Sinagua people in about 650 A.D. In addition to building the cliff dwellings at Honanki, Palatki, and Montezuma Castle as well as the hill top dwelling at Tuzigoot, the Sinagua people left behind rock art, basketry, and pottery. At around 1400 A.D., the Sinagua moved north to join the Hopi in Arizona and the Zuni in New Mexico.
It is possible that the Sinagua were encouraged to move elsewhere by the nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Yavapai, who arrived about 1300 A.D. and the nomadic Apaches, who arrived about 1450 A.D.
In 1876, the first white settler, John J. Thompson, moved into Oak Creek Canyon. Finding that apples and peaches grew well in Sedona, early settlers traveled by horse-drawn wagons up Schnebly Hill to Flagstaff to sell their produce, collect their mail, and buy what they needed before making the days long trek back down the canyon switchback to Sedona.
By 1900, there were about 15 homesteading families in Sedona. T.C. and Sedona Schnebly from Gorin, Missouri, were one of those families. By building a two story home, the Schneblys became the first general store and hotel in town.
Seeing the need for their own post office (because the nearly week long trip to Flagstaff to get mail was a bit of a hassle), T.C. wanted to start the first post office. When the first two names were turned down by he Postmaster General in Washington, D.C., Ellsworth Schnebly suggested to his brother, “Why don’t you name it after your wife?”
And thus, Sedona became the name of our town.
What is the Origin of Mrs. Schnebly’s First Name?
It’s not a Spanish name.
It’s not a Native American name.
It’s a Missouri name.
When Amanda Miller was expecting her child, she “just thought up” the name “Sedona” for the little girl because it sounded pretty. On February 24, 1977, that’s the name that was put on the birth certificate of Sedona Miller.
Sedona and the Surrounding Area
Believe it or not, the Sedona, Arizona area was once a vast tidal coast flat. This was 300 million years ago, before the Rocky Mountains existed and when all of Earth’s continents were aligned as one super continent known as Pangaea. At that time — in what is now present day Colorado — a giant mountain range existed known as “The Ancient Rockies.”
Over millions of years these mountains eroded and flowed to the ocean creating sediment deposits rich in iron. It’s that iron, now exposed to oxygen and rusting, that makes Sedona’s rocks so red. This same sediment deposit can be seen in the red rocks at the Grand Canyon and around the town of Moab, Utah.
The first human inhabitants of the Sedona area were the Anasazi who settled the area roughly 1,200 years ago. Their name simply means “The Old Ones”. The Anasazi built stone and mud cliff dwellings throughout the area and the ruins and petroglyphs they left behind are well worth a visit. They were expert toolmakers, crafting arrowheads, axes, pottery and even children’s toys.
Their rock paintings and settlements can be found throughout the Sedona area. About 500 years ago these people vanished, and no one is completely sure why. Some believe famine, war, or disease. What’s most likely, however, is that they simply overtaxed their resources and moved on.
The first white settlers came to the area in the late 1800s. They found sophisticated irrigation systems for farming in Oak Creek Canyon. The Apache Indians had most recently used these farms before they were relocated into the United States reservation system. The white settlers came to Sedona in response to The Homestead Act signed into law by Abraham Lincoln.
This law allowed settlers to stake claim to 160-acre plots of land. The first tourists arrived in Sedona around 1900 led by the guide T. C. Schnebly who was married to a young woman from Missouri by the name of Sedona. T.C. applied to be the area’s first postmaster in 1902 and named the town after his wife.
The next few decades of Sedona history were times of cattle ranches and apple orchards. But the bucolic life wouldn’t remain for long because the beauty of the red rocks was too hard a secret to keep. In the 1940s Hollywood came to town and the golden age of Sedona cinema was underway. In all about 100 movies have been filmed underneath the towering red rocks.
Some of the standouts:
1946 – Angel and the Badman starring John Wayne
1948 – Blood on the Moon starring Rock Hudson
1965 – The Rounders starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda
1967 – Stay Away, Joe starring Elvis Presley
Sedona has come a long way. A lot of the development you see in town was built during the 1980s when the area was experiencing rapid growth. In 1988, Sedona was incorporated as a city. Despite the popularity, Sedona has maintained its small town roots, which is illustrated by the fact that the planning and zoning commission forced McDonald’s to change its golden arches to a less obtrusive teal — the only such arches in the world. Today, Sedona, Arizona is one of the most beautiful towns in the Western United States and is a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.
To see the wide range of activities Sedona has to offer check out the Sky Ranch Lodge Adventures page.