Originally Published: February 12, 2011 9:45 p.m.
(This is the third and final installment of "A Day Trip..." We pick up for the final segment of the journey at the Walnut Creek Bridge at milepost 35.8.)
As you cross the bridge, look up and slightly to the left (northwest) and you will see the Juniper Mesa Wilderness area. You are in the Juniper Mountains that span many miles to the north and west from here. Soon after crossing the bridge, County Road 125 (Walnut Creek Road) branches to the west. Turn here to explore the area.
The little community of Walnut Creek that flourished in the 1870s, '80s and '90s was about 1.8 miles in from the turnoff. There is now a ranger station and the Walnut Creek Center for Education and Research at the town site.
The Amiel Whipple party had traveled along Walnut Creek in 1854 while scouting for a route that could be followed by a transcontinental railroad. He originally named it "Pueblo Creek" because of the extensive ancient ruins in the area. While waiting for his supply train, Whipple camped in the area of today's Walnut Creek Ranger Station.
The community of Walnut Creek was on the old toll road owned and operated by William C. Hardy, who had hired Hualapai Indians to build his road. It was called the Hardyville Road and ran all the way from Prescott to Hardyville (now Bullhead City). Along this stretch of the road was Camp Hualapai, an army installation from 1869-1873 to keep the road open and keep peace with the Indians. The school here in Walnut Creek had 26 students in 1879 under schoolmaster S. Charmingdale Rogers. He was briefly the postmaster of "Charmingdale," a nearby hamlet named after him. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) had a camp at the ranger station site from 1933 to 1941, and some ruins remain.
Just northeast of the ranger station, off the Juniper Springs Trail about a quarter mile up from the road, is an old cemetery in disrepair with only four graves having legible headstones noting deaths between 1881 and 1897. The grave name "W.T. Shook," was the 2-year-old son of William G. Shook, who later was a resident at the Arizona Pioneers' Home in Prescott. Another grave is that of Marilla Jean Rogers, who died March 6, 1897. Above her headstone is a wooden plaque with this inscription: "Within this grave an angel lies, no myth that flits above the skies. A host in life of friendly ties bespoke an angel good and wise." She was apparently the wife of the postmaster/schoolmaster. Two other gravestones are E.D. Scholey (1851-1881) and Roland Scholey (1878-1881), possibly a father and son. The Arizona Miner, March 14, 1879, states, "Mrs. Ed Scholey, who keeps a very good station at Walnut Creek, is in town. She informs us that her husband, who received two years ago a severe paralytic stroke, is very low and is now unable to either walk or talk."
Turn around here at the ranger station and return to Williamson Valley Road, turning north toward Seligman. Looking north at mileposts 41-43, you will see Picacho Butte, which is along Interstate 40 nine miles east of Seligman. Bill Williams Mountain at Williams can be seen to the east in the distance. Stop a moment at milepost 51 for a panoramic view. The radar dome can be seen on the hill at Seligman. Can you see the trucks on I-40?
At milepost 58, you will be driving across the Big Chino Wash, which extends from north of Seligman and I-40, and is a major headwater for the Verde River. This is the beginning of Chino Valley opening southeastward to the town by the same name. Walnut Creek and creeks in Williamson Valley are primary contributors to this aquifer, creating the headwaters of the Verde River. The Big Chino aquifer supplies 80 percent of the flow in the upper river.
The Big Chino Wash, now usually dry, ran with water before 1950 and contained native fish. The Big Chino Wash and this broad valley were named by Whipple in 1853 because, he writes, "Chino is said to be the local Mexican name for grama grass which grows luxuriantly in this valley."
At milepost 67.2, the gravel road ends and the paved road into Seligman becomes old Route 66. In 1886, the area was known as Prescott Junction because a spur line, the Prescott and Central Arizona Railroad ("Peavine"), ran from here to Prescott. Original settlers were Theut and Moultrie families between 1889 and 1891. The town was later named Seligman after the brothers who were part owners of the Aztec Land and Cattle Company (Hashknife Outfit) and also large stockholders with the railroad.
Seligman had been a terminal point for changing crews between Winslow and Needles. Railroaders rented rooms, and patronized the local cafes and businesses during their layovers. In the late 1970s, the new interstate bypassed the town, and in February 1985, the Santa Fe Railroad closed its operations here. Today the trains roar through Seligman without stopping. In the 2000 census, the population was 456.
For a real treat, walk Seligman's Route 66, check out the shops, have some lunch and return to Prescott via I-40, then Route 89 from Ash Fork.
The entire "Day Trip" may be read at sharlot.org/library&archives/history/dayspast.