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Tue, March 19

Days Past: History along Route 89 from Chino Valley to Ash Fork: Part I

Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photos<br>A photo taken in 1976 shows what was then left of the house at Del Rio Springs used first as the headquarters for old Fort Whipple, and then as a residence for Robert and Hannah Postle in 1867.

Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photos<br>A photo taken in 1976 shows what was then left of the house at Del Rio Springs used first as the headquarters for old Fort Whipple, and then as a residence for Robert and Hannah Postle in 1867.

The town of Chino Valley has several theories of origin attached to it. Marshall Trimble, in "Roadside History of Arizona," writes, "During the historic 1853-54 survey, Lieutenant Amiel W. Whipple chose the name Chino Valley after the grama grass that carpeted the vast, windswept region. The Baker ranch was located in this area with more than 10,000 head of cattle by the 1880s. Farming was carried on until the 1940s, but water was a constant problem. A small oil boom occurred from 1917 to 1918, with some drilling into the 1940s, but it never paid off. By the 1950s, the farms were being subdivided into small homesites and, on Sept. 21, 1970, the Town of Chino Valley was incorporated.

At the north end of Chino Valley, Perkinsville Road, named for the family who ranched extensively in the region, takes off to the east from Highway 89. On this road about one mile east of Highway 89 was a railroad junction called Jerome Junction. It was a settlement sponsored by the railroad, consisting of a coal and water depot, a post office, school, store, saloon, hotel, dance hall in a barn, residences and a narrow-gauge roundhouse. Sixty-five men worked there in the rail yards where the spur line to Jerome took off. In 1920, the railroad abandoned the narrow-gauge for a standard-gauge to Jerome and the town died. The Jerome Junction road sign marks the original site, where little evidence remains of the bustling railroad town. Most of the buildings were moved to the present town of Chino Valley. The Jerome Junction Hotel was restored and moved to the grounds of Knott's Berry Farm in California.

Just north of Chino Valley along Highway 89 is a road east to Del Rio Springs. The name derives from the fact that these springs are a source for "the river" (Del Rio). Such water sources have always been places for settlement, and this spring had been put on the military map by the 1853 Lt. Amiel Whipple party. When the Goodwin (governor's) Party of the new Arizona Territorial officers appointed by President Lincoln came to establish the new government, their advance military detachment under the command of General Carleton set up a temporary camp here on Dec. 20, 1863, calling it Fort Whipple. Thirty-three days later, on Jan. 22, 1864, the governor's party arrived and set up the first territorial capital in Arizona. In May 1864, Fort Whipple was moved to Granite Creek, closer to the settlement that would become Prescott.

About this same time, a young Army officer who had been wounded in an Indian skirmish and was recently dismissed from the service at Fort Canby in New Mexico arrived to stake squatter's rights. His name was Robert Postle. He expanded his ranching to include the Army's former campsite. He was a successful farmer, along with a partner named J.N. Brown, and developed a grist mill in addition to other improvements. He also included as partners two others, Andres Montaques and Jose Delgado, who would stake additional property and deed it over to Postle later. It was a common way settlers had of expanding their claims beyond the set limits.

The Arizona Miner of Sept. 21, 1864, reported, "Messrs. Postle, Brown and Co. have taken up for ranching purposes the old site of Ft. Whipple. The ranch consists of about five hundred acres. They are now cutting some two hundred tons of hay, which they expect to offer to Prescott this winter. Next season they will have under cultivation about two hundred acres of corn, wheat, etc."

In 1866, David Wesley Shivers and his family of four daughters stopped to water their livestock and Postle convinced them to stay with the promise that they could purchase the nearby property of his partner Jose Delgado. Postle, 30, was lonely, and was taken with the Shivers' daughter, Hannah, 14. The property was transferred to Shivers on April 11, 1867, and, on Sept. 10 of that year, Postle and Hannah were married. Their home was the large adobe house that had served as the original headquarters for Fort Whipple, which Postle had taken over.

The Postles had three children, one dying in infancy. Then, on April 9, 1871, at the age of 34, Robert Postle died and left his 18-year old-wife, Hannah, with two little ones: Robert, 3, and Alice, an infant.

Next week in Part II, we will continue with more history about Del Rio Springs and places beyond on our trek toward Ash Fork.


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