DescriptionIn the 1870s, early settlers began to take homesteads in a beautiful area of Northern Arizona nestled amid stunning red rock formations. In 1899, pioneer "T.C." Schnebly petitioned the Postmaster General to name the town “Sedona” after his wife. Mild weather and plentiful water from Oak Creek provided an environment for successful agriculture and ranching. The area was later discovered by Hollywood directors as a perfect setting for many western movies. Over the years, the town has grown to a retirement Mecca, new age community and worldwide tourist destination.
TranscriptNarrator: Long ago, all of this was under a vast sea. For millions of years, wind and water were the sculptors of sandstone and iron oxide. Today, the stunning red rock formations of Sedona take your breath away. Nomadic people once lived in the area. Native American tribes settled, farmed, and traded here. These indigenous people were forced out after the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Spain had claimed the land, and then Mexico. And in 1848, it became part of the Arizona Territory.
Janeen Trevillyan: The Homestead Act of 1862 and the relocation of the Native Americans to reservations in all of the West drove people to come to this part of the country. We don't have a lot of homesteaders right off. It's a very remote place: there are no roads, there's no train. Oak Creek itself, which is a year-round water source in the state of Arizona, is probably the big attraction, but it's not easy to get here and it's not easy to make a living here because there's not a lot of flatland.
Narrator: The first homesteader to take on the challenge was a man named Jim Thompson.
Janeen Trevillyan: In 1876, Jim Thompson was in Nevada and Utah, and he heard about this place. And he traveled down and he -- literally is the way we tell it -- literally dropped over the edge of Oak Creek Canyon. He found an abandoned Apache garden of melon, corn, and beans, and he decided this looked like a good place, so he nailed a sign to the tree that said "squatter's rights" and he set up there to homestead. And that place carries the name Indian Gardens to this day.
Narrator: Thompson built a cabin. Being a single man and a solitary settler, he sent a letter to a family he met in Utah and suggested they come to the area. They did, and Thompson promptly married their daughter Margaret. They had nine children. Oak Creek flowed year-round and drew settlers skilled at routing the water to grow crops and orchards. The Schuerman family was among them. They came from Germany in the 1880s and brought their skill for winemaking.
Janeen Trevillyan: They started planting grapes. And there are a lot wild grapes in Oak Creek Canyon, so it's said that wherever wild grapes grow, domestic grapes grow. And they very successfully built large grape orchards, or vineyards, out near where Red Rock Crossing is today. And the family became expert winemakers.
Narrator: This is one of the Schuermans' homesteads. Sherman Loy, born in 1926, is a descendant of the family.
Sherman Loy: Well, I grew up in the place. Moved here when I was 2 years old. My grandfather probably could've bought and sold the whole rest of Oak Creek Canyon and everybody else around, because he just made a hell of a lot more money, and it was all in the wine thing. He got in a little jam over the wine production. He had done what was common in Europe, where he came from, and sold a little when he shouldn't have and got in trouble with the law and was finally pardoned by the governor.
Narrator: It was during this time that perhaps the most famous settler of the area arrived, Sedona Miller Schnebly.
Janeen Trevillyan: In 1901, T.C. -- Theodore Carl -- and Sedona Schnebly moved here, and they actually built a two-story wood house, the first and only one here for I can't tell you how many years, and out of that wooden house, they actually rented rooms, so it was sometimes called the Schnebly Hotel. They also brought products down from Flagstaff, so they ran a little general store, if you will, out of their house.
Narrator: T.C. also brought the mail back from Flagstaff, and in 1902, he decided the town should have its own post office.
Janeen Trevillyan: He submitted some names to the Postmaster General, and the Postmaster General at that time had a prejudice for one-name post offices. And he wrote back and said, "None of the names you had sent would work. Please submit something shorter." And so he submitted -- his brother, actually, Sedona's brother-in-law, said, "Why don't you submit 'Sedona,' your wife's name, and see if that will go?" And the postmaster wrote back, and in June 1902, we got our name and our first post office.
Narrator: Also among the homesteaders was the Jordan family.
Janeen Trevillyan: Will and Annie Jordan bought two farms. They bought this farm, which was a dry farm, and they bought a farm on Oak Creek. They had two grown children, Walter and George. They put Walter here and they put George on the other farm, and they went off and took the rest of their money and bought another place further down the creek.
Narrator: Their sons created a water wheel and pump system to bring water to the farm.
Janeen Trevillyan: So it's really after they bring water to this area here, this dry farm, that they're able to start planting orchards. And eventually they had over 1,500 apple and peach trees, were the largest employer in town, and after World War II, when they built the house as you see it today, it was the big house on the hill in town.
Narrator: The home now houses the Sedona Heritage Museum. The Jordan’s fruit-packing shed still has this relic... a restored apple sorting machine that was used into the mid-20th century. It was about this time that Hollywood found that Sedona’s red rocks made an exquisite backdrop. It began with writer Zane Grey and the filming of his novel Call of the Canyon in the 1920s. Later, one of Hollywood's biggest stars rode into the landscape.
Janeen Trevillyan: In the earlier 1940s, John Wayne came here to make a movie --it was called Tall in the Saddle -- and so he was exposed to this beautiful place. In 1946, the studio, Republic Studios, told him he could produce his first film. The outfitter for the movie, who'd worked on the other film, called him and said, "Look, I know there's no hotel in Sedona and it's really kind of a tough place to make a movie, but if you'll bring your movie, Angel and the Badman, if you'll bring that movie to Sedona, I’ll build you a hotel and I'll build you a movie site."
Narrator: After World War II, roads and bridges brought tourists and travelers to Sedona. Retirees streamed to the area, a trend not appreciated by some longtime residents.
Sherman Loy: I think all those snowbirds and all those other folks ought to stay where the hell they came from and be done with it.
Narrator: Still, this beautiful land would continue to draw people. Several well-known artists relocated to Sedona, now widely known for its galleries and arts community. Many came for the spiritual, reflective, and creative atmosphere. Marguerite Brunswig Staude built the dramatic Chapel of the Holy Cross in 1956.
Janeen Trevillyan: She came to Sedona and was driving around and flying around the area, looking for an appropriate place for her chapel, and she looked at a rock one day and there was something inscribed on the rock. And it looked like something that was in the prescription business or the pharmaceutical business, and her dad was a pharmacist originally. She felt like this was a sign that this was where her chapel should be.
Narrator: Others also found spiritual inspiration here, some saying Sedona’s famed vortexes are mystical energy centers good for prayer, meditation, and healing. Sedona’s growth continued. Over the '70s, '80s, and '90s, its population would more than triple. Most of the area's historic buildings are now gone, but the spectacular red rocks remain, standing vigil to the once little Arizona settlement that is now a world-famous destination.