Sedona has a long and rich history – as far as we know today, human settlement of the Sedona vicinity dates back more than 6000 years. Following a long history of pueblo and nomadic peoples living in the area, the conquistadores claimed the area as part of the Spanish occupied territory. When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, this area became part of the territory of Nueva California. In 1848, after the Mexican-American war, the Arizona Territory and with it what is now the Sedona area, would finally become part of the United States.
As early as 4000 BC, hunter-gatherer tribes roamed the Verde Valley and settled in the area. Between 900 and 1350 AD, a more advanced culture appeared – the Sinagua. These people constructed pueblos and cliff houses in the red rock canyons and surrounding desert and plateau lands, the remainders of which are still visible today. The Sinagua - Spanish for “without water” - were skilled in dry farming, relying on the monsoonal summer rains instead of irrigation. They had an understanding of astronomy, and made ornate baskets, pottery and jewelry. They created trade routes with the ancient Mesoamerican cultures of the Pacific coast, Mexico and Central America. These pueblo builders, farmers, traders and artists disappeared from the area by 1400 AD, about the same time that the Yavapai and Apache peoples, nomadic tribes, began to move into the area. The Hopi people of northern Arizona, who still practice dry farming, trace their lineage to the Sinagua.
The Spanish Period
The first European explorers arrived in the Verde Valley in 1583, when Antonio de Espejo led an expedition from Chihuahua northward searching for gold and silver. In 1598, more than a decade after the arrival of Espejo, Marcos Farfan de los Godos came to the Verde Valley. There is, however, no indication that either visited the region around Sedona. They did try some prospecting around what today is Jerome, but found only copper. Interested only in gold, they moved on. Ironically, Jerome would later prove to hold rich deposits of both gold and silver.
Early Settlers and Homesteading
The desire to control mineral resources during the Civil War led to the creation of the Territory of Arizona in 1863. After the founding of Fort Whipple in Prescott and Camp Lincoln (later named Fort Verde), the first notable influx of pioneers to Arizona began. These pioneers lived a perilous existence, hunting, fishing, and farming a few acres and clashing repeatedly with the Indian tribes of the area. The early trailblazers acquired "pre-emption" homesteads, using so-called "squatters´ rights." By 1889, adequate numbers of people had settled in the region that the General Land Office sent out surveyors to lay out township and range lines. By the turn of the century, about fifteen pioneering households called the area home.
Following the forceful expulsion of the Indian people living in the area, some settlers overtook abandoned orchards and vegetable gardens – notably J.J. Thompson, who made his home at Indian Gardens in Oak Creek Canyon in 1876. The homesteaders of the area irrigated small patches of ground utilizing water from Oak Creek to raise produce. Some made wine at local vineyards. Raising chickens, turkeys, and geese was also commonplace on early Sedona Homesteads. Cattle supplied beef, as well as dairy products.
Most of the produce grown in the early days of Sedona was for the home, as well as for a limited seasonal market in Flagstaff and the mining area of Jerome. However, fruit growing - particularly apples and peaches - played a significant part in the early Sedona economy and thus is an important historic theme.
The founding of Sedona
In 1899, Theodore Carlton Schnebly, and his wife, Sedona Miller Schnebly, a young couple from Gorin, Missouri, joined T.C.'s brother Ellsworth in the Oak Creek Area. T. C. Schnebly was an entrepreneur who owned eighty acres, a small general store and a hotel operated out of his home. The Schnebly home was situated near today´s Tlaquepaque and the Los Abrigados resort. T.C. Schnebly coordinated the construction of Sedona´s first post office and became the town´s first postmaster. He proposed the names "Oak Creek Crossing" and "Schnebly Hill Station" to the Postmaster General in Washington, but both came back denied for excessive length. His brother Ellsworth then proposed to name the town after T.C.´s wife, Sedona. On June 26, 1902, the Postmaster General approved the name "Sedona."