Apache County, Arizona History

Apache County was created in 1879 and lies in the northeastern corner of the Territory. Until March. 1895, it also embraced what is now (1896) Navajo County, but at that date the latter was set apart and established as a separate county. Apache County is justly noted for its great natural resources and advantages. It is destined some day in the early future to have a large agricultural population. Now, immense herds of cattle and flocks of sheep roam over its broad mesas and its fertile valleys. The Navajo Indians occupy the northern part of the county-in fact, occupy much of the remainder of the county, as they refuse to remain on their reservation, preferring to drive their sheep and cattle on lands outside their reservation, where the grazing is better. The southern part is a fine grazing country, while the northern part is cut up into picturesque gorges and canons by the floods of past centuries.

“The population of Apache County is about 3,000 souls, an approximate increase for 1895 of 2 per cent. The taxable property of the county amounts to $960,000, as per assessment for 1895, as follows:

Land $230,889
Town lots 13,600
Improvements on town lots 75,000
Total $319,489


Horses 2.500 $45,000
Mules 40 head 1,000
Burros 1OO head 500
Cattle 15,000 head 130,000
Sheep 98,500 head 127,000
Swine 145 head 350
Goats 245 head 145

Approximate total value of mixed property 336,000

Aggregate valuation $959,484

Area of land under cultivation 20,000

Area of land reclaimed during the year 2,000

Area of land capable of reclamation. 200,000

The approximate length of irrigating canals in Apache County is 105 miles, the average width thereof being five feet and the average depth one foot six inches. The lateral feeders there from aggregate 185 miles in length, with an average width of two feet and an average depth of one foot. The average fall of water in both canals and laterals is three feet to the mile. There are six reservoirs now under construction, with a capacity to reclaim 20,000 acres. In addition the county has undeveloped water resources sufficient to reclaim 150,000 acres at a reasonable outlay.

Product Amount Used Value
Wheat 650,000 pounds $13,000.00
Oats 600,000 pounds 9,000.00
Barley 175,000 pounds 2,187.50
Hay 1,400 tons 12,600.00
Corn 82,000 pounds 12,300.00
Beans 28,000 pounds 1,120.00
Potatoes 300,000 pounds 4,500.00
Total $ 54707.50

In addition, dairy products of the approximate value of $3,000 and orchard products (from 100 acres in trees) approximately valued at $2,500, were disposed of during the year. Apples are more successfully produced than any other fruit, but this year the peach crop will he in excess. Coal is found in vast and almost unlimited quantities, but without transportation facilities the deposits can not he worked at a profit, and are consequently valueless.

Number of schools in the county, 10; number of teachers employed, 20; number of pupils, 829: average school months per year, 5½. There are 6 churches in the county, 3 Catholic and 3 Morman or Latter Day Saints. But one newspaper is published in this county, the St. Johns “Herald.” established in 1878. It is a Democratic paper, has a good circulation, and is a credit to the publisher.

Scattered over the greater portion of Apache County, but more especially along the valley of the Colorado Chiquita River, are numerous ruins of a prehistoric people. In the immediate vicinity and just south of St. Johns are the ruins of two large towns, once containing not less than 3,000 or 4,000 inhabitants each. No doubt exists that these ancient peoples were at first “Phallic’ and afterwards Sun Worshipers, as splendid specimens in the shape of images of both forms of worship, carved out of basalt, have been discovered. One of these specimens was eighteen inches in length and six inches in the thickest part. Wherever one meets these ruins, either in Arizona or New Mexico, they always show their main or principal entrance to face the east, and all were built of stone, with ordinary mud for mortar.

Twelve miles south of St. Johns, along the west bank of the river now called San Cosmo by the Mexican people are other ruins of several towns. On the opposite side of the river from one of these ruined towns, near the summit of a “cerrito,” is a large crevice or fissure extending into the cerrito perhaps sixty or more feet, front two to five feet in width.

During the summer of 1876, in company with a companion, Mr. Burbage made a partial exploration of this cave or fissure, and found therein hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bows and arrows, baskets, stone axes and stone hammers, used as implements of war and the chase; also specimens of turquoise used for nose and ear ornaments, periwinkle shells, and a peculiar bead used by all the aborigines of the Americas as “wampum,” or medium of exchange. Unfortunately, some years ago an ignorant Mexican set fire to this valuable collection. and the entire lot was destroyed.

Still farther south, near the village of Springerville, are other ruins having the same characteristics, which also show these people to have possessed considerable engineering skill, as here were found large reservoirs constructed for the storage of the surplus waters of the Colorado River (what is now known as Becker’s Lake was one of these reservoirs), and the canal leading from the reservoir is plain discernible. As a matter of fact, all over Apache County are to be found very many ruins of this class, not alone on the plains and along the valleys of the various streams, but high among the cliffs, almost inaccessible without the aid of ropes and ladders, are found the dwellings of these primitive people. This important field is comparatively untrodden by the antiquarian.

The rarefied atmosphere, still containing a high percentage of ozone, the freedom from sudden changes in temperature, and the absence of violent raw winds, render a residence in Apache County peculiarly adapted to those suffering from lung troubles.

Other essentials for a health resort are the not too extreme dryness of the air and the perfect natural drainage of all sections of the county-. A practical point of interest to those of limited means is the opportunity for employment of a character not too severe, and requiring a large portion of the time to be passed in the fresh open air. There is an abundance of cool, pure spring water in every town and village throughout the county, a point of no little importance to the invalid, especially when taken in conjunction with the fact that there is a total absence of pools or swampage of foul and stagnated water. Owing to the altitude, varying from 4,000 to 10,000 feet, all streams flow rapidly and are well flushed out at different times of the year by the rains and melting snows in the mountains, oxidizing and washing away all decaying vegetable and animal matter and rendering the county absolutely free from any malarial disease. Asthma is unknown, as also scarlet fever. No case of smallpox or diphtheria has been reported for years. Measles occurs very seldom, and is of a mild character. Chronic lung troubles are almost unknown. Typhoid fever occurs only among those families who possess no pure spring or river water, but use the water from the sluggish irrigating ditches. With the possible exception of those suffering from rheumatism or neuralgic affections, Apache County can offer to the health seeker a favorable climate, good medical attention, a market from which the table can be supplied with plenty of nutritious food, and the proper kind of employment to those of limited means.

There is one hotel and one saloon in each of the following towns in Apache County: St.

Johns, Concho, Navajo, Springerville and Nutriosa. The undeveloped resources of the county are lumber and precious minerals. The wool scouring industry, woolen mills, and a cheese factor or creamery could be established with every prospect of profit. There are great opportunities throughout the county for practical men with capital in both lumber and irrigation enterprises, as these are undeveloped or only developed in the most primitive way. At Navajo Springs, in this county, the Territorial Government was first organized in 1863.

Black-tailed deer, antelope, bear, mountain lion, grouse. wild turkey, etc.. are found in abundance, and the mountain streams are filled with trout. Large deposits of coal are to be found in the county, which some day will be a source of great revenue.

Fort Defiance is situated on Defiance Creek, in the eastern part of the county. Generally the country north of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad is rolling and hilly, with elevated mesas, on which stand groves of cedar and pine. Good grass grows over much of this part of the county. South of the railroad the county is well watered and timbered, and hence the valleys and plains are covered with grass. The snowfall in the White Mountains gives rise to many good springs and streams. Fort Defiance receives its supplies from Navajo Springs.

In about 1877 Gen. Kautz and party passed through the Navajo reservation in Apache County. He found the Canon de Chelly populated with Indians, who had large cornfields, peach orchards, flocks of sheep and goats and herds of horses. Over much of the reservation he saw immense flocks of sheep and goats. The many fine springs were made use of by the Indians. On the Little Colorado was a well-traveled wagon road, made evidently by the Mormons. Wild turkey and antelope were abundant.

St. Johns is the county seat and principal town. It was first settled by Mexicans, who came from the Rio Grande in 1872. Ten years later that vicinity began to be settled by the Mormons under the leadership of Ammon M. Tenney, who founded a “stake” of that faith in and around. St. Johns. Others came, and soon the settlement became strong. The people are engaged in growing fruit, grain, hay, vegetables, wool and beef,

The fruit consists in peaches, pears, apples and grapes. The production of honey is large. By means of ditches and canals water is taken from the Little Colorado. Several irrigation companies, among them the St. Johns, supply water at reasonable rates. The reservoir of the St. Johns company covers about sixty acres. St. Johns has an altitude of 5,700 feet. has a population of over 1,000, has a large flouring mill and a good hotel, and has several substantial business houses. It is situated on the Little Colorado River. Many fire farms are near. The handsome county court house stands here. Many houses are adobe. Many Mexicans live here. Two weekly newspapers have been issued.

Springerville, situated about thirty-five stiles southeast of the county seat, has an altitude of about 6,500 feet above the sea and has a population of about 800. It stands in Round Valley, in one of the most flourishing settlements on the Little Colorado River. Around it is a fine agricultural country where grains, fruits, vegetables, etc., are grown in profusion. Canals from the river supply water in abundance. Becker Lake, one and one-half miles long by half a mile wide and twenty-five feet deep, supplied with water from the mountains, furnishes an excellent natural reservoir. Fine fish, trout and carp are found therein. Much of the produce of this valley finds ready sale at Fort Apache, where three companies are stationed. The town has several stores and shops and a fine flooring-mill. Several sawmills work up the logs from the pinery.

Concho has a population of about 500 and is situated fifteen miles west of St. Johns on Concho Creek. Many good farms are in this vicinity, and many vast sheep ranges get their supplies here.

Nutrioso is located about fifteen miles southeast of Springerville and has a few hundred population. Around the town is a number of fine farms. Water from Nutrioso Creek is collected into a reservoir and thence is sent by ditches and canals to the farms. The area of cultivated land is steadily increasing. A tannery is located here.

Alpine, in the extreme southeastern part of the county, is surrounded by a fine tract of soil, which is irrigated by springs and by Alpine Creek, but as the altitude of this place is about 9,000 feet, the rainfall is nearly sufficient to supply abundant moisture to the wheat, oats, barley, etc.

1 thought on “Apache County, Arizona History”

  1. Our relative David Daniel Markham left Idaho in 1873 – traveled by wagon with 6 boys ages 6-17 to Mineral Creek -worked with Peter Moore threshing his barley for market and freighting it to Camp Apache receiving 4 cents a pound. They raised sheep – dealt with rustlers (Idaho Bill, John Ringold, Curly Hill) – sold property to I.E, Solomon- farmed in Pima- Chief Victoria-Geronimo -fariming to sheep- (I E Solomonm, W J , James Snyder, Dan Hughes, Perigo Brothers, – Stafford -, We have court documents when sheep were stolen by the Apache, etc. 1879. A big raid in 1885 and names of many pioneers. We are seeking additional history /photos and would gladly share what we have.

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