|Outlaws & Gunslingers
As the cattle industry grew, so did outlaws who had made a lucrative trade in stealing horses in southern Arizona, re-branding them in Round Valley and selling them to northern Arizona ranchers. Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and Billy the Kid were all well-known in the area and often spotted on the streets in Springerville, which had become a haven for outlaws. Becker Lake, created in 1880 and the oldest man-made lake in Arizona, located about two miles south of Wenima Valley, is reported to have several outlaws buried at the bottom.
The founding father of Springerville--Harry Springer--was said to have mistakenly trusted too many outlaws with feed, seed, and supplies at his store, Springer’s Store, established in 1875, two miles west of the site of Omer, across the Little Colorado River. He went broke in less than a year and left, but when it came time to selecting a name for the new post office, the townspeople remembered his kindness and named the settlement “Springerville.”
Many settlers and pioneer families established ranches--cattle and sheep, small farms, homesteads, and launched enterprising businesses in Valle Redondo and surrounding areas. Some of the first settlers are said to have arrived as early as 1848. They were later joined by the Becker Brothers--Julius and Gustaf, W. R. Milligan, Gabriel Silva, Elalio Baca, Anthony Long, Marion Clark, Joe McCullough, and many, many more.
The Becker Store was also established in 1875 and grew into Becker Brothers and the later Becker Commercial Company. Gustav Becker was the area’s first pharmacist, and dispensed healing remedies equipped with an assortment of herbs and a German medical book in the back of the store. Their first store, located on flooding meadows during the spring thaw, had to be moved to higher ground where it remained for over 70 years. When it burned down in 1964, it was the third oldest store in the state.
The Becker family introduced Model-T Fords to the Round Valley in 1914, and today the garage is the longest continuous operating Ford Dealership west of the Mississippi. In 1927 the Round Valley Light and Power Co. brought electricity to the area, a welcomed relief from kerosene lamps. The company, owned by Alvin Becker, produced hydro-electricity from Becker Lake that ran down a re-engineered irrigation ditch--likely constructed years ago by Native Americans--to a red-stoned generating plant located in Wenima Valley. Today, the remains of the abandoned stone building are still standing.
Time marched on and the comforts of twentieth century technology gradually found their way to the Round Valley, yet the pristine beauty and natural resources that most likely lured the original settlers and pioneers proved enchanting to the powerful and famous. It is rumored that one of Harry Truman’s favorite fly-fishing spot was Becker Lake. In the late ‘30’s the owners of the Milky-Way candy company established a summer home and world-class Hereford ranch--The Milky Way Ranch. This ranch would later be sold to Hollywood film star John Wayne, who continued to raise Herefords at the 26 Bar Ranch with his partner, Louis Johnson.
|Hooper Ranch Pueblo
During the summers of 1959 and 1960, archaeologists working for the Chicago Natural History Museum conducted a field school at the Hooper Ranch, owned by Rob and Mary Hooper, in the Wenima Valley. The team excavated 14 rooms and half of a kiva. They would later discover that the Hooper Ranch Pueblo would contain about 65 ground rooms--two stories in some places--and three kivas, including a rectangular Great Kiva.
Interestingly, the team would also discover that the architectural traditions, settlement patterns, and traits provided a more defined link with Zuni culture. However, as their analysis continued, the Great Kiva seemed to demonstrate a convergence of many Native American ceremonial structures from both the Chaco tradition of the Anasazi and the Tularosa tradition of the Mogollon. This is little known information.
|The Hooper Ranch Pueblo during excavation.|
|Additional research dates the pueblo as being occupied from 1230 AD to 1300, but it is highly likely that the area was occupied as early as 1000 AD to 1100 when shifts in weather patterns moved the dominant precipitation from a gentle rain and snowfall pattern in autumn and winter to torrential summertime gully-washers. The result was that valuable topsoil was washed away, spelling doom to farmers who lived in marginal areas. Populations shifted to be near continuous sources of water--in this case--the Little Colorado River.
Approximately 1,200 baked clay, stone, bone and shell artifacts were recovered. All items are presently on display, or in storage at the Chicago Field Museum. Over 13,000 pottery shards were recovered from the Hooper Ranch Pueblo and 16 restorable vessels; various potteries: bowls, canteens, and pitchers. The pottery recovered was black on white, polychrome, brown indented corrugated and brown plain corrugated. Some red-slipped shards were also found.
|Wenima Secret Crypt
On August 11, 1960, Dr. Paul Martin announced one of the most, “Important discoveries of the twentieth century in Southwestern Archeology.” In a secret crypt at the Hooper Ranch Pueblo, an image believed to be a kachina was unearthed. It was nine inches high, carved from sandstone and painted with vertical stripes of orange, green, blue and black and its right arm was missing. It was later identified by Hopi Elders to be the image of Panaiyoikyasi.
Panaiyoikyasi was a Spiritual God of the Water Clan, and his name means, “Short Rainbow.” He links the sky and the earth, with supreme power over the atmosphere, bestowing nurturing rains and warm sunlight. Under his guidance and influence flowers grow in numerous and beautiful colors and shapes with insects following to pollinate. Panaiyoikyasi was also known to demonstrate a darker side to his powers. Since he has the ability to link the earth and the sky, some say his lightening and thunderous effect was a form of an invisible, poisonous gas--almost the opposite effect of his beneficial energies. For this reason, migrating Hopis left his image lying face down in the kiva. Their prophecies stated that if left face up, a time would have come in history that the two most powerful races on earth would face each other with this destructive force. This is why the deity’s right arm is broken off, so that the Hopi could never use such destructive power.
|Wenima Wildlife Area
The Hooper family owned the property of Wenima Valley and operated it as a cattle ranch for generations. In the late 1980’s the 550-acre ranch was sold to a limited partnership for development as a high quality master-planned, second home community. The developers demonstrated their concern for the environment and transferred ownership of the riparian zone along the Little Colorado River to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. In 1994, the same partnership transferred ownership of the two archaeological sites to the Archaeological Conservancy, Albuquerque, NM. The Hooper Ranch Pueblo is now dedicated as a permanent research preserve for study under controlled conditions.