by Clarcia Eagar
Authors note: In this short history of the
Round Valley area I have made no attempt to name all of the
early settlers, nor to include a balanced account of all
events. I have written about what I know best. Even after
research, I have not always been able to determine which
version of a story is true. The earliest history is not
recorded; much has been lost, and I am not sure that I have
not overlooked some existing history. I will try to justify
myself with a quotation from Sir Walter Scott, who said,
“I cannot tell you how the truth may be; I
say the tale as ‘twas said to me.”
Indians were the first inhabitants hare, but
as far as recorded history goes, the Spanish were the first
settlers in Round Valley, or Valley Redondo, as it was
called. No doubt, there were Anglos here, who saw the lush
grass and abundant game, and either stayed for a time or
One of the latter was Bill Maxwell, who
passed through here around 1848 after his service in the
Mormon Battalion ended. Somewhat later in 1869 Tony Long, a
scout for the Federal Army during the Civil War, who was
attempting to stop the Confederates from shipping gold to
California, was in the Valley. At about the same time W. R.
Milligan, Juan, Dionicio And Elalio Baca; Gabriel Silva,
Marion Clark and Johnny McCullough came this way taking
supplies to what became Fort Apache.
The weather was so severe that the men had
to stop and build a house, the first in the Valley. Later
Long had a blacksmith shop in the middle of present day
Eagar. Milligan operated a sawmill in the area in 1870, and
also built a fort in the Little Colorado. Some years after
that the Udall brothers established a grist mill near the
old fort. They later sold the mill to the Rothlisbergers,
who operated it for many years.
By 1872 the Mexican people had established a
little colony here. They gave the settlement the name,
In 1875 Henry Springer arrived and
established a store across the Little Colorado in the
western part of the valley. He made the mistake of giving
too much credit to outlaws, and went broke in less than a
year and left. However, when it came time to select a name
for the post office, the people chose the name,
Springerville. Some say it was chosen as a joke, perhaps so.
I’d like to think it was from compassion.
Julius Becker also came to the valley in
1875, followed soon after by his brother, Gustav. They, too,
established a store near what is now the Andy Woods
Property. The first store was in the meadows, but it was
moved to higher ground because of the excess water during
spring run off, when the snow melted in the mountains. In
1885 the store was moved to the site, which it occupied for
many years on the lot now main Street and the Eagar Highway.
It was the third oldest store in the state when it burned in
The Valley’s first pharmacy was located in
the back of Becker’s store. Gustav had a collection of herbs
and other plants on his shelves. He had a mortar and pestle,
and with the aid of a doctor book written in German, he
dispensed medical compounds.
Other people, who had small stores for a
short time here included: Baca's, Dewitt's, Reidhead's and
The early pioneers farmed, milked cows, made
cheese and butter and literally lived off the land. Some
were farmers and some were hunters. The woods were full of
game and the streams teemed with fish. The settlers
co-operated with each other, and made a good living by
trading produce and game. Some men went to the woods in the
fall and early winter and brought a wagon load of deer, elk
and turkey to town, where they distributed the meat among
Those who came first welcomed and took in
later colonists. for example, the Peter Jensen's took in the
W. W. Eagar family when the Eagar's first came. In turn the
Eagar's welcomed the Slade's into their home until the
Slades could make other arrangements, and so it went.
Several families spent their summers in the mountains where
there was excellent pasturage, and then moved to
Springerville in the winter time, so their children could
However, it was not all east. There were
cattle rustlers and other outlaws to contend with. In the
early days a lack of communication and insufficient law
enforcement made these valleys a haven for outlaws.
The Clantons of Tombstone fame homesteaded
near here and had a Springerville mailing address. These men
were certainly law breakers and killers, but they had some
redeeming characteristics. One morning Sina Jensen, who
lived in Springerville with her parents, the Peter Jensen's,
went out to the barn to milk. As she stepped into the barn,
one of the Clantons came up out of a manger where he had
spent the night. His appearance frightened Sina nearly to
death, but he left without bothering her.
For a few summers the Eagar's and Jensen's
lived on what became the Pace Ranch, near the New Mexico
line. The Clantons were regular customers of the families
for milk, butter and eggs. They treated the women and gills
with great respect, and paid premium prices for the produce
they bought. No doubt, they had stolen the money with which
they were being so generous.
Other outlaws often seen in the streets of
Springerville included Billy the Kid and the Snyder's. Many
people have heard of the gang war among the Snyder's, which
left nine men dead. The battle took place west of Eagar’s
cemetery hill. There is another version of this story which
says a posse jumped the gang and killed them while the
Snyder's were still in their bed rolls. At any rate there
were men from the valley, along with their guns, at the
scene during the battle or soon after it took place.
Remnants of the Cassidy gang shot James Hale
in the streets of Springerville to see as they said, “If a
bullet would go through a Mormon.” Sure enough it did. A
good many people were killed with little or no apparent
reason. To name a couple: A man known as R. Posy was shot
off the trail wagon of a two wagon rig driven by John Lee. A
boy, who had had a little trouble with posy, was
apprehended, but never punished.
In another instance, Jim Greer was shop and
killed by a drunken friend. Just minutes before the
shooting, Jim Greer had said, “I’m willing to reason with
any man.” He never had a chance to do it.
Another outlaw, Bill Smith, shot Bill
Maxwell and wounded Deputy Tafoya in an altercation.
Some buildings still stand in Springerville,
which carry bullet holes made during shoot outs, and many
victims remain unnamed.
Land jumpers also added to the problems in
the area. These men always waited until some work had been
done on the land before they came in and laid claim to it.
The honest settlers, afraid for their lives, often just
This is not to say there was no law. Some
officers were as tough and hard as the outlaws, but they
covered vast territories. There was no fast transportation
or communication, or crime stopping devices as we know them
Commodore Owens was sheriff of Apache County
in 1887. At that time Navajo County was still a part of
Apache County. Owens was given 16 indictment at one time.
They were against some of the most notorious outlaws of the
West. The indictments were given to Owens by a grand jury in
Prescott, then the capital of Arizona Territory. He served
more than half of them by laying them on the chests of the
fallen outlaws after a gunfight. Owens then placed rocks on
the documents to keep them from blowing away.
James G.H. Colter for whom the little town
of southwest of Eagar was named, and who was first deputy
United States Marshal in the district, said “In the 80’s the
only law in Round Valley was the six gun shot form the hip.
A.F. Banta, who served in the territorial
legislature under the names of Banta and Franklin, said, “I was no angle, and had seen most of
the tough towns of the West, but Springerville was the worst
of them all.” During his life
Banta used 5 different names, but when he became the first
postmaster in Springerville, he used the name Banta. It was
generally believed that Banta was his true name.
The Indians stole horses from the settlers,
but on the whole did not cause much trouble. However, one
morning a Mexican family was found in the yard of their home
in Water Canyon, all dead, scalped by Indians. W.W. Eagar,
who found them, said the father had evidently tried to tie a
bandanna around his head to stop the bleeding, but failed
before he died.
When the Spanish people first arrived in
Round Valley they brought their faith with them. No Priest
accompanied them, but at times they would meet in different
homes for a velario or to pray the rosary.
The first Catholic Church in Springerville
was located southwest of the Teresa Thompson home. Later a
better and bigger church was built at the location of the
present Baptist Church. This was known as the Palomar
Church. The present Catholic Church was built around 1927 on
the site of the Joe Baca Saloon. When the Saloon burned to
the ground, the Baca's donated the land to the Catholic
people for a church. It has been remodeled and enlarged
several times since then.
Father Pedra Maria Padilla served the people
in Apache County beginning in 1880 until his death in 1901
in Concho. The people of Concho accompanied the body of the
priest to St. Johns. Many of the people of St. Johns and
Springerville waited on the hills west of St. Johns to
receive the body. Among the persons waiting there were
Mormon families, who had com to pay their last respects to a
man they respected and loved.
Other religious sects have built churches
here, which have added to the welfare and quality of the
valley. The Community Presbyterian Church’s Sunday School
was organized in 1882. Church services began in 1894 and met
in the school house. The present building was built in 1914
and has been enlarged and improved. Some of the earliest
members of the church were: the Beckers, Homrighousens,
Rudd's, Franz's etc.
The first group of Mormons, who came here to
stay entered the valley in 1877. At that time there were
still outlaw elements here, who caused a great deal of
trouble. The Eagar's and others were here around 1879.
Bishop George H. Crosby, speaking in church
in 1887, told the brethren to keep their guns well loaded
and at hand to protect their wives, their lives and their
Times were reminiscent of the New England
Pilgrims, who carried their guns to church. However, the
Mormons were not carrying guns primarily to protect
themselves from Indians. Outlaws and claim jumpers were the
Bunch, the first school teacher in Round
Valley, a man who was an historian, musician, and something
of an engineer said, “Only with the coming of the Mormons
did the development start on the Little Colorado.”
Other Mormons soon followed the first group,
and the first Branch of the Church was organized in
Springerville in 1878, whit Jacob Hamblin as Presiding
Elder. It was called the Round Valley Branch of the Little
Colorado Stake. There were no L.D.S. chapels here until
1883. Members met in homes, one of which probably belonged
to Peter Thompson. It was nearly 100 years before another
L.D.S. Chapel was built in Springerville.
I used to become confused when trying to
track down the beginnings of the Eagar Ward because there
were so many different names. Let me review them. The first
was the Round Valley Branch. For some reason it became the
Alma Ward. This was soon changed to the Omer Ward, why, I do
not know. The Omer Ward was the first to be housed in a
Meanwhile, some Saints had moved to the
upper end of the valley where they organized the Amity Ward
in Colter. It was located east of the Present Milky Way
During this time land jumpers were harassing
the people, especially in Springerville, and had driven some
families out, including the Robertson's and the Eagar's,
John, Joel, and William. The Eagar's had built a cabin on
the land now occupied by the Springerville School. The
brothers had staked out 160 acres including some adjacent
land to the west. While the brothers were away for the
summer, their claim was jumped by a man named John T. Vogue.
The Eagar's, unlike some cigarette smokers, would rather
switch than fight, so they moved up the valley to what is
At this time William bought out a man named
Martineau, who had built a cabin on the southeast corner of
what is now the crossroads in Eagar. He entered this 160
acres under the Homestead Act, and his family lived and
prospered their fro several years. He built two rooms, which
are still standing as part of the old Eagar-Udall home.
The other brothers both filed on 160 acres
also. Joe’s property began on the land owned by Rolf
Greenwood. John filed on the land to the west where the
service station is located. The deeds are dated 1878.
(William’s homestead certificate is dated 1891.)
Byrd H. Granger in Arizona Place Names says,
“The town if Eagar was established in 1888 on ground given
by the Eagar brothers for that purpose.” This statement is
almost true. As the saints in Springerville were having
increasing trouble with land jumpers, Church authorities
from Salt Lake City, Utah visited here and advised the
people to unite the Omer and Amity Wards into one ward to be
called the Union Ward. The authorities also suggested that
the Eagar's and others, who held land here, sell part of
their holdings very cheaply to church members who wanted to
move up here. This was done, and some people got some
excellent bargains. For example William traded 20 acres of
land for an old wagon.
The general exodus of the Mormons from
Springerville began in the 80’s. Others came directly to
Eagar from Utah, Texas ect. Spencer S. Wiltbank, known as
“Uncle Penn”, came here from Texas and homesteaded 160 acres
in the upper end of the town. His grandson, Deral Burgess,
and Granddaughter, Mrs. Lora Parker, reside on some of the
original homestead, part of which has been lived on
continuously by a member of the family for 97 years. It is
believed that Uncle Penn planted the first orchard in Eagar.
The old orchard is gone now with the possible exception of
one old pear tree.
Jacob Hamblin brought the first fruit trees
to the Valley. He planted them in Amity.
The Union Ward was renamed the Eagar Ward.
It is still in existence and flourishing. It has been
divided until present, 1997, there are seven L.D.S. Wards in
the valley, and indications are that there will be more
divisions as soon as there is room available. The Latter-Day
Saints will build a third chapel in the upper end of Eagar
to help the overflow of the ones in central Eagar and
As soon as the Mormons arrived up here they
began building ditches and an irrigation system, and as they
used to remind some of us, the old timers dug wells, planted
trees, killed snakes and made fences.
An official U.S. Post Office was established
in Springerville in October, 1879, with Mr. Banta as
postmaster. A permit was given for a post office in the
upper valley in 1887, but the man named as postmaster could
not raise bond, so the mail was still delivered through the
Springerville office until 1896, when Eagar got a post
office, with Mrs. Emma Udall as postmistress. For a time
there was also a post office in Colter.
Mail was brought from Holbrook by horseback
and team and buckboard. Horses were still used to carry mail
to towns such as Nutrioso, Alpine, and Luna, New Mexico as
late as the 1920’s. In bad weather the mail carriers rode a
while and then ran a while to keep warm. It was sort of like
the “ride and tie” method of travel. In this method two
people travel using one horse. They start together with one
riding and one walking. The rider forges ahead, and after
going two or three miles, gets off, ties the horse and
begins walking. The other person catches up to the horse,
rides it some miles beyond his companion, gets off and ties
the horse and begins walking. The other person catches up to
the horse, rides it some miles beyond his companion, gets
off and ties the horse ect; a reasonable way to go, it seems
For a short time mail came from Holbrook by
Stanley Steamers. Old timers say that on a clear day one
could hear the mail coming for 3 or 4 miles. The post office
and store were then, as they are now, mini social centers,
where people visit the clerks and each other, and hear the
news. My husband, Art, still won’t let me get the mail. He
enjoys the visiting.
The first verified school began in
Springerville in 1880 with Con Bunch as teacher. It is said
that he kept the children in line by using his fiddle bow on
them at times. He also developed the Bunch Reservoir in
There is a story about an old log building
being used as a school for a short while. Some people say
the building was then moved to the present home of Elda
Rencher. It stood there for many years and was used as a
barn or granary. However, I cannot verify where this
building was first used.
Mr. E.C. (Eddie) Becker, 90, and Bert Colter,
who recently passes away at 94, remember going to a 2 room
adobe school on the site of the Springerville School. It was
a square building with a steep roof and a bell tower. Rooms
were built all around it. It was part of the present school
for many years, and one wall may still be incorporated in
the school. Later builders could have taken a lesson from
the steep roof of the original building and saved a great
deal of trouble from leaking roofs in later additions. Mr.
Becker attended a chart class in the old school in 1891 or
The Eagar School began in 1896 under the
direction of Fred Schell. He was a good disciplinarian, and
according to some of his students he was a good teacher,
willing to help anyone who needed extra attention.
The building was used as a chapel and
community center also. Programs and dances were held there.
It was so small that all the people couldn’t dance at once,
so they counted off and danced by numbers, even ones sat and
odds on the next. There was a little illegal trading of
numbers, but no real trouble arose from it. It was in the
Omer Ward in Springerville where patrons danced by bare feet
and boots, which to anyone who has ever been stepped on in a
dance, seems eminently sensible.
During the years there were two school
houses in Colter. The later one burned after the Colter
School consolidated with Eagar in the early 1930’s. In the
meantime the school had been used as a home and as a place
for parties for young people. These parties were looked on
with great disfavor by most parents.
The old Eagar School burned on a windy day
in the spring of 1930. Some years before a church had been
built where the L.D.S. Church stands today. Some of this
building is still in use. The school burned on a weekend.
Such materials as could be saved were simply moved to the
church, and the children didn’t miss a day of school, much
to their disgust.
At the time the school burned a good many
children were involved in a harmonica band. One boy,
remembered his harmonica, dashed back into the burning
building, looked through the whole box of harmonicas until
he found his, and then he ran to safety. It evidently did
not occur to him to just take the whole box.
The new elementary school was completed
within a year after the burn out, and has been enlarged at
least 6 times since. One of the major additions was that of
the Maverick building, officially dedicated the LaVerl M.
Hall School. It was a lovely little school 40 miles over the
mountain, but still in the Eagar District. It was used there
5 years, but when the Maverick logging camp closed, the
school closed too. It was on Indian land and the Apache
Tribe refused to let the building be moved at first. By the
time they gave their consent the school had been vandalized.
It was a tremendous job to construct a road and move the
building over the mountain in sections, but its acquisition
saved the district a great deal of money.
The Vernon, Springerville, Nutrioso and
Eagar Schools were consolidated in 1969. Greer and Colter
had joined Eagar years earlier. In 1972 a half million
dollar gymnasium was built west of the Eagar School, which
houses children in grades 4 through 8. Mr. Hall and the
school board deserve credit for their untiring efforts in
acquiring the gym, which is in almost constant use by school
and community groups. New industry in the area has required
more and more space. Storerooms have been converted into
classrooms, trailers added and 10 new rooms built at both
Schools have changed in many ways other than
in the physical plants. Teachers use to have pencils, paper,
blackboards, many of them to shiny to use, books and maybe a
few crayolas. Pupils were made to write on both sides of
their paper, use their pencils sown to the nubbin and
furnish any extras they wanted. There were no ditto
machines, audio-visual equipment, typewriters, special
programs, computers or teaching aids. There were no
secretaries, no kindergarten or lunch programs in the early
When the lunch program was installed in
Eagar, the food was cooked in the basement, and was pretty
meager. It was supplemented by cod lover oil pills supposed
to be forced down the children by the teachers. The children
became adept at holding the pills under their tongues until
the teachers back was turned, and then the pills were spit
on the floor. The lunch was free or cost only a few pennies.
Before this PTA workers sometimes brought pots of soup or
beans from home for a time.
The lunch program gradually grew to the fine
program it is today. At first children brought their own
dishes. They were supposed to take the dishes home at night,
wash them and bring them back the next day. Children being
children, many dishes were washed in the restrooms with cold
water in the wash bowls. Generally the dishes were carried
in a flour sack, tied securely with a big knot. This
contraption could be sued as a lethal weapon. I have seen a
child swing the sack around a couple of times and then give
a tormenter a clout on the side of his head, which usually
made a believer out of the tormenter.
Teachers had no aides; principals taught
full time; and everyone stood yard, hall and lunch duty in
his turn, besides helping with other extra curricular
activities. My salary for the first year I taught was
$720.00. Later everyone received $100.00 a month. Only
recently have wages raised much. The salary schedule never
did catch up with some of the older teachers. I served as
head teacher in the Springerville School for 10 years,
teaching full time and running the school, some years with a
part time secretary and some years with no secretary.
The first high school in Round Valley was
established in October, 1921. H. Lee Bradford, principal of
the Eagar School at that time, deserves some credit for his
contributions beyond the call of duty. During 1920-21, he
not only taught the 8th grade, but tutored the 7th, so that
in the spring he could graduate the two classes in order to
have enough students for the high school.
High school was first held in the L.D.S.
Church in Eagar. The old Relief Society building was used
for Home Economics, and some classes were held in private
homes. Many students, including some of the boys, had never
seen a football game. They were like Jesse Stuart, the
writer, who said he participated in the first football game
he ever saw.
Joe Jarvis, the Round Valley coach, drew
diagrams on the blackboard to help explain the game. round
Valley didn’t do too well the first year, but when the boys
found out what they were supposed to do they did all right.
However, Jarvis tells of a game in Holbrook the first
season. He says Holbrook had the ball, but it was 4th down
and Round Valley was holding the line and was about to get
the ball on downs. About that time a train went whistling
by. The R.V. boys, according to Jarvis, dropped everything,
their arms, their mouths, and just watched the train go by.
Of course, Holbrook went on to score.
On another occasion Uley Butler and Art
Eagar, who had an old flatbed truck, were dispatched to
Holbrook to meet the Winslow football team and bring them on
to Round Valley for a game. There was no paved highway and
it had been raining. The dirt road was soft, and every
little dip was filled with mud and water. The truck got
stuck every few miles, and the Winslow team good naturedly
piled out and pushed the truck out of the mud holes. This
went on all afternoon. It was about midnight when the group
got to Beckers Lake. There the truck ran out of gas, ant the
boys pushed it 5 miles to Apache Chief Hotel, which used to
be just west of Beckers’ garage. The boys stayed there the
rest of the night. Naturally, the Winslow team was very
tired the next morning, and Round Valley beat them going
away. That was one way to win a ball game.
The ball clubs used to shower in a shack
they rigged up behind the old Grapevine Hall, where they
played basketball. They used cold water brought down through
hoses from the old Udall place about a block away.
During the school’s infant years at the
church, students had good academic training, were introduced
to athletics, learned to dance the Charleston, were active
in music and forensics, helped to form a PTA, and generally
enjoyed themselves, feeling it was a privilege to go to
In 1925 the school was moved to its present
site. the plant was much smaller than it is today, and there
were fewer teachers than there are coaches now. While few in
number, faculty members were for the most part dedicated to
their jobs, and did their best to prepare students who later
went to college. There were few frills and no money for
two-track education. Cheerleaders wore ordinary street
clothes and there were no pom pom girls or pep clubs. At
football games, supporters ran up and down the field,
following the ball.
Nearly everyone walked to school including
most of the teachers. Those of us who went home for lunch
did not have time to tarry. We were the first joggers and it
did keep some of us fashionably thin, plus the fact that
very little junk food was available.
In the early years, grades were posted on
the bulletin board for all the world to see. We were told
that the purpose was to let others see us as we saw
School and community recreation was home
made. There were parties featuring pencil and paper games,
charades, “Here comes an Old Lady with a Stick and a Staff”,
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and post office. There were
also outdoor games like hide and go seek, run sheep run,
etc. Other entertainment included candy pulls, hikes,
picnics, chicken, potato and corn roasts, round swings, and
there were always rodeos. The first ones were held in the
streets of Springerville about where the XA is now.
Many plays and operettas were produced by
church, school and community groups. The church also
sponsored speech and dance festivals. There were no movies,
no T.V. and no radio at first, but there was plenty to do
even if it did involve a little work. The news at quilting
bees and barn risings was always interesting.
In the fall the men and boys had a wood
hauling day. They brought in enough wood to heat the church
and provide fuel for the widows in the area. The ladies
furnished food, and there was a dinner at night for all who
participated. The church building has been renovated and
enlarged many times. To raise some money for this, members
put on dinners, dances, bake sales, bazaars etc.
Electricity was brought to Round Valley in
1927 by the Round Valley Light and Power Co. , owned by Mr.
and Mrs. Alvin Becker. This was a blessing, indeed.
Previously most people had used kerosene lamps, carrying
them from room to room at night. Besides not furnishing very
good light, it was a chore to keep the chimneys clean. This
job usually fell to a girl in the family whose hands were
small enough to get inside the chimney and really make it
Consider wash day. One got up very early. It
was a status symbol to put out a sparkling clean wash early
in the day. One usually drew the water from the well. poured
it into a tub set on 3 big rocks, built a fire under the
tub, and then sorted clothes while waiting for the water to
heat. A few people had hand or gas washers, but many washed
on the board, using home made soap. The clothes were
scrubbed, boiled and rinsed twice, wringing them by hand
each time. On cold days one hung the clothes on the line and
watched them freeze along with one’s fingers. Sometimes the
wash stayed frozen all day and had to be brought in at night
and draped around on chairs and tables to dry.
We ironed with sad irons headed on the
stove. In the summer this was hot, miserable work. It was
difficult to get the irons just right so that they pressed
the clothes but did not scorch them.
We had no refrigeration. We put milk and
other perishables in buckets with lids on them, tied them to
a rope and lowered the rope to the water level of the well.
This kept the food fresh, but now and then there was a
catastrophe when the lid happened to come off and the bucket
filled with well water.
Dozens of labor saving devices, which we
consider essential, were never heard of in the old days.
Some of these are: vacuum cleaners, blenders, mixers,
electric razors, bottle warmers, power tools, etc. There
were no electric blankets, so we piled on quilts until it
was hard to turn over. Treadle sewing machines were an
improvement over a simple needle, but they caused many a
backache. Dishes, of course, were done by hand, usually by
two people, one washing, one drying. Cleaning up the kitchen
was rather a companionable time. Many pleasant conversations
have been had over the dish pan, unless the parties were
quarreling over whose turn it was to wash and whose to dry.
Washing was harder because of the food stuck on the pots and
For years there was no city water system
here. A few persons had pumps or windmills, but most
residents “used the old oaken bucket.” It was pretty
miserable to be sick at night with no water or electricity
in the house, especially if one were throwing up or had
dysentery. It was hard to keep clean. We bathed in number 3
tubs, after heating the water on the stove. Then we
sometimes used the bath water to mop the floor.
In 1942 after a committee, mostly composed
of public spirited women, had canvassed the town and found
that almost everyone wanted a town water system, articles of
incorporation were drawn up, and the officers went to work.
They were: George Eagar, Ashley Hall, Rulon LeSueur, Rudolph
Link and H. B. Nelson.
Up to this point no money had been spent.
Now days we would first seek a $50,000 grant to see if we
needed the project. Then we would go after 3 or 4 times that
much before work began. The early day water committee had no
such idea. They simply borrowed $35,000 from the farm
security administration and finished the job in about 6
months. The water system was dedicated in 1944 and has grown
ever since. Until recently it was a financial success, and
furnished water to all at reasonable rates. Now there are
some water and sewer problems brought on by an unprecedented
growth rate in the area. however, the town council is
working out the problems brought on by the influx of people.
I do not know when the first telephone
system was installed but with very few cars in the valley it
had to be a welcome form of communication. The office was
open officially from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. However, when
there was sickness of an emergency, the operators left
people hooked up with the doctor at night when there was a
doctor. They might hook up members of families if it seemed
The operators were friendly. It was like
talking to Myrt on the old Fibber McGee and Molly radio
show. If you remember that, you need no further explanation.
If you don’t, I can tell you that the operators were
genuinely interested in their clients. They told you the
time of day, (no recordings), the news, and where your
husband was likely to be. They gave you the scores of ball
games, and told you where the fire was. The Booths and Burk
Girls were early telephone operators in Springerville.
Sherman Lumpkins, who was totally blind and
his wife, Lula, ran the telephone office for some years.
Sherman recognized everyone’s voices and never made a
mistake. On one occasion, in relaying a telegram message
from Canada through Holbrook to Lloyd Ashcroft, Sherman got
Lloyd on the phone and said, “The answer is yes, Lloyd, she
will.” The telegram was in answer to Lloyd’s proposal of
marriage to Alice, his wife. Sherman was the first to know.
Miss Nell Lytle and “Aunt Lou Eagar”, along
with others were also faithful, dedicated workers for the
telephone company. Even in relatively recent years, I have
chatted with Holbrook operators while calling in scores to
the sports desk of the Arizona Republic. The ladies do not
tell me their names, but have asked who won the game, what
kind of weather we are having and how my mother is.
A hospital was built in the valley during
WPA days. At first nurses had to carry portable heaters from
room to room to keep patients warm. This building served a
good many years and is still being used by the community for
other purposes, but has been replaced as a hospital by the
fine facility we have now. There are six doctors and two
clinics. At times we have had no doctors, but have depended
on nurses such as Mrs. Annie Nelson, Mrs. Elna LeSueur and
Mrs. Atella Haws. Sometimes they got $10.00 or $15.00 for
delivering a baby. Sometimes they got nothing. When there
was a doctor here in the early days, he did not have a
hospital from which to work and he often made house calls,
so he was very busy. I have heard people complain about
never being able to see him. One woman in Springerville
said, “I can never get the doctor. He is always up in Eagar
bringing little Mormons into the world.”
There was a state bank in Springerville in
the early 1920’s. It was owned by the Beckers with Paul
Becker as manager. The bank had taken in a good many
registered county warrants. This simply meant that not
enough tax money had come in as yet to cover the warrants.
One could hold his warrant until the county collected the
tax money or cash it, usually at a 10% discount. A few
places of business would cash the warrants at face value and
hold the warrants themselves. This was a real service since
most people, such as school teachers, needed their money and
could not afford to hold their checks.
George W. P. Hunt, Governor of Arizona,
decided that the Round Valley Bank had too many registered
warrants and dictatorially closed the bank in 1933. The
Becker family, Mrs. Mollie Butler, a business woman in the
area, and others vigorously objected to the governor’s
action, feeling it was political and showed capriciousness,
since the tax money would eventually come in. However, the
bank remained closed. Gustav Becker, father of the Becker
family, vowed to pay back every cent of the investor’s money
plus 10% interest. This he did, although he had to use his
own assets and borrow money in order to keep faith with his
clients. Following his death, his son, Eddie, sold the
family cattle ranch to raise funds sufficient to pay off
those who had loaned money to his father during the bank
There are now 3 banks in the valley. One in
Springerville, and two banks in Eagar.
Eddie Becker, owner of Becker Motor Company
Corporation, had also taken in a good many county warrants.
He sold his at a discount to the Driggs family of Phoenix in
order to keep his garage going. The garage, opened in 1914,
is the oldest Ford dealership in continuous operation in
Arizona and New Mexico. Eddie operated it for 65 years. He
has turned some of his responsibilities over to others, but
says that he is not retired.
Mr. Becker began by selling Model T Fords.
He says at that time there were 400 different makes of cars.
It took a real mechanic to keep up with that number. Of
course there was not much traffic on the roads then. The
Beckers kept a register in which travelers signed their
names, and told where they were from and where they were
going. Many prominent names can be found in the book which
is still in existence.
Considering the overall history of the area,
a mortuary was rather late in opening. The Dan Nettzes gave
compassionate service for years after establishing their
business here. Before that, when there was a death, a
carpenter made the casket, ladies in the town lined it with
beautifully sewn cloth, and often made the burial clothes.
Food was furnished to the bereaved, and volunteers dug the
grave. Very little cost was involved. some of these
practices are still carried on.
Irrigation systems have always been vital to
the West. Four reservoirs were constructed very early in the
history of the area. The reservoirs and ditches were laid
out without modern surveying instruments. Much of the
construction was done by hand and with teams and scrapers.
Hyrum Bigelow laid out the Big Ditch by
using a 16 foot 1 X 4 board with a leg nailed to each end.
He then used a regular carpenter’s level to do the
surveying. Over a distance of miles, this was hard, tedious
Nathaniel Marble and his brother, Johnny,
Dug a ditch by pick and shovel to bring water from the river
to their home in Colter. This became the Amity ditch. Owen
Bigelow, Nathaniel’s grandson, says teams may have been used
to some extent, but that most of the job was done by hand
labor. The Marbles permitted the people below them to bring
the ditch on down to Eagar, where it was further developed.
W. W. Eagar employed an even simpler method
of surveying. He used a wooden trough made by long, straight
2 x 4’s. It was closed at both ends, and water was poured in
the trough. The direction the water went determined the high
and low ends and the trough was moved accordingly.
Tunnel, River and Bunch Lakes were built at
Greer. Bunch built by school teacher. The White Mountain,
the largest, is at a higher elevation. Total capacity for
the 4 lakes is 5,226 acre feet of water. White Mountain
holds 2,391. There is worry that some of these old lakes may
be eroding (1980).
According to Joe Burk, now deceased, the
work was hard and sometimes frustrating, he said, :We fought
the dams, the weather and sometimes each other. There was no
cement, so we built dirt dams and nearly lost them several
There was no blasting powder. When large
rocks were encountered, tires were built on them. Then the
rocks were red hot, cold water was dashed on the rocks to
break them up. The first dynamite ever seen here was used by
the Hale Brothers in blasting tunnel Reservoir. Tunneling
from both ends without surveying instruments, this tunnel
met almost perfectly.
The building of the irrigation system, with
the exception of Bunch, built by the school teacher, was
under direction of the Mormon Bishopric. For many years the
Bishop was automatically president of the water board. This
is no longer true. George Crosby acted as overseer for much
of the construction.
The present system resulted from
consolidation of existing companies. Plans of the lakes are
dated as early as 1890. The Amity Irrigation Company, one of
the oldest, dates from December 1892. Operating stock for
this company was $15,000.00. Men and boys earned stock by
working on the reservoir for wages ranging from 50 cents for
boys to $4.00 per day for a man and team. In 1894 the Eagar
Irrigation Co. joined the Amity, and in 1937 the present
Round Valley Water Users was formed with a capital stock of
$125,000. It is almost impossible to buy a share of water
Too little water has often plagued Round
Valley residents. Minutes from a stockholders’ meeting in
1894 mention a scarcity of water. One year was so dry that
John Rothlisberger, owner of a grist mill on the Little
Colorado, had to go up river breaking beaver dams to get
enough water to operate the mill for two days.
The town of Eagar was incorporated in Feb.
1948 with a population of 614. The population is about 5
times that now and still growing. Seventy five blocks were
in the first incorporation. The first city council included:
Paul Eagar, Mayor, John LeSueur, Edward Slade, Wesley Burk,
and Q. Y. Pond. The present council in 1997 include: Sandra
Burk, Mayor, Kim Finch, John Finley, Jeff Udall, Homer
Rogers, Merrell Hamblin, and LaVerl Ashcroft.
One of the first city ordinances forbade
livestock on the streets. Heretofore some people had used
the ditch banks and their neighbors’ gardens for pasture. I
am sorry to say some people still do. Taking the cows to
pasture used to furnish social life for the kids. They
played along all morning with their friends as they all went
right down the middle of the street with the cows to the
pasture at the north end of Eagar. Then the youngsters
started out early in the afternoon to bring the cows home
for the evening milking. It is quite possible that the kids
did a little swimming in the river between times.
The town of Eagar has cooperated with
Springerville in building an airport. Fire trucks are manned
and street lights have been installed. There is a swimming
pool, partly subsidized by the city. Springerville is
permitted to use it in exchange for Eagar's use of
Springerville’s public library.
As I have said there has been considerable
growth, some good, some bad. Besides the seven L.D.S. Wards,
there are many other churches in the valley. Schools are
better housed, have many more teaching aids, facilities for
exceptional children and more personnel per child. In some
cases schools are much better, but I am not sure that there
is quite the true dedication among most teachers that there
used to be. Bigger is not always better. The open classroom
where used, is just a glorified one room school, similar to
those of pioneer days.
There are more places to shop, and on the
whole, we have more comfortable homes. Most of us were
pretty disadvantaged in our younger days, but no one told us
that we were, so we didn’t know it, and it didn’t bother us.
People are still neighborly, but do not
depend on each other as much as they used to do. I believe
the welfare system has diminished us spiritually. Instead of
helping others unstintingly and without questions, we
sometimes wait for the government to do it.
It has become necessary top lock our doors,
something unheard of until recently. Children are not as
free to roam the hills and valley unsupervised as they used
to be. Crime is in our midst and the air is not as clear and
pure as it was, but Eagar is still a pretty wholesome place
to live. I am proud of the heritage the pioneers left us,
and hope we will try our best to pass it on unsullied.