VERDE HERITAGE: 1960: Landmark Demolished at Cottonwood

"The building which doubtless harbors many memories for old-timers will be scrap lumber soon. ... One man who remembers a lot of laughs there is Charles C. Stemmer who was postmaster from 1924 until 1953 when he retired." (The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, October 6, 1960.)

David Strahan came to the Verde Valley during 1875, and claimed cultivated land along the Verde Reservation Ditch and he also claimed the water wheel. He was granted a land patent for 160 acres in Sections 27 and 34, on December 5, 1884. His brother, Al. Strahan, was granted a land patent for 40 acres in Section 34 on June 6, 1896. Their father, Alexander Strahan, was granted a land patent for 40 acres on September 3, 1884, and a land patent for 120 acres on January 30, 1892 (which included land he and his wife donated for use as a school and cemetery). The Strahan family owned land from the Verde River south to what is now Mingus, and from Main Street in "Old Town" east past the cemetery. During those early years mail was delivered to Camp Verde. After 1875, when Upper Verde residents returned from a trip to Camp Verde, they brought the mail and left it at a Strahan home. Soon, the Strahans began stocking a few supplies their neighbors might buy, and this developed into a store.

A place on the Upper Verde was named "Cottonwood" on July 9, 1885, when the Post Office was established with George M. "Mac" Willard as the first postmaster. The first Post Office building dates from 1885, or earlier, and the brick 2-story home was built east of it 2 years later for Mrs. Mary G. Willard [that house is still a residence on North Main Street]. "Mac" Willard was postmaster until August 30, 1899.

David W. Strahan sold the west part of his land to his brother, A. M. Strahan on June 13, 1888.

Mrs. Callie (Goddard) Strahan, widow of Al. Strahan, and former resident of Cottonwood, recalled the past in 1923. The Strahan family "owned the place where Lon Mason now lives. They had the Post Office." They had the "country store, beginning with 1886, and they lived on that place until sometime in 1903, when they sold out to other parties. Mr. Al. Strahan died last April at their home below Camp Verde." (Verde Copper News; December 18, 1923; page 4.)

Edith Whitaker, a newspaper reporter, and daughter of Arthur W. and Carrie A. Gardner (Nichols) Whitaker, wrote: "Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Strahan came to Jerome last Tuesday from Camp Verde. It was Uncle Al.'s first visit for quite a while. Uncle Al. and Aunt Cal. used to live at the Cottonwood Ranch and they started the Cottonwood Store with a big hop that was attended by such people as Mr. and Mrs. Will Strahan, only they were sweethearts then. And Haydee Lane's wife wore real short skirts. She was too small to have a beau. Mrs. L. A. Hawkins was right there with both feet and Mrs. A. W. Whitaker was there in the hop with all the rest. And maybe you think they didn't hop! Old fashioned quadrilles about every other dance. Dad Dumas played the fiddle with Aunt Maggie sitting by his side to tell him which tune next. And the supper they served! Fried chicken with hot biscuits and coffee with the best old cake. And there were preserves too and pickles. But that was a long time ago. When Uncle Al. saw how his old home had been built over, a fine orchard in what used to be a hopeless jungle of catclaws, a little village in his old back yard, he just threw up his hand and said, 'Lord bless me, well Lord bless me.'" (The Jerome Sun; March 29, 1917; page 3.)

William Goddard came to the Verde Valley in 1890, and stayed with his aunt and uncle, Al. and Callie Strahan. "The Strahans had a store just south of where the present jail is now [1972], and a saloon just below it on the river," according to Nettie (Goddard) Peach when she was interviewed. (The Verde Independent; May 18, 1972; page 17.)

The Post Office and stage stop moved east to the Strahan general store during 1899. William Marshall, the husband of Martha "Mattie" Ellen Strahan, was the postmaster from August 31, 1899, until January 14, 1901. Samuel L. Strahan, the son of Alfred Marion and Caledonia "Callie" Strahan, the property and store owners, was the postmaster from January 14, 1901, until January 17, 1904.

Alfred Strahan sold the property to E. V. Dickinson on December 18, 1903. Edward V. Dickinson, the store and property owner, became the postmaster on January 18, 1904, serving until August 3, 1905. The Dickinson family had operated the Cornville Post Office and stage stop before moving to Cottonwood. Frank Dickinson became the Cottonwood postmaster on August 4, 1905, serving until May 20, 1907. Edward V. Dickinson sold the store and property to Alonzo "Lon" Mason.

Alonzo Mason, the new owner, became the postmaster on May 21, 1907, serving until March 15, 1914. He enlarged the store and re-aligned the County Road along the section line. His duties as the County Supervisor meant that his wife, May Mason, became the postmaster on March 16, 1914, and serving until December 30, 1916. Alonzo Mason took over again on December 31, 1916, serving until September 30, 1919.

The Post Office was moved to a new location at the south end of Cottonwood while Jeremiah "Jerry" A. McGimsey was postmaster from October 1, 1919, until May 24, 1920.

Bessie L. Thompson became the second woman postmaster on May 25, 1920. The Post Office was moved back to its old location in the general store. Bessie is the married daughter of Alonzo and May Mason. Before she resigned on December 31, 1923, Bessie trained Charles C. Stemmer.

Charles Stemmer recalls "mistaking a metronome, a devise used to count time for music, for a time bomb and going through anxious moments before he found out what it was." (The Verde Independent; Thursday, October 6, 1960.)

Charles C. Stemmer and his mother owned land on the west side of Main Street, where her Pioneer Hotel had been constructed during 1917. To the north, the first concrete block building was constructed in Cottonwood during 1923 [now, a drive-through to a parking lot]. Charles Stemmer became the postmaster on January 1, 1924, and moved the Post Office to his new building.

Alonzo Mason constructed a new building for his general merchandise and grocery store. He rented the old building for various uses, such as a used furniture store. "Mason owned it until 10 years ago when he sold it to a Presbyterian missionary, Jacob Frye, who occupied the building until his death."

By 1960, it was "owned by Ernest Killebrew. ... The old Cottonwood Post Office that served for so many years as a meeting place for early residents of the area is being torn down and salvaged." (The Verde Independent; Thursday, October 6, 1960.)

An old adobe building from the early years of settlement on the Strahan property will be featured on the City of Cottonwood, Historic Preservation Commission's HISTORIC HOME AND BUILDING TOUR on November 4, 2017.

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