Wales Arnold: One of the Verde Valley's last first pioneers

Courtesy Camp Verde Historical Society<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Wales Arnold came to Arizona as a member of the California Volunteers during the Civil War. He returned in 1863 as an escort for the newly appointed government of the newly created Arizona Territory. He never left.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

Courtesy Camp Verde Historical Society<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Wales Arnold came to Arizona as a member of the California Volunteers during the Civil War. He returned in 1863 as an escort for the newly appointed government of the newly created Arizona Territory. He never left.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

CAMP VERDE - It takes more than desperation or ambition to survive the frontier. It takes self-confidence, bull headedness and a blend of courage and inventiveness we call moxie.

As a rule, the cautious never arrive. The cowards don't stay. And the stupid, the brash and the unfortunate die early.

When Wales Arnold passed away in 1913, he had survived everything the frontier had to offer, for just shy of 50 years. He left this world relatively unscratched, widely respected and still very much in love with his like-minded soul mate.

Born in the green pastures and eastern comforts of Massachusetts, on April 6, 1837, Arnold made his way to California, where, at the age of 24, he enlisted the California Volunteers.

He spent his three-year military career chasing the ghostly Confederacy as it feebly attempted to wrestle the American Southwest from the Union.

His unit would briefly occupy Tucson and the Rio Grande Valley before at establishing itself at Fort Craig, the Union's bulwark in the New Mexico Territory.

Then in 1863, he was assigned to escort a party of Eastern politicians sent west to establish the newly designated Arizona Territory. In December 1863, Arnold arrived at Fort Whipple, in the golf fields of central Arizona.

His enlistment papers show he was a carpenter, but like most red-blooded Americans coming west, his interests soon turned to mining. Sometime before he mustered out of the service on Aug. 29, 1864, Arnold did some prospecting.

In the Walker Mining District south of Fort Whipple, Arnold placed a monument on a quartz ledge that became known as the Accidental Claim.

He worked it when he could, in spite of the harassment of fellow miners who took a dim view of government soldiers staking claims. And although it was showing some base ores, he was eventually forced to abandon the claim.

Where he went from there is unknown, but it can be safely assumed his stature rose among the miners following his release from the Army. On September 5, 1866, the miners of the Lynx Creek District elected him Justice of the Peace.

Within about a year, however, he gave up mining for a new frontier, heading east to the growing but dangerous farming community in the Verde Valley.

In January 1868, the newspapers identified Wales Arnold and his partner George D. Bowers as the post traders as Fort Lincoln. They also reported that Arnold had grown the valley's first crop of alfalfa.

As the fort's sutlers, Bowers and Arnold made frequent trips to Prescott for goods, no doubt stopping at the Agua Fria Ranch, formerly owned by King Woolsey but now owned by George Bower's uncles, Nathan and Herbert Bowers.

However, the Bowers-Arnold partnership was cut short on Oct. 30, 1868. On one of his trips to Prescott, Indians killed George Bowers alongside a young soldier named Robert Nix.

The killing of Bowers and Nix outraged the white community, but did not stop Arnold from continuing on.

On one of his stops at the Bowers Ranch, Arnold met 17 year old, Sarah "Jenny" Wells, a Bowers family friend who had made her way to San Francisco via sailing ship, around the tip of South American. Wells was the cook at the Bowers Ranch, a busy stop over known to every Argonaut within a 200-mile radius.

One historian states that Arnold soon made the Bowers Ranch more than just a stop over, claiming he did his share of farm work while courting the cook.

On Oct. 24, 1869, Wales and Sarah married in Prescott, to the adulation of all who knew them, even the local press, not to mention one another.

Shortly afterward, Arnold left his job as post trader and along with his new partner, Joseph Burroughs, laid claim to 160 acres just west of well-known sinkhole, a place that became known as the Montezuma Well Ranch.

Isolated on upper Beaver Creek, they built two homes, one that was more like a fortress. It that had thick adobe walls, gun ports and a well dug in the interior of the building. They also built corrals, and irrigation ditch and were soon farming 20 acres.

But the world they lived in paid only a modicum of respect for preparedness. Sometimes bad fortune trumped the best of plans.

In early August 1871, Indians raided the Arnold ranch, driving off 14 mules and horses. While making off with the livestock, the raiders ran into Burroughs who was returning from a hunting trip.

Days later, just two miles from the ranch, his body discovered, "stripped naked, pierced in several places by arrows and bullets."

It was during this period that Arnold's established himself as one of the preeminent pioneers of the Verde valley.

He served on more than one occasion as a scout for Gen. George Crook in the Army's campaign against the Yavapai and Apache. He was contracted along with fellow scout Al Sieber to layout and supervise the building of a trail from Fort Verde to Fort Apache, that now bear's the general's name.

He was appointed an elections inspector in and in 1878 he was elected Justice of the Peace for the Beaver Creek District.

Then one day, in 1876, a soldier arrived at his door with a 2-year-old Indian girl in his arms. She had been found hiding in a cave following a skirmish with the Indians. Wales and Sarah took her in, named her Lulu and raised her as their own.

Sarah also began to take on a stature of her own, providing care to her neighbors and hospitality to every one who stopped in, with the exceptions of the Indians. She was forever known to pack a pistol no matter where she went or what she was doing.

The Arnold place, as most neighbors knew the ranch, was for several years the center of life along the banks of Beaver Creek. It served as the stage stop and post office. And in times of Indian scares its fortress home protected many area families.

In 1881, long after the Yavapai and Apache had been sent off to San Carlos, one of those Indian scares brought several families to the Arnold Ranch, including the family of William G. Wingfield. Impressed with what he saw, W. G. purchased the ranch in exchange for several head of cattle.

Wales and Sarah took their new stock and relocated to beautiful canyon with a flowing spring just south of Squaw Peak. They named it the Flower Pot Ranch, after the distinctive brand they applied to all of their stock.

In 1899, when the federal government auctioned off the five 40-acre parcels that composed the fort's post and surrounding area, the Arnolds purchased 40 acres. Shortly thereafter they sold the Flower Pot and moved into town, where it is said they operated a boarding house.

In 1909, the National Bank of Prescott reported the consignment of 226 ounces of gold, deposited by the Poland Mining Company. The gold, the newspapers reported, had come from the Accidental vein, located 45 years earlier by Wales Arnold, a soldier serving at fort Whipple.

That same year Wales Arnold lost his last and most faithful partner. With the money from the sale of the Flower Pot he ordered what was at the time perhaps the largest monument in the county, a six ton, three piece headstone of blue marble, to be placed over Sarah's final resting place.

Just three years later, on May 21, 1913, Wales passed away while living in Prescott.

A lifetime member of the International Order of Odd Fellows, his body was escorted from Prescott to Camp Verde by some 30 of his lodge members.

On the afternoon of May 25, a cavalcade of 11 automobiles, the Verde Valley's first funeral procession made solely of horseless carriages, left a trail of Verde Valley dust as it wound their way from Camp Verde to the small cemetery near Clear Creek.

At the little church next to the cemetery, 400 area residents also gathered to pay their respects and say good-bye to one of the last of the valley's true pioneers.

After a brief service, Wales was placed next to Sarah, where the two remain together, to this day.


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