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Sedona’s Living History

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August 4, 2016

Experience the past in red rock country.

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There’s no denying that Sedona occupies a setting that’s rife with romance. It is a vertical land of soaring red rocks, columns and towers rising above lush forests and silver streams. That romantic allure should come as no surprise. The town began with a love affair.

Settling in Sedona

Although American Indians lived in the region as far back as 1100 AD, European settlers didn’t arrive until 1876. Drawn by the abundance of water and fertile soil, pioneers began farming crops and planting orchards on the banks of Oak Creek. The community continued to grow, and by the turn of the century, about 15 homesteading families worked the land.

T.C. Schnebly’s Impact in Sedona

At the turn of the 20th century, T.C. Schnebly built a large two-story home that served as general store and hotel near Oak Creek. He also organized the first post office. When it came time to name the community, his original suggestions of Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly’s Station were rejected by the Postmaster General as too long.

That’s when Schnebly came up with a grand romantic gesture – the kind of thing that would have gone viral on social media today. He simply named the fledgling community after his beloved wife, Sedona.

It was a name invented by Sedona’s mother because she thought it sounded pretty. It has no other origin. Little did she know how much the name Sedona would come to define beauty and romance for generations of travelers.

Although the Schnebly family moved away from Oak Creek for a time, they returned. Sedona – or “Aunt Dona,” as she was known by many residents – was a cherished member of the community until her death in 1950. Her husband T.C. died in 1954. Both are buried in Cook Cemetery off Airport Road.

People who knew the Schneblys still reside in town, and descendants of other pioneer families are part of the community. History feels close to the bone here.

Sedona Heritage Museum

Visitors can learn more of the town’s colorful past at the Sedona Heritage Museum. Exhibits and artifacts cover a range of topics, which include apple growing, cowboys and movies. That trifecta is rarely found in museums but it neatly sums up Sedona’s history.

This area became ranch country, but early settlers thrived along Oak Creek by growing apples and peaches. And nearly 100 feature films were shot in Sedona, so the museum’s movie room features photo stills, posters, storyboards, a diorama of an old western movie set and a loop of Sedona-based flicks. The setting of the museum, a peaceful homestead and orchard in Jordan Historical Park, is worth a visit.

Outdoor Beauty

Yet to truly appreciate the legacy of Sedona’s early pioneers, spend time outside reveling in the same heart-freeing beauty they experienced. Hike the trails they carved from this wilderness. Over a century later – even as Sedona has grown into a world-class destination filled with art galleries, resorts, spas and restaurants – you can still walk the same pathways the earliest residents walked. That’s part of the magic of this landscape, how closely connected it is to wild country.

Jim Thompson Trail

The Jim Thompson Trail weaves through shady forest as it brushes past mighty Steamboat Rock – the tall red rock formations rising all around you. Named after the first European settler to arrive, Thompson built the trail in 1887 to connect his homes in Oak Creek Canyon and the village that would become Sedona.

Marg’s Draw Trail

Marg’s Draw Trail is named for an irrepressible mule owned by one of the area’s first pioneers. When Marg the mule wanted to avoid work she would bolt and head for the lush forest and secluded draw at the base of soaring sandstone towers. As you hike the trail into Marg’s hideout, with the close-up view of Snoopy Rock and the Copper Cliffs, you’ll celebrate her wisdom and feisty spirit.

Old Post Trail

When you hike the Old Post Trail along the edge of Carroll Canyon, you’re following a former mail route used in horse and buggy days.

Lime Kiln Historic Wagon Trail

The Lime Kiln Historic Wagon Trail stretches from Sedona to Cottonwood and is part of the old road that the farmers of Sedona used to sell their goods and produce to the miners in Jerome.

Schnebly Hill Road

Some of the grandest sights of all can be found by traveling Schnebly Hill Road. The rugged wagon road was scratched from the steep, rocky hillsides by Sedona pioneers. And it hasn’t changed much in the years since. This was the route Schnebly used to haul wagonloads of produce north to Flagstaff and how he brought in supplies for his general store.

Schnebly Hill Road makes a twisted ascent through red rock tablelands to the pine forests of the Colorado Plateau with sprawling vistas along the way. While the first mile is paved, don’t be fooled. The road quickly turns primitive – a lane pockmarked, ledged and littered with stones. If you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle, consider taking a Jeep tour. A steady stream of Sedona’s commercial Jeep companies snake their way up Schnebly Hill daily.

One notable formation the road passes on its steady climb is Merry-Go-Round Rock, which has become a popular spot for weddings. People travel from all over the world to tie the knot in Sedona, or to renew their vows. That should come as no great surprise. It’s a fairytale setting filled with romance.

And after all, the entire town was built on a love affair.

Brought to you by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau and contributor Roger Naylor, (928) 204-1123 or (800) 288-7336,

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