An attentive second Saturday audience listened to Ken Evans’ recent presentation about Homolovi State Park and early Mormon settlements. They also enjoyed his many photos and documents of the area.
Ken, as Homolovi Park ranger, shared the evidence of how Native Americans and early settlers solved the problems of survival, which now exist on the ground in the form of historic and prehistoric artifacts. These early people left no written records for us.
When Jesse Walter Fewdes of the Smithsonian stepped off the train in 1896, he estimated Homolovi I on the east side and bank of the Little Colorado River to have 200 rooms. When the detailed archeological survey and excavations were completed, a thousand-plus rooms were found. Archeologists are still uncovering rooms and analyzing petroglyphs.
The Little Colorado River has a flood plain area of 4.3 miles, which bisects the park. Various groups have attempted to build dams on the river, but with little success. A recent flood in 1993 uncovered more than 156 rooms built with adobe bricks. The Spaniards claimed to have introduced adobe as a building material to the “savages.” However, the Homolovi residents were using this material 300 years before the Spaniards taught them about it.
Chevlon Creek ruin had between 700 and 1,000 rooms, which helped contribute to the population of 6,000 to 7,000 in all 11 pueblos. A member of the audience observed that Winslow has experienced a slow growth since then.
Homolovi IV was known as Potter Hill. It was located on the O’Haco Ranch and was part of a 1988 land swap. It contains 400 to 600 rooms built on the top of the hill. Residents started at the top and built down, creating a terraced garden effect.
Homolovi is a contemporary of Walnut Canyon, being inhabited from 1200-1260 up to 1400.
Archeologists will be back in July to work at Rock Art Ranch, identifying petroglyphs and excavating small pueblos and pit houses. Many petroglyphs are Hopi clan symbols, with 40 clans claiming Homolovi as their site. Hopis are stewards of the land. Sites are not abandoned, but will be used later is their belief…like you don’t abandon your living room forever if you are in the kitchen.
When the Mormons came at the direction of Brigham Young beginning in 1867, they also settled along the Little Colorado River. One report sent back to Salt Lake in 1874 mentioned the area as “great” and “wonderful.” The 1875 report called the area “deplorable.”
On March 24, 1876, a group came to Sunset Crossing, where they divided into four camps. Lot Smith established the Sunset Company and created Sunset Fort, into which they moved on Christmas Eve 1876. In 1881, the Ballenger Camp was established and later renamed Brigham. William Allen’s camp became St. Joseph, but because there was a St. Joseph on the railroad, it was renamed Joseph City. Obed was the fourth camp, and was located where the St. Joseph road bisected with McLaws Road. It ended due to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever. (On March 24, there will be a trail ride by the Mormon Church, an Arizona Centennial event.)
Marie LaMar shared a bit of the history of the beautiful visitor center, which was designed by the firm of Jones and Jones, whose principals studied at Taliesin West. Many of the features of the building reflect the influence of their mentors. When they first visited the site, they observed several rusty tin cans here and there due to the location being moved because of the presence of artifacts. So, you’ll notice the use of metal on the building. There is an abundant use of stone on the walls. These stones were donated by the Kretsedemas brothers (original Falcon owners) and came from a blasting site between the town and the prison. Marie says to be sure to visit the restrooms for the beautiful lighting and to enjoy the panoramic view of the park through its well-placed windows.
Now, why could the railroad cause a small community in northeast Arizona to change its name? April’s Second Saturday will be presented by Bert Peterson and Bill Shumway on the history of the railroad. Maybe they’ll have an answer. In the meantime, come and visit the park!