Round Valley Unified Schools
Eagar Town History

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 returned.

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, Valley Redondo.

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 January, 1964.

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 Udall's.

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 others.

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 attend school.

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 left.

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 now.

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 property.

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 chief offenders.

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 chapel.

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 Ranch.

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 now Eagar.

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 Springerville.

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 to me.

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 Greer.

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 92.

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.

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 days.

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 school.

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 ourselves.

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 shine.

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 pans.

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 necessary also.

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 crisis.

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 work.

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 times.”

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 today.

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.