Round Valley Unified Schools
 
 
The Biggest Little Town on Highway 60
By A.P. Romero

My interest in the history of Springerville, dates back to the many times I stayed with my grandmother, "Mama Maria," on Saturday nights.  I was in the range of six to ten years of age.  ----Why Saturday nights?  That was the night reserved for dancing in my home town.  It was a big occasion, and everyone in town seemed to attend the "baile," which means dance in Spanish.  Sometimes, I would receive cash payment for my "services."

However, the pay in cash I received, was a meager amount, compared to the knowledge I gained of the 'hamlet's past.  What I learned was "first hand" information from one of the pioneers, who first settled in "Round Valley."

The name Round Valley is from the Spanish translation: El Valle Redondo, which is exactly what it is.  Countless ages ago, there were many active volcanoes in that part of the Rockies.  To the north of Springerville is a definite shape of an extinct earth vent, and it's lava spread around.  All around the valley, there are snow  covered peaks, which remain so---until early summer.  The elevation o that area ranges from six to twelve thousand feet above sea level.  A food view of the valley is from atop a mountain known as: Flat-top, because of it's flat crest.  The Spanish populace called it: "La Loma de San Pedro" (St. Peter's mountain).

The first homosapiens to inhabit the area were Indians.  There is evidence of their culture in the form of pottery, in the nearby caves formed by huge tumbling rocks of the once active volcano to the north.

The next people to lay sight of the valley were: the Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco de Coronado in search of the seven cities of Cibola.  As the monument---"Madonna of the Trails"---located in the "Times Square" of the community says: "Coronado passed through here in 1540 seeking for gold, but found fame instead."  He discovered the world famous Grand Canyon, and was the first European to see buffaloes.  He traveled from the central part of New Spain (Mexico) to the far stretches of the Kansas Plains, in search of the "yellow metal."

In 1956 A.D., Round  Valley lost it's foremost resident--"Don Juan Baca" (Mr. John Baca), who settled in what was to become Springerville in 1861.  He was seventeen at the time.  His former residence had been in or near Socorro, New Mexico, along the Rio Grande.  He lived in Round Valley ninety three years. Just think: almost a century in this small locale, and nothing on his grave to this effect.  The present fathers of the valley should bolster pride in this man and say: Here lies the first citizen of our province, and buried with him the early history of civilization.  Another suggestion is to at least name a street after him--one he walked on almost every day for ninety three years.

The second resident was a man with the surname of Milligan.  He was there a short time with his family--they moved to a nearby site known as Milligan Valley.

Along the east bank of the Little Colorado River moved the valley's third citizen--a person by the name of Springer.  He set up the first store or trading post, and thus, gave rise to a new name of the maps of the world--Springerville, Arizona!  According to my Mama Maria, he wasn't there long either - just long enough to leave his name.

The sequence that follows is not known to me but among the Spanish settlers are: my own grandmother, Maria (Mary) Pena.  She had as her first husband a gambler by the name of John Candelaria.  A second spouse followed of which not too much is known.  He was my biological grandfather, who was of English extraction: his surname was Sterling--closely related to the Lunds of the nearby town of Eagar.  This lad named Sterling--among other things--was a rustler.  At least, the evidence points in that direction.  My father claims his biological father-in-lay carried an ear mark of rustling which was characteristic of  frontier justice if "caught in the act."

At this point, I would like to mention something not shown on present day western television programs, and that is: an open pit under a tree limb utilized for hanging.  It seems that the victim would be pushed into the pit, and left suspended from the bough.  At least, that's what "Bobby" Wiltbank, a former high school classmate, told me one day.  We happened to be horse back riding which is one of the few times I've been on horse back.  We happened to see this pit, and my "curiosity" led me to ask several questions about it.

Another Spanish name among the early Spanish-American settlers is Pillar Carrillo.  (Most of the people just mentioned left many decedents.)

Dona Rofina Serna was another.  I, too, remember her.  My brother, Clovis, tells me she was drawing a pension as a civil war widow.  Her many children, and grandchildren, called her "Nanna," or "Mi Nanna."  I used to know the derivative of that name--will have to check with my mother next summer(1959), when I visit her in Los Angeles.

Among the German, or Presbyterian group, the name of Augustus Becker stands out.  He was perhaps the most well known person for the longest time in Southern Apache County, Arizona.  He was an influential figure, and ran a general store.  According to my grandmother, he was sly, and came in as a "drifter."  His was a story repeated in many small places--"the haves, and have nots."  His cunningness was passed on to his children: Julius Becker runs the largest and most up-to-date store in the valley; Eddie Becker--the Becker Motor Company, with a Ford franchise; the late Alvin Becker introduced the electrical system, and ran the light and power company; Herman Becker was another leading citizen--at times ran a bank and worked with the U.S. Forest Service.

There were other Teutonic settlers, many of whom didn't stick it out.  However, to the south of Springerville, there is a separate and distinct community known as Eagar--so named after it's founder.  This town on the edge of the forest borders Springerville and is part of Round Valley.  Here we find an active Mormon center.  This sect, called Latter Day Saints, are the decedents of those hearty people who met with many hostilities in the early days of their church for believing in an idea started by Joseph Smith and carried west by Brigham Young.

The Mormons wanted to propagate their faith, and increase their numbers.  One way was by polygamy:  Allowing male persons to have more than one wife.  According to history: the male spouse chose his first wife but she, in turn, selected the rest of his mates. Not only that: exercising complete autonomy in her household.

The flaws in this system were many fold.  This technique, used for increasing church membership, left many of the wives uncared for, and some husbands just couldn't provide for all their "harem."  As a result, many of them were cast aside to face the elements alone--with or without any children they may have had prior to this turn of events.

In the year 1890, Utah became a state with the stipulation from Congress htat before they became a state, polygamy had to be outlawed in the territory.  Utah agreed, but there is nothing in the "rule book" to keep them from legalizing it again, after becoming a commonwealth.  As things are to this date: polygamy has become morally taboo, and monogamy seems to have the inside track, without hindering church membership.

What have people done for a living in Round Valley?
1.  In it's "early days," it was a cattle country.
2.  Sheep have added to it's total income.
3.  Farming has been carried on to some degree, mostly for self-use.
4.  A saw-mill has been added to the valley.  The work is carried on in Eagar.
5.  Lately, the tourist trade has the "upper hand," with several modern motels.  They turn away many motorists during the exuberant Fourth of July celebrations.

The profuse Independence Day exhibitions attract people from far and wide.  Rodeos are held from July 2nd through July 6th, with many local and out-of state contestants competing for the coveted prize money.  This sport was introduced by the Spaniards--probably to "let-off-steam," and to display some innate talents to friends and spectators.

This White Mountain Gateway attracts many sportsmen who like to fish or hunt.  Trout are plentiful and the U.S. Forest Service sees to it that these pisces places get the best of care--by consistent checks on the hatcheries and streams.  There are many fish hatcheries around to replenish the brooks.  (Some of these brooks are proudly called rivers out west.)

In winter or in the fall, business is enhanced by the hunting season.  Mother nature has been good to wild-life in this area and, in return, many sportsmen are careful with our forests.  Not many of them go away with a phlegmatic attitude.

There is much to say about this "Green Round Valley Area," and many ways to say it.  This is the way I remember my birthplace, and I wouldn't trade my childhood in this "Biggest Little Town" on Highway 60, for a king's ransom.

Opportunities for employment are limited.  Therefore, it will remain the "little town" until the day, some potential will attract the people's fancy.

Pride in it's past, plus nature's environment and it's clean atmosphere seem to characterize the people of this "frontier town."

The educational system is a paragon among institutions engaged in gainful knowledge.  To illustrate: (1)Schools aren't too crowded and: (2) Teachers qualifications are among the highest in the country.  A system such as this will give a feeling of belonging; give meaning to courses and basic subjects, which inturn: incites minds to further learning.  All this can only lead to a better world, and The Biggest Little Town of Highway 60 can proudly say:  I had a hand in building His Great Empire.

A.P. Romero