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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : blogs : verde heritage September 14, 2014

Verde Heritage
By Glenda Farley, Cottonwood, AZ
Local historian Glenda Farley guides us on a journey back in time to discover fascinating moments that make up our Verde heritage and history.
Sunday, December 15, 2013


Verde Heritage

"A correspondent of the Cleveland (Ohio) HERALD, writing to that paper under the date of September 20, 1869, from Camp Verde, in this county and Territory, gives the following interesting account of the ruins on Beaver Creek, sixty or seventy miles east of Prescott. It will be seen that he confounds the Black Hills with the Sierra Prieta:"

"On Saturday, September 18th, a small party from the military post at Camp Verde visited the 'Montezuma Well,' situated on Beaver Creek, about eight miles distant. The well is about one hundred yards back from the stream, upon a high isolated mesa, and is about one hundred and twenty-five yards in width, and about one hundred feet down to the water, which is surrounded by perpendicular walls of rock. The water is very clear, of a light green or bluish color, and is very strongly impregnated with lime, sulphur, soda, iron, and other minerals. It has no visible inlet, but its outlet is by a subteranean passage at a point nearest Beaver Creek, into which it empties a large volume of water."

"The whole country between the 'Sierra Prieta' and the 'Mogollon' ranges of mountains is a limestone formation, and full of caverns, some of which are quite extensive, as was shown by the results of the day's explorations. All along the bluffs of the Rio Verde and Beaver Creek, wherever these caves exist, they are found to have been the dwelling places of a race of people which has long since passed away, and about which not even mythology tells a tale; but it is generally supposed that they are of a very ancient character, probably older than the Aztecs of Mexico."

The writer says: "The object of the expedition was to explore the caves and ruins by which the place is surrounded, and ascertain if possible the depth of the water in the well. We took with us a rubber bag which was inflated and launched. Dr. W. H. Smith (post surgeon) and myself undertook to make the soundings, which we did in a very satisfactory manner, but with a great deal of labor and at imminent peril, owing to a thick growth of water plants which floated upon the surface, and extended some twenty feet from the shore and through which it was next to an impossibility to swim; by great exertion the difficulty was overcome, and the soundings made, which in the deepest place was eleven fathoms."

"All around the well in the high walls, were caves, which, too, had once been occupied, and from their sheltered position, all remain nearly as perfect to-day as they were when abandoned, probably hundreds of years ago. The openings are built up with masonry through which are left small entrances and loopholes for protection. The walls overhead are blackened with the smoke of their fires, now so old that it will not rub off. The plastered walls show the print of their hands as plainly as if they were made but yesterday. Corncobs, pieces of gourds, mescal and seeds are found in the plaster, which is conclusive proof that they were an agricultural people --- and for a similar reason it is believed that they were a manufacturing people, as a good article of cloth and common twine have been found in these caves, and which have been preserved in the same manner."

"To-day we discovered a new cave which no white man had ever seen before; it was evidently the Gibralter of this ancient city --- the name of which to us is forever lost. Upon entering the great front room, in every direction were seen little rooms, where niches in the rocks had been built up with loopholed walls, forming as it were counterscarp galleries, as interior lines of defense, impregnable to any enemy except starvation. Leading from here are numerous passages which have not yet been explored. One passage led down into a great chamber, at the lower end of which a stream of water was found evidently a branch of the outlet to the well. Owing to the poor impovised torch that we had, it was not deemed prudent to explore any of the passages leading from this room."

"These caves are a strange place to live in; some of them are almost perpendicular walls of rock to a considerable height. And under extreme difficulties, with an incredible amount of labor, they have carried great rocks, immense timbers, and other building material, whence it is almost impossible now for a man to go."

"Stone metates upon which they ground their corn, acorns and mesquit beans, pieces of broken ollas in which they cooked their food, and pieces of pottery, painted and glazed, are found everywhere. It seems as if every inhabitable place teemed with life, and that this country was once as densly populated as any of the Eastern States of the Union are to-day."

"The most perfect of any of these ruins, and which is in the best state of preservation is in a cave on Beaver Creek, about one mile and a half from Camp Verde. It is in a perpendicular wall of rock between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in height; the lower entrance is over 100 feet above the valley below. It is four stories in height, and like all of the others, has its interior lines of defense. The floors are elaborately constructed of small timbers covered with straight sticks placd closely together, and upon this is placed the cement for flooring usually six inches thick. The upper floors seem to have been constructed entirely for defense. A crenated wall breast high overhangs the whole structure, from which can be seen the entire surrounding country, and from its giddy height a stone can be thrown into the river 150 feet below."

"The excellent state of preservation of the wood and material used in these caves is due to their sheltered position and the dry, hot climate of the country. Were it not for this, nothing would have been known of these people, as everything perishable which has been used in the construction of these houses has decayed whenever it has been exposed to the weather."

"Much has been said of these ruins, and many speculations have been made as to the builders; but it is all speculation, as no one knows who they were. A volume might be written on this subject and still leave it unfinished."

(The Weekly Arizona Miner; Prescott; December 11, 1869; page 4, column 1.)

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