Guest Editorial


140 years Stoneman Road

jim mcallisterOctober, 2010 will be a time of celebration for three important historical milestones relating to our local area in particular and Arizona in general. On October 15, we will observe the 192nd birthday of General Irvin McDowell. The McDowell Mountains, Fort McDowell, McDowell Road, and other places are named after General McDowell even though he probably never set foot in the territory.

October 19 will mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of Scottsdale’s namesake, Reverend Winfield Scott, and October 1 will be the 140th anniversary of the scouting of the Stoneman Road, an important supply road between Fort McDowell and Fort Whipple in Prescott between 1870 and 1890. On October 16, a 140th anniversary hike will take place at McDowell Mountain Regional Park and will cover traces of the Stoneman Road.

To celebrate the road, the Stoneman Road Commemorative Task Force has arranged presentations by experts Bob Cook and Larry Levy. Bob will discuss Colonel George Stoneman and Larry will cover the route and condition of the road. A four person panel will also be open for discussion. This event will be held twice: 6:30 p.m. on September 29 at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library and 6:30 p.m. on October 13 at the Appaloosa Library in Scottsdale.

Why should you be interested in the Stoneman Road? Probably because Arizona is rich in western history and the Stoneman Road was a vital part of that history during its existence. It was an important conduit for the shipping of supplies from Fort Whipple in Prescott to Fort McDowell on what is today the Yavapai Reservation near Fountain Hills.

Established in 1865, Fort McDowell was continuously short on supplies and before the Stoneman Road was established, the shortages were especially acute as the connection between the forts required a long route that swung south through Phoenix and north to Prescott. With the establishment of the Stoneman Road, a day’s ride was eliminated from the trip.

The new route was named after forty-eight year old Colonel George Stoneman, a Civil War veteran and career Army man by way of West Point. He was assigned to Arizona in May, 1870 and although he was relieved of his Arizona duties one year later, his establishment of the road between Fort McDowell and Fort Whipple was a major accomplishment of his brief command.

Stoneman was a trailblazer and sought a way to Prescott that would avoid the southern route. He found his route by following an old Indian trail that covered part of the distance. The trail was widened into a rocky road that led northwest from Fort McDowell through what is now McDowell Mountain Regional Park, and passed to the north of Pinnacle Peak. It’s believed that soldiers may have camped in the area which is now near 136th Street and Rio Verde Drive.

The road then passed near what would later become Brown’s Ranch and eventually touched the eastern boundary of the area where The Boulder’s resort is located today in north Scottsdale. From there it went past the northern slope of Black Mountain and continued west to Cave Creek. A bubbling spring near what is now Rancho Manana, provided a nice respite for weary travelers.

After that it was north along the banks of Cave Creek and crossing into what is now Cave Creek Regional Park. From there it passed through the New River Mountains and Black Canyon, then went north through Mayer to Fort Whipple and Prescott.

On April 10, 1890, Fort McDowell was vacated by the US military and became the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation which served the Mohave, Pima, and Apache tribes. As far as the Stoneman Road, with the lack of traffic on it after 1890 combined with the attrition of time and the Arizona weather, only minimal traces are left.

Our task force has discovered portions of the road in parts of McDowell Mountain Park and near the old Brown’s Ranch location near north Scottsdale. Another discernible section runs between Stagecoach Pass at Windmill Road northwest to Cave Creek Road ending by a gate going into the Carefree Airport.

Running east to west, south of Cave Creek Road, is a short section of the Military Road which is part of the old Stoneman Road. It originally ran toward Cave Creek and by what is thought to be a military remount station from the 1870-1890 era. Other than that, the road has pretty much succumbed to the sands of time.

Jim McAllister is a community columnist and blogger who writes about a variety of interesting subjects. He is an Air Force veteran, alum of the University of Central Missouri, has written news and features for print and television and done hosting work in radio and television. Jim lives in Scottsdale.