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Sedona’s First Post Office

Schnebly homestead near Oak Creek in what would become Sedona. Photo courtesy Special Collections, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.

Schnebly homestead near Oak Creek in what would become Sedona. Photo courtesy Special Collections, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.

This is the original Schnebly homestead on the banks of Oak Creek in what would become the town of Sedona.

The area was first settled in the 1870s by homesteaders drawn to the canyon and grasslands along the creek by the year-round water supply, abundant game and good climate.

T.C. (Theodore Carlton) Schnebly and his wife Sedona didn’t arrive until after the turn of the century, coming from Gorin, Miss., to what was then called Camp Garden in the Arizona Territory in October 1901.

They came by rail, taking the Santa Fe to Ashfork and then the narrow gauge line to Jerome.

They bought 80 acres of proven homestead on the banks of Oak Creek and built this two-story frame house. T.C. dug the irrigation ditch (at right in the photograph) to water a garden and small orchard he planted.

When he arrived, the settlement of homesteaders on Oak Creek was too small for a post office. Mail was delivered by way of Cornville, a neighboring community to the southwest.

But in 1902, the settlement applied for and was awarded a post office. Many names were suggested — Oak Creek Station and Schnebly Station were mentioned — but those were too long for the cancellation stamp. At his brother’s suggestion, T.C. submitted his wife’s name and the town was born.

T.C. was the first postmaster, and the Schnebly home was the first post office. It soon became a hub of activity, full of guests and a calling place for neighbors who stopped in to pick up news from the outside world.

In 1905, the Schneblys’ little girl Pearl died in an accident. The loss was too great for the couple, and they decided to sell out and move back to Missouri. They would not return to Sedona for more than 25 years.

The property was sold, probably to another early day settler named Claude Black, and the two-story house became a hotel. In 1918, it burned to the ground and was replaced by a rock house that now stands on the grounds of Los Abrigados resort.

Over time, the post office moved to several different locations. It was at Indian Gardens in Oak Creek Canyon for a time and later in uptown Sedona, where it occupied a small stone building, which is still in use as a retail store.

At some point, the Jordan family acquired all or most of the upper or northern end of the Schnebly property (the area north of the Y intersection at Jordan Road and 89A). They added to the existing orchards and by the 1920s were growing apples and peaches as a commercial crop, hauling the produce up Schnebly Hill to the top of the rim and on to Flagstaff to market.

Helen Jordan, wife of George J. Jordan, told an interviewer in the 1970s that, “Sedona had the perfect climate for the fruit grower, and our trees produced so much fruit that we needed a packing house other than the canvas-sided shed we had been using.” That packing house later became the Sedona Art Barn Center in uptown Sedona.

In 1931, the Schneblys returned to Sedona permanently. T.C. worked as a CCC camp supervisor and handyman for the Jordan family, and Sedona Schnebly cared for the Jordan children and helped in the house.

Helen Jordan remembers life in Sedona as slow paced. Literary programs and dances in the schoolhouse were the highlight of the week. Most of the time was spent with the business of farming, harvesting and hauling.

Many rural areas had no electricity until the early 1950s. As land was cleared away from the creek, irrigating the trees became a problem. In 1949, George Jordan designed and built a water wheel to power an irrigation system carrying water from the creek to the orchards above.

By then, the Schneblys were near retirement. The town of Sedona threw a huge party for them on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1947. They lived out their remaining days in a modest house in uptown Sedona, near the site of the new city parking area at the corner of Jordan and Schenbly roads. Sedona Schnebly died in November 1951. T.C. died two years later.

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