March 18, 2018

1871: CB Genung Builds the Old Yarnell Road

Come 1871, the farmers and ranchers of Kirkland and Peeples Valley had a logistics problem. They wanted access to the Wickenburg and Phoenix markets for their products, but there was no wagon road down the rim that was suitable for heavy loads.

"There was a road that could be traveled by light rigs and empty teams, but no (loaded wagon) could be handled over it." Additionally, the old trail was an excessive 60 miles long.

A new, better route was desperately needed and Charles Baldwin Genung proposed a road that would cut off a whopping 33 miles from the journey.

Genung's road would run east of today's Highway 89, (White Spar Road) to include the then boom mining areas along Antelope Creek and at Stanton.

At Kirkland Valley, the road would connect with the road leading from the Colorado River at Ehrenberg to Prescott" in the north. At the southern end it would lead to Wickenburg and the road to Phoenix.

In July, Genung was officially commissioned to build the road by the US Army. Genung's neighbors were excited about the project and agreed to help.

"I employed a few white men at $75 per month; a few Mexicans at $65 per month and board, and started to work," Genung later wrote. "There was quite a number of Yavapai Indians in and around Peeples Valley at that time, and when they learned what I was doing, they asked for work; and as they were willing to work for 60 cents per day--the same as I had paid (them) when they worked for me on the Colorado River Reservation--I put a lot of them to work."

Genung's neighbors were far less enthused about his use of Yavapai labor. However, since "the Indians would do about as much work with the pick and shovel as the average white man or Mexican, I put them on," Genung wrote. "I thought it better to work the Indians and have (them) somewhere I could watch them than to be uncertain of their whereabouts."

The story of the last of the Indian raids on Kirkland Valley, Arizona from 1868-1871.

In fact, the Native Americans were just happy to have something to eat. Genung "gave them flour, beans, sugar, coffee and venison." To provide the meat, Genung "gave one of the Indians (named Johnny #9) 50 cents per day and furnished him with cartridges...He kept the camps well provided with fresh meat," while his wife dressed the skins providing additional income for his family.

Genung chose to live among the Native Americans and was always aware of their plight. It was he who was chosen to head Indian relations in the new territorial government. "The white man had occupied (the Indian) lands and hunting grounds (and) crowded them back so that they were too glad to go to the reservation," he wrote. "Then, after they were all on the reservation, the agent starved them until they had to go back to the mountains to get something to eat," he lamented.

At one point the road crew was molested by unknown "strange" Indians who may have also been hungry. Genung "chased them off, but they returned the next day" bringing tension to the camp. Genung directed them to Fort McDowell, telling them that they could receive rations there. He then drew a map that led them out of Yavapai country, relieving the anxiety.

When work was started on the road, "a man named George H Wilson, commonly called Yaokey Wilson, moved from his ranch 3 1/2 miles below Wickenburg up to Antelope Creek and put up a seven room house and started a station."

"Wilson was a good station keeper and did a good business with the placer miners as well as the travel that came his way as soon as the road was possible for teams," Genung related.

Genung built the road from Wickenburg to Kirkland Valley for $4765. "Without the Indian labor, I could not have built it for less than $7000 to $8000," he proudly stated. However, the portion of the road that went through Stanton would soon be avoided due to robberies and killings there by the Charles P. Stanton gang.

Although the road was built prior to the founding of Yarnell, it eventually became known as the Old Yarnell Road. Remnants of it can still be found today.

Tourist Tip:

On June 30th, 2012, the Yarnell Fire took the lives of 19 Prescott "Hotshot" firefighters. A movie about the story entitled "Only the Brave" was produced in October 2017. Here is a link for information on visiting their Memorial Park:


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"Yarnell-Peeples Valley Centennial 1892-1992; Lest We Forget". Various authors. Published by the Yarnell/Peeples Chamber of Commerce, 1992. (Available at the Prescott Public Library.) Section 2, pp. 7-8.

"A Compact to Kill" By CB Genung. Originally printed in the Los Angeles Mining Review, 1910-1911. (A typed manuscript is available in the Charles Genung box at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives.)

1 comment:

  1. It's wonderful to picture this area in my head as I read. The never ending plight of the Native Americans in this area breaks my heart. Arizona Highways did an issue highlighting the native inhabitants of the Verde Valley. What we did to them was a disgrace.