Print Events celebrate city of Cottonwood’s anniversary
Written by Greg Ruland   
Saturday, 13 November 2010 00:00

History, art and culture coalesce during Cottonwood’s party to celebrate 50 years as an incorporated city Saturday,
Nov. 13.

Bands, history exhibits, self-guided history tours, wine tasting and old-fashioned pit barbecue are just a few of the options people may choose. To take part, the city is urging people to head to Old Town via Clemenceau Heritage Museum.

The best way to get to Old Town is on a shuttle from Clemenceau Museum, where the annual Zeke Taylor Barbecue starts at 11 a.m. according to Karen J. Leff, a volunteer planner and historical researcher.

City officials urged barbecue-goers to attend Zeke Taylor first, leave the car parked at the museum and catch the shuttle for an express ride to Old Town every 20 minutes or so.

Traffic congestion caused by blocking off Main Street will be a top concern.

There should be plenty of parking; behind City Hall, between city buildings in the 800 block of North Main, in parking lots behind Ledbetter Law Firm in the 100 block North Main Street, and in another large lot behind the Orion Bread Co. on Cactus Street as well as side street parking on Cactus, First, and Second streets, Leff said.

All is ready for the Nov. 13 festivities but some old-timers may not be ready to hear changes to Cottonwood’s history set to be announced during the event, Leff said.

“Most of what’s written about Cottonwood comes from word of mouth and personal interviews of the people involved,” Leff said. A closer look at the documents proves what some accept as fact is actually myth, she said.

Founded in 1885, it would take another 75 years before the city officially incorporated, mostly because the 600 people who lived in Cottonwood wanted to prevent Clarkdale from annexing in 1960.

“It was consistent with our history as outsiders,” Leff said.

Most of the people who nurtured Cottonwood from its infancy were considered outsiders by neighboring communities, according to Glenda Farley, a volunteer planner and researcher for the event.

They were mostly of ethnic descent, especially Mexicans, Italians, Irish, Jews and others who were barred by racial and ethnic prejudices from working for the mining companies in Clarkdale and Jerome, Farley said.

Farley said she will exhibit deeds with racial restrictions attached in 1947 by the mining companies that subdivided the land and sold the homes.

Farley, Leff and Kathy Turrano volunteered more than 700 hours to help plan the celebration and research the city’s origins. The committee spent hundreds of hours reviewing historical documents to validate the official record and exposed some erroneous though widely-held beliefs about the city’s origins.

The year 1879, erroneously believed by many to be the year of founding, was invalidated by the committee’s research, which uncovered the first homestead patent for Cottonwood. The first legally established settlement that founded Cottonwood was issued in 1885, the research showed.

Another historical inaccuracy the committee wants to correct is the true identity of Cottonwood’s first postmaster, who was Mac Willard, not William McMichael as erroneously published in some historical sources.

The documents prove McMichael operated Cottonwood Station in Bumble Bee, sometimes called Cottonwood, a town located 60 miles to the south. Cottonwood Station never delivered in Cottonwood or the Verde Valley according to the official record, Farley said.

The city’s past as a bootlegger’s paradise is told in numerous newspaper articles and arrest records, some of which will be available for inspection at the Cottonwood Hotel on Nov. 13.

The true story of Cottonwood’s notorious bootlegging operations can be told in many documents, but not official court records, which were unfortunately destroyed, she said.