Did You Know?

History Highlights

From the Cave Creek Museum
Kraig Nelson, docent

Hohokam shell jewelry – October 2017
The prehistoric Hohokam are known for their extensive canals in the Phoenix Basin. They are also known for their kiln-fired ceramic pottery and their legacy of pecked-petroglyphs found and appreciated valley wide. Many are unaware the Hohokam were proficient at jewelry-making using shells from the Gulf of California. Historian Rose Houk states, “…the craft took on aspects of an industry… the exquisitely finished pieces were exported to…neighbors- the Anasazi [now Ancestral Puebloans], Mogollon, and Sinagua…so widespread was the trade…the Hohokam are regarded as shell merchants.” The Hohokam made a 400-mile, round-trip-journey on foot collecting their favorite shell, the Glycymeris, a bivalve clam. Archaeologist Ronald Beckwith states Hohokam used no fewer than sixty-two species of marine shells for their jewelry.

Wickenburg Massacre – August 2017
Sunday, November 5, 1871 was the end of the line for six passengers riding the Arizona Stage Line about six miles outside of Wickenburg, another died later, and one passenger lived to tell the story. This frightening event is known as the Wickenburg Massacre of 1871. The retinue included one stage-driver, six men, and one twenty-four-year-old woman. They were attacked by Mohave-Apaches (Yavapai) and no valuables were stolen. Gravely wounded, two escaped that terrifying day including the only woman passenger, Miss Mollie Sheppard. Mollie eventually made it to California but died of infected wounds per the only survivor, Mr. William Kruger. Each had been shot three times. Mollie and William were armed with revolvers and managed to wound two attackers. During their harrowing escape, Molly left behind expensive jewelry and $15,000 in cash ($300,588.00 in 2017). She had recently sold her successful business in Prescott, her brothel.

Onyx – July 2017
The Cave Creek mining district, one hundred and forty-four square miles, was known for gold, silver, and later “red gold” we know as copper. Early miners noticed ledges of beautiful jasper and onyx jutting from areas near the creek (Cave Creek), about twenty miles northeast of the town of Cave Creek. Onyx and jasper are forms of quartz. Early Eastern investors purchased the deposits and hauled the slabs to Phoenix in horse-drawn wagons; from there, sent to Los Angles by railroad for cutting and polishing. Cave Creek onyx was used to decorate buildings found at the Chicago World’s Fair (also known as the Columbian Exposition) in 1893. The White House received a gift from the Cave Creek mining district via the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce during the Coolidge administration (1923-1929). It was a beautiful vase made from Cave Creek onyx. The late Cave Creek historian Frances C. Carlson “believes it’s still at the White House.

Alfred C. Lockwood – Jan 2017
The first Cave Creek school was the classic one-room building encompassing first through eighth grade, taught by one teacher. The school was built in 1886 near the Cave Creek stream on a property called Cave Creek Station. This was the first Anglo settlement in the area established in 1877. In 1899, Alfred C. Lockwood was the twenty-four-year-old teacher at the seminal school, but he was a student as well. This was a time when law schools were not the gateway to a law profession, so Alfred was studying law as a legal apprentice, this was called “reading law.” Mr. Lockwood was admitted to the Arizona Bar in 1902; his stellar career included esteemed  positions as the eighth, eleventh, and fourteen Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1929, 1935, and 1941 respectively.

Conestoga Wagon – Nov 2016
The Cave Creek Museum features terrific art in addition to historical artifacts and exhibits. A popular piece is a bronze, created by Jasper D’Ambrosi in 1975, called “Way West.” It is a well-researched, very accurate depiction of the covered wagon pulled by eight oxen. The classic covered wagon, also called the prairie schooner, is the “Conestoga Wagon.” The Conestoga Wagon was developed by Dutch and German settlers in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania, around 1750. In pre-revolutionary times the wagon was used to haul crops. A later incarnation was use as a freight-wagon to facilitate commerce between Pittsburgh and Ohio. Finally, a smaller version was used by a half-a-million rugged pioneers, between 1836 and 1869 (transcontinental railroad), for about a 2000-mile journey west. This was” Manifest Destiny,” courtesy of the Conestoga Wagon.


Fort McDowell – Feb 2016
After the end of the Civil War in April, 1865 and about two-and-a-half years after Arizona became a territory, Fort McDowell was established about twenty miles southeast of future Cave Creek at the confluence of the Verde River and Sycamore Creek.  The important garrison date was September, 1865.  And the important purpose was to protect the early miners and later the ranchers from hostile Native Americans which included the Tonto Apaches and the Yavapai in central Arizona.  Historian Frances C. Carlson states, “All of present-day towns of the Salt River Valley, including the city of Phoenix, can trace their beginnings to the army’s decision to build this isolated outpost.”  Mrs. Carlson further states, “In 1865 the army sent a small force of three hundred men marching across the desert from California to establish Fort McDowell.”



Mrs. Frances C. Carlson – Oct 2015

The Cave Creek Museum opens for an exciting 46th season on October 1st.  There will be a sense of sadness because the Museum lost a cherished friend and a respected historical doyenne.  Her name is Mrs. Frances C. Carlson; she passed on June 24, 2015.  Mrs. Carlson is the author of Cave Creek and Carefree, A History of the Desert Foothills. Her book, published in 1988, is the definitive resource for anyone interested in Cave Creek or Carefree history from the canal-building, prehistoric Hohokam to the ingenious Carefree developer’s Tom Darlington and K. T. Palmer in the 1960s. Mrs. Carlson’s book is available at the Cave Creek Museum.




The fort originally known as Camp McDowell and later as Fort McDowell was established by President Abraham Lincoln and the 37th Congress in 1865.  The Fort’s purpose was to protect early miners and ranchers in central Arizona (including the future Cave Creek town-area) from the formidable and fierce Tonto Apaches and Yavapai. One member of the fort was a civilian store clerk; his name was William B. Hellings. Mr. Hellings was ambitious and became one of the founders of Phoenix. When his sizable ranch and flour mill didn’t become Phoenix’s town center, he pursued mining in Cave Creek.  In 1873, he decided to build a road from Phoenix to his Cave Creek mining interests.  Today, we know that road as Cave Creek Road.


JOHN A. GURLEY – May 2014

Arizona became a United States Territory on February 24, 1863.  President Abraham Lincoln appointed the first three territorial governors: John A. Gurley, John Noble Goodwin, and Richard C. McCormick; only two served.  John Gurley, on the evening of his departure to Arizona for his new appointment, suffered an appendicitis attack and died at the age of forty-nine.  John Addison Gurley studied theology and became a minister. In Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Gurley became an owner and editor of a local newspaper and later became a United States Congressman.  He served in the Civil War as Colonel with General John C. Fremont.  Now you know why there is a Gurley Street in Prescott.



The prehistoric Hohokam, the ingenious, canal-building farmers, developed “polycropping;” that is planting maize (corn), beans, and squash together.  This agrarian trinity became known as “The Three Sisters.”  Maize was a natural trellis for the common, climbing, tepary bean.  Squash seeds were planted between the maize stalks.  Squash grows closely to the ground. With large spiny leaves, evaporation was reduced, pests were reduced, and a natural mulch was created. Maize depletes important nitrogen from the soil; the tepary beans, in addition to being drought resistant, adds nitrogen to the soil.


MORMON GIRL MINE – Feb 18, 2014

In the 1870s, the mountain we know as Black Mountain was known as Mormon Boy Mountain.  An old prospector named Sweeney, along with his dependable burro Martha, found gold on a knoll, on the southwest side of Mormon Boy Mountain. When contemplating a name for his new gold mine, Sweeny felt Mormon Boy Mountain should have a girl friend; so, the famous Mormon Girl Mine was born.  An accurate replica of the mine’s entrance may be found at the Museum.


FRANK W. WRIGHT – Feb 7, 2014

He was known as “Mr. Cave Creek.”  When Frank W. Wright passed in 1982 at the age of eighty-nine, he had lived in Cave Creek for sixty years.  You will see his name on the sign at The American Legion Post #34. Mr. Wright founded and helped build the Legion Post in 1934. Additionally, he brought the first street lights and Water Company to the growing town.  The Cave Creek Museum and neighboring church are grateful to Frank and his wife Hazel, as the Wright’s donated the land for both buildings.


CATTLE KATE – Jan 2014

Cave Creek had its own version of Annie Oakley.  Her name was Catherine J. Jones.  She was about five feet tall and known as “Cattle Kate” (she preferred Catherine).  The deputy sheriff was never completely dressed unless she had her low-slung, holstered .38 Colt.  Her .410 shotgun was never far.  Cattle Kate was a dead-aim; everyone knew it.  Catherine and her husband, Theodore, homesteaded two sections of land in 1925.  They named the spread Willow Springs Ranch.  A Hopi Chief translated the name of the Cave Creek ranch for the Jones’—still known today as Cahava Ranch.


Physical Address
6140 E Skyline Drive
Cave Creek AZ 85327 (Map)
Phone: (480) 488-2764

Mailing Address
PO Box 1
Cave Creek AZ 85327

Open October through May:
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday - 1:00pm - 4:30pm
Friday - 10:00am - 4:30pm
Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - CLOSED