Great Depression & the wars

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The impact of the Great Depression (1930-39) was not felt as much in Sedona as in most of the United States. Life was already basic and hard, so the contrast was not as great as in more affluent and developed parts of the country. Most people here were relatively self-sufficient, raising crops and cattle that they could use and barter for other needs.

CCC Camp At right: CCC Camp - 1930s. Where Kings Ransom and Quality Inn is today.

 Some found work at the Smelter in Clarkdale. Many local men worked on various county, state and federal projects such as the building of roads. Albert Purtymun was a foreman for the State of Arizona building Highway 79 North through Oak Creek Canyon, and Roe Smith worked for the P.D. Construction Co., which finished the job in 1939. Roe's brother, Ira, and other locals provided teams and wagons. Parts of Highway 79 were soon rerouted and rebuilt, and in 1941 the road was re-designated as Highway 89A.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal program that created jobs during the depression era, built a large camp that later was converted to become the Sedona Lodge, now the site of the Kings Ransom motel. The CCC worked on Schnebly Hill Road, built the U.S. Forest Service barn in 1934, and other public works, bringing men in from other parts of the nation.

Most of the local men also worked on construction of Page Springs Road, alternating two weeks per month. Myron Samuel Loy helped to build Midgely Bridge as a worker for another federal organization, the WPA (Works Progress Administration). Roy Owenby, Roe Smith and others found work at the Clemenceau smelter in the Verde Valley.

The USFS Pump House, on Oak Creek on the northwest side of the bridge, was built by the CCC. This river rock structure was built in the 1930s to pump water from the creek to supply farmers, who hauled it in drums to their crops; to serve homes along the creek; and, the U.S. Forest Service who also used it to fill a tank that supplied its buildings and the Sedona School.

In the 1930s, hundreds of "dust bowl refugees" migrated through the area on their way to California.  A few of them settled in Sedona, including the Cook and Newton families.


Sedona experienced its most dramatic changes after World War II. The tremendous growth that accompanied this change has obliterated many of the early historic landmarks, necessitating plans to preserve those that remain. There were few structures in Sedona in 1950-much of the built environment of the area is a recent phenomenon. A few buildings and sites from the early years of Sedona do remain, but some have been altered.

Saddle Rock Ranch At right: Saddle Rock Ranch

In 1948, the Verde Valley School was established west of the present Village of Oak Creek, exposing the area to many potential new residents. The following year, citizens organized the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce. Hollywood used the red rock region as a backdrop for numerous movies during the Golden Age of Westerns.

The discovery in 1951 of a groundwater aquifer under West Sedona opened the way for several new housing developments. Retirees became attracted to the area. Other new residents came for the spiritual and reflective atmosphere, and formed an artistic community. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was built in 1955-56. Later visitors came for more secular reasons, lured partly by the building of the Tlaquepaque shopping center in 1971. Between 1970 and 1987, population in the Sedona area increased from 2700 to 9000.