Forest Service / Government


U.S. Forest Service. The federal government had recognized the scenic and recreational aspects of the general area as early as 1898, when it established the San Francisco Mountains Forest Preserve, which was enlarged in 1902.

In 1905 the U.S. Forest Service appointed William Wallace as the first ranger in the Sedona area, and two years later changed the name of the preserve to the San Francisco Mountains National Forest. This forest, including lands in the Sedona area, was transferred to the Coconino National Forest in 1908.

The Sedona Ranger Station house on Brewer Road was built in 1917 for District Ranger Jesse Bushnell. In the 1920s, the station was occupied only during the winter months. The ranger's duties included fighting fires, managing lumber cutting, and riding herd on ranchers who leased the forest land for grazing cattle. In later years, as tourism and recreation played a greater role, the ranger was posted full-time to look after campers, hikers and fishermen.

In addition to forest management, the Forest Service had another impact on Sedona history. As homesteading declined after 1940, land exchanges became the only way to open new land for development. The first exchange was in 1940, when Dr. V. M. Slipher gained title to an 80-acre tract that is now the Sky Mountain subdivision.

Between 1945 and 1960, the U.S. Forest Service exchanged 16 parcels into private hands in the Sedona area. USFS officials felt they were simply meeting the needs for more homes and commercial development here. As development grew, Sedonans began to lobby for preservation of forestland to protect the area's scenic and natural values.

U.S. Post Office At right:  U.S. Post Office - 1949 (where Cowboy Corral is today)

 Another government operation, which impacted Sedona's history, was the post office. As mentioned in the "Early Settlers" section, the area's first U. S. Post Office was established by T. C. Schnebly in his general store in 1902. After that, the post office migrated up and down the canyon following the population patterns. There have been seven locations, up to the present main post office at the "Y", built in 1979.

For many years Sedonans relied on a volunteer fire department. The first was established in 1950, with Carl Richards appointed as Chief by the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce.

Law enforcement in the Sedona area was handled by the county sheriff prior to 1891, when Yavapai County was divided and Coconino County was formed. George Ruffner was sheriff until 1899, when Johnny Munds took over until 1901. In 1940, Coconino County assigned a full-time deputy sheriff named Sylvester McDowell, who died soon thereafter. He was replaced by Bill Steele, who stayed on the job until 1951 when his son Will became the deputy from 1951 to 1982.

Perry Francis was a notable Coconino county sheriff in the early 1950s and reported having eight deputies. If the need arose, the sheriff would deputize men. In 1952 the Coconino Sheriff Volunteer Posse was formed. They were popular for exhibitions and parades as they were very good horsemen. One year, when a movie company was in town filming, the posse deputized several of the movie stars to ride with them in a parade. The first highway patrol officer in the Sedona area was Officer Vidrene in 1944. Roe Smith was deputized by the USFS Fish and Game Department from 1942 to 1954 to patrol the area around Sedona and up Oak Creek. With the incorporation of the City of Sedona in 1988, law enforcement was localized with the first chief, Bob Irish.

Until 1988, government in Sedona was divided between Coconino and Yavapai Counties. Local people wished to have more control over local affairs, and an incorporation drive was started. In December 1987, an election was held and the majority of the people approved incorporation. This was implemented in January 1988, with June Cornelison as the first appointed mayor.