Pioneers

Jordan Family

Will and Annie Jordan

In 1875, Annie Tabitha Bristow, daughter of Parson James C. Bristow, Middle Verde’s first ordained Baptist minister, arrived with her family by covered wagon from Missouri. She became acquainted with piccolo player, Will Albion Jordan, when she defied her father’s wishes and attended the local dances where Will played. Born in 1859, Will moved from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, to the Upper Verde area at the age of 21 to farm with his cousin Everett. Annie married her piccolo player on May 26, 1889, and had nine children.

Will and his sons, Walter, Chester, and Willie, formed a corporation, W.A. Jordan and Sons, and farmed and planted an apple orchard. In 1919, they, along with twelve other farmers, filed suit against the United Verde Extension Mining Company for crop damages caused by sulfurous smoke from the smelter. In 1924, after many years of appeals through the judicial system, the farmers were finally paid for their losses. Will used part of his settlement to purchase land in Sedona where he continued to farm with sons Walter and George.

Walter and Ruth

Walter Everett Jordan, sixth child of Will and Annie Jordan, was born in 1897 on the Upper Verde property, near Clarkdale, AZ. Since he grew up helping out on the family farm, Walter tried his hand at raising lettuce for the Flagstaff market in 1927. When that didn’t work out, his father suggested growing fruit trees and taking a half interest in sixty-five Sedona acres. Walter eventually bought his father’s share when they disagreed on how to get water to the trees.

Walter’s sister, Stella Jordan, introduced him to fellow student Ruth Marie Woolf, whom she’d met while both girls attended Tempe Normal School (now Arizona State University). Walter and Ruth married in 1930.

The Jordan farmstead began with the building of a one-room cabin, which is the nucleus of the present house. They had three children: Anne Marie, born in 1933; Fannie Ruth, born in 1934, and Walter Everett Jr., born in 1936.

The farm began with the planting of fruit trees in 1930. While waiting for the trees to bear fruit, Walter grew pinto beans, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, carrots and strawberries. The green beans and carrots were marketed in Phoenix while the strawberries and pinto beans were marketed in Flagstaff, Jerome and Prescott. By the mid-1930’s, Walter had established himself as a shipper of quality fruit throughout Arizona and even nationwide.

As the business continued to grow, a 4,000 sq. ft. red rock packing shed was built to house the sales operation and the 40-foot-long sorting machine. The Jordans sustained their orchard operation for many years, producing apples and peaches, taking the last commercial crop in 1973.

Rising costs, high land prices, and the encroachment of “civilization” (which brought neighbors who complained about the smoke from his smudgepots and the dust from farming) made selling acreage the right thing to do in the 1970s. The Jordans sold the last of their property in 1976, reserving the 4 acre parcel around their home.

After Walter died in 1987, Ruth remained active in Sedona. As an early pioneer member of the Sedona Historical Society, Ruth’s interest in community history prompted her to work with the newly incorporated City of Sedona to preserve her beloved farmstead as Jordan Historical Park and Sedona Heritage Museum. When Ruth died in 1996, her legacy was firmly in place.

George and Helen Jordan

George Washington Jordan, seventh child of Will and Annie, was born in 1900. In 1928 he acquired two hundred acres of Sedona property. With his father and brother, Walter, George planted fruit trees, primarily apples and peaches. In 1929, George bought one hundred seventy five acres from his father and continued to work the property with Walter.

Helen Ellen Coleman, born in 1905 in Mena, Arkansas, spent her childhood in Oklahoma and relocated to Clarkdale, AZ in 1923. She attended Clarkdale High School and graduated with a degree in business and secretarial skills from Lamson Business College in Phoenix, AZ. Helen married George Jordan in 1927, moving to Sedona in 1928 to a home on the current property of the Sedona Arts Center.

Helen and George were active in Sedona’s “social scene”. As an artist, Helen was part of Sedona’s budding art colony, as well as acting in various plays and playing the piano. George often accompanied her on a musical saw and sang tenor in the Wayside Chapel. An active member of the Sedona Camera Club, some of his photos appeared in Arizona Highways magazine.

In the late 1940s, George organized a co-op, providing local farmers an organized outlet for their produce. His sales building, now Sedona Local Landmark No. 5 contributed to the community’s reputation as one of the state’s best fruit producing areas. Shortly after World War II, he began to cut back on his own orchards and began selling his land in order to develop a public water system. For health reasons, George stopped farming altogether in 1958.

Importance of Water:

George Jordan was instrumental in establishing Sedona’s first water system. With the help of a bulldozer in the mid-1940s, George dug a 25-foot deep well, five hundred feet from Oak Creek, and hand-built a waterwheel and redwood pipe which became part of Sedona’s first water system.

Water used to irrigate the orchards came through about a mile and a half of concrete ditch which can still be seen from Midgley Bridge at Wilson Canyon; then through another mile of 24-inch steel pipe, before coming to rest in a settling pond at the “Point” (now Therapy on the Rocks). Once there, a grate removed leaves and other debris. Some of the water entered a penstock, driving a hydraulic turbine, and some went through a pipe to George’s orchards. The turbine, which drove a DC generator which powered the pump, also provided some electricity for the both Walter’s and George’s families.

A three-cylinder piston pump pushed 150 gallons per minute through a six-inch pipe up Mormon Wash to a reservoir above the Walter Jordan orchard. The brothers also blasted out a 2000-foot irrigation ditch from the creek, and in 1934 an overshot wheel was built to deliver water to George’s orchards.

The Jordan water supply became important to Hollywood when, during the making of the movie Johnny Guitar, the script called for the outlaws to ride up Oak Creek and enter a secret hideout through a waterfall. So that the water was high enough to float a pontoon raft for the cameras, the film crew dammed up the creek. To create the waterfall, they diverted water from the Jordan pipeline over the mouth of a tunnel under Highway 89A, where Mormon wash enters Oak Creek.