Arizona has a rich cultural history, intertwining the prehistoric with the historic. Situated within Tonto Basin in southeastern Arizona, Tonto National Monument preserves cliff dwellings and other remnants of prehistoric cultures. As these groups left, other native peoples used the valley. The Spaniards arrived in the 1500's, followed by pioneers from the east, further changing what is now Arizona.

The Salado Culture- Builders of the Cliff Dwellings

The word "Salado" describes the prehistoric group living in Tonto Basin between 1250 CE and 1450 CE. According to archeologists, Tonto Basin was a true cultural melting pot and the Salado culture arose when people from the Ancestral Puebloan, Ancient Sonoran Desert People, and Mogollon cultures moved into the Basin.

Learn more about the culture that built the Cliff Dwellings

Yavapai and Tonto Apaches- Relocated from their Tonto Basin Homeland

After the Salado people left Tonto Basin, Yavapai and Tonto Apache groups moved into the area. In 1871, they were moved from Tonto Basin and onto the nearby Camp Verde Reservation. This failed to stop the conflict between American settlers and the Yavapai and Tonto Apaches; in November 1872 the Tonto War began. In February 1875, the Yavapai and Tonto Apaches living on the Camp Verde Reservation were forced to relocate to the San Carlos Reservation. This terrible episode, known today as the Exodus, forced them to travel a difficult 150-mile trail through Tonto Basin.

Learn about the struggles faced by the Yavapai and Tonto Apaches

Angeline Mitchell- First Teacher to Bring Students to Tonto

Angeline Mitchell Brown, a young schoolteacher, provided the first known written record of the Salado cliff dwellings at what is now Tonto National Monument. In 1880, Angeline, known as Angie, took her students from her school near Tonto Creek on a field trip. Afterwards, she wrote a detailed account of the field trip in her diary.

Learn more about the life of this young woman
Read an excerpt from her diary, describing the trip to the cliff dwellings

Adolph Bandelier- First Archeologist at Tonto

Swiss-born Adolph Francis Bandelier undertook the first systematic research of pre-historic sites in what is now Arizona. He was the first scientist to survey, map, and describe many of today's archeological monuments and parks. One of those sites was designated Tonto National Monument.

Neither stage routes nor railroads traversed many of the places he explored, so Bandelier relied on his horse Chico for transportation. At times, Chico was his only companion on the trail.

Learn more about the life of the man who explored and fell in love with the American Southwest
Read Bandelier's own descriptions of his journey to what is now Tonto National Monument

Cordelia Adams Crawford- Honored in Arizona Women's Hall of Fame

Cordelia Adams Crawford was one of the first women elected to the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 1981. Of the six women, she was the only one not active in public or professional life. She lived and died in relative obscurity in the Tonto Basin near Globe, AZ. Perhaps she was selected because she "epitomized the best qualities of a pioneer woman... cheerful acceptance of a way of life many would considered too hard to endure...skill in healing... and able to endure hardships....while always a lady, at home in any society."

Learn more about the life of this remarkable woman

Frank H. Zeile- Early Photographer of the Tonto Cliff Dwellings

Frank H. Zeile was a resident of Roosevelt, Arizona between 1920 and 1927. He worked for the Salt River Project as an oiler for one of the generators at Roosevelt Dam. Photography was one of his hobbies, and he took some of the earliest photographs of the Tonto Cliff Dwellings. His photographers would later influence his grandson's decision to become the archeologist for Tonto National Forest.

Learn more about Frank H. Zeile and his family's ties to Tonto National Monument

Charlie R. Steen Jr.- First Park Ranger at Tonto National Monument

Charlie Steen became the first official employee at Tonto National Monument. He served one full day at Tonto before being transferred to Montezuma's Castle National Monument to fill in for another ranger. Before the temporary transfer, he reported that four autos carrying twenty-eight passengers stopped by Tonto National Monument. Can you imagine the repressive summer heat, long before the days of air conditioning in cars?

Learn more about the Tonto National Monument's first park ranger
Read Charlie Steen's monthly reports about Tonto National Monument

Last updated: October 11, 2020

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