Westerners Remember Sedona Schnebly
Ellsworth Schnebly (called Tad), elected to be “Trail Boss” of the Sedona Westerners in 1968, is quoted as saying: “I feel that those of you who never knew my mother would have loved her.” His mother, of course, was Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly. Raised in a well-to-do, devout family in Missouri, she was sent to “finishing school” where she was trained to be a school teacher and to play the piano and organ. Who could have foreseen how the course of her life would unfold, when at age 20, she married Theodore Carleton Schnebly (called T.C. or Carl).
Four year later, with infant daughter Pearl and three-year-old Tad by her side, she found herself heading West on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, starting the journey that would take her to the frontier Arizona Territory to join her husband. Carl met her in Jerome Junction, with his horses and wagon, happy to be bringing his young family back to the 80 acres on Oak Creek which would be their new home. It was late October, 1901.
The Schneblys were industrious, and they prospered. They quickly became vitally important members of the tiny settlement. Carl helped to build the road which bears his name. And yes, in June of 1902, he became the first Postmaster of their new community, which would be known to all as “Sedona.” Shortly, Sedona bore another child, named Genevieve.
Out of nowhere, tragedy struck. On a summer evening, while holding baby Genevieve on the saddle in front of her, Sedona was herding in the milk cows. She was accompanied by her son Tad (now age seven) and five-year-old Pearl, both of whom were riding their own ponies. Pearl, attempting to pick up an Indian arrowhead, fell from her pony. The reins entangled around her neck and she was trampled and dragged to her death.
Though the entire community mourned with Sedona, she was inconsolable. She insisted that the child be laid to rest within view of her kitchen window, where she could be watched over. Racked with guilt, Sedona’s robust health deteriorated; after several months, she lapsed into a morbid despondency. Carl was told that there was no alternative: he must take her away, lest her withdrawal become irreversible. They returned to Missouri in 1906. It was not until 1931, at the height of the Great Depression, that the Schneblys, forced to abandon the homestead they had eked out in Colorado, finally returned to the town of Sedona. Their circumstances were not good. Carl had not only lost his cattle herd to an outbreak of anthrax but he himself was still contending with the aftereffects of influenza.
Enter the Jordan brothers, heroes of the Depression Era. Carl worked in their orchards, and “Aunt Dona,” or “Mother Dona,” as she came to be called, cleaned house, cooked, canned fruit, and helped care for the Walter Jordan’s three small children. Since prices for farm produce had fallen dismally low, in order to avoid competing with each other, George Jordan convinced his neighbors to market their fruit cooperatively, and by dint of amazing hard work, together, all of the local families survived the hardest of times.
For the Schneblys, notwithstanding that they had been destitute upon arrival, these last decades would bring a happy fulfillment to their lives. Sedona, ever devout, was the mainstay and spearhead of a community church movement that resulted in the building of Wayside Chapel, where people of all denominations were welcome to worship. In 1947, everyone in the town participated in honoring Carl and Sedona on their 50th wedding anniversary. Subsequently, a bell, dedicated in loving memory of Sedona Schnebly, was hung in the belfry of Wayside Chapel. Listen! It rings on every Mother’s Day.
The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, visit www.sedonawesterners.org. You also may join at our monthly meetings. The next one is March 14th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.