The Legacy of James Thomas Munds — The View from here
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
James Thomas Munds was born near Roseburg, Oregon in 1862, the second
child and oldest of the three sons of William Madison and Sarah (Cox) Munds. The family drove a herd of cattle from Roseburg to the Verde Valley arriving in 1876. They settled on land that had just been opened from the Rio Verde Indian Reservation near what would become known as Bridgeport near Cottonwood, Arizona, when Jim Munds was 14 years old.
That same year Samuel & Jane Merinda (Sinnett) Loy arrived in Arizona with their five children, three boys, and two girls, from Saline County, Missouri and began farming and ranching along the Verde, near the mouth of Oak Creek a ways below the Munds. When there were enough students to warrant a school, Jim Munds attended school with the Loy children and ultimately fell in love with the youngest of the Loy daughters - Harriet Ann, known as Hattie, two years his junior. The two families were joined together when James Thomas Munds and Hattie Loy were married in the Verde Valley Sept. 24, 1882.
The couple soon filed a Homestead claim on a quarter section of land along the lazy bends of Oak Creek north of Page Springs and also took a summer place west of James’ father in Munds Park.
James and Hattie’s first daughter, Edna, called Getha was born Nov. 18, 1883, and their second daughter Sarah Jane, known as Jennie, was born in 1885.
In partnership with their father, James and his brothers Neil and John ran a large herd of cattle in the Verde Valley during the winter and in Munds Park during the summer. Munds Park at that time was called the Mogollon Mountains. Jim lead large cattle drives each spring, moving the herd from the warmth of the Verde to the spring grass of the Mogollon highlands. He pioneered the “Munds Trail” over a route that would later become Schnebly Hill Road. He and Hattie farmed and ranched the area immediately west of I-17 and built a home there along the Flagstaff - Verde Valley Wagon Road, also known as the Munds Highway. Life was not always easy, but the Munds family prospered through hard work and determination.
Then in early September of 1892, tragedy struck - as it quickly can on the Arizona territorial frontier. Thirty-year-old Jim Munds was bringing horses into a pasture near his house in Munds Park. It was unusual for him to carry a gun, but he perceived some kind of local threat and carried a Winchester rifle across his saddle that day. He leaned the gun against the fence while he opened a gate. After herding the animals in and closing the gate, Jim bent down while still on his horse to retrieve the gun and grabbed his rifle by the barrel. The gun got caught in the wire, and it discharged, hitting him in the head. Mack Willard was nearby and heard the gunshot and came running to Jim’s side. At about the same time, Matt Black, a resident of East Newman Park, came riding into the ranch. He was asked to ride down to Oak Creek and bring Dr. Myron Carrier, Jim’s brother-in-law and Hattie. Another rider was sent to Flagstaff twenty miles north to bring Dr. P. J. Brannen. However, Jim died of his wound before either doctor or his wife arrived. He was laid to rest next to his brother and niece in the Munds family plot near his father’s log cabin in Munds Park.
Hattie and the girls were left to carry on alone. Hattie’s brother, John Loy, who had been farming in Red Rock came to Munds Park to help her. He began to farm more extensively growing potatoes and beans, and built a large stone potato barn behind the Munds’ home. Because cattle could walk down the Munds Trail and potatoes couldn’t, John Loy began to work on improving the Munds Trail into a wagon road.
Pioneer families believed in the value of education and when Getha and Jennie were old enough they were sent to the Territorial Normal School in Tempe where they were trained as teachers. They both graduated with teaching certificates in 1904. The girls were strong and capable, and they each married into prominent local families.
Getha married Oliver Benedict from Camp Verde and the couple ranched and farmed along the lower Verde. Getha taught school at Squaw Peak School and raised her children to be strong community leaders both in Camp Verde and throughout Arizona.
They sponsored one of the states leading 4H clubs in the late twenties and early thirties in Camp Verde.
Jennie married Dave Wingfield, and they went on to own one of the largest cattle and ranching operations in Central Arizona.
Dave, along with their son Kenny, owned the Apache Maid Ranch, Mahan Ranch, the Lost Eden Ranch, the K bar T, and the ranch that would ultimately become Lake Montezuma.
Interestingly, when Dave Wingfield’s mother died, Dave’s father Henry, known as J. H., ultimately married his mother-in-law Hattie.
Next time you are out in our beautiful Northern Arizona backwoods, smell the fresh air and think back to a time when Arizona was a lot wilder, when life was simple, and appreciate it. Do what you can to take care of what we have today.
Enjoy Northern Arizona.
This article on the history of Munds Park is part 3 of a 12 part series.
Bill Cowan'sbook on the Verde Valley History is available at Candy’s Creekside Cottage in McGuireville, Arizona and from Amazon, eBay, and various other retailers, including the Verde Canyon Railroad.