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home : features : people, places & past August 28, 2014

12/4/2012 2:40:00 PM
Home Again: Cornville's peripatetic post office returns
Courtesy photo
First view of the historic Cornville Post Office as it comes into town in the middle of the night.
Courtesy photo
First view of the historic Cornville Post Office as it comes into town in the middle of the night.
For 47 years the Cornville Post Office sat on the south side of Cornville road on a lot now owned by Banker Insulation.
For 47 years the Cornville Post Office sat on the south side of Cornville road on a lot now owned by Banker Insulation.

Steve Ayers
Staff Reporter

CORNVILLE - Shortly after 1 a.m. on Monday morning a diesel truck towing a 24-foot wide piece of Cornville's past turned off State Route 89A and began rolling slowly east down Cornville Road.

It rolled past sleeping Verde Santa Fe, then crept through the switchbacks leading down to Oak Creek, before reaching the intersection of Loy Road, where it made a sweeping right hand turn, before backing across the road into Windmill Gardens.

There it was met by a handful of Cornvillians who had been holding a vigil into the wee hours, anxiously awaiting its arrival.

"It was just beautiful -- all lit up. It looked quite impressive," said Judy Miller. "But it also took us by surprise. We didn't expect it for another hour or so."

Miller said the trucking company estimated it would take the better part of three hours to transport the building from Hayfield Draw in Camp Verde through Cottonwood and into Cornville proper.

But all things considered an hour or two was of little concern.

All that mattered to those waiting in the darkness was that Cornville Post Office was back, nearly 25 years after it left town and nearly a century after it left the very spot it was placed, later that morning.

"We call it our wandering post office. This was its fourth move in its life, and now it's back right where it started. I believe it's through moving," says Miller, who serves as secretary for the Cornville Historical Society.

Coneville to Cornville

There is good reason for the people of Cornville to celebrate the return of their historic post office. Its story touches nearly every facet of the community's early history, beginning with its name.

According to Miller, who spent three years researching the post office, resulting in the publication of a 44-page, generously footnoted history, the origin of Cornville's name has about as many versions as the post office has had locations.

The most repeated version is that Cornville was to have been named Cohnville, Coaneville or Coneville, depending on the source, but the postal service messed up.

Miller's research shows that an early settler named Henry Mortimer Cone, who settled on the land that is now the Page Springs Fish Hatchery, originally intended to name the community Coneville. But the belief that postal officials misread his application, and established the Cornville post office, is not true.

"When he applied in 1885, the postal service had rules that prevented naming communities after a person.

"The original application does not exist, but a postal logbook in the National Archives clearly states that a letter was sent to the postmaster general in July 1885 requesting the establishment of a post office at 'Cornville, Yavapai County, Arizona,'" said Miller.

12 postmasters, 8 locations

Miller's has established that there have been 12 postmasters in Cornville who operated out of at least eight different locations.

From its establishment in 1885 until 1909, Cornville's post offices were located at stage stops, usually at the residence of the postmaster. The first was at Page Springs, on the Cone homestead, and George Kingston was the postmaster.

Miller's research has identified three other sites as possible stage-stop post offices, based on the residences of three other early postmasters (and post mistresses), including Sammy Dickinson, Elijah Lay and Anna Hart.

Then in 1909, Charles Chick was appointed to the job.

That same year he built a post office building on his property, located on the northeast corner of Cornville Road and Loy Road.

In 1914 Chick moved it, physically, across the street. The building was decommissioned as a post office in 1961 after Chick's widow Jessie retired.

It remained on the property until its new owner, Gary Banker, donated it to Rainbow Acres in 1987. They installed it as an attraction at their American Dream theme park in Camp Verde.

Cornville's post office would change locations three more times after the Chicks, but it is the one that Charles built, which served the community for 52 years, that has been the source of so much excitement this week.

Opportunity keeps knocking

"When the theme park closed, the Cornville Community Association was approached and asked if they would like it back, but they all looked at it and said no.

"Van McDonald then bought it at the auction and moved it to a property just off 260 in Camp Verde where he was going to build an RV park. In 2009 we talked about possibly getting it donated but decided it would be too much work

"Then Buck Buchanan called me one day last spring and said he had heard we might want the old post office. So he contacted the new owner of the property, William Jump, who basically said come and get it," said Miller.

Come and get it, however, turned into the $15,000 proposition when Miller and the society began getting estimates.

Then on May 19, 2012, at a ceremony dedicating two historical plaques marking the two places where the "Chick" post office building was once, things began falling into place.

"At that dedication the surviving daughter of Charles and Jessie Chick, along with about 50 members of her family, showed up. Then Garrett Denny, the owner of one of the companies that had bid on moving it, offered to do it for half price.

"Then two of the grandsons from the Chick family offered to cover over half the cost. Then Gary Banker of Banker Insulation put in another $1,000. I about fell off my chair. It was a very special day," says Miller.

Home again

The last piece of the puzzle came when Bob and Cindi Snyder, owners of Windmill Gardens, which just happens to be the spot where Charles Chick built the building, called and offered to give it a home.

Over the last few months, CHS board member Dan Derrick has led a cadre of about a dozen volunteers who have put many hours preparing for its arrival.

The historical society will retain ownership per a legal agreement that will allow the building to stay on site.

Plans for how best to display its historic significance are in the works.

"It's going to be like an exhibit. We'll restore it so people can look in off the new porch we plan to put back on it, just like the original.

"The Snyders will be able to use it as storage, but we have the responsibility of doing the historical preservation work. We have received a preliminary finding of eligibility but haven't decided if we want to get a historic designation," said Miller.

In the meantime it is back where it belongs, squarely in Cornville proper.

Taylor Waste

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