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Coconino County is the second largest
county in the United States and is the largest in Arizona yet it is one of the
most sparsely populated. Its 11,886,720 acres (18,562 square miles) lie in
central-northern Arizona on both sides of the Grand Canyon with Kanab Creek and
a portion of the Colorado River as its western boundary. The land lies in the
central region of Northern Arizona and is covered with forests of pine, spruce,
pinon, aspen and oak. There are deep canyons and steep mountains.
The area is relatively virgin territory since it is not easiliy accessible.
Coconino is largely an agricultural, lumbering, and livestock area.
The county names comes from the Coconino
Indians, of whom today's Havasupai are descendants. Lt. Lorenzo Sitgreaves
interpreted the name as Cojnino, a not very great departure from the name
Cosninas, as noted by Fr. Francisco Garces in 1776. Actually, the word is the
Hopi designation for Havasupai and Yavapai Indians.
Coconino County has a relatively large
Native American population at nearly 30% of the county's total population,
with smaller numbers of Havasupai,
Hopi, and others.
Nomadic hunters from the Great Plains made their way to the Little Colorado
River approximately 12,000 years ago. That movement gave rise to the Anasazi culture
which spread across the Colorado Plateau. , which encompasses a large part of
Coconino County. By the 1600's, tribes consisted of the Hopi, Havasupai, Pai
(Yavapai and Walapai) and the Paiutes. In the 1850's military expeditions passed
through the area between the Little Colorado River and the Verde River.
In 1857, Edward F. Beale, an ex-Navy Lieutenant, led an expedition to survey
the unexplored territory between El Paso, Texas and the Colorado River, which
was later most notably associated with the legendary “Camel Experiment”. The
“U.S. Camel Corps” was born on March 3, 1855 when Congress appropriated $30,000
for the project that funded the procurement of camels to be used by the U.S.
Army in the “Great American Desert”. Beale was allotted 25 camels and they
proved to be worthwhile despite their foul smell, bad tempers, and kicking and
spitting. The camels were “retired” in 1863 and Beale was honored with a wagon
road named after him. Settlers migrated into the region from the north
during the 1870s and 1880s. Mormon settlers first set up camp at Lee’s Ferry on
the Colorado River and continued on to Fredonia, Jacob’s Lake, Tuba City and
Mormon Lake. In 1883, the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad was completed across
Arizona and westward. Logging and cattle ranching were the major
County was carved from Yavapai, one of the four original
counties in Arizona. In 1887 William H. Ashurst of Flagstaff
introduced a measure in the 14th Territorial Legislative
Assembly to create "Frisco County," but the measure was
defeated. The following year Frank Rogers took up the
fight, and introduced the bill again in 1889. The 15th
Territorial Legislative Assembly passed a bill to establish
Coconino County, only to have it vetoed by the Territorial
Governor. The House then passed over the veto, but the Senate
failed to follow through. By 1891 the time was right for the
creation of Coconino County and on February 19, 1891, it came