The town of Snowflake has a history every bit as unique as its name.
Surrounded by the beautiful White Mountains of Northern Arizona, Snowflake has long been a favorite destination for travelers and retirees because of its boundless recreational opportunities and relatively mild climate (at least by Arizona standards). However, few visitors really about Snowflake’s fascinating past.
The story of Snowflake is populated with tribes, apostles and pioneers.
Indigenous peoples roamed this region for thousands of years before the first settlers arrived and their descendants continue to make the area their home. Evidence of their cultures survives in the abandoned villages and petroglyphs which dot the deserts and canyons around Snowflake.
For hundreds of years, the Navajo people occupied the area that includes modern-day Snowflake until the conclusion of the Navajo Wars, which were fought against the Spanish, Mexican and United States forces respectively, in 1866.
Today, visitors can get a glimpse of the tribe’s culture and traditions with a visit to the nearby Navajo Indian Reservations. Old Oraibi, which enjoys the distinction of being the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States is located on the Hopi Indian Reservation.
After the Mexican War, the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the U.S most of the territory that would later become the states of New Mexico and Arizona. The remaining Southern portion of present day Arizona was secured as part of the Gadsen Purchase in 1849.
In 1850, congress established the Territory of New Mexico which encompassed most this land. In 1863, the U.S Congress introduced the “Arizona Organic Act” which sought to divide the territory into two separate entities. This was done mainly to prevent the Confederacy from proceeding with efforts to add additional land to Confederate Arizona which at that time included western sections of the New Mexico Territory. President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law soon after, establishing the Arizona Territory.
The name Snowflake pays homage to the two men who were instrumental in the establishment of the town, Erastus Snow, and Willam J. Flake. Although, the pair met only briefly each played an important part in the history of Arizona and the expansion of Mormonism.
The story begins with Brigham Young’s desire to establish the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Arizona. He asked Mormon families in Utah to help build settlements in the territory and one of the first men to answer the call was William J. Flake.
Flake’s parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the early 1840’s and relocated the family to Utah in 1850. His father was killed while attempting to establish a colony in California.
Flake would become a prominent cattle rancher and member of the church. After Flake sold his ranch in Utah, he and his family set out for Arizona eventually settling on the Silver Creek. Flake purchased a ranch owned by James Stinson for $12,000 and took possession of the land in the summer of 1878. An influx of Mormons into the region soon followed.
Erastus Snow was born in Vermont and was one the first pioneers to travel with Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. As an LDS apostle, Snow was charged with the task of helping to establish Mormon settlements in Arizona, a responsibility he took very seriously.
Shortly after Flake established the Silver Creek settlement, Snow paid a visit along with Ira Hinkley and Jesse Smith. The three men helped survey and plat the eventual site of the town. It was at that time that Snow proposed a name that would recognize both his and Flake’s contributions to the colonization effort. According to historical accounts, Flake readily agreed and “Snowflake” became the official name of the settlement.
Despite his auspicious beginnings in Arizona, Flake would experience some hardship in later years. He would briefly be imprisoned in Yuma under the Edmunds Act which made polygamy a crime. At the time, Flake was married to both Lucy Hannah White and Prudence Kartchner. After his release he would return to Snowflake where he lived until his death in 1932 at the age of 93. Flake was posthumously inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in recognition of the role he played in settling the American southwest.
Smith, one of Snow’s companions on the trip to the Silver Creek settlement, was a cousin of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and a prominent member of the church. Later settling in Snowflake with his own family, Smith lived there until his death in 1906. He was active in the affairs of the town and the LDS church. In his lifetime, he saw Snowflake grow from a humble settlement into a thriving community. Snowflake was incorporated in 1948.
In 1916, Arizona became the 48th state and the last contiguous state to join the United States. By that time, the town had seen its population grow to several hundred people. Snowflake maintains strong ties to its Mormon past. In 2002, the dedicated the 108th operating temple of the LDS church. Many descendants of the original Mormon settlers live in the area.
Today, visitors from all over the world flock to Snowflake to enjoy its natural beauty and take advantage of its abundant recreational opportunities. While it is doubtful the original founders ever envisioned Snowflake as a tourist destination, they would certainly be pleased with the growth their little community in northern Arizona has enjoyed over the years.
If living in this small but historic town appeals to you then you need to check out our home page to find more information on homes for sale in Snowflake, Arizona.