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Is it Fort Valley or Baderville?

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Well, it's both, plus several other names. Here's a bit of history on the various titles given the valley at the base of Mount Agassiz.

Anglos first arrived because of abundant grasses and the permanent water source at Big Leroux Springs — both rare commodities in arid Arizona. These attributes, plus the lovely vistas, made the site initially ideal to early settlers, but other environmental factors caused them to leave. The spring is named for scout Antoine Leroux who guided members of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers to the water source after an arduous trek around the north side of the Peaks in 1851. The area became known as "Leroux Prairie" for a short time.

Evidence exists that in May 1876, a group of men from Boston settled in Fort Valley and established a town site named "Agassiz." Actual proof of this site has not surfaced, but diary references indicate it may have been in the southwest part of the valley. The pioneers thought they'd found paradise with the flowing River de Flag (fed by the waters from Big Leroux Springs) and plentiful grass. However, the freezing nights and unceasing winds made them move on after two months.

In 1880, LDS emigrants built a 90-foot square stockade, named Fort Moroni, in the middle of the valley near today's Lake Trail and Bridle Trail intersection. This is when the term "Fort Valley" came into use.

The LDS left in the mid-1880s and the Fort was purchased by the Arizona Cattle Company and briefly used as headquarters for their massive ranching operations. (The ACC's A-1 brand is why we have A-1 Mountain.) Fort Moroni most likely rotted away even though an unconfirmed report says it was purposely burned. A historical marker, south of the actual fort site, is located at the end of Lake Trail.

In the early 1900s, Adolph G. Bader homesteaded in the southwest corner of the valley. He planted potatoes and other crops along with other valley resident farmer/ranchers like Rufus Rountree, H.G. Rountree, Buck Taylor, and Al Beasley. Adolph's son, Louis, acquired the Bader property and in 1963 established a subdivision and built homes. This subdivision became known as "Baderville." Through the years, some people considered the entire valley as Baderville, when in fact, the term only referred to the subdivision.

A side note is that two Fort Valley historic structures came down this year. The wonderful old barn on the north side of Highway 180 gave way to new construction. It was probably built about 1917 by homesteader and mule raiser Lincoln A. Williams. Chinese newspapers were tacked up as insulation in this barn. Al Beasley's cabin on South Snowbowl Road fell down in July. This cabin was about 100 years old, as a 1910 photo shows Beasley standing in front of it.

Leroux Prairie, Agassiz, Fort Valley, Baderville — each designation is associated with a particular segment of Fort Valley's human history. Names and traces of historic occupation change through time, but the valley's natural history endures.

Susan Deaver Olberding is the author of "Fort Valley: Then and Now" (Fort Valley Publishing, 2003).


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