Kraig’s Cave Creek Commentary

August 2017

In this brief commentary, Kraig Nelson combines insights into Cave Creek’s history and the current real estate market in Cave Creek, Scottsdale, and Carefree.  The Peak thanks the Cave Creek Museum for their long-standing support of the Desert Foothills Scenic Drive.


Cave Creek Museum LogoKraig’s History Highlights

From the Cave Creek Museum
Kraig Nelson, docent


Sunday, November 5, 1871 was the end of the line for six passengers riding the Arizona Stage Line about six miles outside of Wickenburg, another died later, and one passenger lived to tell the story. This frightening event is known as the Wickenburg Massacre of 1871. The retinue included one stage-driver, six men, and one twenty-four-year-old woman. They were attacked by Mohave-Apaches (Yavapai) and no valuables were stolen. Gravely wounded, two escaped that terrifying day including the only woman passenger, Miss Mollie Sheppard. Mollie eventually made it to California but died of infected wounds per the only survivor, Mr. William Kruger. Each had been shot three times. Mollie and William were armed with revolvers and managed to wound two attackers. During their harrowing escape, Molly left behind expensive jewelry and $15,000 in cash ($300,588.00 in 2017). She had recently sold her successful business in Prescott, her brothel.

 Kraig’s Realty Reality

August 2017

Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) data published  May, 2017

Kraig R. Nelson, Associate Broker



Sold volume (dollar amount) was 77.74% higher; active listings [107] were 8.55% lower; and the median sold price [$675,000] was 43.01% higher, compared to one year ago.
Average days on market were 248. 11 residential units closed escrow.

Cave Creek-

Sold volume (dollar amount) was 27.94% higher; active listings [257] were 20.68% lower; and the median sold price [$465,000] was 10.06% higher, compared to one year ago.
Average days on market were 114. 97 residential units closed escrow.


Sold volume (dollar amount) was 15.91% higher; active listings [2,657] were 12.40% lower; and the median sold price [$438,000] was 12.73% higher, compared to one year ago.
Average days on market were 100. 843 residential units closed escrow.

Phoenix (city only) –

Sold volume (dollar amount) was 12.91% higher; active listings [3,831] were 6.81% lower; and the median sold price [$235,000] was 6.33% higher, compared to one year ago.
Average days on market were 62. 2,267 residential units closed escrow.


Kraig’s Comments-

• Distressed sales (short sales and lender owned) represent 2.10% of the total sales volume.
• There is a 2.35-month supply of residential inventory in the Phoenix Metro Area. A balanced market for buyers and sellers is considered to be about 6 months.
• Total residential inventory is 10.40% lower [22,069 units] than one year ago.
• Entire Phoenix Metro Area: median sold price is $245,000; 6.52% higher than one year ago. Average days on market were 77.
• Average sold price compared to original list price is 96.84% in the Phoenix Metro Area. This means a home listed for $400,000 sells for about $387,360.
• Production new-home “spec” (or speculation) count is 2,457; 132 fewer than 6 months ago. (from Ultimate New Homes Newsletter)
• Total Phoenix Metro residential units sold and closed last month: 9,270. This is 5.36% higher than one year ago.
• Total dollar amount for Phoenix Metro residential units sold and closed: $2,826,198,002. (that’s 2 billion, 826 million- rounded for conversation). This is 13.53% higher than one year ago.



 Kraig’s Past History Highlights


July, 2017. The Cave Creek mining district, one hundred and forty-four square miles, was known for gold, silver, and later “red gold” we know as copper. Early miners noticed ledges of beautiful jasper and onyx jutting from areas near the creek (Cave Creek), about twenty miles northeast of the town of Cave Creek. Onyx and jasper are forms of quartz. Early Eastern investors purchased the deposits and hauled the slabs to Phoenix in horse-drawn wagons; from there, sent to Los Angles by railroad for cutting and polishing. Cave Creek onyx was used to decorate buildings found at the Chicago World’s Fair (also known as the Columbian Exposition) in 1893. The White House received a gift from the Cave Creek mining district via the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce during the Coolidge administration (1923-1929). It was a beautiful vase made from Cave Creek onyx. The late Cave Creek historian Frances C. Carlson believes it’s still at the White House.


June, 2017. Yes, there is a stream called Cave Creek. It’s old; it’s very old. Two geologists, Peter L. Doorn and Troy L. Pewe in their 1989 tome (612 pages), Geologic and Gravimetric Investigations of the Carefree Basin tell us the ancient stream began to flow about five million years ago (the Pliocene Epoch). Additionally, they tell us Cave Creek has had the same flow for at least two million and perhaps three million years. The eminent geologists state the original stream was approximately 300 feet higher than today. They have identified and named, four levels or terraces above Cave Creek from the highest (oldest) to the lowest (youngest): Little Elephant (Pliocene Epoch); Mesquite Tank, Cahava Ranch, and Hidden View were “down-cutting” during the Pleistocene Epoch, ending 11,700 years ago; and finally, Cave Creek as we know it today.

May, 2017. The western cowboy is an icon of the old west, especially when we think of the many important Cave Creek cattle ranching families like the Cartwrights. Many are aware cattle were introduced to the New World by the Spanish during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage in 1493. Cattle were introduced to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) by the invading Moors starting in AD 711.  But, what about the history of cattle? Today scientists are divided whether cattle developed in eastern Europe/western Asia or on the Indian subcontinent, or both. Scientists do agree the domestication of a large wild bovine, the auroch, became modern cattle; the process of domestication started about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago. The auroch was fierce and about twice the size of cattle today. Late Paleolithic people started selecting the smallest and most docile aurochs for breeding; manageable size and docility resulted. In 1627, the last auroch became extinct in Poland.


April, 2017. The covered wagon, known as the “prairie schooner,” was the iconic mode of transportation for almost a half-million brave pioneers, heading West, from 1836 to 1869, the year the transcontinental railroad was completed. The covered wagon was a smaller and lighter version of the Conestoga Wagon first developed around 1750 in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania by Dutch and German settlers. It was a five to six-month challenging journey, about 2,000 miles. Here’s the minimum shopping list for one adult: flour (and yeast)/200 pounds, meat/75 pounds, coffee/15 pounds, sugar/25 pounds, salt/10 pounds, and citric acid, commonly known as vitamin C (to avoid scurvy). A chicken coop was attached to the side of the wagon and eggs were carried, immersed in flour, to avoid breakage during the bumpy trek.


March, 2017. The pre-Columbian native Americans identified as Hohokam are known as extraordinary canal-builders and the Valley’s initial farmers. It was the rebuilding of their canals, allowing a new culture to rise again that led to the name of Phoenix (the mythical bird). They were living along the Salt River by approximately 300 B.C. and dissipated as a thriving culture by about A.D. 1450. According to anthropologist Dr. Stephan Plog, the Hohokam incorporated a concept of polycropping, which included planting maize (corn), beans, and squash in one mound. In Native American parlance, this concept was known as the “Three Sisters.” The king of crops was maize; however, maize lacks a required amino acid called niacin (B3). Without niacin, a deadly condition arises called pellagra. By adding beans and squash this harmful dietary issue was addressed and a healthy combination of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein were provided.


February, 2017. Many are aware that Tom Darlington and K.T. Palmer were the founders of Carefree. There was another person who was instrumental with the early development of Carefree, his name was Leslie “Les” Rhuart.  Les was locally educated at Brophy High, Phoenix College, and finally the University of Arizona where he earned an engineering degree. He worked with Tom Darlington at AiResearch, in Phoenix, where Mr. Darlington was plant manager of the engineering company during WW ll. When the Carefree Development Corporation was formed (hence the town’s name), Mr. Rhuart was the vice-president, Tom Darlington was president, and K. T. Palmer was secretary-treasurer. Les was the president of the Carefree Water Company, Desert Forest golf course, and the Desert Forest Inn (now, the Carefree Inn). Additionally, he was involved with the development of the Carefree County Club, known today as The Boulders Resort and Spa.


January 2017. The first Cave Creek school was the classic one-room building encompassing first through eighth grade, taught by one teacher. The school was built in 1886 near the Cave Creek stream on a property called Cave Creek Station. This was the first Anglo settlement in the area established in 1877. In 1899, Alfred C. Lockwood was the twenty-four-year-old teacher at the seminal school, but he was a student as well. This was a time when law schools were not the gateway to a law profession, so Alfred was studying law as a legal apprentice, this was called “reading law.” Mr. Lockwood was admitted to the Arizona Bar in 1902; his stellar career included esteemed  positions as the eighth, eleventh, and fourteen Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1929, 1935, and 1941 respectively.


December 2016. Cattle ranching was an important factor in the development of the Arizona Territory, including the Desert Foothills. We can thank the Spanish for the introduction of cattle to the ”New World.” In 1493 (second voyage), Christopher Columbus brought cattle to Hispaniola, the Caribbean island encompassing Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Cattle endured much of the trans-Atlantic journey hanging in hammocks for stabilization. In 1519, Hernan Cortez moved some of the cattle to the Central America mainland. By 1591, Jesuit missionaries made their way to future southern Arizona. They established beautiful Missions like Xavier del Blanc, a National Historic Landmark near Tucson, using cattle to establish “mission-economies.”  The Jesuits also used cattle to encourage Native Americans to settle near the Missions for the ultimate goal of conversion to Christianity.


November 2016.  The Cave Creek Museum features terrific art in addition to historical artifacts and exhibits. A popular piece is a bronze, created by Jasper D’Ambrosi in 1975, called “Way West.” It is a well-researched, very accurate depiction of the covered wagon pulled by eight oxen. The classic covered wagon, also called the prairie schooner, is the “Conestoga Wagon.” The Conestoga Wagon was developed by Dutch and German settlers in the Conestoga Valley of Pennsylvania, around 1750. In pre-revolutionary times the wagon was used to haul crops. A later incarnation was use as a freight-wagon to facilitate commerce between Pittsburgh and Ohio. Finally, a smaller version was used by a half-a-million rugged pioneers, between 1836 and 1869 (transcontinental railroad), for about a 2000-mile journey west. This was” Manifest Destiny,” courtesy of the Conestoga Wagon.


October 2016. Historian Francis C. Carlson described the early Cave Creek residents (mostly miners and ranchers) as “hard-working, hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-dying.” There were some intellectuals in the community however. The first one-room school house in Cave Creek, built in 1886 and located on the original Anglo settlement called “Cave Creek Station,” had multiple community uses (Sunday school and services) including a bi-monthly venue for “weighty debates” per Carlson. Discussions included political issues including women’s right to vote for example (affirmative vote), and children participated in learning poems and elocution exercises. This group was called the “Cave Creek Literary Society.” The areas first newspaper called The Cave Creek News, published by miner Ed Taylor, was read at each meeting. The year for this intellectual exchange: 1893!


September 2016. Based on photos from the early 1900s, the Cave Creek Museum has an accurate presentation of the entrance to a famous, nearby, underground gold mine: Mormon Girl Mine. The surface entrance to an underground mine is called an adit (from the Latin word aditus, meaning entrance). This mine, with shafts 500 to 600 feet deep, was located on a knoll in proximity to Mormon Boy Mountain. In the 1870s (exact date unknown) an old, gnarly prospector, known as Sweeny, along with his loyal girlfriend Martha, who happened to be a burro, discovered gold, and established this admired mine. Sweeny decided Mormon Boy Mountain should have a girlfriend, so he named the mine, Mormon Girl Mine. Over the years, this historic mine has had several owners and was mined into the 1940s. Have you seen this magnificent, almost 4,000-foot mountain located in the north Desert Foothills? You know, I should mention this ancient mountain has a different name today…it’s called…Black Mountain. 


August 2016. Scottsdale has Frank Lloyd Wright with his winter home and architectural school called Taliesin West (Scottsdale’s only National Historic Landmark); and, Cave Creek has Frank W. Wright (no relation) who was known as “Mr. Cave Creek.” Frank W. Wright lived in Cave Creek for sixty years and died at the age of eighty-nine in 1982 (Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959 at the age of ninety-one). Frank W.’s civic accomplishments were numerous, including bringing street lights to Cave Creek, he was the founder of the Cave Creek Water Company, Frank was active in getting the county to pave Cave Creek Road from Bell Road north, he and his wife helped sponsor the first community church now located at the Cave Creek Museum. The land on which the Museum sits was donated by Mr. Wright. In 1934 Frank founded and helped build the American Legion, known today as Frank W. Wright #34. 


July 2016. We have an archaeological treasure approximately seven miles east of the Cave Creek Museum, just off Cave Creek Road. It’s known today as the Sears Kay Ruin (National Register of Historic Places), named after a ranch established in 1887 by J.M. Sears. This ruin, positioned on a hilltop, was built by the canal-building, pre-Spanish Hohokam in about A.D. 1050 and was occupied until about A.D. 1200. Archaeologists tell us that growing social unrest and the fear of possible invasion led to defensive, hilltop communities during this occupation period. The masonry construction included forty rooms (one family per room) divided into five walled compounds with courtyards for daytime work like grinding corn and mesquite pods and making tools. Canals were not necessary here as Camp Creek, located below the hilltop, flowed, providing water for the farming and hunting community. The Sears Kay Ruin was discovered in 1867 by soldiers on patrol from Camp (later Fort) McDowell.


June 2016. Before the establishment of the Tonto National Forest in 1908, ranchers didn’t have to deal with fences on the “open range.” Cattle (horses and sheep) would mingle but could be easily separated because of branding. The brands were usually registered and it was a permanent mark of ownership. A registered brand always takes precedence over a non-registered brand. The concept of branding was not new. When Hernando Cortez brought cattle to the New World from Spain in 1541, they were stamped with his mark of three crosses. Ancient Egyptian tombs show branding of oxen with hieroglyphics; the date, about 2,700 B.C. Both ancient Greeks and Romans branded their cattle with hot irons.


May 2016. When early Salt River Valley pioneers and Phoenix founders like John Y. T. Smith and Jack Swilling became aware of ancient, derelict canals that could be revitalized to farm the rich Valley land, it was proclaimed by pioneer and Cambridge educated “Lord” Darrel Duppa that this area could rise like the mythical bird known as the Phoenix, hence our name today. We now attribute the ancient canals as the work of the ingenious Hohokam. Where did this name originate? The name was suggested in 1908 by Harvard professor, Dr. Frank Russell. He was communicating with the presumed descendants of the Hohokam; the Pima, who preferred to be called the Akimel O’odham (the River People). They referred to the Hohokam as the Huhugam. This eventually became Hohokam, and the translation was “those who have gone,” and later, “all used up.”


April 2016.  Cave Creek had its own version of Annie Oakley. Her name was Catherine J. Jones, but was known as “Cattle Kate.”  She was about five feet tall and was never completely dressed unless she had her low-slung, holstered .38 Colt; her .410 shotgun was never far. Cattle Kate was a dead-aim and everyone in Cave Creek knew it. Catherine and her husband, Theodore (Ted) B. Jones, each homesteaded a section of land (1,280 acres total) and named the spread Willow Springs Ranch. Cattle Kate was a skillful rancher, deputy game warden, deputy sheriff, loving wife, and was considered a generous friend. She painted beautiful landscapes and was a published poet. Today we know their 1925 Willow Springs Ranch as Cahava Ranch; translated, by a Hopi Chief.


March 2016.  Arizona became a United States Territory on February 24, 1863.  President Abraham Lincoln appointed the first three territorial governors: John A. Gurley, John Noble Goodwin, and Richard C. McCormick; only two served.  The first appointee, John Gurley, on the evening of his departure to Arizona for his new territorial position, suffered an appendicitis attack and died at the age of forty-nine.  John Addison Gurley studied theology and became a minister in Cincinnati, Ohio; later, Mr. Gurley became an owner and editor of a local newspaper and eventually became a United States Congressman.  He served in the Civil War as Colonel with General John C. Fremont.  Now you know why there is a Gurley Street in Prescott, Arizona.


February 2016. After the end of the Civil War in April, 1865 and about two-and-a-half years after Arizona became a territory, Fort McDowell was established about twenty miles southeast of future Cave Creek at the confluence of the Verde River and Sycamore Creek. The important garrison date was September, 1865. And the important purpose was to protect the early miners and later the ranchers from hostile Native Americans which included the Tonto Apaches and the Yavapai in central Arizona. Historian Frances C. Carlson states, “All of present-day towns of the Salt River Valley, including the city of Phoenix, can trace their beginnings to the army’s decision to build this isolated outpost.” Mrs. Carlson further states, “In 1865 the army sent a small force of three hundred men marching across the desert from California to establish Fort McDowell.”


January 2016. The Cartwright ranching family was an important part of Cave Creek and Phoenix history. Reddick (Red) Jasper Cartwright with his wife and ten children arrived in Phoenix in 1877, from Illinois, via the Oregon Trail (note the Cartwright School District in Phoenix). The Cartwright Ranch was established northeast of Cave Creek at Seven Springs in 1887. The family eventually controlled 65,000 acres with about 5,700 head of cattle. The family ranch was sold in 1980 after 93 years. Red Cartwright and his son Jackson Mantford Cartwright were charter members of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association.


December, 2015. A long-time miner in the Cave Creek area was the Missouri-born, articulate, Confederate deserter, Edward G. Cave–old Rackensack as he was affectionately known. Rackensack mined the Cave Creek area for thirty years and discovered some of the best mineral-rich mines in the area. The quick-witted miner wrote numerous, clever letters to the Phoenix newspapers illustrating his adroit skill with words. Near the end of his life, perspicuity gone, Rackensack built a crude shelter and lived in the Cave. Around 1912 he died a pauper, in or near the Cave, no grave was ever found. Some postulate Edward G. Cave was the namesake of Cave Creek; however, we know the Army had identified and named the stream Cave Creek by 1866; Old Rackensack arrived in Tucson in the early 1870s and moved to Cave Creek later.


November, 2015. The Desert Foothill’s growth was ignited by fortune-seeking gold and silver miners, territorial status in 1863 (revenue from gold was important during the Civil War for President Lincoln), and Army protection from the marauding Tonto Apaches and Yavapais. The Army was locally garrisoned at Camp (later Fort) McDowell, established in 1865. There was another, sometimes overlooked factor, and that was the Desert Land Act of 1877 (part of the Homestead Act of 1862). Historian Dr. Patrick Grady states,” I came to discover that homesteading was actually at the heart of Cave Creek’s growth and settlement. Ultimately, over 100 homesteaders patented [received a U.S. government land-deed] nearly 37,000 acres in the Cave Creek area.”


Related Articles and Websites

Cave Creek Museum Website, Visit Website

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Author: Kraig Nelson

Kraig Nelson, Associate Broker, has been an award-winning real-estate professional since 1984 and a Desert Foothills/Scottsdale resident since 1977. Active in the community, he is the historian and a board member of the Cave Creek Museum and a docent for the Desert Foothills Land Trust. Kraig has been a Peak magazine “Write Stuff Contest” winner the past three years. You may reach Kraig at 602.527.2161 or

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