If you go back far enough into any city’s history, it usually all begins with just one or two people or families, hell bent on making it on their own, leaving all the familiarity of people and places behind for greener pastures and a fresh start.
Case and point, Snowflake, Arizona, a tiny community that sits about an hour’s drive south of the famed corner in Winslow Arizona.
I’ve often come up here in my 10 years plus of living in Arizona, mainly because the temperature is usually a solid 20 – 30 degrees cooler than the hot desert floor in Phoenix but as the years past by, I stopped merely “passing through” and began exploring around the sleepy town to see what daily life was like and to learn how the hell any place in Arizona got the name “snowflake”?
Turns out, the name of the town is a combination of two family names, Snow and Flake. Back in 1878, Mormons were on the move all across the western U.S., settling in communities up in Utah, Idaho and even Arizona.
At an altitude near 5,000 ft, Snowflake, AZ experiences all four seasons and it certainly would have been a vision to see the untouched landscape 150 years ago.
Meanwhile, Erastus Snow, a Mormon missionary and pioneer, sent out west to grow the church even larger and establish settlements along the Little Colorado River, crossed paths with Flake during this time and together they created “Snowflake” a permanent settlement in the high desert of Arizona.
These men, along with hundreds more had to do everything to ensure the town’s future, from laying out roadways and irrigation systems to establishing churches, schools, law enforcement, fire and so on.
In the end, tens of thousands of descendents of the first 50 or so pioneer families who inhabited the area have these two men to thank, plus the sacrifices of dozens more.
This story of sacrifice, of settlement, and of having a vision for future generations is no different really than any other western town or city, settled by visionaries who sought out a new beginning, serving a greater calling larger than themselves.
The sculpture you saw earlier and below was designed by Justin Fairbanks and depicts in stunning detail, the two men meeting in Winslow, forming a bond and partnership that would forever bear their family name on an Arizona state map.
Again the detail is just beautiful!
Having the level of respect and admiration that I do for pioneers, those who choose to be first, to be the leaders and to go forward into uncharted territory, men like Snow and Flake remind me of the courage and sacrifice that we all must endure I suppose to step out of the familiar and into the new.
Snowflake Arizona may have happened either way, but who knows, in this area of the state, communities are few and far between.
I guess the important message I would like to leave here with is to never take your surroundings for granted, be it in Arizona, Yonkers or wherever.
Instead, ask yourself, what did it take to build that?
How did Central Ave. in Yonkers go from just a dirt road that led north to White Plains to the major commercial district of today?
What did it take to cover up and then uncover the Saw Mill River?
How did areas such as Homefield, Bryn Mawr, Getty Square, Crestwood, Nepera Park, Runyon Heights, Dunwoodie and so on develop into residential and commercial centers?
Our city has just as many tales of pioneering spirit as Snowflake Arizona does and my hope is that those who read this will be a pioneer in their own right and seek out the answers to not only the questions I laid out before, but to their own questions and frontiers in life.
Here’s to Erastus Snow and William Flake and to all the pioneers, past, present and future.