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Sedona History

300 million years ago, the land that is now Sedona was on the bottom of the ocean or serving as a coastal plain. For eons sedimentary layers of sandstone accumulated there. Uplifts and down faulting succeeded by volcanic activity combined to affect the nature of the rock. Then the big geological trauma – three million years ago the Colorado plateau uplifted to the position we know it now. Sedona, at the southernmost point of the plateau, sits at an elevation

of 6600 feet. Erosion has since exposed the sedimentary rock and iron gives it its brilliant red coloring. (The word ‘colorado’ means red in Spanish.)

Human history there dates back to about 4000 B.C. when the first nomadic hunters and gatherers began to frequent the area. But it wasn’t until 1000 AD that Sinagua Indians built up the first advanced civilizations, erecting pueblos and cliff houses that still remain today. Around 1400 the Sinaguas moved on and were sporadically replaced by the Yavapai and Apache Indians.

The first Spanish explorers in the 16th century are not thought to have entered Sedona in their failed quest for New World gold. However, the undeveloped area remained in Spanish hands until 1821. Then in 1848 the Arizona territory left Mexico to become part of the United States.

It’s only here that the Sedona as we know it came into being. In 1876, as part of the general rush to claim the natural resources of the West, John James Thompson settled in Sedona. He was followed by other agricultural homesteaders who moved near Oak Creek, living largely on their own but within reachable distance to the towns of Prescott and Fort Verde. These homesteaders took “squatter’s rights” on the land, and by 1889 enough had come that a township was marked.

The name Sedona was the first name of the wife of the town’s first postmaster, T.C. Schnebly, who needed to choose a name so that mail could be officially delivered. During his and Sedona’s time, homesteading increased as nearby mines proved profitable. This period of history ended in the 1930s and began to be replaced by tourism when, in 1939, a highway was completed into the town.

In the post-depression, post-war boom of the 40s and 50s, Sedona began to grow and has not yet stopped. An artistic community was born amongst the red rocks; the landscape became a popular filming ground for Hollywood; and housing developments sprouted downtown.

Moreover, in the 70s and 80s, different institutions for alternative religions were founded, starting Sedona’s reputation as a center of New Age belief. This reputation was confirmed in 1987, when thousands came to town and gathered at Bell Rock to witness an even called the Harmonic Convergence, a worldwide time of meditation to awaken the energy of the planets. (Many there hoped they would be transported that day to the Andromeda Galaxy, but were perhaps disappointed.)

All of Sedona’s distinct elements have since synchronized into the rare and sometimes odd, but harmoniously run city that so many tourists go out of their way to see today.


Sedona Travel Guides
 Frommer's Sedona
 Lonely Planet Sedona
 Let's Go Sedona
 Fodors Sedona