Scattered machinery and assorted rusty junk of indeterminate age baking under a blazing Arizona sun. The forlorn remnants of a long abandoned store, cafe, gas station, and tourist cabins. The skeletal remains of an Oldsmobile driven from Michigan shortly after WWI. A scattering of modern trailer homes framed by an arch adorned with LM. And a background of quintessential western landscapes that make it impossible for a one eyed blind man to take a bad photograph. This is Ed’s Camp today.
Located along the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66, and that highways predecessor the National Old Trails Road, in Sitgreaves Pass, Ed’s Camp sits on a site steeped in history. And as it turns out, the site known as Little Meadows is also steeped in mystery, legend, and history.
Illustrating the fascinating history and conflicting of stories is an entry in Arizona Place Names by Will C. Barnes that was firt published in 1935 contains this entry.
“Sitgreaves Pass, Mohave County – In Ute or Black Mountains so called by Lt. Ives because Sitgreaves part passed through it. Coues, however, says, “Sitgreaves did not cross this pass as Ives states, but used the so called Union Pass. Beale named this pass – Sitgreaves – John Howells Pass for one of his men, October 1857.” Coues who locates this pass John Howells Pass as east of Oatman, did such careful research work though here his judgement is undoubtedly correct.”
My knowledge of Little Meadows mostly came from Ed Edgerton, the Ed of Ed’s Camp that had arrived at Little Meadows in about 1919. My first paying job was working for this old codger. I hoed and pulled weeds, watered melons and tomatoes, and generally tried to help in the garden.
Ed was a man of few words but he took a shine to me. And so, he often talked about area history and geology. On occassion he would drag me into the mountains to work on a spring or pipeline, a prospecting expedition, or to drag in some gem and mineral specimens that he sold at the rock shop. Tragically, I was jsut a kid and so paid little attention to the stories or the lessons he imparted.
But according to Ed, Father Garces camped at Little Meadows during the expedition of 1776. In his journals the formidable mountains were noted as Sierra de Santiago. In the Ives report of 1858 they were listed as the Black Range or Black Mountains. Other explorers of that era referenced them as the Sacramento Range.
And it that isn’t confusing enough, for reasons unkown, the southern tip of this range near present day Yucca, Arizona was often called the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was even a small mining camp Blue Ridge near Warm Springs Canyon. A post office using that name was established in April 1917.
I have learned over the years that Ed’s stories weren’t always accurate. A few were downright exaggerations. Others might have been simple lapses in memory. And some were just recycled legends and myths, such as the story of the Warm Springs Canyon treasure.
With clarity I recall Ed talking about how Little Meadows with its dependable springs that flowed all year round was a popular camp grouond for travelers on the National Old Trails Road. That, he claimed, was why he purchased it and established Ed’s Camp.
But not once did he mention that there was also an inn at this site in the teens. Was it there when he arrived in Arizona after WWI? When did the Wayside Inn open? When did it close, and why?
Recently Andy Sansom, a good friend with a passion for obsure history shared a couple of fascinating items that piqued my interest. Then, with a bit of research, I discovered some intrguing snippets in the form of advertisements and newspaper articles from 1918 and 1919.
And now, I am off on another quest, unravel the history and the mystery of Little Meadows. This should be an interesting venture as it will also mean revisiting a special place from my childhood that is as the foundation of Jim Hinckley’s America.