Loree Rees Baker, who will be the grand marshal of this year's Territorial Days Parade on Aug. 31, has a long and rich history in the area.
She lived in a log cabin in Flagstaff, then a ranch near Sedona. She walked a mile each way to classes, through an Indian village, when she attended Smelter City School near Cottonwood.
"Prescott was another world away. I might have been there one time before I was married. I was raised in the Verde Valley. Back then Clemenceau, Smelter City, and Cottonwood were all separate towns," she said.
Rees Baker, 84, has more stories to tell.
"We were poor, but we didn't know it. My dad's dad was gassed in a mine accident in the Sycamore Canyon Mine. The mine was filling with water, and he went in to check the pump. He hit a pocket of poisonous gas and fell into the water and drowned.
"My dad was gassed too. They were supposed to blow the whistle before they dumped the slag, the burned ore from the rock. They didn't warn them, they didn't blow the whistle, and he was in bed for a year. My mom learned how to cook short order. It was the first job she ever had. And she supported us six kids.
"I am proud of my family," Rees Baker said. "All of them were pioneers. My grandmother came down from Oregon. It took them three years to make the trek. They arrived in Arizona in 1876."
The Chino Valley Historical Society has invited Rees Baker, and other descendents of the original settlers of the Arizona Territory, to be grand marshals in the community's Territorial Day Parade, on Saturday, Aug. 31.
"The parade is celebrating the Territorial Government. In 1863, Lincoln declared the Territory of Arizona, and in 1864 the government arrived. We were the Territorial Capitol for five months," said Kay Jones, past president of the Chino Valley Historical Society.
During the Civil War, President Lincoln sent parties to settle the territory of Arizona. The Del Rio Ranch, noted by a historical marker on Highway 89 between Chino Valley and Paulden, was the first seat of the Territorial government.
"The Del Rio Ranch was the headquarters for just about everything," said Jones. "Casa del Rio supplied the area with fresh spring water. Ashfork didn't drill wells until the 1970s, the mules from the Grand Canyon would winter here in Valle de Chine; and Fred Harvey's farm grew produce and turkeys for the dining cars on the Santa Fe Railroad," she added.
Bobbi Wicks, previous Chino Valley postmaster, and member of the Historical Society said, "We are trying to preserve the site, and the graves."
The Society also is hoping to build a historical museum in Chino Valley.
'We have a memorandum of understanding with the Chino Valley School District to renovate one of their barns," she said. "We put in a concrete floor, but the roof is leaking really badly," she said at their monthly meeting and potluck dinner Aug.8, in the barn. "It's hard to get funds, we depend upon donations and volunteers."
"We want to document information on historical homes. We've got the information from the state survey. We can work with the town, and take photos of them before they're destroyed," Wicks added. "Descendents of the original settlers are coming to the parade from as far away as Arkansas."
The 27th Annual Territorial Parade theme is, "Where Arizona Began 1863-2013, 150 Years Ago." Kickoff is at 9:15, Aug. 31, at Heritage Middle School.
"I'm excited about the Territorial Parade, I'm going to meet cousins I didn't know I had!" Rees Baker said.
Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013
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Thanks for the informative article on the Rees-Baker-McClung Family, Grand Marshals of the Chino Valley Territorial Days. A great picnic and tours of the old sites of the family estates and the Verde Valley headwaters was appreciated. It was given to the family by the Chino Valley Historian/Librarian of the CV public library who has a wealth of knowledge about the early history of Del Rio Springs from Territorial Days to the present!