Town of Sedona founded by settlers from Missouri

The Schnebly House in Oak Creek Canyon, 1901, was large and accommodating. It provided space...
The Schnebly House in Oak Creek Canyon, 1901, was large and accommodating. It provided space for rooms to board, a general store and post office.(Lisa Schnebly Heidinger)
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 8:22 PM MST
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SEDONA, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- The dramatic sandstone formations around the town of Sedona draw millions of visitors from around the world who want to see for themselves the stunning views of Arizona’s red rock country. You may have heard the saying, “God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.” If that’s true, heaven is not far from Phoenix.

Just imagine the area in its natural form: a tranquil creek flowing through spectacular sandstone scenery, pure in form and structure. Traces of human occupation in the area date back to 10,000 B.C. Oak Creek’s water, flowing year-round, makes it possible to plant crops and orchards in the high desert to support life.

Even the name “Sedona” sounds lyrical, almost like it was plucked from a dream. Perhaps it was! You see, the name is made up, conjured up in the mind of a Missouri woman in the 1800s. When her daughter was born, Amanda Miller coined the name, Sedona, and gave it to her in 1877. Sedona Arabella Miller was raised in Gorin Missouri. Sedona’s great-granddaughter, Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, explains how the name came about.

The town of Sedona owes it's name to it's first postmaster, T.C. Schnebly who named the area...
The town of Sedona owes it's name to it's first postmaster, T.C. Schnebly who named the area after his wife, Sedona.(FindaGRAVE)

“She did make it up, but I have a private theory. I’ve read about free people of color in New Orleans in the 1840s, and there was a Sedonie, however, that’s pronounced in French. I’ve wondered if, being close to the Mississippi, she heard that and adapted it for her own use.”

Sedona married a local businessman, hardware store owner T.C. Schnebly, on her 20th birthday, but her parents did not approve. “He was a Presbyterian transplant to a Methodist town and, believe it or not, that was so egregious she was written out of her parents’ will,” said Heidinger. So they listened to T.C.’s brother Ellsworth’s urging to come west to the Arizona territory.

In 1901, Theodore Carlton Schnebly and his wife, Sedona Miller Schnebly, moved to the Oak Creek area from Missouri. They had heard stories about the abundant water, scenery, fishing, hunting, and acreage for planting orchards from T.C.’s brother, Ellsworth. At the time, there were only about 15 families in the area. In a few years, they had built themselves a two-story home with rooms to, “fill with visitors ‘til they filled it with kids,” said Heidinger. They started orchards, planting seedlings brought from Missouri; peaches, apples, cherries apricots, and plums.

They provided boarding rooms for travelers and also ran a general store from the basement of the home, supplying items like coffee, sugar, nails, and basic staples. Soon, the small community of farmers and ranchers held enough promise of growth that T.C. decided to apply to open a post office at his store.

He submitted a couple of possible names for the new Post Office to be called, Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station, both seemingly good names. But his application was denied by the Federal Post Master because they only wanted names that would fit on the cancellation stamp. His submissions were too long.

His brother, Ellsworth, suggested they submit the Post Office application with the unique name, Sedona, after T.C.’s wife. It was approved and T.C. became the first postmaster of Sedona.

The Schnebly family moved away from Sedona in 1905, moving back to Missouri, then to Colorado. They returned in 1930 to stay for good. “They were amazed and pleased that not only was the town still named that, but Schnebly Hill Road had become the official name for the path T.C. hired men to blast and scrape from a trail,” said Heidinger.

So, the Town of Sedona owes its name to a woman from Missouri who had a creative idea when she named her daughter. Heidinger says Sedona’s siblings had more common names: Minnie, Edward, Noah, and Edna. And what if old T.C. had taken a liking to Edna instead of her sister? Heidinger laughs, “can you imagine if T.C. had married Edna? No one would want to live there.”