COTTONWOOD, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- There are dozens of places in America named after the statuesque cottonwood tree. In order to flourish, a cottonwood tree needs exposure to full sun and lots of moisture-- they grow particularly well along rivers and lakes, preferring sandy soil. Along the Verde River, under the Arizona sun, the city of Cottonwood took root at the end of the 1870s. The small farming community, which is nestled in the Verde Valley, grew into a charming community with cafes, galleries, boutiques and personality to spare.
The area was founded along a simple trail next to the Verde River; between the mining town of Jerome to the west and Camp Verde to the south and Flagstaff to the north.
In 1874, soldiers took up residence in an abandoned adobe house near a circle of 16 cottonwood trees that grew next to the Verde River. The cluster of trees was a known landmark to travelers, who referred to the site as "the Cottonwoods" when Charles D. Willard settled there. The town was founded in 1879 after several other families settled there, as well.
The nearby army post, Fort Verde (1865-1891) was home to officers, enlisted men, scouts and their families. The people who lived in Cottonwood provided farm goods and produce to the troops stationed there, as well as the nearby mining town of Jerome.
As company towns, the nearby communities of Clemenceau and Clarkdale fell under the rules and regulations of the mining companies. On the other hand, Cottonwood did not, attracting those who did not wish to live under the thumb of a town run by a mining company.
Cottonwood became a haven for people seeking freedom from the regulations of the nearby company towns. Cottonwood's Main Street was created in 1908, when Charles Stemmer and Alonzo Mason used a mule team to pull and drag through brush to clear the roadway.
When the 1920s prohibition era hit, Cottonwood held a reputation for some of the best bootleg liquor around. At that time, there was not another town in the U.S. that had so many businesses for a population of about 1,000. Cottonwood was called the "Biggest Little Town in Arizona."