Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finding Kerlin's Well -- the search continues

After finding a picture, a video and a few other references to Kerlin's Well, we drove north out of Phoenix by way of Prescott to the small community of Ashfork which is west of Flagstaff on I40. The only directions we had to the rock where my great-grandfather carved his name in 1877 was the brief description of "9 miles north of Seligman."

We drove the few miles west from Ashfork to Seligman and quickly found the public library. This small library was housed in a double wide mobile home. The library was supposedly closed, but the door was open and we found the librarian working with maintenance people. A toilet had overflowed and soaked the carpet and they were drying out. Despite the flood, the librarian was very helpful and made several telephone calls to try to find someone in town who might know about the location of Kerlin's Well. She was unsuccessful and told me that there was only one road north out of Seligman, a ranch road that required a pass to drive.

Just east of town, we found the road without any difficulty at all. The gate was unlocked but there was a system of passes and you had to sign in and out. It was apparent that the main reason for this system was to discourage illegal hunting and poaching. This part of Arizona is a checkerboard of 1 square mile sections of land. The alternating sections are either privately owned or State lands. The private lands were part of a land grant to the railroads in the 1800s to encourage the transcontinental railroad through Arizona. Most of the private sections passed to ranchers. (As a side note, the land is horribly overgrazed). Even the public sections are subject to land leases for grazing.

The road north was the usual rutted, rocky, almost 4-wheel drive back road very common in Arizona. I have driven on these roads since I was 16 and this road was not anything out of the ordinary. Our truck had no difficulty with the road, except for a few rock scrapes. Nine miles later we stopped. There was nothing that even vaguely looked like the area of the photograph or the video. We drove slowly back and stopped a each likely looking location. Nothing but more rocks, and none of them carved. The day was overcast and the wind was blowing about 20 to 30 mph which is the usual weather for the Plateau. We finally gave up and decided that I would have to do more research to find the elusive well.

Upon returning to Mesa, I got online and ordered the book about Kerlin's Well from Interlibrary loan. It is likely this report will continue sometime in the future.

Genealogical research is sometimes frustrating, but always interesting. Driving out into the barren deserts of northern Arizona is a lot more challenging than finding a location is a more civilized area.


  1. Just curious if you consulted Will C. Barnes' Arizona Place Names. It references Kerlins Wells (sic) in Coconino Co. near Floyds peak, suggests it is on a G.L.O. 1892 map and "Shows on Smith Map 1879 as Collins Well; unquestionably an error." There is a bit more info if you can access Barnes' book.

  2. I went there several times with my Dad (Jack "Beale" Smith) when I was younger and it sounds like you were on the right track.
    My dad has mapped out a lot of the Beale Wagon Road through AZ and has written several booklets on it, including one on Kerlin's Well (you can search for it on Amazon).
    I'm sure he'd be more than happy to give you directions if you are interested.