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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kerlin's Well -- Found at last

In previous posts, I have been relating the story of my attempts to locate an obscure historical location known as Kerlin's Well. Beginning in 1857, Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale, an Army officer, was given the task of constructing a wagon road from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to Los Angeles, California. Although the wagon road that was constructed is all but forgotten in U.S. history, the route Beale took in this mammoth undertaking is memorialized by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, historic U.S. Route 66,and now, I-40. From the perspective of my own family, the Beale Wagon Road was traveled by my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner in coming to Arizona to settle along the Little Colorado River.

In 1877, Henry Martin Tanner and his new wife, Eliza Ellen Parkinson Tanner traveled by wagon from Beaver, Beaver County, Utah down to St. George, Washington County, Utah, then across the Colorado at Pearce's Ferry and across northern Arizona finally stopping at a place called Allen's Camp, now Joseph City, Arizona. As they stopped along the way, they found a dependable source of water at a place called Kerlin's Well, named after one of Edward Beale's workmen.

In my earlier posts, I told of my month's long effort to find the location of this elusive historical site, culminating in my contact with Jack Beale Smith, the author of a small volume of history about Kerlin's Well. I was now certain about the location, but I had my investigations confirmed, when one of my associates at work showed me that the video of the boy standing next to the rock was part of the GeoCache movement and that the GeoCache also had the exact coordinates. Armed with this new information, we planned to drive to Kerlin's Well over Memorial Day.

We left Mesa early Monday morning and drove north on I-17 turning to Prescott and then on north to Chino Valley where we stopped for breakfast at McDonald's. This was to be a tourist class trip. We continued on to Ashfork and then west to Seligman. The road into the barren desert is extremely rough. During our entire trip, once we left the paved road, we did not see another person our entire trip.

It was relatively easy to follow the topographical map in theory, but much harder in practice. We soon discovered that not all of the roads we could see on the ground were on the map. We could see three different routes that would lead to our destination at the Well. The first route was very elusive. We could not find the turn-off at all. We found the second road but soon encountered a section that was too steep and too rocky for our truck to negotiate. I drive a two-wheeled drive pickup truck. I have always figured, an rightly so, that I could get anywhere I really needed to go with two-wheel drive and if I couldn't get there with two-wheel drive, I probably would get in trouble with four-wheel drive. I know there are four-wheelers out there who are probably laughing right now, but I also have plenty of experience with stuck in the sand or mud four-wheel drive vehicles. Let's just say that the roads only got worse.

After two false starts where we had to turn around and go back and start over, we finally hit the right combination and found the water tank we were looking for near the Kerlin's Well. After a short cross-country hike, we discovered the narrow canyon and the famous rock.

More about Kerlin's Well and our further discoveries in the next post.


  1. James, very interesting post and great picture with the rock and rock art. What fun you must have had.

  2. I've been following your blog, anxiously waiting to see if you ever found your elusive Kerwin's Well. I'm looking forward to your next installment of this exciting adventure!

  3. Yeah! You found it!! I've been following your adventure with particular interest since I also live in the Valley of the Sun. I'm looking forward to your next post on Kerlin's Well.

  4. I am Glenn rogers, i have been to kerlen well many times. I am the Great grand son of Henry Martin Tanner. I have the GPS corrdints of the site and would love to take anyone there. Those people have a huge posterity that carved their names in the rocks. Glenn Rogers, eagar, az

    1. Thanks for your comment. I wish I had known you ten or more years ago when I spent years looking for the place before I finally found it.

    2. Hello! Henry Martin Tanner was my great grandfather thru Donnette Tanner, my maternal Grandma. We are here in Tempe for the funeral of Joyce, Donnettes last living child. We are driving back to California on Sunday, and are thinking about going that way, as we found a snapshot of the inscription in my moms papers.

      If there is ANY way you could help us find it, it would be much appreciated. Please call/text me at 831-809-1936.

    3. Sorry for the delay. I will try to call. But you should know that it would be a very good idea to have a four-wheel drive very high clearance vehicle to get within hiking distance.

  5. or any tips that make it easy enough for us to find it, as we dont have time to wander forever this trip.