Across the Painted Desert
on Route 66
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Mother Road journey begins to cross
Arizona you will travel
Navajo country, the Painted
Petrified Forest, and more than a dozen small towns, of which, many
are little more than a trading post, and of others, nothing but a
Through this section that you can truly get a feel of
Route 66 might have been like long ago --
the small towns are still small towns, many of the Indians continue to
make their living from the trading posts, and though not always in very
good shape, original sections of the old pavement lie intact upon this
section of Arizona's high desert.
Beautiful vermilion cliffs surround you
on both sides of the highway as you enter
Arizona, setting the tone
for the highly colored drive you are about to take.
The original road from Lupton to Chambers
closely follows I-40, mostly to the north of the interstate. There are
pieces through here where the original road is in bad shape and turns to gravel
or dirt. From Chambers to Holbrook, the old road simply disappears or
is on private property. There are exits from the interstate to the
sites you may want to see through the Painted Desert, so your best bet
might be to stay on I-40 from Lupton west to Holbrook.
Situated right at the New Mexico-Arizona
border, Lupton, also known as Painted Cliffs, invites you
with high sandstone
bluffs, where statuesque figures of deer, bear, and eagles peer down
from above. These beautiful cliffs, formed from 60 to 200
million years ago, typify the stark, lonely beauty of the Indian
country to the north.
Immediately, you are surrounded by a number of trading
posts at the base of the cliffs, selling all manner of Indian
treasures. Several of these have been in business since the birth of
Route 66, including the Tee-Pee Trading Post. Lupton is also home
to the Painted Cliffs Welcome Center, a great visitors' stop on your
way into the state.
Known as Tesesi’ani’ (Setting Rock) and
Tsedijooli (Round Rock) to the Navajo, Lupton has been inhabited on
intermittent basis for more than 200 years. Prior to the establishment
New Mexico, it was a central point of departure for
military expeditions and for supply routes.
In 1863 and 1864, the United States
government, as a part of an
Indian removal effort, forced the Navajo to depart from the area
and relocated them to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This evacuation is known as The
Walk of the
or the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. The government's objective was to
"Americanize" the Navajo. However, the site the government chose was
not adequate for agriculture and the entire idea, a miserable failure.
In 1868, the
Navajo were finally acknowledged sovereignty and allowed to return to
The first trading posts at Lupton were
established during the decade following the Navajo's return from
Fort Sumner. In 1905, Lupton became the site of the first railroad
station established by the Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in
Arizona. The station was named for G.W. Lupton, a train master in
Arizona. Before long, more people settled in the area and
more trading posts were established. A post office was established in
May, 1917 with Joseph D. Gorman as the first postmaster.
At about that same time, the National Old
Trails Highway was blazed, and in 1926, Route 66 would follow most of
the same path. This created tourism opportunities in Lupton and the
town sprouted several gas stations and a store. Today, Lupton is
called home to just about 25 people.
Just about another eight miles will bring
you to the very small community of Allantown.
Like Lupton and other towns in the
vicinity, the area around Allantown was long inhabited by the Navajo
people. The town got its start when the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad
was built in 1881 and 1882. It was named for construction
superintendent Allan Johnson. One of the first non-Indian residents in
the area was a man named Curt Cronemeyer, who established a trading
post some distance south of the railroad tracks. Cronemeyer had two
Navajo wives, and the land upon which his trading post sat may have
been allotted to one of them. Cronemeyer, of German descent, was an
interesting character, leaving an impression upon those who lived in
the area. Said to have been a notorious ladies' man, the impression he
left on some, was not always a good one. In June, 1915, he, along with
another man named McDonald were robbed, shot, and killed at the
trading post. According to Navajo oral history, the 49-year-old trader
was confronted at his store by a number of Navajo men, accusing
him of flirting with their wives. Cronemeyer protested his innocence,
but the Navajos were having none of it and one of them shot him.
However, newspaper articles later related that the Gallup,
sheriff was tracking a group of Mexican bandits to El Paso, Texas,
where they eventually confessed to the murder and were apprehended.
Allantown, established as a railroad
siding, never grew very large. It obtained a post office in 1924 and
when Route 66 came through, boasted a gas station, grocery store,
curios shop, and cafe. However, it's post office closed in 1930. The
original townsite, next to the railroad, was located south of I-40
about a mile south of where remaining businesses are located today.
Before I-40 barreled through, visitors along this stretch of the road
associated Allantown with a large geodesic dome structure that housed
Indian City. Though the domed building is gone, folks can still visit
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