Painted Desert - Page 3
Less than ten miles southwest of Houck is the small unincorporated
community of Sanders, located at the junction of U.S. Route 191 and
Interstate 40, within the Navajo Nation. This settlement got its start
as yet another station on the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe
Railroad. The reason it was called Sanders is still in dispute. Some
say it was named after C. W. Sanders, a railroad office engineer.
Others believe it was named for Art Saunders, who had a trading
post nearby. However, because there was already a railroad station
named Sanders, the community was renamed Cheto. It gained its first
post office in 1896, but, it would only last for a few years. The need
for a post office was inconsistent. In 1932, when it reopened, the
name changed to Sanders.
Like many other places across Arizona, trading posts predated the
establishment of the community. One of the first stores here was
established by G.W. Sampson in 1883. This is very same one that Art
Saunderswould later operate. One of the most long lasting stores was
the Cedar Point Trading Post situated on
Route 66. It was established
in 1928 and was operated by several proprietors until 1980. Though the
earliest trading posts are gone today, you can still stop at Burnham's
Trading Post. Though operating today in a building that is about 30
years old, the Burnham family has owned the trading post
continuously since the 1890's. It is located along U.S. 191, exit
Also at this exit is the old Sanders Bridge on an abandoned section of
Claymine Road (former US 66). Build in 1923, this Pratt pony truss
bridge over Puerco River is listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. Though closed to vehicle traffic today, pedestrians
may still use the bridge.
As of the 2010 census, Sanders had a population of 630.
Just about seven miles beyond Sanders is the small town of Chambers.
Established as a railroad siding by the Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe
Railroad, the origin of its name has two possible sources. One claim
says that it was named for Edward Chambers, a vice president for the
railroad. The second claim is that it was named for Charles Chambers
who established a trading post here sometime prior to 1888. In the
early days of the railroad, J.L. Hubbell, who established the Hubbell
Trading Post in Ganado, some 50 miles to the north, maintained a
warehouse here to send and receive freight.
In 1907, a post office was established in the settlement, and the
following year, Wells Fargo established a station. By 1913, Chambers
was a stop on the cross-regional road that became the National Old
Trails Highway and then Route 66. As homesteaders proliferated in the
surrounding area, Chambers became a central place with a public school
by 1916. By the 1920s, Chambers had also become a railroad shipping
point for feeder stock – cattle and sheep – from Hubbell’s and other
trading posts to the north as well as ranchers and homesteaders in the
In 1926, the name of Chambers was
changed to Halloysite for a number of years because of a clay mine
extracting that mineral nearby. Halloysite is similar to kaolinite and is used in porcelain
china. The name was changed back to Chambers on June 1, 1930.
From 1960-76 wells extracted helium
from beneath the surface near Chambers.
Like the other settlements along this
route, Chambers has boasted a number of trading posts throughout the
years, because of its varied central place functions, early ones being sidelines of ranchers
and later ones emphasizing sales of Indian souvenirs to tourists.
community of Chambers is located at the junction
of Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 191.
An interesting side trip can be taken here
to the Hubbell Trading Post. With this regions' long history of
trading posts, a visit to the Hubbell Trading Post
National Historic Site will give you look at one of the oldest
trading posts in the Southwest. It is still in operation today,
providing all manner of local Native American product. It is located about 50 miles north of
Chambers -- follow US 191 north to Ganado, Arizona.
If you take this side trip to the north, you will pass by a place
called Wide Ruins, some 17 miles north of Chambers. This was the former site of an
impressive Chacoan-style ruin named Kin Tiel. Covering about 30 acres,
the Zuni pueblo was among the largest pueblo sites in the
Unfortunately, he walls of Kin Teel, some of which were twelve feet
tall, were pulled down to extract building stones for the construction
of a trading post about 1895.
When a few rooms were excavated in 1929 by Haury and Hargrave for the
National Geographic Society, it was determined that the outer walls
and terraced dwellings looked down on open courts. From the beams in
the kiva roofs archeologists estimated these rooms were built between
1264 and 1285 A.D., indicating Pueblo III and early Pueblo IV periods
of occupation. Unfortunately, in about 1895, these walls were pulled
down to extract building stones for the construction of a trading
post. A trading post remained here for decades until it closed and was
also torn down in the 1980's. Sadly, there is nothing that remains of
this once magnificent pueblo.
Continue your journey along Route 66 just
a short seven miles to Navajo, at Exit 325.
This small town was first called Navajo Springs because of seeps in a
meadow that provided a good grazing spot for travelers' horses. The
site was first noted by white men when Lieutenant Amiel W. Whipple
passed through in 1853 and observed a "fine pool of water which breaks
through the surface of the valley". Four years later, in September,
1857, when Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald was scouting for a wagon road through the area,
he found Whipple's trail and "Navajo Springs". It soon developed as a
rest stop for travelers and in December, 1863, the first gubernatorial
party for Arizona crossed from New Mexico to Arizona. However, as they
were unsure as to where the border between the states was, they
proceeded to Navajo Springs, where on December 29th, they held a
ceremony to organize the new government. The first territorial
governor of Arizona, John Noble Goodwin, was sworn in by Richard
Cunningham McCormick, the first secretary of the territory and
Goodwin's eventual successor. Raising the flag and cheering, they
dined on fresh antelope steaks as well as champagne they had brought
for the occasion. Thus was the territory of Arizona established.
Beale Wagon Road, a precursor of the transcontinental railroad,
built through the area in 1882. At the insistence of the Santa Fe
Railway company, the Navajo were forcibly moved away from the Navajo
Springs area, and by the 1930s, all allotted lands within the area
were extinguished and the lands forcibly vacated. In the meantime,
Route 66 was built through Navajo Springs, which was later bypassed by
Interstate 40. But by the late 1980s, the lands were once again
occupied by Navajo Indians, many of whom were "refugees" from the
Navajo-Hopi land dispute. Today, the community is almost exclusively
Native American, and a permit is required from the Navajo Nation for
off-road travel in the area.
Continue on I-40 from Navajo. Five miles to the west is an old
alignment of Route 66 at Exit 320 (Pinta Rd.). Situated on the east of
the Petrified Forest, the road dead ends and travelers will have to
return to Exit 320 to continue the journey. However, many Route 66
enthusiasts enjoy taking a trek along this road to see the ruins of
the old Painted Desert Trading Post.
Heading west, between the towns of Navajo and Holbrook, you’ll pass
200-million-year-old fossils in
Petrified Forest National Park, as well as
the striped desert vistas of
Continued Next Page
Painted Desert Trading Post in its heydays.
Ruins of the Painted Desert Trading Post,
The Road Wanderer
Legends' General Store
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