Desert Messenger

September 15, 2010

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Page 9 of 23

P��� 10 Voices from the Past The Desert Messenger is proud to feature excerpts from Rosalee Wheeler’s “In the Shadow of Saguaros.” Volume I, circa 1540 to 1839, begins with the first recorded history in Southwestern Arizona; Coronado and the Conquistadors searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola. Volume II covers local history from 1840 to 1939. Volume III will feature stories from 1940 to the present. Her books are available at the Tyson Well’s Stage Station Museum, Reader’s Oasis Bookstore, and the Quartzsite Library. ���.D�����M��������.��� Excerpts from of Saguaros” By Rosalee Oldham Wheeler “In the Shadow (Previous story: My Dream For Desert Gardens - Part 1.) With the passing of Ralph Underwood in 1956, his widow Virginia and their 11- year-old son Ralph Jr stayed on at the old Conner Homestead, then known as the Underwood Place. Virginia continued her duties as deputy county assessor but her grandmother encouraged her to move back to Monrovia, California so Ralph Jr wouldn’t have to make that long ride over to Salome where he would start high school in two years. The old lack-of-water problem was still an issue and Bill Keiser, who continued to be miffed that the Underwood’s had purchased the Conner Homestead from the estate of his brother-in-law, Buck Conner, refused to re-open the water line from his 525-foot well. In 1957 Virginia’s boss, Mr. Williamson, the Yuma County Assessor, came to Quartzsite on one of his “north country” visits and told her there was a position open in the Yuma office and encouraged her to apply. Virginia’s mother-in-law, Ethel Murray, who lived in Quartzsite, encouraged her to accept. It was good for Virginia but I would be sad to see my Arizona Community Health Care Edward H. Kowaleski, M.D. Board Certified Family Practitioner NOW ACCEPTING NEW PATIENTS MOST INSURANCE PLANS ACCEPTED. NEW LOCATION Palm Plaza 255 N. Central Quartzsite, AZ 85346 OPEN FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS 928-927-4226 N Palo Verde x Main St. S�������� 15, 2010 Desert Gardens (part 2) My dream for friend move away. She asked if I would look after her place until she decided what to do with the house and surrounding 160 acres that was still being used as an airstrip. Ralph Jr stayed with us to finish the school year and I was appointed the deputy county assessor. In November of 1957 I rented the Underwood Place to Harold Gunn from Washington who said he loved the weather and was thinking about retiring here. Eight months later on a very hot July afternoon he moved back up to Washington and the Stewart family moved in, staying several years before moving to Blythe. Following a series of unsatisfactory renters and sporadic payments, with one leaving the place in shambles, in 1960 Virginia asked Charles and I to buy the property. Charles wasn’t interested in 160 acres “that didn’t have a good well and had a dangerous airstrip across the property.” I kept remembering something one of my beauty shop customer’s, Mrs. Epp, had said. “Rosalee, what this town needs is another trailer park for winter visitors.” The Epps had parked their trailer at the only park in town, Petersen’s Trailer Park, for a couple of winters before they bought a piece of ground where they could spend their winters. But Charles insisted that until a good well could be located on the property, even for the first 10 spaces I wanted to put in, buying the Underwood Place wasn’t a good idea. But I had a dream, a dream that I hoped would attract more people like Mr. Gunn and the Epps to Quartzsite. On a visit with Milburn Cooper, our family attorney in Phoenix, I told him about my dream and that a new super highway would someday be built across part of the north side of the Underwood Place and that the State of Arizona was sending letters to property owners along the proposed route to negotiate payments for a temporary easement. Milburn knew of Charles’ concerns with the Underwood property and suggested that he might be interested in buying it. I put Milburn in contact with Virginia and in January of 1961 Milburn and Rachel Cooper became the new owners. Milburn asked me to stay on as the property manager which I did for another 15 years. Charles, who opposed the State of Arizona’s proposal to grant a temporary easement instead of buying the property from owners whose land was in the path of the proposed super highway, was unable to attend the State’s meeting with property owners. As a hold-out for the State to buy the land, we were forced to grant a temporary right of way easement of 2.79 acres from our Home Place to the State of Arizona for $420. That easement is still in place today. Milburn never said how much he was able to negotiate for his 29.89 acres from what was then known as the Cooper Property. Construction on the Interstate Highway through Quartzsite began in 1962 and I had no trouble renting the Cooper’s house during that time. I loved that wonderful old adobe home that brought back memories from Buck Conner who enjoyed telling me about the gatherings he had for his family and a few Hollywood friends. I also remembered the wonderful times our family shared when the Underwoods owned the place and our daughters played with Ralph Jr’s set of handmade wooden trucks, hide- and-seek in the two-way closets between bedrooms, and on Tuesday nights when we watched the Lawrence Welk Show on their 8-inch RCA television set.  SEE DESERT GARDENS PAGE 11 Want a little? Place an order. Want a lot? Have a party. Want it all? Become a Consultant! Now in Quartzsite! Lisa Finch Independent Consultant 928-554-7555 Order online at: Hwy. 95 N. Central

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