Two Guns Trading Post
|About 1907 several Flagstaff business firms
decided that the road to Winslow could be shortened. West of the upper
crossing they scraped out a flat road north to Two Guns. It passed down a
long slope to the bottom of the canyon. On the east side a dugway was
blasted and torn through to the flat rim. During spring run-off the canyon
flooded deep. The short-cut crossing was then not useable, especially by
the low-powered automobiles coming into general use. For that reason the
old Mormon crossing continued to be used by most travelers.
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel B. Oldfield, a childless couple in their fifties, settled by the side of the then new road. They built a square stone house, the ruins of which can be seen three miles south of Two Guns on traces of this old road. In 1914 this road became known as the Old Trails Highway. Since then, it and the newer Highway 66 have outlived several other titles and numerical designations.
In a small front room the Oldfields conducted a trading business with travelers, wandering prospectors, cowboys, sheepherders and Indians.
Mr. and Mrs. Walter Drye entered Arizona in 1914 via Lee Ferry on the Colorado River. A flat-bottomed barge was still employed for cross transportation. After looking around, the Dryes selected a spot a mile above Two Guns, building a rock house there. Running cattle awhile they removed to Anderson Mesa, about 1929, and although today in their eighties, still run cattle west of Two Guns.
When the highway changed from upper Mormon Crossing to the crossing at Two Guns, an old time prospector, Ed Randolph, set himself up in business beside the section entering the canyon upstream from Apache Cave.
When Earle and Louise Cundiff reached Arizona in 1922 from Arkansas, they paid Randolph $1,000 to relinquish his claim back to the U. S. Government. Cundiff, a World War I army veteran, then filed on a range claim of 320 acres, encompassing that part of the canyon now called Two Guns.
He constructed a large stone building complete with living quarters on the west side of the canyon where the dirt road turned down into the crossing. Near the foot of the dugway he put in a concrete dam to impound water, such development being necessary to prove up on the homestead.
As more and more automobiles came into general use, tourists began using the transcontinental highway across northern Arizona. From its beginning the trading post in its wonderful isolation enjoyed a good business. Gasoline pumps, oil service, and a restaurant were added to take care of travelers.
Harry E. (Indian) Miller, claiming to be a full-blooded Apache Indian, and being part Mohawk, looked over possibilities at Two Guns. Well educated and possessing a flair for gaudy publicity, he leased a business site from Cundiff for a period of ten years on March 5, 1925.
Miller advertised himself as "Chief Crazy Thunder," and wore his long hair braided. He had served in the Philippines with the U. S. Army following the Spanish-American War.
At Two Guns he and his wife began an extensive building program. On the canyon rim he put in a long stone structure with Indian labor, in the rear of which and facing the main canyon, were wild animal cages and pens. He called this a lion farm (he had several mountain lions). The center of the building and entrance into the zoo contained a small store and living quarters.
Investigating the Apache Death Cave, Miller cleaned out the first two caverns. Cliff dweller ruins were then constructed inside the entry way and first cavern. What few Apache skulls he found were sold to tourists as souvenirs. (Now and then one still comes to light). The horse and human bones were disposed of to a Winslow bone dealer.
Hopi Indians hired off the reservation built a pueblo type house on the side canyon rim directly over the cave. A paved path was laid down, connecting with a wooden bridge to a land island, and lookout points to a series of openings and eroded formations adjacent to the cave.
For a nominal charge tourists were conducted through the Hopi house where rolls of colored piki bread was made and sold. In the cavern below a soft drink stand was installed, and electric wires run down through the first crack to provide lighting.
Just who finally provided the name for Two Guns is unknown. During his first year or two there, Miller called his long building which was indeed a bulwark of stone walls, "Fort Two Guns."
When Cundiff applied for a post office his request was refused under that name. The designation "Canyon Lodge," was accepted. He then became official postmaster when it opened for business in his store at the bridge, November 24, 1924.
Begun in late 1925, completed in 1926, the state rerouted the highway past the Cundiff store directly in front, and built a concrete bridge. This old road made a sharp right turn off the bridge, passing before the elaborately signed Hopi house.
At about this time two Phoenix Mexicans appeared in Flagstaff. They were, they announced, going after a cache of Cannon's diamonds for which they possessed a map.
A year after their departure from town the remains of a Mexican were found in the canyon a few yards above Mormon Crossing. The skull contained a bullet hole. The skeleton was identified as one of the Mexicans, but the missing partner was never located. Buried shallowly, the bones were dug up by coyotes. Then some one placed the skull on a pyramid of rocks where the newer highway turned northeast as a warning not to use the abandoned stretch.
For some reason Cundiff leased the store to a man and his wife drifting through in l925. Shortly becoming dissatisfied with the arrangement, the pair departed in the night. Along with them went a considerable amount of silver, turquoise jewelry and merchandise.
From the beginning arguments ensued between Cundiff and Miller over the latter's assumption of extra rights under rather broad terms of his lease. The crisis came the evening of March 3, 1926, when Miller shot Cundiff to death. The body had been dragged out of Miller's living quarters at the zoo when county officers arrived to investigate.
Following the formalities of a trial and despite the fact that Cundiff had been unarmed, Miller was acquitted of the charge of murder.
The interior of the big store burned out in the fall of 1929. East of the bridge and north in a red clay flat, Mrs. Cundiff put in a large frame building from which she continued to conduct a trading post and tourist stop.
When she arranged to prove up on the homestead, Miller filed protests. He said that the land was rightly his and that he was actually there before the Cundiffs. Through a series of court actions that cost her $15,000 she finally cleared the title. The government patent was received in July, 1929, and signed by President Herbert Hoover.