Round Valley (Valle Redondo in Spanish) was the original name of the valley where now nestle the towns of Springerville and Eager. High on the Mogollon Plateau in east central Arizona at an elevation of almost 7,000 ft., nestled in a curve of the White Mountains, lies Round Valley, so named because of its circular shape. It is surrounded on the south, southeast and west by forest clad snow-capped peaks and to the north lies numerous extinct volcanoes, their cinder cones so high-colored and symmetrical in design it has aptly been called “The Land of the Storybook Hills. ” It is watered by three streams, the Little Colorado, Water Canyon, and Nutrioso Creek.

The Little Colorado, or Colorado Chiquita, was called Tol Chaco by the Navajo Indians, meaning red or bloody water. Coronado called it Rio De Lino or Flax River because of wild flax that grew along its banks. It was first called Colorado, also meaning red water in 1604 by Oñate. Rising in the White Mountains from clear pure springs, flanked by forest clad hills, through green peaceful meadows, flower-dotted in Spring and through the season of rain, shaded by willow and aspen, the Little Colorado winds its way – reminding one of a virgin maid on her wedding night. Singing with joy, bubbling with laughter, hurrying along her way, like that same maiden as time goes by giving birth and life to the arid valleys along its course. Wending through painted sands and clay of every hue and color, in time makes its way to Cape Solitude, Grand Canyon where during flood time it ends a roaring, turbulent monster.


Little Colorado River.

It has been said that God placed the Petrified Forest beside the Little Colorado because it is the only river in the world that gets muddy enough to float a petrified log.

Coronado passed through this beautiful valley in 1540. There is a beautiful statue of a mother holding a child in her arms with another child clinging to her apron erected near the post office in the Main Street of Springerville. It has the inscription:

Madonna of the Trail
N.S.D.A.R. Memorial
Pioneer Mothers
Covered Wagon Days
Coronado came this way in 1540. He came to seek gold but found fame.


(It is the only monument of its kind in Arizona)

Indians in Round Valley

There can be no doubt that our valley was once populated by a highly civilized race of Indians. They have left their history carved in the very face of our land. Judging by their ruins there must have been at one time inhabitants equal to half our present population. What became of them or why they left a land so fitted to Indian life is an unanswered question. Some calamity or the great drought which visited the Southwest in the twelfth century may have caused their Migration. This valley is known to many Indians as Chinte or Devil Valley. At least at the coming of the first white man our native tribes had a superstitious dread of our valley.

Earliest Settlers

In 1869 Tony Long, a scout for Federal troops, together with W. R. Milligan, Marion Clarke, Johnny McCullough, Dionicio Elalio, Juan Baca and Gabriel Silva came this way with loads of corn and other supplies from Pueblo, Colorado to the newly established Camp Mogollon, later Camp Apache, now Fort Apache. The snow being deep, they were unable to proceed further with full loads, so they built the first house in Round Valley, left part of their loads and traveled on over the mountain. Next spring they returned and built other houses. This first settlement was known as Fort Milligan.

Many Mexican families moved in and founded the second town, known as Valle Redondo (Round Valley) in 1870. This town was later named Springerville after a merchant named Springer. He lived here for a short time established a store and was driven out by outlaws such as The Clantons, the Westbrooks, and Billy the Kid. The first post office was named after him. This post office was in the store of Gus Becker.

Ike Clanton, who was present at the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, was charged with cattle rustling and killed near Springerville.

Ike Clanton, who was present at the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, was charged with cattle rustling and killed near Springerville.

By 1876 many Anglo families had settled here, prominent among them were Gus and Julius Becker, St. George Creighe, the Holdens, Rudds, Colters, Murrays, Saffells, Buches etc. These families married into Mexican families. A Mary McCullough married a Candelaria. Juan Baca, Cesario Cordoba, Pedro Candelaria and Leandro Carrillo were prominent among the early Mexican settlers.

The early Anglo families were the nucleus of the present Presbyterian Congregation. The Mormons began to move into Round Valley after 1870. They got a rough time from the Outlaws and eventually established the town of Eager, named after one of their early settlers. It is two miles from Springerville.

Remnants of the Butch Cassidy Outlaws murdered James Hale in the streets of Springerville on December 25, 1887, giving as their only reason: “They wanted to see if a bullet would go through a Mormon”.

James G. H. Colter, an early resident of Springerville, once gave this interview that outlined his experiences in the town:

The reason I came out from Wisconsin, there was one man by the name of Moore ahead of us, and he sent word that barley was worth eight and nine dollars a hundred to feed the cavalry horses at Camp Apache, fifty-five miles from where I settled. Afterwards I bought a farm, one of the finest farms in the Little Colorado, from McCullough; the next two years I bought that farm from him. The country at that time was infested with Indians and desperadoes, who were as bad, if not worse, than the Indians. At that time the whole State was four counties, Apache county being a part of Yavapai. I was the one who had Apache county separated from Yavapai. Everything was very high at that time, and I used to haul my goods from Albuquerque to live on.

I was hauling goods one time from Henry Springer’s store in Albuquerque, and I told Henry Springer he had better come into Round Valley, as it was called then, and put in a store; that the people were coming in and we would name the post office and little village after him, Springerville, and that was old Henry Springer.

Bowers was sheriff of Yavapai County, and I was his deputy in that part of the county; it was about three hundred and fifty miles from Prescott, and I had to assess property and collect as far as Clifton, which was the first mining camp opened up. I had to travel through Indian country all the way; it was all Indians that day, you know. I always travelled in the night; mostly on horseback with pack animals; we would make fires to cook a little coffee, etc., and then I would put them out and move camp. When I laid down I would lay down in another place from where I had had my fire.

Julius Becker had a little store at Springerville, and the desperadoes used to come in every two or three months, and tell him to go out of the store, and they would take all the tobacco and clothes, and drink all the whiskey they wanted, and dance and have a good time, and keep the store about a day and a night, and then send word to Becker that he could come back and take charge of their store. He had a few goods and a barrel of whiskey setting there. One time they got to fighting in Springer’s store, and shot two of themselves. At one time they took possession of the country, and I went to Camp Apache and the officer in command gave me three companies of soldiers, and came himself; the officer in command at Camp Apache and three companies of soldiers came out and restored order after a fight in which several of the desperadoes were killed.

At another time I was threshing in Springerville Valley with my machine, the boys started over the valley, and I went over to a little Mexican town to get some things. I had neither six shooter nor gun. I was horseback and when I got up to the little store they told me that there was a man there that I had a warrant for, a desperado, and that he was in another room; that he had given up his arms, six shooter and guns, to them. I was not armed then either, and, foolishly, I went to arrest him. I went up to him and told him I had a warrant for his arrest. At that time they wore their pants inside their boots, and as I went up to him, he pulled a long dirk knife out of his bootleg and struck at me. The knife went straight between my eyes, then he kept following me back across the room with his knife and gave me five wounds in the body, near the heart, each time striking a rib, before I knocked him down and, with the assistance of others who had run in, overpowered him. I was cut up pretty bad. He got up after I knocked him down and came at me again. A fellow by the name of Stanley rushed in and grabbed the knife, and cut his hand.

Once I had a narrow escape; a desperado came in who had killed five men. He and his gang had killed the sheriff and five men who were following them in Colorado. The party, in two divisions, came into the valley the fall that I lived in Springerville. There was a reward of two thousand dollars for him and his companions. They had ambushed the posse that was following them, the sheriff and five men, and killed them all. Anyway they came into Round Valley and he rented a farm from a pretty hard case there who was going to leave the country. I threshed his grain, and when I got through threshing, he wouldn’t pay me. He said he would pay me when he got ready, and it was close to Becker’s little store, and he had two six shooters on him; he was sitting, on his horse and I told him that I would take the barley and give him the price that he would get for it. He wouldn’t do it, and I asked old Julius Becker to come up and take hold of the scales with me and we would carry them over and weigh the barley, so we took the scales and weighed out the barley, and this hard case just stood there. That night I went over to the house. I intended to go over to Nutrioso to the other ranch where my family lived, and I had my horse saddled down by the house after we had supper; there was three of us in the cabin. As I came out of the door-there was a bunch of bushes a little distance from the cabin,-and as I stepped outside I looked around and this same man was alongside this bunch of bushes. He fired at me and cut the coat I had on, right in front of my breast. I was standing with the light behind me. I fell back into the house, and I guess he thought he had killed me. I didn’t go out of the house that night any more.

At one time I was going over to Nutrioso – Jack Olney was a hard case who kept a saloon at Springerville, and he was in the habit of beating up men over the head with a six shooter, and one time he beat up one of my men, a man by the name of Pearson, he came out to the ranch all beaten up. I made the remark then that if Olney ever tackled me, he would get the worst of it. A short time after that I went into Springerville; had my six shooter in the front of my trousers as we used to carry them those days when we didn’t have a belt on. I went into Henry Springer’s store, and there was no one there but the bookkeeper. Olney had seen me coming into Springerville, and with two of his boys he sneaked into the store behind me, and walked right up behind me and putting a six shooter to my head, said: “I heard you said that if I tackled you I would get the worst of it.” I said, “Yes, I did”‚ for I knew that he would not shoot; if he had been going to shoot he never would have stopped to talk about it, and I said to him that if he would put his guns off and come outside, I would give him the beating of his life. He did this, and by this time two of my friends had come up, one of them being Murray who had come from Wisconsin with me; we all went outside and put off our guns and started in. He didn’t know the first thing about boxing or fighting with his hands, and I was pretty good at it those days, having been in the lumber camps in Wisconsin and holding my own there pretty well. He would come at me and try to grab me by the feet and ankles and try to throw me, and then I started to kick him when he tried to fight foul. I kicked him so bad that he ran over to one of his men to get his gun, but my two friends stood by me and told the other fellows that if they gave him a gun they would shoot them, so he didn’t get the gun, but came back at me for more, and I gave him such a beating up that he was in bed for four weeks. After that he quit being a bully, anyone could lick him.

Catholicism in Springerville

Fr. Pedro Maria Badilla Bolanos was the first priest to minister to the catholics in Round Valley. He often walked the 29 miles from St. Johns. Mr. Ed. Becker, a Presbyterian, remembered often driving him back to St. Johns. In those days it took 3 hours to make that journey. Fr. Badilla was a strong character and a colorful figure. He always wore his cassock and wide-rimmed hat.

He had services in a converted saloon which he purchased from a Mr. Kaneer. It was on the site of the present Baptist Church. Fr. Badilla lived there at times. He is buried in St. Johns. He worked in the United States between 1880 and 1901. He built churches in Flagstaff, Concho, St. Johns and Round Valley.

Father Pedro Maria Badilla.

Father Pedro Maria Badilla.

Over the years since the death of Father Badilla there have been quite a number of priests who ministered to the flock of St. Peter Church. The site of the present St. Peter Church was donated by Jose Baca, son of Marcas Baca. It was built in 1928.

Mexican Funerals

Mr. Ed. Becker remembers the time when two men with guns walked in front of the funeral procession and two at the rear and fired shots at intervals on the way to the church and from the church to the cemetery to ward off the “evil spirits”.

There are still “spirits” in Valle Redondo – the “liquid variety”.

St. Peter Catholic Church in Springerville

Round Valley was founded as a farming community in 1870 by William Riley Milligan, Oren W. Mcullough, and Anthomy Long who had wood and grain contracts at forts Craig, Seldon, MaeRae and the new military post which had just been established in 1870 at the heart of the White Mountain Apache Country, called Camp Ord (Fort Apache). Since these man were married to Spanish Women from New Mexico it was only common sense to bring their wives, relatives and friends to cultivate the land and provide grain for Fort Apache. By 1876 almost three million pounds of barley, wheat, corn and oats were produced along the Little Colorado. Round Valley alone raised 500,000 pounds of barley.

There were no Catholic Priests along the Little Colorado at that time so the Catholic people went to Zuni or Socorro, New Mexico at least once a year to have their children baptized.

By the beginning of 1879 the Catholic people of St. Johns, Concho, and Springerville (Round Valley) felt the need for a regular Priest and petitioned the most Reverend Bishop John Baptiste Salpointe of Tucson for parish status for St. Johns and Missionary status for Concho and Springerville.

Bishop Salpointe appointed the Reverend Pedro Maria Badilla, a native of Costa Rica, who was seeking such an appointment. Father Badilla walked most of the way through the large barren wilderness. It took him more than two weeks, together with a family with whom he had joined forces, to arrive at Holbrook.

At arriving in St. Johns he immediately established a combination school and church in a private home. When Padre Badilla arrived in St. Johns he found under construction a parish church which the community had begun some year earlier but had stopped due to a shortage of funds. With his own hand and some of his family money the church was completed

In 1881 he walked to Springerville and celebrated Mass at the house of a family who lived near Cemetery Hill. The following years he celebrated Mass at the Home of Dona Guadalupe Silva (house still stands) until about 1897 when a church was constructed at the site of where the Baptist Church is now.

He also built a church in Concho. The church in Concho was named in honor of St. Rafael and the church in Springerville was named in honor of St. Peter.

In 1928 Don Jesus I. Baca, son of Marcos and Maria de San Juan Baca, donated the land and the building that had been a silent movie theater to the Church.

After the churches were built in St. Johns, Springerville and Concho Father Badilla had pews made which were rented to the parishioners for three dollars a year. The revenue was donated to the Diocese.

Padre Badilla died in Concho on May 3, 1901 and was interred in the choir of the Parish of St. Johns in a wooden coffin without any decorations and a wooden block for a pillow, dressed in a black vestment.

Father Ciparian Vabre, pastor from Flagstaff, was appointed as Priest to the three parishes until 1904.

Father Francis Deriechemont was the priest who came in 1904. He was minister to the three parishes for twenty-one years. At this time the priest’s salary was made out chiefly of voluntary contributions with the amount of $500.00 a year from all three parishes.

After Father Deriechemont, came Father Vincent Pon who was the Pastor for one year.

In 1926 Father Luis Fernandez was assigned to the three Parishes. He was here for 17 years. In 1938 the present Catholic Church was built in St. Johns. The new St. Johns church was dedicated by Bishop Bernard Espelage, OFM, the new Bishop of the Gallup Diocese on June 21, 1942. On December 16, 1939 Pope Pius XII issued a Papal Decree creating the Diocese of Gallup naming Gallup, New Mexico as the See City and the Church of the Sacred Heart as the Cathedral.

On July 20, 1940, the Papal Delegate issued the decree naming Father Bernard T. Espelage, O.F.M., as the Bishop of Gallup.

From 1880 to to 1938 Springerville , Concho and St. Johns were part of the Diocese of Tucson. In 1939 the three Parishes became part of the Diocese of Gallup.

In 1943 Father Fernandez left the area due to ill health. He went to Texas where he died.

In 1943 Father Eugene F. McCarthy was assigned to the three parishes and was Priest until 1947.

In 1948 Father O’Hern was assigned to this area. He had a new rectory built which replaced the ancient four-room priest’s house attached to the old church in St. Johns. The old church in St. Johns was being used as a parish hall until it was demolished in later years. The tomb of Father Badilla is now on the front yard of the church and rectory. A marker is erected to commemorate one of the Arizona Territory’s foremost pioneers.

History and Photo credit:

Library of Congress
Wikimedia Commons
St. Peter Church website
Casa Malpais Ruins