In the summer of 1876, a group of settlers from
Massachusetts crossed into the Little Colorado River Valley in northern
Arizona. They had been drawn to the area by rumors of fertile land for farming and easily accessed mineral deposits for mining. However when they arrived, they were disappointed to see that the area was much more arid than they had been led to believe and it was already being settled by Mormon pioneers who had come south from
Utah. Still, having come so far, they continued on towards the snow-capped mountains within sight to the west.
In early July, the Bostonians reached a ranch owned by Thomas McMillan and camped nearby. On July 4, 1876, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the
United States’ independence, the settlers chopped down a large Ponderosa pine tree, stripped it of its branches, attached an American flag, and stood the tree back up.
In the following years, the area around McMillan’s homestead began to be developed. An economy grew around timber and ranching, and soon the community was large enough to warrant having its own post office. With the arrival of the post office, the community needed a name and chose to name itself after the landmark created on the nation’s centennial.
The town of
Flagstaff, Arizona continued to grow and became a major regional transportation hub. By 1886 it was the largest city on the railway between
New Mexico and
California. At some point, however, the original Boston party Ponderosa flagpole fell and its precise location became lost to history.
In 1985, a monument to the original Flagstaff flag staff was constructed in the general area of where the original group of settlers from Boston camped. The governor of Arizona dedicated the monument to the spot from which the city of Flagstaff grew.