“In 1874 soldiers from Camp Verde were stationed at an adobe house, but at that time there was no name for the present Cottonwood (where the house existed). As settlers moved in and the community developed, it took its name from a circle of sixteen large cottonwoods growing about one-quarter of a miles away from the Verde River. The place was unhealthful. Malaria and dysentery were severe problems as mosquitoes rose in thick clouds from stagnant pools left by receding floods. Such quinine as was available sold at $4.00 an ounce and could be bought only when it was in surplus at Camp Verde. Nevertheless, by 1879, several families had settled there, including the Nichols, Van Deerens, Hawkins, and Strahans. It is a curious fact that each family had nine children. The adobe building formerly used by soldiers became a school house. Today Cottonwood is a thriving community. P.O. est March 6, 1879, William H. Michael pm”.
Cottonwood was founded in 1879. Charles D. Willard settled in the area, bringing with him a mechanic by the name of Neff. As other settlers came in, the area became a farming settlement until World War I. They found a market for their crops, hay and grain in Camp Verde and later in Jerome. Most farm operations included running some cattle.
Cottonwood and the Verde river area was overgrown with native grasses, cacti, mesquite, juniper and rabbit bush, furnishing excellent hunting for rabbits and quail. Between 1915-1917 Cottonwood began building their town. By March of 1917 Cottonwood began booming.
Cottonwood appealed to the more venturesome, those who wanted their own home and business. There was a certain reputation for lawlessness. Some who settled in Cottonwood were run out of the nearby company towns. Heavy bootlegging was abound, therefore attracting other non law abiding citizens as well as law abiding from other towns.
Cottonwood was known to have the best bootlegging booze within hundreds of miles, attracting citizens from Los Angeles, Phoenix and closer-to-home folks. According to statistics compiled for the State Directory in the late teens, Cottonwood was represented by 64 businessmen who operated 4 general mercantile stores, 5 stores handling dry goods, 3 restaurants, 1 barbershop, 1 movie picture theater, 1 amusement hall, 1 drugstore, bakery, confectionery, lumber yard, 2 garages, 2 blacksmiths, butcher shop, furniture store, 2 shoe shops, 7 pool halls, service station, ice plant, jewelry shop, 2 hotels, cleaning shop, root beer stand, novelty store and ice cream parlor. The AZ power had a temporary office. Cottonwood proper had 300 residents.
By 1920s — There is not another town in the U.S. that can boost of so many business houses for a population of about 1000. Cottonwood was called the ‘Biggest Little Town in Arizona’. Merchants were doing a fine business and being busy all the time.