Snowflake, Arizona is a small town located in the eastern portion of the state along a tributary of the Little Colorado River known as Silver Creek. It was founded in 1878 by William Jordan Flake and a group of Mormon pioneers who had been directed by Brigham Young to colonize Arizona. The town was officially incorporated in 1919.
After finally arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in the late 1840s, early converts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deserved a rest. After gathering from across the nation and overseas and fleeing persecution in their flight across the Great Plains, the Saints finally arrived in Salt Lake. They began to make the desert “blossom as a rose” and settled themselves into the comfort of their new home. However, Church President Brigham Young’s ambitions for this fledgling “Zion” extended far beyond the confines of the Salt Lake Valley. His envisioned state of “Deseret” was much larger, and he soon began sending Church members to make new settlements across the Intermountain West.
Church leaders called one such group to settle the Little Colorado River in present-day Arizona in 1876. Among them was William Jordan Flake, a rancher from Beaver who had been orphaned as a child due to the dangers of pioneering. Initially horrified with the idea of leaving all he had worked for to make for the Arizona desert, William asked President Young if he might just go for a year or two and then return to Beaver. Young’s reply was unequivocal: “Sell all that you have, that you cannot take with you. Take your family and go there to settle the Saints. Leave nothing to come back to.” William and his pioneer companions obeyed the command and, upon arriving in the Little Colorado Valley, they established the settlements of Ballinger’s Camp, Sunset, Old Taylor, and Allen’s Camp. The early settlements initially struggled against the hostile environment and the difficulty of living the standards set by the “United Order,” a Church movement which called for collectivist, communal living. William Flake, troubled by these problems, decided to look for a place to build a new settlement. He rode out to meet James Stinson, a rancher who had acquired and irrigated 300 acres on Silver Creek, a tributary of the Little Colorado. Stinson said he would sell his land for $12,000, which William raised by convincing Church leaders to procure the sale of cattle from their Utah ranches.
On July 21, 1878, Flake and other pioneer families moved onto the ranch. Soon more followed. On September 24th of the same year, Church Apostle Erastus Snow visited the townsite, and they decided to name the settlement Snowflake, a combination of the two men’s names. The town grew steadily. In 1892, tragedy struck when William’s son Charles was killed in a shootout while attempting to arrest a suspected bank robber (the outlaw was also killed in the gunfight). Nevertheless, Snowflake became one of the more successful of the Little Colorado Valley settlements, and the town was eventually incorporated in 1919. Snowflake now stands as a monument to the legacy of faith left by the early Mormon pioneers.