History of Forest Lakes
The area that is now Forest Lakes began as mining
claims filed by Reed Denison in the late 1939 and early 1940 era.
Reed Denison was the brother of Alvis Denison who initiated the
present settlement of the area with Bill Wheeler Denison and Bob Williams.
Reed Denison was killed in an auto accident in 1949.
At this time Alvis became highly involved and continued to develop
the mining interests of the area. The
principle metal involved was manganese.
The United States government was purchasing the metal and
The main cabin was built before 1955 when Alvis and
Marie Denison, his wife, who was the sister of Bill Wheeler.
Denison and Ted Wheeler moved in permanently.
An ore separation plant was designed by Alvis and
constructed where the Dump area is now located. The water well for the plant was the first water well drilled
in the area. Two large diesel
generators were installed to furnish power for the plant.
Bill and Alvis conducted the mining with the help of
two Caucasian miners and five Indian families from the Zia Indian
Reservation located northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
When the ore was washed out, it was transported to Show Low,
Arizona and loaded into gondola cars at the railhead.
The ore was then railed to the smelter at El Paso, Texas for
stockpiling. The U.S.
Government ceased to stockpile manganese in the early 1960’s and the
operation turned to some logging and the idea of developing a recreation
and summer home area began to materialize.
Unit Number One was layed out and the first sign announcing the
availability of Lots was erected on the south side of the road.
The improved highway was built later.
The lots began to sell and some of those original buyers now have
houses and still occupy them, some on a permanent basis.
Although Alvis Denison died on July 22, 1964, the area continued to
prosper and grow under the management of Bill Wheeler Denison and Bob
The first ‘water department” was a single faucet
near the turn-around in front of Marie and Alvis’s house. The newcomers filled their water cans, jugs, pans, etc. and
hauled it to their new mountain retreats.
A homeowners association was formed, the Forest Lakes Owners
Association. The first
principle function of this organization was to secure electricity for the
area from Arizona Public Service. The
power at that time ended at Christopher Creek.
The Owners Association had to guarantee A.P.S. that it would use
$35,000.00 worth of electricity per year if A.P.S. would bring the power
up the face of the rim and into the subdivision.
The first year was a success.
The next project for the Forest Lakes Owners
Association was water. Getting
water for the property owners was more of a problem.
In 1967, there were about 150 lots that had either a cabin or a
trailer on them. It was soon
realized that the subdivision was growing faster than the water supply.
The well at the Denison house would only supply about 15 g.p.m.
Merz and Bill Denison gave the Owners Association 1/4 acre of land
on the southeast corner of Merzville Rd. and Old Rim Rd.
They also had a well drilled and installed a 5,000-gallon storage
tank. People who belonged to
the Owners Association were issued a key to a lock box on the front of the
well house. In the box was a
hose bib and 25 feet of hose. The
lines to get water, at times, created a long wait.
Some people had 500-gallon water tanks mounted on trailers, while
others used 5-gallon water cans.
The Owners Association obtained a 1947 ton and a half
truck, from the Denisons, on which was mounted a 1,000 gallon tank.
The Callahans delivered water for 1 cent per gallon to those who
had water tanks. In two years
there were approximately 150 lots that had water tanks mounted on stands.
The Owners Association, sensing a need for a water
district, began to circulate a petition to form a water improvement
district. By 1972 water lines
had been installed to each lot. It
wasn’t too far after that that water began flowing to each lot.
The dump originally was in an old assessment hole on
lot 38N. It soon filled up
and could no longer be used. The
only land acceptable to the County for a landfill was at the old mill
site, which was owned by Ted Wheeler.
To help solve the garbage situation, Ted Wheeler donated the use
of the old mill site to be used as a landfill, which was used for several
years. Then it was decided by
Coconino County that the landfill was too close to one of our water wells. The County requested permission to install and operate a
compactor, and an agreement has been made for this operation.
As the compactor filled, all the trash and garbage would be hauled
off to the Lone Pine landfill northwest of Show Low.
With all of the people coming up on weekends and
during the summers, along came fires, accidents, heart attacks, etc.
The nearest hospitals were in Show Low and Payson.
Ambulances were available at both locations, but it took 45 minutes
to 1 1/2 hours to get them here.
It seemed that most of the fires would start up on
Sunday nights after all the people went back “down the hill”.
The old 1947 Chevy water truck was the only water we had for
fighting fires. The old
truck, with help from almost everyone here, put out a lot of fires and
prevented many major catastrophes. None
of the lots had been cleaned up so there was a considerable amount of fuel
for the fires to go racing off into the forest.
It got to where there were so many accidents with
chain saws and people falling off roofs that when we got the people to the
hospitals, they would say, “another one from Accident Acres I”. There were and still are a lot of heart attacks mostly from
over exertion and people not used to our high altitude of 7600’.
In 1974, a petition was circulated to form a Fire
Improvement District. The
first several years there was not much tax money coming in.
The Owners Association obtained an old military 6 x 6 from the
County Civil Defense and paid $13,000 to have it converted to a fire
truck. The truck had a front
mount 500 gallon per minute pump and a 1,000-gallon water tank on it. An old ambulance was bought with tax money and donations and
refurbished. The fire
department had about a dozen people trained as E.M.T.s.
community has continued to prosper and expand its services.
This positive action did not come gratis.
Good leaders were selected and they continue to serve with the
cooperation of the citizens of the area.
Despite minor opposition (which is to be expected in any venture of
this magnitude) the character of the people will prevail.
The Tall Rabbit
One of our local residents was inquiring
as to what type of critter had eaten his fruit trees at the 4 plus foot
He was told “RABBITS! Tall
Rabbits!" He looked sort of perplexed.
He didn't realize the snow gets to be 4 feet or more in the winter
and the rabbits needed something to eat.
The original settlement was called ‘Merzville”
after Marie Denison. Her
nickname was “Merz”. That’s
how we got the name of Merzville Road.
Bill Wheeler Denison, Marie Denison and Ted Wheeler
were brothers and sister. Bill
Denison was adopted by Alvis and Merz Denison.
After Alvis’s death in 1964, Bill and Merz starting developing
the subdivision as we know it today.
Both Merz and Bill died within a few months of each other and Ted
Wheeler carried on their wishes.
donated the 3 acres where the County Highway Maintenance yard is to the
County for a road maintenance yard and a fire station.
The first permanent residents after the Denison's and
Wheelers were the Callahans Bob, Juanita, Carol & Connie.
They moved into their home, which was not complete, in May of 1968.
A year later Nate and LaVona Nelson followed, then came the
Bullers. Harvey, Shirley,
Ivor and Dennis.
winter of 1967-1968 it snowed from the 2nd of December to the 22nd without
ever stopping The snow accumulated to 11 feet deep on the flat ground and
the highway was closed for 9 days. It
took a fleet of bulldozers to clear the highway.
On Labor Day weekend of 1970, we had 11 inches of
rain in 36 hours. In the
winter of 1972— 1973 we received 430 inches of snow; it started in
September and was still on the ground until the middle of May.
On May 10th in 1974 we received 30 inches of snow.
How we got started
A special column on peoples "starts" in
For years we used to camp out in the forest in our trailer. We looked
for some time for a lot that we could be our dream home. In September 1993
we purchased lot 45 North on Merzville Loop. The lot was a disaster, to
say the least.
The first year we hauled 28 loads of pine needles and debris to the
burn pit. In essence, we worked our tushes off. Over the past few years we
have continued to improve our property. We had a large German Shepherd,
Chica, who loved to chase squirrels and other little critters, so we spent
one summer installing a chain link around the property.
Sadly, we lost her, and my husband's father, two years ago, just as we
were getting ready to build our home. Our house is now on the property and
we finished the drywall and interior painting this last summer. We still
have a lot of things to do i.e. install heating, finish insulation, etc.
But we love our place, which we call the "Havens". It is our
weekend escape from spring through fall.
We have met many wonderful people in the area and my husband, Jack, has
become a Board Member. This last summer we didn't have much time to do
anything but work on our house. Our permit runs out next November. As soon
as we get things "up to Coconino code" and pass final
inspections, we hope to spend more time enjoying our summer home on
weekends and vacations, and eventually three seasons full time, just not
in the winter due to health problems.
Jack and Nancy Greenleaf