With rich, vivid colors saturating breathtaking 360-degree views, Sedona is a city that beckons introspection. Home of outdoor enthusiasts and artists of all types, the popular vacation destination is home to more than 10,000 people.
Sedona was founded, officially, in 1902, when T.C. Schnebly started a post office named after his wife, Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly. Carl, as he was known, originally wanted to name the place “Schnebly Station” or “Oak Creek Crossing,” but the U.S. Post Master General, who was in charge of approving names, wrote back and said those were too long.
The name Sedona came out of the mind of Amanda Miller, Sedona’s mother. “Her mother just liked the sound of it, her mother just made it up,” according to Sedona’s great granddaughter Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, who recently wrote the book “The Journal of Sedona Schnebly.” Lisa added that she suspects Amanda might have heard the French name Sidonie/Sidonia, having grown up around the Mississippi River region, and adapted the name to her own liking, coming up with Sedona (which they pronounce SEE-dough-nuh). Sedona went by the nickname “Dona” (pronounced DOUGH-nuh).
Sedona (born February 24, 1877) was the only child (of 12 children) Amanda gave a fanciful name to. The rest were traditional names, like Noah, Edward, Lily, Minnie, and John.
Sedona and T.C. came to Arizona in 1901, bought land along Oak Creek and planted apple trees, forming the first orchard in the area. They also ran the area’s first post office, first hotel, and first general store. Sedona, herself, was a telegraph operator, ran the hotel, took care of her six children Ellsworth (also called Tad), Pearl, Genevieve, Clara).
They moved away in 1905 after a horse accident killed their daughter Pearl, which sent Sedona into “a great depression,” Lisa Schnebly Heidinger said. But they came back decades later in 1931 “surprised to find the town was still named after Sedona. And the road they’d built up to Flagstaff had been named Schnebly Hill Road, after them.” Sedona and T.C. spent their remaining twenty years enjoying the small town they helped to start. She died in the town named after her November 13, 1950 at age 73.
According to BehindTheName.com, Sedonia/Sidonie comes from the name of a town called Sidon, “an ancient Phoenician city corresponding to modern-day Saida in Lebanon.” The name website also notes that a “quince plant” (a relative of the apple) also bears the Latin name Cydonia, which could have been an influence in the name Sedona.
For more on Sedona’s story, listen to the Arizona Name Stories podcast on Sedona on iTunes.
- Interview with Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, great-granddaughter of Sedona Schnebly and author of “The Journal of Sedona Schnebly”, conducted in person in Phoenix on September 28, 2018.
- The Journal of Sedona Schnebly by Lisa Schnebly Heidinger, 2017
- Sedona Heritage Museum
- Women’s Heritage Trail
Historical photo credit: T.C. & Sedona Schnebly in 1897, by Culbertson. Used with permission of Northern Arizona University, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University Archives.
A version of this story also appeared on the Arizona Name Stories Instagram storytelling project page:@AZnamestories. This story is part of the project that explores the history of names in Arizona and that is also asking citizens of Arizona of all ages, cultures, backgrounds to share their own name story. If you’d like to submit your name story (and you’re from AZ or currently are a resident), read the instructions at AZnamestories.com. We welcome your participation. (Not all stories from the Instagram page will be posted on Names Redefined.)