"The Journal of Sedona Schnebly"
Lisa Schnebly Heidinger @ arizonawriter.com
Lillie Miller, Gorin, MO 1897
“Lillie was me, only better; more comfortable in her own life. She put on a hat without even looking, somehow simply knowing the exact geometric angle the brim should cast against her shaded right side, whereas I would have to study my reflection, turning back and forth, pushing the hat an inch this way, a half-inch that, until I finally gave up and settled for wherever it was when I grew tired of the effort and realized it would make no discernible difference anyway.
The writing was on the wall even before Lillie came home; no one knew her better than I. And while I tried not to, I knew that just as she always had to be the first to pick from the new ribbons, the one to implore most vigorously for the icing rose from the top of the cake, Lillie would see Loring and Lillie would decide to get Loring, and I may as well try to persuade the wind to blow from the east instead of the west. Loring would be hers."
Carl milking a cow outside house in Boyero, CO
“We now reside in Boyero, Colorado. A big square state, where people can still homestead, so we were able to use the meager funds we had to buy a few head of cattle and live under a roof. The land itself is spare and joyless compared to Oak Creek. But it was free.
Boyero itself is my least favorite place to live. So wide, so flat, so spare, Carl and I have joked we could see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse days ahead of the Second Coming. The eye gets tired, having to go all the way to the horizon when looking in any direction, without any feature of either canyon or town upon which to stop and rest.”
Ellsworth (Tad) Miller Schnebly in christening gown with Sedona, 1898
“Tad. Little Tad. Our miracle, our joy, our proof God meant for us to be together. For if we weren’t, he wouldn’t live, and the world clearly needs him.
I thought I knew everything about babies, but now I feel completely blank. What does one do?
We will learn, together, our lad and I. Carl said he thrusts his legs like a tadpole. Little Tad. Our first child.
I wonder what he will do….if he will shape and influence minds, or discover great things. I wonder whom he will love. (I certainly hope he always loves me.) I want other children, but I am also afraid they could not possibly hold a candle to him, and might resent him, always feeling they are standing in his shadow. Would I feel the same breathless reverence watching the round sleeping curves of another child’s cheek in lamplight? Would the delight of creeping in, first thing in the morning, to see him smile up, seeing me, be repeated with another baby? I doubt it.
“T.C. Schnebly with granddaughters Patsy, front, and Paula
“Patsy’s grown so much; I always see Lillie’s thirst for life and love of excitement in her. My Paula is with me often. With Tad and Lucille back here, I get to spend a great deal of time with that sweet girl. She reminds me of me, to Patsy’s Lillie. The other sister is dashing, glamorous, unafraid, while Paula tends to hang back, as I did, feeling less remarkable, less interesting.”
Tad and Pearl, Gorin, MO 1901
“That was when Ellsworth Miller Schnebly was born, and became our Tadpole, our Tad. The center of our world for 20 months, every new accomplishment of his heralded by us as if he’d invented gaslight.
But then, around his first birthday, I would get suddenly exhausted, suddenly upset, suddenly so hungry I felt I would have fearlessly fought a bear over bacon. Carl figured out before I did what it all meant. Another confinement, this one not as long and frightening as the first, with the midwife’s helpful hands while Carl paced downstairs.
“This was wonderful compared to the first time,” I said afterward. Carl saw it differently. “You yelled. There’s nothing wonderful about you in pain.” I held firm: “So much less pain. And, we knew what we were getting.”
Although who can ever know what they’re getting when a baby is born? Even seeing her for the first time, we didn’t know she would be the exquisite tow-headed Pearl Azalea, sturdy and impetuous and determined from her first bewildered breath and indignant cry.”
T.C. and Sedona Schnebly before church service at Wayside Chapel
“We can go to church together—he insisted in buying me a coat that’s much too elegant, but when I made him get his suit, he said that I had to have something new as well. He’s a dashing figure on Sundays in his snappy fedora…although I like him best in his khaki work clothes.”
T.C. (Carl) at Schnebly Hardware, Gorin, MO
“'Schnebly Hardware’ was on raw new sign hanging over what had been Clanton’s Dry Goods. We went in and there was a long light wood counter almost all the way down just out from a side wall, and standing behind it, a man. I was going to say young man, but he didn’t look callow. He just looked…nice. So while the man behind the counter read the list of things Papa needed, I watched him. He seemed very calm, and not anxious to please. Just friendly and interested. His eyes smiled when Papa said something, and then he gave a little chuckle; too deep to be a laugh, but pleasant.”
Schnebly family in front of Boyero house, left to right: Genevieve, Sedona, Margaret, T.C., Clara, Hank, Tad
“Now Tad is a great grown man of 22 (thank God he’s able-bodied and back in school while so many lie in foreign graves), Genevieve sixteen, Hank almost thirteen, Clara’s eight and Margaret is five.
Sedona Schnebly, center, in floral hat
“What an adventure! Not only did I get to attend a WCTU conference again, but I got to ride in an automobile.
We got up early and all met at the train station, where two handsome young men were waiting with their vehicles. It was a bit like flying must be, the wind rushing past, and when I got out my legs were almost shaking. In a way, something is lost at that speed: you see everything so briefly it barely registers. I guess progress takes getting used to.”
Larry Schnebly in radio publicity photo, Flagstaff
“A song ended, and I heard, ‘Brown Credit Jewelers time, three o’clock.’ Which wouldn’t have been so remarkable in itself, but it was Larry speaking. As if he were right there with us! Our Larry!
Of course, we knew people talked on the radio; to the degree that I could get past the magic of a voice being waves of sound, I understood that there were announcers. But this wasn’t an announcer, this was our grandson! On the radio, exactly where you hear Edward R. Murrow, or President Roosevelt. Carl’s eyes got so wide, and then he smiled as if he’d never stop, and shook his head. ‘That boy,’ he said softly. ‘That boy.’”
Kolb Brothers photograph at Grand Canyon: Third from left, Sedona; next, Carl holding Genevieve
“That mule ride is something I’m glad I probably will not do again. Those animals have no fear of falling—not even a healthy one. Up at the Rim, their handlers scrutinize all the riders to match each with a compatible mule, although that may be a contradiction of terms: try as I did, I could never establish much rapport with Bodie. We rode for hours, and every so often, one of the mules would receive an internal message to stop dead in his tracks and gaze over the edge of the trail, as if taking in the view. All the mules behind him, of course, halted, like a pattern of dominoes. They also seem less solid than the larger horses I’m used to; as if they are a three-legged stool instead of a solid chair.
Kolb is the name of the brothers who built the house, perched so precariously and delightfully on the Rim, and we actually purchased the photograph they took of our caravan. While we never spend money lightly, this is a priceless reminder of something we won’t do again. Also, I fear I have fewer photographs of Genevieve than I did of Pearl at her age, and I want her to always know she partook in this adventure.”
T.C.’s signature in Sedona’s guest book on their wedding day
“'Get me your autograph book.’
I blinked. Whatever words I imagined were spoken on the night of the nuptials, it wasn’t those. I looked at him.
‘But you signed it already, right after we met.’
(Oh, yes, Dona…that’s the most important thing right now.)
‘And I want to see it again.’
I could lay a hand to it quickly; my possessions were not many. I brought it downstairs, and he opened it and found the page he’d signed before. We looked together at his writing: ‘Compliments and best wishes, your friend, T.C. Schnebly’
‘And now bring me your guest book.’
From the same place, I brought down the slim brown leather volume that opened wider than it did tall, which I bought when I deemed autograph books juvenile, and turned it to the current page.
He sat down at the desk and picked up the pen, dipped it in ink, and wrote,
‘Feb. 24, 1897
The greatest day of my life.
I looked at his face, and shut the book, and then I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
Golden anniversary gathering of Schnebly family, left to right: Clara, Tad, Sedona, Hank, T.C., Margaret
“Today there is a reception at the church, and then the Jordans are planning an outdoor gathering. All the children have come. We will pose for pictress; as much as I am uncomfortable doing that, I love having them to look at later. This one will always be our children come home to spend a wonderful day with us.
Lucille Finney, Colorado
“We met Tad’s fiancée. Lucille is a lovely young woman, with a slightly lower pitch to her voice, an open smile and fine manners. She seems very comfortable in her own skin, so Carl was able to tease her right off. She’s not at all retiring. At the same time, she doesn’t require attention or admiration, the way many young women would. I suspect she didn’t get much cosseting coming up.
Lucille is not softly pretty; her features are strong. But there is something appealing about her open face; her eyes are blue and lovely, and her posture is truly elegant. She looks like she will gain in beauty over time as she grows into her features, instead of being one of those powder-puff girls who get too soft.”
T.C. and Sedona Schnebly, Gorin, MO
“I never knew how lonely I was before Carl. I always felt bereft; even with my family I felt I didn’t fit in, that I was odd, somehow. Carl is my family. He is my ally. He is my exact fit. I knew, somehow, the first time he held me that I was connected to this man in some deep way I can’t even now put into words. He is my other half; he completes me, and he enhances me. He makes me brave. He sees the me I want to become, but don’t feel I am yet.
Carl is too wonderful to ever take for granted. I will be grateful every day for this gentle, strong, laughing man who calls me his Dona.”
Tad & Pearl outside Oak Creek house
“Tad and Pearl have been so happily engaged this past hour I haven’t bothered them. They’ve constructed a village of some sort, using twigs and leaf canopies with various pits and peels from my basket; from the sound of it, one resident is named Erlie and one is Poppa Pie. As long as they remain even remotely clean, and are safe, I am content. It’s a challenge keeping a family almost constantly outdoors in clean, serviceable clothes, Of course, her shoes are always as scuffed as Tad’s, the way the two of them careen around, getting into every place they fit.”
Carl, Sedona and Tad with apples in Oak Creek
"As often as not, he’d feed the baby (and then later, feed a baby and talk nonsense to a toddler) while I made us lunch. That habit never broke. Everywhere we lived, east and west, grand and humble, whenever he could, Carl came home for lunch."
Pearl with Pet by irrigation ditch, Oak Creek
“Pearl has a pony named Pet, but both of them were a little too young for her to ride when Carl made him a gift to Pearl right when he was born. Now she has been promoted to getting to ride her own pony when we do the roundup, instead of just bringing him carrots and riding while Carl walks next to her. She’s a true western girl.”
“We’ve moved from our little house at the base of the road up to a home close to the Jordans, in part so I can help Ruth out; after the CCC camps closed, there was no need to be down there anymore.
Every evening Carl and I sit outside, and last night were joined by Hank and Annabelle, while the children ran about, shouting with that excitement that seems to take hold of children around dusk.
They’d not seen the bench Carl put around the base of the juniper. My irises are growing everywhere, and the garden looks pretty. The talk is rarely spirited; part of the point of sitting outside is to let the day wind down around us.”
Billy Wallace, lower left, surveying Oak Creek Canyon with his horse
“Billy Wallace has been appointed to be the first Forest Service ranger in Oak Creek. It wasn’t much of a change; he was already taking care of the area, and seemed to know everything about it. I remember Carl talking about Teddy Roosevelt creating a Forest Service when we were still here the first time, chuckling about what kind of service a forest would need…the trees measured? Stones moved? But it turns out, as more and more people come to a place, more things can get forests at sixes and sevens—too many big trees taken, fires, and then animals leave and rain washes away the duff. Often after it rains, you see Billy riding his horse to this or that section of the canyon, where he takes his telescope or looking glass or whatever that contraption is, and checks for fires that may have just started from a lightning strike.
So it’s fun for me that even while we weren’t here to see it, Billy stewarded the land, if that word can be used, seeing the spring runoff swell the creek, the quiet flat water barely moving leaves in autumn, watching trees grow taller, and some fall, during storms.”
Schnebly House in Oak Creek Canyon, 1901, by Owenby ditch
“We are at home! Our house is done. I was starting to worry about getting a real roof over our head before snow flies, but here it is. This is not a palace by Gorin standards, but compared to the tent, it’s grandeur. It’s a big rectangular box, with windows on all sides and a wonderful porch all across the front. I feel the chatelaine, queen of the kingdom, keeper of the keys. It wouldn’t raise eyebrows back home, but I have seen families larger than ours living in a one-room soddie, like so many prairie dogs. This wide-boarded porch, the open rooms with sunlight pouring through all that glass, the spacious upstairs—it’s heaven. And Carl does nothing by halves. His doorframes, chair rails, and window frames are simple, but carefully crafted.”
Ellworth (Tad) and Lucille Schnebly, Moffett Field, CA
“Tad. Truly? Did you have to?
Our firstborn enlisted in the Marines. He’s 44 years old! He was in the Army during the first war. He does not have to do this. And, the Marines? They have the reputation for being the fiercest of all our armed services. How can Lucille let him? I know…there’s no ‘let’ when it comes to Tad. He is emperor of his own life.
Lucille wrote after they got to California that Tad was in the condition of a man twenty years his junior. It appears he will not be going overseas—we are so relieved— and he works in the mail office sorting letters from, and for, the Pacific Fleet.
She works also, in a big building called a wind tunnel, helping with some type of experiment with new kinds of airplanes. Tad is very proud of her and the secrecy surrounding her position.”
Phillip and Amanda Miller, Gorin, MO
“Papa (Phillip Miller) is the second-richest man in Gorin. I haven’t the faintest idea who keeps track of these things, but someone must, because everyone says that about him. He was smart enough to start growing cucumbers when he heard a pickle factory was being built here. Mutter says, “We’re comfortable,” in a tone that implies we are a great deal better off than that.
Mutter, Amanda, is formerly a Miller, and Pennsylvania Dutch. Which means…well, I am not exactly certain. But she says it often enough, as if her audience will understand that explains a great deal. Lillie and I have come to see that Mutter rules the household, and is wise enough never to point it out—as long as Papa lets her rule it. (It’s funny, because his long moustache and heavy eyebrows make him look so stern.)”
T.C. Schnebly at his desk
“And of course, Tad’s got his dad’s relish for being Very Busy At His Desk. I’ve watched them both, and it makes me smile. They seem to bustle in to sit down as if they’ve kept someone waiting too long; they’re very intent, whether it’s looking up something in a file, or putting a stamp on an envelope. It’s like whatever they do sitting there is of great significance. I don’t think I could write a will with as much intent focus as they have, just getting out a ruler.”
Genevieve and Tad, Gorin MO 1905
“Genevieve. I worry about her. She was so small when Pearl died, and no matter how I tried to keep cheerful for her, I know I didn’t.
How much of us is formed before we’re even born? She’s so restrained, so composed. And I believe it might stem from her big sister dying, making her try not to whip up the atmosphere, cause emotion.
And really, after that…I never saw Tad the way he’d been before, ever again; running out into the afternoons with his sister as his partner and playmate. He became surprisingly sarcastic for a young boy. Carl would shake his head when he got too…well, he wasn’t mean. He was just kind of…bitter? Can a seven-year-old be bitter? Whatever it was, it broke my heart all over again. The new Tad was all I had left of the old one, but he wasn’t the same boy.”
Visiting the Millers: unknown guests with Lucille Schnebly sitting center, Sedona Schnebly to her right, another unidentified guest, Ethel Miller Wallace, T.C. Schnebly holding a child
“It was lovely to see Billy and Ethel, and Carl teased me into wearing my new knickers. He missed how I used to wear his overalls when we came back to Oak Creek, but the place has grown too much to risk being seen in those. So he went and bought me knickers! Actually, I love them. It reminds me of when we were here last time, and I could move so easily. So I decided at my age, I should do a bit more of what I want to do, and wore them into town.
Ethel also loved them, and was after Billy to get her some. ‘Never mind. In fact,” she said. “I’ll get them myself.’
We had a feast at their table, three generations. Carl’s at his best in these times, telling stories that make everyone laugh. And it didn’t stop.
T.C Schnebly outside in Oak Creek
“He may be older, but he is determined to do everything he ever did, even if it takes longer. That stubborn set to his jaw shows me when his mind is made up, and I don’t waste a breath trying to talk him out of whatever he’s fixed on doing. Sometimes if Carl and I get involved in separate conversations at church and then my eye finds him again, for a moment I see the man the rest of the world sees: slightly gnarled and bent, with lips that have thinned over time, and a sharp chin, skin stretched over bone with no softening roundness. Then his eyes find me in return, and he is again my Carl, the man I first fell in love with.
I wonder if that happens the other way: does he see Aunt Dona or Mother Schnebly, the old woman who welcomes children and hands them cookies, as a faded, nondescript figure, before I again become his bride with Nature’s own permanent wave?
It’s all right if it’s so, as long as he then sees the bride.
All images in "The Journal of Sedona Schnebly" are from family collections, and not to be used for sale or profit. Please use "contact us" to inquire about reproduction and attribution. Text next to each photograph is excerpted from "The Journal of Sedona Schnebly."
Miller family outside Gorin home:
from left, Minnie, Edward, Amanda, Pearl, Goldie, Phillip holding Edna, Lillie, Amiel, Sedona, Noah
"Edward, I feel I hardly know. He was nine when I was born, but he’s always been off doing older things, and went to school back east. Papa said it’s important for eldest sons to be given every advantage in business education.
Minnie is married to George; dark and pretty and affectionate (Minnie, not George!). She’s seven years older than I.
Noah teases me too much, but he’s kind.
Amiel is very different; sometimes I think I’m a little afraid of him. There’s a look he gets.
Lillie, of course, is Lillie. My leader, my sister, my friend and companion.
Goldie is only four years younger than I, but she and Pearl, who is seven years behind me, are always playing together, so they seem like little girls.
Edna is not yet in school, but seems fretful a great deal.”
Carl holding Genevieve, Tad, Pearl, Dona and Daisy outside Oak Creek house, 1904
“Daisy is the dog of my heart, and after her I don’t expect to get close to another one in the same way. She isn’t the prettiest, or the smartest, or the most anything except the most mine. She is…vigorous. Intent. Whatever she does, she does with her whole body. It makes me smile just to see her sprawled with her awkward legs out behind her, chewing so industriously on something.
She is almost crazed with joy when we come back from being out, even it was just to the creek with a pail. And if she actually gets invited to go, when we come back to the house she bounds back across the threshold and skids theatrically to a stop, as if concluding a grand adventure. She also sighs so contentedly once the door closes on all of us inside, it makes me smile. But she never bows down; if she wants to do it, she does it, and never seems to feel sorry except for the getting caught. None of that makes her less beloved by me.”