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michael-peach-12-28-(2).jpgWar, gold, financiers, fierce animals and the rugged lives of subsistence farmers — all are part of the Verde Valley’s young territorial history.

By Tyler Midkiff

Larson Newspapers

War, gold, financiers, fierce animals and the rugged lives of subsistence farmers — all are part of the Verde Valley’s young territorial history.

On the first Saturday of every month, historian Michael Peach visits the Sedona Heritage Museum to share bits of local history in “Voices of the Verde,” a presentation featuring story-telling, humorous impersonations of local historical figures and Peach’s own cowboy poetry.

In his 50-minute act, Peach adopts the personas of people like Jim and Margaret Thompson, Jessie “Bear” Howard, Gen. George Crook, Apache scout Albert Sieber, Apache leader Delshay and members of the Munds family.

Peach even performs as his own relative, Tuffy Peach — a man who ran cattle in the area until he was 80 years old and actually served as America’s last horseback mail carrier.

Peach rode the mail line between Camp Verde and Payson until 1914 when the government disbanded the service.

Though Tuffy Peach died about a month after Michael Peach moved to Sedona, Peach said he never had the opportunity to meet him.

Indeed, he lived in the Verde Valley for many years before even beginning to research the area’s history, he said — and it wasn’t even his idea.

While working as a professor at Northern Arizona University, Peach said he was asked to put together a local history program for the university’s elder hostel program.

He began looking into the Verde Valley’s territorial history and that’s when he discovered his own family’s late 19th century links to the area.

Peach discovered connections to men like Tuffy Peach and Albert Peach, who built a series of dwellings up at Foxborough Ranch.

All of the sudden, Michael Peach said he began to feel more connected to the area and to the struggles of the people who made it all possible.

For him, performing as local historical figures is his way of helping others make their own connections to the Verde Valley by coming to learn more about its past, he said.

It’s not full-blown acting, Peach said of his performances.

He dresses in such a way that he can suggest a person of that time without actually being any one specific person — an adjustment he said makes it a lot easier to play women, American Indians and others.

Peach’s performances are less about action and more about words — words which in many cases are taken straight from the mouths and pens of those he impersonates.

Some of the Verde Valley’s earliest Anglican families still thrive in the area and Peach’s brand of story-telling jogs memories, bringing forth even more stories, he said. Keeping those stories alive and even drawing more from the minds of Verde Valley survivors is a big reason why Peach does what he does.

“I believe we need to make a connection to nature, culture and history wherever we can,” Peach said. “It’s part of what makes us who we are as human beings. These are the things that form our souls.”

Urbanization is a dangerous thing — both for what it does to history and for what it does to nature, Peach said.

It’s important that future generations still have wild places to visit, and for Peach, “the nature message” is another important part of his work.

“Hopefully, people will take that from here back to their own homes and neighborhoods, wherever those might be, and ripples of that might carry on elsewhere too,” Peach said.

If Peach can act as a catalyst for that type of self-discovery, historic appreciation and respect for nature, then he’s done his part — and also learned a few things about himself along the way.

Peach performs “Voices of the Verde” on the first Saturday of every month at the Sedona Heritage Museum beginning at 1:30 p.m. The next presentation is Saturday, Dec. 29, and costs $6.

The Sedona Heritage Museum is located at 735 Jordan Road, just past Uptown. For more information, contact the museum at 282-7038.


Tyler Midkiff may be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 122, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 


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