During the first few years of becoming an official county in the state of Arizona, the town of Snowflake was designated as Apache County’s county seat. However, the title was transferred for St. Johns, which turned out to be temporary at that time. For two years since 1880, Springerville became the county seat, but it was later returned to the city of St. Johns, which it still holds today.
In Navajo, St. Johns is Tsézhin Deezʼáhí, which is also its original name and refers to the rock formations in the area. The city is right at the US Route 180, which is mostly where this highway meets US Route 191. In 2010, it was recorded that St. Johns had almost 3,500 residents. St. Johns was once a crossing of the Little Colorado River, which is why it was known as El Vadito (The Little Crossing in Spanish).
The Spaniards were the first to explore the city. One particular story was that Solomon Barth who was a trader passed by the city in 1864. He was simply crossing the area to transport salt to Prescott in Arizona which came from a salt lake in the territory of Zuni people.
Barth loved to play poker and his luck came to him in 1873 when he won a huge game that allowed him to earn enough money to buy land and cattle in St. Johns. He used the money to achieve his purpose and brought his two brothers Nathan and Morris with him. At that time, St. Johns was still known as El Vadito, which the Spanish called it. Barth, however, did not like that name and changed it to San Juan.
It is still unknown as to where the name originally came from. Some people debate over it, saying that it came from Maria San Juan Baca de Padilla who was the first woman in the city. Barth honored her by naming the city after her. On the other hand, some would argue that St. Johns got its second name from the feast of San Juan.
Another trader, William R. Milligan came from Fort Craig before he reached the city in 1870. He arrived with his oxen-drawn wagon and his routes were New Mexico, Round Valley in Arizona, and Tularosa to Fort Apache. He delivered his corn and stopped at Round Valley, which was the place where he built a log house for himself. It was an important time for the city because it was the first improvement ever made here, as well as in the valley.
In 1872, it was apparent that an agricultural community was born with a Spanish-American influence. Juan Sedilla built a stone cabin in 1874 and Solomon Barth sold his property to Ammon Tenney, a Mormon who encouraged many other Mormons to inhabit the area. In fact, the Mormon community, Salem, was founded on March 29, 1880. Wilford Woodruff directed the place, which was just north of the St. Johns of today.
Many people may remember St. Johns as the county seat of Apache County. However, Snowflake was first designated in 1879. It was only after the first election in the same year that the government of the county chose to transfer the county seat to St. Johns even though Springerville took that away in 1880. Still, as mentioned earlier, the city got it back and it has remained the county seat since then.
The US Census Bureau states that St. Johns measures 26.1 square miles in total in which only 0.19 square miles is made of water and the rest is land. The city enjoys a cold semi-arid climate with cold and dry winters. Meanwhile, summers are typically hot but with huge amounts of rainfall through unpredictable thunderstorms. Also according to the census, it had a population of a little over 3,200 in 2000, which jumped to about 3,500 10 years later.
St. Johns is the proud home of the Apache County Historical Society Museum. The city is also where locals and visitors can find four sites that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, namely the Isaacson Building, Rattlesnake Point Pueblo, Lower Zuni River Archeological District, and the Lyman Lake Rock Art Site.
Aside from the mentioned attractions above, St. Johns is also close to the Placerias Quarry where several Samuel Welles and Charles Camp of the University of California (Berkeley) discovered several Placerias fossils back in 1930.
Spending time in St. Johns will allow the visitor some of the exciting annual events in the region, including the Apache County Fair, San Juan Fiesta, which the St. Johns Catholic Church sponsors, Pioneer Days, which is also sponsored by another group, the LDS St. Johns AZ Stake, and the Christmas Light Parade.
The St. Johns Unified School District serves St. Johns, where there are a few primary and secondary schools, including the St. Johns High School and the Coronado Elementary School. It is also where the St. Johns Center of Northland Pioneer College can be found.
The city does not run out of educational places, aside from the museums in the area. It has the Apache County Library District, which is one of the two public libraries in the city, together with St. Johns Public Library in St. Johns.