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History of Cottonwood

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Nicknamed “The Heart of the Verde Valley”, Cottonwood is a city located right in the center of Arizona. As you are walking down the main street of Cottonwood, you immediately feel the history and the charm of this small town. This article will take you back to the origins of this small city in Arizona’s heart, to the time when Cottonwood was a mere settlement of just a few households…


Initially the area around Cottonwood was occupied by the Sinagua people who built their homes in the cliffs of the mountains. In the mid-18th century, just like in many other locations in Arizona, this area saw an influx of miners. In the 1870s, several families from the Midwest moved here, and the community was growing further. One of the new residents was Charles D. Willard; he moved to the area together with his family. It was him who suggested naming the settlement Cottonwood – after a circle of 16 huge cottonwoods growing not far from the settlement.

In the decades that followed, Cottonwood remained mostly a farming settlement. Settlers produced agricultural products that they sold at the market. The city was gradually growing, with 1,626 residents by 1950. A number of public buildings were established in Cottonwood, including the Old Church (1900), the Cottonwood Hotel (1917), Clemenceau Public School (1923), the County Jail (1929), and many more. At that time, Cottonwood was called “The Biggest Little Town of Arizona”: you could not find anywhere a city with as many business houses as here.

Cottonwood was incorporated in November 1960, with John Garrett as the first mayor. As Cottonwood was expanding, the city saw the development of transportation and infrastructure. In the 1990s, a wastewater treatment plant was constructed, which was the first in the Verde Valley and created job opportunities for Cottonwood’s residents. Between 1990 and 2010, Cottonwood experienced considerable population growth (from 5,918 in 1990 to 11,265 in 2010).

Cottonwood today is a peaceful community with a lovely historic old town, great wineries, mild climate, and outdoor recreational activities. The city is one of the tourist destinations in the Verde Valley: conveniently located above the heat of the desert, Cottonwood attracts tourists coming from other U.S. states and countries. From wine tasting tours to horseback riding and hiking, every travel enthusiast will find something enjoyable to try in this small city in Arizona’s heart.