SHOW LOW — “This is the place,” Brigham Young said when he and his pioneers looked out over the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. By contrast, in 1878 when Morman pioneer Thomas Jefferson Adair looked over a hollow now in Show Low, he should have said, “There is no way that this is the place.” But he didn’t, and thus began the ill-fated settlement of Adair.
Abandoned in 1906, Adair is now at the bottom of Fool Hollow Lake, two miles northwest of Show Low. Its empty structures fell to the inundation of the hollow in 1957 when the State of Arizona and the Army Corp of Engineers built a dam on Show Low Creek.
Life was tough and short in Adair. One of the structures claimed by the lake was called the “smallpox house,” a place to quarantine victims of smallpox, diptheria and scarlet fever — fatal diseases that had no cure and no doctors to treat them.
“There was a lot of death there,” says Clair Thomas, director of the Show Low Historical Museum.
The only remnant left of the settlement is the Adair Cemetery off Old Linden Road. The weathered grave markers honor the deceased, some of whom lived only nine years, two years, one day. The names of their descendants now adorn street signs in Show Low.
There were 12 families in total who settled in the hollow in 1879 — all Mormon pioneers tasked with settling the area. For 25 years they eked out a living tending livestock and raising corn, sugar cane, beans and other vegetables, sustained by water that the settlers had to haul from the creek. The treeless, flat bottom of the hollow looked, at first, ideal for crops, but the settlers could not have known at the time that its soil was laced with sand and salt deposits. And the bowl-shaped topography invited early frost, deadly to crops. The name “Fool Hollow” seems now appropriate, and was coined for that very reason.
Food, disease and the elements weren’t the only challenges facing the settlers. Someone named Geronimo showed up now and then on a black horse, with his hungry and untrusting people. In fact, in 1882, Adair inhabitants fled to a nearby fort for refuge against marauding bands of Apache. The fort later became the homesite of Corydon Cooley, who won a card game, and a ranch, by showing a low card. Cooley was neither Mormon nor an Adair settler, but in the spot where his home used to be now stands the downtown Show Low LDS church.
Through toil and faith, the pioneers prevailed —our thriving community attests to that. And the dead of Adair rest in peace. Except one, some say.
That would be the Blue Lady, or as some call her, the Lady of the Lake. She is said to be the ghost of a young woman, dressed in blue, illuminated with ghostly blue light, who floats a little above the surface of the lake, above the doomed settlement of Adair. Fool Hollow Lake Park Ranger Jacob Mills says that he knows campers who have been coming to the area for 50 years and talk about her. Clair Thomas reports that as a child in the 1960’s she and her young friends would go to the lake in part to catch a glimpse of the sprite. The older kids would go there to “neck,” she says.
Legend says the Blue Lady was once a resident of Adair, and like so many others, died young there. But that’s where the stories diverge, starting with the cemetery. Some say that where the cemetery is now was not its original site; that it was moved, bodies and all, before the flood. Others say only the monuments were moved, not the bodies. One version says that the monuments and bodies were moved, but that one lady of ill repute was not moved with the others and her spirit is not at rest for that reason.
Others claim that the cemetery is in its original place, on a hill, looking over a pleasant vista where Adair residents could look up and see their departed — typical of plots then and now. Moreover, the cemetery is somewhat distant from where Adair was, a distance appropriate for the remains of those who died from infectious diseases, they assert. And don’t forget the grim practice which arose among the settlers: when a child was quarantined to the smallpox house, a parent or sibling would tend to the stricken child there exposing themselves to infection. The historical record actually documents a father who did that, and died. Could a mother or sister have met the same fate?
Another record recounts a pregnant woman who, along with her family, contracted a strange head-swelling disease. Sick for four weeks, the woman and her baby died. Any one of these tragedies could explain the Lady in Blue, some argue.
Skeptics say the temperature inversion causes mists and fog to swirl over the lake and when the moonlight is just right, people imagine things. That’s the real answer here, they say. But whether the Lady in Blue exists or not, who she was and why she haunts, are questions that have lasted a long time. Longer than the doomed community of Adair. Rest in peace.