Two Guns Trading Post Arizona
Two Guns Trading Post Arizona

The Mother Road: Route 66 Abandoned

U.S. Route 66 or U.S. Highway 66 (U.S. 66 or Route 66) was one of the original highways in the United States Numbered Highway System. U.S. 66 was established in November 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway became one of the most famous roads in the United States, and originally ran from Chicago, IL, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, CA. The road stretched over a total of 2,448 miles. It was widely popular and used in pop culture including the 1946 hit song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”, the Route 66 television series, and in John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, symbolizing escape and loss. It was in this novel that the road also gained one of its most popular nicknames: The Mother Road. 

U.S. 66 served as a primary route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The major roadway supported the economies of the communities through which it passed, and business owners along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway.

With the expansion of the interstate highway system, the road was decertified in 1985. All signs were taken down and it was even removed from roadmaps. The highway that had been immortalized in books, songs, film, and television ceased to exist. Because of the new Interstate System, U.S. 66 saw less and less use, and many of the small towns and businesses that dotted the major roadway were forced to close.

Today, sections of U.S. 66 that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway, going by the name “Historic Route 66,” even allowing for the road to be returned to some maps. 

Two Guns Abandoned Ghost Town

Two Guns Trading Post Arizona

Drive along Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, and you’ll pass the abandoned ghost town of Two Guns. All that’s left now are the remnants of an old gas station that’s been covered in graffiti and seem to have some residents living in RVs, and parts of the zoo structures. If you drive a little further back, you’ll find the old swimming pool at the KOA campgrounds, and what’s left of the last building that finally collapsed.

By the early 1920s, homesteaders Earle and Louise Cundiff owned more than 300 acres of land in the area. They built a trading post, restaurant, gas station, and post office. Travelers along the National Old Trails Highway (which became U.S. Route 66 in 1926) would stop for a much-needed break, and to freshen up.

In 1925 Harry E. Miller leased some land from the Cundiffs. A hermit who lived nearby that most people found a little odd, Miller was said to be wild and violent, and hostile to visitors. He claimed to be a full-blooded Apache, and advertised himself as “Chief Crazy Thunder,” and wore his long hair braided. He initially began building pens for a zoo for mountain lions, cougars, Gila monsters, and snakes.

Rumors and stories also credit Miller with naming the town Two Guns, in honor of silent film actor WIlliam Surrey Hart, aka Two Gun Bill. 

Just one year after leasing the land, Miller got into a disagreement with Earle over the terms of the lease. Miller would end up shooting Cundiff and killing the unarmed man. Harry Miller would eventually be acquitted of the murder.

But there’s more to this uniquely named town than just being a former pit stop for travelers. Located not too far away from the old gas station is the Apache Death Cave. History stories state that in 1878, the Navajo discovered the rival Apache were using it to travel undetected. The Navajo gathered sagebrush and lit a fire near the entrance. When Apaches ran out to breathe, they were killed on sight. Between the smoke and the Navajo, forty-two Apaches died in the ambush.

Twin Arrows Abandoned Trading Post

Twin Arrows Trading Post Arizona

Because Route 66 was aligned along the National Old Trails Road, traffic and travelers began to flow through the Twin Arrows area in Arizona. The Canyon Padre Trading Post, named for the nearby gorge, was established in the late 1940s. Business was slow for the local store and diner until the owners decided to change its name to “Twin Arrows Trading Post,” inspired by the nearby town of Two Guns. They also added a service and gas station along with two 25-foot-tall giant arrows. These giant arrows were an easily recognizable landmark for traveling motorists, and the business began to flourish. 

The Twin Arrows Trading Post began to fail with the construction of Interstate 40 (I-40), as travelers were no longer forced to take U.S. Route 66. Demand and business for the Twin Arrows Trading Post began to decline and the local shops began to be passed through various owners. This continued until 1995, when it was finally closed and abandoned.

Meteor City Abandoned Trading Post

Meteor City was first opened in 1938 and was operated by Joe Sharber as the Sharber Service Station, under the Texaco brand. It was named for the nearby Barringer Meteor Crater. Three years later, in 1941, Jack Newsum bought the property and added a store that sold souvenirs and groceries.

Documented and confirmed records are hard to find, but based on available history, at some point, the gas station closed, and in 1979, a dome replaced the building that housed the store. The original dome burned in 1990 and was replaced by the current dome structure. As business struggled, the owners tried to sell, but were unable to find buyers. In 2012, the business was closed, and the Meteor City property was left abandoned. Since then, the property has succumbed to vandalism and the elements, include the hot desert sun. The heat has caused the “World’s Largest Dreamcatcher” to deteriorate over the years. Locals held out hope that the site could be saved, but hope was all but lost when the site was added to a “to be demolished” list. Luckily, Meteor City would be saved by Joann and Michael Brown, who spent their childhood traveling Route 66 on family vacations. You can follow along their journey of restoring the abandoned trading post on the Meteor City Facebook page.

Abandoned Meteor City

Abandoned Route 66 Photo Gallery

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