What was the gold rush like in Cave Creek? Is it true that a female game warden shot the ear off of a moonshiner intruding on Cave Creek’s water springs? Where were the tuberculosis camps? What’s the geological makeup of Black Mountain? Who were some of the original ranching families in Cave Creek? Is it true that a homeowner in the 1980s found HoHoKam artifacts while digging a hole for their pool?
The history of where we live matters. Our community has been shaped by prehistory natives and the pioneering legacy of miners, ranchers, merchants, and settlers. For nearly three decades, Stephanie Bradley has donated her time and talent to communicating the value of this history and why it’s worth preserving at the Cave Creek Museum.
Stephanie’s volunteering legacy at the museum began when she replied to an advertisement for docents soon after she moved to Cave Creek in 1995. Because of her background as a teacher, reporter, and event manager, she was immediately appointed editor of the museum’s newsletter, The Nugget. Twenty-seven years later, she is still the newsletter editor — and also keeps museum members, guests, and donors informed with brochures, news releases, exhibit descriptions, annual reports, and other writing initiatives.
“Stephanie has acted as the Cave Creek Museum's ‘chief writer’ for years, and her elegant phrasing and lyrical writing have become hallmarks of the museum's publications, often leavened with her trademark dry humor and shrewd observations,” said Darlene Southern, one of Stephanie’s volunteer colleagues. “She has served in so many roles at the museum, impacting for good at so many levels.”
Stephanie typically volunteers five days a week when the museum is open from October through May. When she is not working on the next newsletter or other writing project, she might be leading a museum tour as a docent. She has also served as board president, docent trainer, exhibit builder, museum advocate, and general “Jill of all trades.”
Museum Executive Director Evelyn Johnson credits Stephanie as one of the volunteers that re-energized the museum after it hit a rough period during the pandemic.
“Stephanie embodies the spirit, knowledge, care, and friendliness of a volunteer that brings endless talents to the museum in writing, presenting, and willingness to try anything,” said Evelyn. “She puts her talents to work, making the museum the best place it can be even amongst turmoil.”
Stephanie’s passion includes a special interest in the area’s geology. She is known for her presentation “The Boulders at the Boulders Aren’t Really Boulders,” where she explains what the boulders really are, plus a layman’s overview of topics like why Black Mountain is black, why saguaros mostly grow only on the west slope of Black Mountain, and what kind of precious minerals attracted prospectors to our region.
“Stephanie loves learning and sharing and represents everything you could ask for in a great volunteer,” said Evelyn. “She has an excellent eye for detail, seeing each piece for the story it tells, as well as how all the pieces fit together to tell the story of Cave Creek.”
Starting with the geologic forces that created Black Mountain some one-and-a-half billion years ago to present-day history in-the-making with resort living and conservation, Stephanie can tell stories that matter about the town we love … including the true story of Catherine “Cattle Kate” Jones, who shot off a moonshiner’s ear during Prohibition.
The Cave Creek Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Cave Creek, AZ, with a mission to preserve the artifacts of the prehistory, history, culture, and legacy of the Cave Creek Mining District and the Cave Creek/Carefree foothills area through education, research, and interpretive exhibits. For more information, visit www.CaveCreekMuseum.org.
Special thanks to Lil’ Town Butcher for sponsoring the "Making a Difference" article series that recognizes outstanding volunteerism in Cave Creek.