Eastern Arizona's high desert, serene in its silence, is a colorful but wind-scrubbed, harsh environment. Yet it is here that Dotch Garland Windsor (1896-1964) and his wife Alberta brought cattle from New Mexico in the late 1930s. A Texas native and a cattleman by trade, he had a brother, Erastus, in Holbrook, just thirty miles west of the site he chose for his ranch next to the Dead River. Bordering US 66 on the fringe of the Painted Desert and only 2.5 miles east of the Petrified Forest National Monument boundary, the land was vast and desolate. The Windsors settled in, occupying a ranch house on the west side of the river.

Painted Desert Trading PostThe story may have ended here had Dotch not acted on the realization that there was money to be made from the tourist traffic navigating this barren stretch of highway. Around 1940 he opened a trading post, (the exact date remains unknown), and they moved into the living quarters of their new business, aptly named "Dotch Windsor's Trading Post." They sold Gulf gasoline, Indian rugs and jewelry, petrified wood, and sundries. The name was later changed to Painted Desert Trading Post to capitalize on the nearby park, and then changed again, lastly, to Dotch Windsor's Painted Desert Trading Post. This was done, presumably, to distinguish their location from the Painted Desert Park, the Painted Desert Inn, and Painted Desert Point, all on the same ten-mile stretch of highway. The Painted Desert Tower joined that mix when it was built in 1953.

With no services available, the Windsors relied on the technology of the time. A wood stove was used for heat, and desert air breezing through a sleeping porch helped cool summer nights. They had a well, and used a windmill to power a generator for electricity and to pump water, which was dispensed through a gravity-fed tank. Propane powered the kitchen stove. The bathroom had a small shower stall and flush toilet. An outside privy was available for customers.

Dotch had married Alberta Buckland in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1930. They divorced in 1948, and Dotch attempted to sell the trading post, but no buyers bit on the $30,000 asking price, and he stayed. In 1950, at age 54, he married 26-year-old Joyce "Joy" Withington Nevin (1924-1998), a striking young woman twenty-eight years his junior. Joy had come to Arizona from rural Rhode Island, where in 1943, at age 19, she had been engaged to marry dashing Navy pilot Elton Wayne Cooke, 24. Their fairy-tale romance came to a sudden and tragic end when Cooke's plane disappeared on a training mission out of Alaska. Neither he nor his aircraft were ever seen again. Though in mourning, Joy signed up for and completed pilot training in W.A.S.P., the military's Women's Air Service Pilots, but the program was shut down before she was activated after the deaths of thirty-eight women pilots, some during training. Joy then planned to join the Navy WAVES, but with the war winding down she instead returned to school at Bryant College in Rhode Island.

Having come from a farming family, Joy was well suited for her future adventures, in spite of being stricken with polio following WWII. While recovering, she took to the road, ending up in Heber, Arizona, where an acquaintance gave her a job as a ranch hand. She still had trouble walking, but could ride as well as any cowboy. A few years later she launched Stockman's Supply Service, selling products to ranchers from her truck, which doubled as her home. It was only a matter of time before her sales route led her to the doorstep of the older but ruggedly handsome Dotch Windsor, whom she married in 1950.

Joy and Dotch In 1952, Addilade "Dee" Windsor was born, completing the family. In addition to the trading post business, they had a few horses, eighty head of cattle, and a dog named Navajo. Life moved along nicely, but it wasn't long before an irreversible downward spiral began. The highway there, paved in the early 1930s, was badly in need of upgrading. The Petrified Forest National Monument, in a long-standing feud with the owners of the nearby Painted Desert Park tourist trap, lobbied to have the road relocated in that area in order to starve them out. How much influence that generated is unknown, but in 1954 plans to do just that were unveiled by the highway department. In 1955, Joy separated from Dotch. Their divorce became final in 1956. Within a few years, Dotch would be forced to close and abandon the trading post, leaving a forsaken but indelible thumbprint on the Route 66 landscape.

It remains unclear exactly when Dotch's section of US 66 lost its traffic, but records point to the summer of 1958 (see the BYPASS page). As the new 2-lane roadway was being completed, it was adopted as the westbound half of emerging I-40, which was by then on the drawing board. Once the 2-lane bypass was complete, access to the Painted Desert Trading Post was cut off.

Dotch Windsor subsequently moved to Holbrook. According to his daughter Dee, who now goes by Adela, he loved to rodeo and tame wild horses. While in Show Low in 1964, he died from injuries received when he was thrown while breaking a horse. His body was returned to Holbrook and he was buried in the city cemetery.

Joy lived back east from 1957-1970. She remarried twice, first to Harold Crandall in Rhode Island, and later to Ray Tankersley for a few years after returning to Arizona. Over time Joy became one of Holbrook's most civic-minded citizens, and now has a street bearing her name. Her daughter Adela presently lives in New Mexico. Her mother Joy's ashes were scattered on a family ranch there after her passing in 1998.

Street Sign HolbrookWhat became of Dotch's first wife Alberta is unknown. As for the trading post's nearby competitors, only the Painted Desert Inn remains standing. The 1950s bypass cut the road to the trading post seven miles to the east at Navajo, and nine miles to the west, where the new highway intersected the existing road at the site of Rocky's Old Stage Station. Today, old US 66 westward from the trading post ends at the two-and-a-half-mile mark, where it encounters a fence defining the Petrified Forest National Park's property. There is no record that the trading post ever operated again as a business.

The Painted Desert Trading Post today is considered one of the crown jewels of Route 66 landmarks. This is due primarily to its isolation, its desolate but scenic setting, and the fact that, while the land changed hands over the years, the building was never repurposed. In 2017, nearing collapse from the ravages of time and damage by cattle, the property was purchased by the Route 66 Co-Op, a group of preservationists who established a non-profit organization for the express purpose of ensuring the trading post's continued presence on the landscape and managing access for visitors.





Runway No. 66

In an interview during her later years, Joy Nevin recounted the story of an aircraft landing at the trading post in the early 1950s. A man piloting a single engine plane was spotted circling overhead and tipping his wings, which Joy recognized as a distress signal. He was low on fuel and waiting for a chance to land on the highway. Realizing this, Joy sent a hired hand out to stop traffic one direction, she went the other, and the pilot made a safe landing. At the gas pumps, he and Joy talked aviation while the plane's tanks were topped off with high test fuel. He then returned to the roadway and took off to resume his cross-country trip. The incident was captured on film with a home movie camera, and can be seen on-line.

Aircraft landing on 66 at the PTDP



Though undated, the only known postcard of the Painted Desert Trading Post is a real photo almost certainly shot in 1945. Sleuthing Route 66 car experts first determined that the newest automobile pictured on the card is a 1942 Dodge Deluxe coupe. Even though there is no visible date or state name on the license tag, and the car's front bumper is inexplicably mounted upside down, our automobile detectives were able to determine the date through a process of elimination. 1945 was the only year that GRAND CANYON STATE did not appear on Arizona license tags, and though the state of issue cannot be made out, the rounded corners, the white background, and the numbering font all match 1945 Arizona tags.


PDTP Postcard 1              PDTP Postcard 2


You Can't Choose the Place or Time

According to newspaper reports, Alma Shelnutt, age 69, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, passed away due to heart failure at the Painted Desert Trading Post on the evening of Sunday, April 6, 1947. She had been traveling to Pasadena, California, with her husband and their son and his family at the time. Tragic, yes, and no doubt a stressful event for Dotch and Alberta. What the papers did not report, obviously to save the family embarrassment, was that when poor Mrs. Shelnutt's ticker ground to a halt, she was seated in the customer privy.

A Rude Awakening

Relief driver Larry Keller, dozing in the bunk area of a refrigerated truck packed with beef, ham, and bacon, and barreling westbound down US 66, said he had never been awakened so rudely after the truck blew a tire, skidded through five hundred feet of mud, crushed a pick-up truck, rolled over, and banged into Dotch Windsor's Trading Post as the truck's trailer landed on top of a car. Neither Keller, nor driver Floyd Austin, were seriously hurt. The accident occurred on the afternoon of February 4, 1957, demolishing Dotch's truck and automobile, and causing between $500-$1000 damage to the building. The scattered meat was quickly rounded up for safekeeping.


Sleeping Porch
The Sleeping Porch
Even in the high desert, summer temperatures can be brutal. The only relief is provided by the nearly ever-present wind, which at times reaches gale force, scouring everything in its path with fine desert sand. Seeking relief from the heat, the Windsors added a sleeping porch to the rear of the building, a makeshift affair featuring large, screen-covered windows. Tarps on the outside could be lowered when needed as a barrier to the sand. Initially, entrance to the porch required crawling through a window in the back room living quarters. Quickly tiring of this inconvenience, the window was soon converted into a door opening.
Location Confusion





Wrong Location

Given that the Painted Desert Trading Post, the Painted Desert Park, the Painted Desert Tower, and the Painted Desert Point were all on the same ten mile stretch of US 66, there were bound to be errors when newspapers reported notable incidents occurring at one or another of these roadside establishments. Here is just one example: The Arizona Republic reported on 8-1-1948 that "Murder charges had been dismissed against Charles Osborne, operator of the Painted Desert Trading Post on U.S. Highway 66." The piece goes on to explain that Mr. Osborne acted in self-defense in killing his son Lee, age 30, with a rifle when the younger man attempted to hit him with a bar stool. This allegedly happened at the trading post, reported as being 20 miles east of Holbrook. In fact, Mr. Osborne operated the Painted Desert Point trading post.

Morley and Hazel

Morley and Hazel
From the mis-identification department: One of the few vintage Painted Desert Trading Post photos features the front of the building, the gas pumps, and a middle-aged couple standing in the door way. The man is tall and wearing a cowboy hat. The gas pumps are newer versions than those in the 1945 postcard view, and Dotch's name has been added to the front of the building. Naturally, it is assumed that the two figures are Dotch and Alberta, even though this would date the picture prior to their 1948 divorce, a tight timeline when considering the newer pumps. The case was solved, simply enough, when Route 66 Co-Op members had the honor of meeting Dotch and Joy's daughter Adela in 2019 when she journeyed to the site for a visit. While going through various documents and images with our group, she was quick to point out that standing in the doorway in that photo was actually a couple named Morley and Hazel, who lived with the Windsors for a time. Their last name is lost to history, and Adela remembered little else about them. Whoever they were, they have the distinction of being forever immortalized in the lore of the trading post.



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