The Thude Family Part 2

Gunnar has now been in the livestock business for nearly 30 years. Carlos Sanudo was hired in 1957 to work in Gunnar’s sheep business. Carlos was 37 years old when he migrated to Arizona. Gunnar’s eldest daughter, Elma, married Carlos Sanudo in 1962.  In 1968, Elma bought a part of Gunnar’s sheep outfit.  She named it the Long Tom Sheep Co. as their sheep ran in Long Tom Canyon.  Previously to buying Gunnar’s sheep, she had many years of experience with the sheep.  She had followed her father’s sheep into the mountains every year as a young woman, starting in 1946, at the age of 20.  In the summer, the sheep were trailed to greener pastures in the Heber area of the White Mountains.  The trailing of the sheep took 30 long days, but she was always at the tail end of the flocks as the sheep would be moved on city roads in Chandler and Mesa to begin the Heber-Reno trail northward.  She would get the herders supplies and keep the books while living in a cabin with no telephone and only kerosene lighting. Her father believed that every child should learn to work and indeed, she worked.  Since she did not like riding a horse for hours on end which was required for taking care of cattle, she was willing to care for the sheep. At times, it was necessary for her to bottle feed the lambs, but she learned early on that even if she grew attached to the lamb, it was to be sold or eaten! 

Elma Thude Sanudo and Francis Line, film maker.

As the sheep were moved from the farm in Chandler, through the town to get to the Heber Reno trail, she delighted in telling complaining motorist and Department of Public Safety officers that livestock and that included sheep, had the right-of-way in Arizona. No matter how many obstacles got in her way, from DPS officers to motorist complaints, or angry people in subdivisions, nothing would keep her from her beloved sheep. Trucking of the sheep was not an option as it was too expensive. Her desire to remain as a shepherdess was dependent upon the hazards of trailing and being able to find winter feed, alfalfa, for the sheep.

In the 1960s Gunnar sold one of his ranches to John Wayne.

In 1977, Gunnar sold his Holbrook ranch and the Paradise Sheep Company to John Frandsen Thude, his nephew. With no sheep or cattle to care for, Gunnar was free to spend his summers in his native Denmark, away from the Arizona heat. He passed away in 1980 only having a short time to enjoy his retirement. He was known for always helping others, either lending money or giving them a helping hand on their ranch.

Elma continued to work the sheep until she sold out in 1999 to the Auza Sheep Company, Casa Grande, Arizona. Elma raised her five sons, Gerald (1947), Mike (1949), James (1950), John Gunnar (1953), and Dennis (1955), while tending her sheep. Raising sheep was a full-time job and she was saddened that none of her children continued in the business she loved. Elma passed away in 2002 and Carlos in 2006. What happened to Gunnar’s nephew still needs to be told and hopefully I can finish researching it soon.

Carlos and his pet sheep, Franco!

The Thude family spent nearly 70 years in the livestock business in Arizona and many of those years was in the sheep raising business. I have been privileged to known some of Gunnar’s and Elma’s children and hearing their stories of early life on the range in Arizona. The Thude Family – Gunnar and Elma – will be inducted into the Arizona Ranching and Farming Hall of Fame in March 2022. They should have been this March but circumstances beyond the control of the Hall of Fame, i.e., pandemic, has postponed most celebrations. More will be posted as it is learned about the family, herder stories are collected, and when the family is finally inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Gunnar and Eliseo, one of his herders.

The Thude Family Part 1

I posted sometime ago that I was going to present the story of the Thude family.  So here is their story as researched by me after interviews with many of the family members.

Gunnar Thude was a humble man instilling in his family the traits of hard work, honesty and always willing to lend a helping hand to other ranchers and others. The story of the Thude family begins when Niels Pedersen (Petersen), a naturalized Arizonan, in 1887, went back to Vilslev, Ribe County, Denmark, his home village, and recruited his cousin Hans Peder Thude with two other men to come to Arizona and help settle the land. Pedersen, being well established in the Arizona farming community by this time, had two reasons for bringing men from his home village: workers for his farm and ultimately for them to acquire their own farmland. Pedersen paid the passage of the three men and the men paid off their debt by working for Pedersen.

In 1892, using the Homestead Act Hans Peder acquired 160 acres.  What Hans did between 1892 and when he returned to Vilslev, Denmark is still being researched and someday more historical information will be able to be added to Hans story. But sometime in 1901 or 1902 Hans Peder visited his hometown.  His plans to return to the United States were thwarted when he met Kirstine Frandsen and they married. Some in the family suggested that he may have had to stay to care for the family farm but stay he did. Hans and Kirstine had seven children from which three of his sons would later migrate to Arizona.

Gunnar, the eldest son, migrated in 1921 at the age of 17. He first worked in New York, moving onto Nevada before coming to Arizona and working for Pedersen just as his father, Hans had done. It was during this time, Gunnar met his future wife, Anna Norby, Pedersen’s maid. The couple married in 1924 and they had three children: Eldon (1924), Elma (1926), and Mary (1928).

Gunnar and Anna bought land near Price and Ray Roads and began their own farm.  The years 1923 to 1927 were good to Thude. Thude believed in what he was doing in Arizona and officially became a naturalized citizen in 1928.  He was able to buy land and made good money. But the depression came and he lost everything, but his land which saved him. Hay was cut using horses as no one had money for fuel to use gasoline powered equipment. Hay that was sold helped pay the expenses during those lean years of the depression. But he did not sell all of the hay and this was stacked on his property. His foreman, Jose Valencia, told Gunnar to buy cattle or they would be eating the hay themselves.  And so, began his livestock business! In the 1930s he started to keep sheep. He bought a bigger farm in 1937 and expanded his sheep flock. Also Gunnar bought the Moose Ranch near Williams, Arizona to run his sheep sometime in the early 1940s. An exact date for the purchase has not been researched as of this writing.

By the mid-1940s, Gunnar was raising sheep under the name of the Paradise Sheep Company. Gunnar and his daughter, Elma, partnered with Kemper Marley and Don Brown. Marley had land in Scottsdale that could be used to winter the sheep.   

Thude trailed his sheep into the White Mountains along the Heber-Reno Driveway. Land acquisitions were made on ranches in many different parts of northern Arizona: Williams, Heber, Holbrook, and Springerville. Sheep and cattle were both raised. His land in Chandler was used for winter grazing of the sheep. A circuit of his ranches was required weekly to check on his flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, his workers, and his crops which were raised on his land in Chandler.

In 1948 Gunnar married Pat Pearce.  Three children were born of this union: Betty (1950), Gunnar Mikel (1953), and Frances (1955).  Pat had two children from a previous marriage, Charlene (1944) and Bill (1945).  She would ride horseback with him to the sheep camp in the White Mountains. She told her children that the sorest she ever was happened when she rode a horse with Gunnar on the range!

In the late 1940s, Francis Line, a film maker, traveled with a flock of Gunnar’s sheep as the herder took them into the White Mountains. Francis Line documented his travels in the National Geographic Magazine, April 1950, a book titled: Sheep, Stars, and Solitude: Adventure Saga of a Wilderness Trail, (1986), and in a documentary film.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story tomorrow!

Disaster Strikes on the Sheep Trail!

Raising sheep had its hazards and the one which most sheep raisers dreaded was when the snowstorms hit their flocks when they were on the trail heading to winter grazing pastures.

While this year at the end of December, there doesn’t look like we will have lots of snow, it was a different situation in December 1898. In the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, an article from December 31st stated that disaster struck in the Mogollon Mountains to a few of the sheep raisers as their herders with their bands of sheep were making their way to winter grazing in the central part of the state, mostly the Verde Valley the week of December 23rd. Harry Scorse from Holbrook on the first day of the big storm was caught unprepared and had one of his feet badly frozen and suffered greatly from the exposure out in the snow and wind. His sheep faired even worse as he lost a considerable number of them. Another sheep raiser, Julius Wetzler, turned his sheep loose as the storm hit his outfit at a most unfavorable place in the Mogollons. Upon gathering his flock, he found that he also lost a great deal of his flock from starvation. Hugh Campbell had several bands of sheep on the way to the Verde Valley but was feeding them hay and his losses have been slight in comparison to Scorse and Wetzler. The fourth sheep raiser that had his sheep also out during the storm was those belonging to H. C. Yaeger. He had reported no losses in his bands. He reported that the snow in the Verde Valley was melting and his sheep were finding plenty of food.

A week later the weather was warming and it was reported that if it stayed warm, the grasses would start to grow resulting in plenty of feed for the flocks the winter of 1898-99.

And thus we learn a little more about Arizona’s past sheep history!

The Wool Raisers of 1898

I have spent the last several months browsing the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, for 1898, for as mention of the sheep men and their activities. The following is a summary of my findings for the year.

One sheep raiser that appeared to do well in selling his wool clip was Thomas Sayer. In Boston he was able to sell his 1896 wool clip for 12 cents per pound. That would equate to be $3.76 today. He had held his 1896 wool clip as the price that year was 3 cents per pound, or $0.93 today. Mr. Sayer still had his 1897 wool clip and his 1898 wool clip to sell. It was hoped that better days were ahead for the sheep raisers with the increase in wool prices.

Another sheep raiser was James A. May.  May had recently married at his father’s home in South Carolina and he and his new bride had just arrived in Flagstaff, January. A great deal of information is learned in this little article about Mr. May. He was called “a sheep king of Arizona.” The article stated that May had amassed a fortune and was thinking of retiring from working on the range and putting his money into the mines of Arizona. He had previously lived in Denver and was connected “with one of the local railway offices, but was swept to Leadville by the carbonate excitement, finally winding up a contractor of the Santa Fe and South Pacific, after which he drifted into sheep raising. (The Coconino Sun, January 29, 1898).

Two sheep raisers, Jerry Woodbridge and Harry Fulton, had reported after arriving in town the week of February 5th, that snow was plentiful in their areas. Both were expecting plenty of water and grass for the upcoming grazing season. This weather information gives us a picture into range conditions and what was foreseen for the future months ahead.

While the snow would result in tanks full of melting snow water and help the grass to grow, conditions were not favorable where the men were shearing their sheep. Many had commented in early March that if the winter rains did not come, they would be forced to move their flocks northward earlier than normal. This would also mean that shearing would not be taking place in the Salt River Valley and the wool clip would be shipped from other locations than Phoenix. A contradiction was made in mid-April about the weather which has not been resolved. By mid-April the sheepmen reported the weather was now favorable for lambing and the ranges were in excellent conditions. More on this in my next blog.

Sheep raisers were involved in many political offices of their respected counties. Some were recorded as being on juries such as Mr. John Noble.  The county treasurer, D. M. Francis, was spending time in the Salt River Valley the first part of February to look after his bands of sheep that will be sheared in the next few weeks. C. H. Schulz was able to return to his sheep camp with the adjournment of the board of supervisors.

In the Coconino Sun and other earlier newspapers, little tidbits of information about people can be found by searching the headline “Personal.” This is a great place to find information about the sheep men and to confirm that someone was in the sheep raising business.  Seven such mentions were for C. E. Howard, J. W. Cart, H.C. Locket, H. D. Yeager, D. M. Francis, Frank Hart, and Manchester Maxwell.  Howard was the manager of the Howard Sheep Company based in Williams. Cart spent his winters in Phoenix but his headquarters was in the Winslow area. Lockett had been in Phoenix and now was heading northward as were his sheep on the move to the north. Yeager came north from Phoenix to look after his sheep interest. Mr. Francis had purchased fifty head of Lincolnshire bucks from a dealer in Salt Lake, Utah. With the price of the sheep and the cost of transportation, he paid $25 per head. Today, that would be $784.30 per sheep! We learned that Frank Hart, a prominent wool grower from Navajo County visited Flagstaff. Then there was Manchester Maxwell.  The newspaper reported that he had a “bunch of sheep northeast of Flagstaff”, was an old Tennessean and fought in the Civil War with General Forrest.  It is interesting to get a little more information about some of these sheep raisers than just they were in town!

A sadder note was the death announcement for Lucien Greathouse Smith who had died at his mother’s residence in Flagstaff. Lucien was from Greenville, Ill., and his body had been shipped there for interment. Lucien was only 30 years old at the time of his death. He had been engaged in the sheep business in Coconino County for several years and had his headquarters at Seligman.

Another sad note found was about the fifty-nine head of sheep that were lost due to being struck by lightning.  The sheep had gathered under a tree during a thunderstorm when lightning struck the tree.

Probably the saddest note for the year was the death of D. J. Porter. Porter had been reported to have made a fortune in the sheep business in Apache County and selling it for $10,000. He then moved to Gallup, NM, where he bought a saloon and with wine and women, he was soon broke. He returned to the sheep business in 1897. But something went terribly wrong for him and he committed suicide by taking strychnine.  Today, that $10,000 would be worth $313,590.36, a nice retirement amount if invested and used wisely. Obviously, the women and wine were too much for Porter and there may have been mismanagement of his business. That is only speculation on my part.

As reported earlier, in January 1898, Mr. May was in the sheep business but was thinking of getting out of it and concentrating on mining. Obviously, he was still in the business as late as September when he reported thievery of 600 head of his sheep, or 10 percent of his flock.

Other less interesting comments had to deal with the sheep raisers being in town from their headquarters, the number of sheep in the county and/or selling or shipping their sheep to market. The end of August, Coconino County Assessor’s office reported that there was an increase in the number of sheep in the county for the year. In 1898, 183,750 roamed the county and were valued at $259,088.50.  The increase between 1897 and 1898 was only 33,203 head of sheep, or about 15 percent.  Mr. J. M. Kilgour sold 999 head of sheep for $4.70, or $147.45 today. The sheep averaged a little over 107 pounds and had been straight grass feed. It was said that the price received was the highest ever paid for straight grass feed sheep from Arizona.

As will be reported in my next blog, Arizona’s weather was an important factor as California sheep men were bringing their sheep by the train load to graze on the grasses of northern Arizona with the drought conditions in California making it impossible for them to keep their flocks alive. 

100 Years Ago – Holbrook

In the The Tribune, Holbrook, October 21, 2020, under “One Hundred Years Ago” there was an short article about the sheep industry. I have included the article below.

This is the time of year that many sheep outfits move their sheep to the Salt River area. Obviously in 1920, there would have been many sheep outfits in the state, thus the number of sheep moving. Holbrook shipped many sheep in and out of the area as many outfits were headquartered in and around Holbrook.

Today, the sheep are moved by truck. The three outfits in our state haven’t gone south yet as it is still to warm for the ewes that are pregnant. It will probably be another week before they are moved to pastures in central Arizona. I’ll post pictures later of them being shipped.

Just Trailing Items

For something different today I thought I would post pictures of items that the sheep herders use while on the trail.

This is one example of a pack box carried by the donkeys. It would have a variety of items in it – tools, medicine, cooking utensils, and personal items

Some of the boxes would be used to carry food.

A water jug that belonged to the Dobson outfit.
A box from the Dobson outfit
Just a bell worn by one of the sheep. The bell helped the herder know where his sheep were. Each bell made a different sound and if he did not hear that sound he would go in search of the sheep.
The cooking pot – one of the most important items for the herders. The camp tender cooked all their meals in this pot. It could be buried with hot coals over and around it or just used on top of the fire. I have seen some great dishes being made with these pots.
A camp stool used by the Thude/Sanudo sheep raisers.
Hobbles – used to put twins together at birth so the strong one will force the weaker one to go to their mom for feeding. These are used in the fall and spring when the ewes give birth.
Not used on the trail but shears for shearing the sheep back in the day. Shearers who used these were very precise and could cut the fleece off in no time, however, they are not as fast as the electric shears used today.
One last picture on the trail. The bucket is carrying two puppies that will be the new trailing dogs in the next few months. This also shows the donkeys with their loads.

And that is just a few pictures for today. Next time – donkeys of the Arizona sheep industry!

Daily Sun “100 Years Ago.”

In the Daily Sun, Flagstaff, Sunday, September 24, 2020, a partial article appeared for what happened 100 years ago.  Researching that article from the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, 9-24-1920, there was more to the article and there were several other interesting sheep articles too hidden in its pages. These will be explored in future posts. With today being the last day of September 2020, let’s just look at this one article as it leaves some interesting questions that need to be researched.

In their column of the happenings for 100 years ago, the Daily Sun wrote about the article titled: “Local Forest Service Has Revoked Alien Sheep Grazing Rights.”  From the Daily Sun, they wrote:

“1920: All 1921 sheep grazing permits in the Coconino National Forest held by the Basque aliens were recently revoked by the local forest service office, and it is understood here, the action of the local office has been endorsed by the Secretary of Agriculture. There are five of these permits and 13,000 sheep involved. This action had been anticipated for some time since it had become necessary to reduce the number of sheep grazing in the forest exceeds the grazing available. This action was originally proposed in 1903 but was modified by the action of the Wool Growers Association until the forests became overcrowded.”

Information obtained from the original article states that the permits belonged or were held by Bernardo Bedegain, Mike Ohaco, Echeverria, & Co., Pete Espiel (Espil) and Julio Saucet.  These men were Basque. The men owned a total of 13,100 sheep.  

Bernardo and Jesusa Bidegain Wedding Picture

Seventeen years earlier, in 1903, as the forest became more crowded with livestock and especially sheep, a regulation denying aliens the right to graze their animals in the national forests. Because the Basque had been determined to keep their grazing rights, they appealed to ambassadors and the noise from the Basque and the ambassadors forced the department of agriculture to modify the regulation. The new regulation called for the aliens to lose their grazing rights when the forest became to crowded, which was what happened in 1920 and thus the men were losing their grazing abilities starting in 1921. 

A law firm had been retained by the five sheep men.  The firm, Stockton, Townsend and Drake wrote a brief and presented it to the secretary of agriculture in which they stated that the actions of the forest service were “cowardly, unfair and un-American.”  The men lost their appeal this time and were given temporary permits to use until the end of the year. They now had only three months to procure grazing rights for the following year.  Of the five men, Mike Ohaca was thought to be negotiating with another sheep men of Ash Fork, Charlie Burton, who might be able to obtain grazing rights on public domain.

In the back part of the Coconino Sun for this date, a little article was placed that related to this story.  It read, “Deputy Forest Supervisor K. C. Kartchner got back Wednesday from a two-weeks trip to the Morman Lake and Anderson Mesa country, where he was checking up on the new sheep allotment lines established for 1921 as a result of the revocation of alien licenses.” 

This leaves three unanswered questions:

1. When was the date that these men were told that their grazing rights had been revoked? 

2.  Were these men aware of the 1903 resolution that if overgrazing occurred, aliens would be the first to lose their grazing permits? Of the five men, dates can be somewhat accurately given for Pete Espil (early 1890s) and Mike Ohaca (1898) arrivals in Arizona and thus both should have known about the resolution that would affect them in the future.  Bernardo Bidegain came to Arizona in 1906 and may have not been aware of the 1903 decision. The Echeverrias, Miguel, Matias and Fermin, arrived in Arizona in 1903, 1906 and 1910, respectfully, and they too may not have known about the regulation.  That leaves Julio Saucet.  It is unclear as to when he arrived in the United States. It is known that in the 1920s he was partnering with another sheep man.  More research will need to be undertaken to determine his arrival date and other pertinent information.

As for Bernardo Bidegain, a family member said that not only did he lose grazing permits, but the house he had built for his family.  Did any of the other men loose buildings and improvements that they had made to the land?  This is really another unanswered question.

3. Finally, why did these men not obtain citizenship by 1920?  It would have been the prudent thing to do. More research will be needed to ascertain naturalization of these men.

Sheep and Trains Don’t Mix

An article from September 27, 1902 in the Williams News caught my attention this week. The article was entitled “Wreck on Canyon Railroad. Work Train Derailed by a Band of Sheep – One Man Killed.”  The information was obtained by the newspaper at the coroner’s investigation because of the death that occurred. So here are the facts of that dreadful day. 

The article began “A backing train, a cut on a curve with a heavy down grade, a large band of sheep and an excited herder resulted in a wrecked train, the loss of one life and a number of men being badly injured on the Canyon railroad, about four miles north of Williams, last Saturday afternoon (September 20th).”

The work train had been sidetracked to allow for another train to pass, the “No.33.” (Probably that train can be identified with further research.) A small train with one engine, two coal cars and a caboose but with a steep grade was all that was needed for this accident to occur. Conductor J. O. Dodge, brakeman E. S. McClure, engineer Lumsden, fireman Price and the 12 men who made up the stringer work crew were on the train. In an area hidden from view by those on the train were a band of Frank Everett’s sheep in the process of crossing the track.

The train was progressing through a deep cut and then a sharp curve when the brakeman sitting in the cupola of the caboose with the conductor saw in front of him no more than 300 yards away the sheep crossing the track. While the brakeman reached to apply the air in the caboose to slow the train, the grade and the curve made it impossible to stop the train from crashing into the sheep. The brakeman testified that the train was going about 20 miles an hour when they hit the sheep. He also testified that the man killed was in the door of the caboose and may have tried to jump and failed.

The caboose ran about 100 feet on the ties before it jumped the track and toppled down the embankment. The two coal cars and engine continued down the track. As soon as possible those men who could help, cut the engine loose and as fast as it could the engine headed to Williams to summons the doctor and help. Once in Williams another car was quickly attached to the engine and with Dr. Tyroler, Agent Hudson and others headed to where the wreck had occurred.

A horrendous site was met by these newcomers. Dr. Tyroler was much in need as every man, except one, had been injured, some worse than others. One man had died. The doctor saw to the best care of those injured in this emergency.  It was now time to remove the shattered pieces of the caboose off the deceased. The injured men and the deceased were loaded on the train and all headed back to Williams where Dr. Tyroler would be able to better attend many of the men’s injuries.  Some of the injuries were cuts, sprained ankles and bruises to arms and legs. One man had a compound fracture of his leg.  

One of the injured was sent to Los Angeles to be further treated. Some of the men were sent to wherever their homes were for recouping.

The six member jury that the coroner had empaneled stated, “We find that the said P.H. Swan, deceased, came to his death in a railroad wreck, on the Grand Canyon railroad, on this, the 20th day of September, A.D. 1902, and said cause was purely accidental and unavoidable; and we, the jury, exonerate all parties from any and all blame.”

I found no other mention of the sheep and how many were injured or killed in the train accident. Mr. Everett is not listed in the January issue of the Williams News as a member of the Arizona Wool Growers Association nor, is he listed in any comment for the rest of 1902 or the year of 1903. Further research will need to be undertaken to determine if this ended Mr. Everett from continuing as a sheep raiser in the state. It is likely he partnered with someone too.  Stay tuned for new information that may be uncovered.

Cowboys and Sheep

The Pleasant Valley War between the Grahams and Tewksbury, cattle and sheep, is well known in Arizona history. It is an understatement to say that there were some cowboys that just did not like sheep and that was any sheep no matter who owned those white woolly creatures. Of course, there were those like George Wilbur who I wrote about in my last blog that raised both sheep and cattle but let’s not muddy up our story.

Our story today is about, well, a sheep owner!  The Candelarias had brought sheep into Arizona from New Mexico settling in the areas around Concho on over to Springerville, the Round Valley area. There were many Candelarias but only one we are interested in in this story: Don Pedro.  Our story took place sometime between 1891 and 1912. A Texas cowboy family had moved into the area and one of them thought it was fun to shoot Don Pedro’s rams.  Don Pedro tried to convince the cowboy not to shoot the rams.  Well, that cowboy, whose name is not known, shot once to many times at Don Pedro’s rams. The next thing the cowboy knew was Don Pedro had shot the horse from under him. 

But this is not the end of the story by any means. Don Pedro was unable to seek legal justice and came up with a better idea to stop the cowboy.  A friend was asked to report to Don Pedro when the Texas cowboy and his family had their next family gathering. How long of a wait this was is anyone’s guess?

When the family gathering was reported, Don Pedro went to their ranch telling those with him he would be back in thirty minutes. Continuing to ride to the ranch house, Don Pedro asked to speak to the patriarch of the family.  Now, with little English spoken by Don Pedro and the patriarch speaking little Spanish, one would think that the conversation would be difficult for either to understand the other.  But Don Pedro had no trouble in getting the family patriarch to understand him. As the story goes, Don Pedro told him that every man, woman and child that was present at the ranch that day would be killed if he was not out in the thirty-minute time he told his men about. The patriarch did not believe Don Pedro and threatened to kill him. But Don Pedro’s plan was now revealed to the patriarch and his family as he was directed to look out the window and see Native Americans had surrounded the ranch house while Don Pedro had been inside.

Moral of the story: do not mess with Don Pedro! He would not be intimidated by Texas cowboys nor would he allow his livelihood (i.e. killing of his rams) taken from him.