1876 Southern Arizona Sheep Growers Information

In an earlier blog, “Early Stock Raisers in Southern AZ” I had written about a few sheep men in this area of Arizona. In an newspaper dated five years earlier from southern Arizona, The Arizona Citizen, August 19, 1876, I found more information about sheep men who were raising sheep for themselves or the sheep were in their care and owned by someone else. It was disappointing not to have how many sheep each of the men had with the exception of McGary and his brother, who went unnamed.

The headline was “Sheep Grazers Encouraged.”  Governor Safford, Charles McGary, Pedro Aguirre and George Allison were the subject of this article. The article stated that between the men they had thousands of sheep. The sheep had arrived from California sometime in the past year. The article discussed the fact that theses sheep had arrived “more or less sick and many had died.” It continued “Perhaps some had not proper care but it is believed that fine California sheep must go through acclimatization with more or less fatality, before a permanent healthy growth is secured.”

Anson P. K. Safford.jpg
Governor Safford. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anson_P._K._Safford

The Governor had his sheep under the care of Mr. George Allison along the Santa Cruz. Allison also had his own sheep grazing here. Stafford was pleased with his sheep and those of Allison saying that “they look very thrifty and (he) fully believes they have passed through the necessary acclimatization and hereafter will be healthy, and says he has the highest hopes that they will prove very profitable.”

Nearly four thousand sheep of Mr. Charles McGary and his brother are on the Sonoita and have been been for nearly a year. They had lost many old and young sheep when a winter snow storm hit right after 1,500 lambs had been born.  McGary told the newspaper the week of August 19, that the band was doing very well and he was satisfied with the care that they had given the sheep and hopes that with this care the sheep will “retain their present good health.”  McGary believed that sheep should be sheared twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall.

Mr. Pedro Aguirre, for the past few months has been in charge of the fine sheep brought to Arizona by Larkin W. Carr, and now owned by Lord & Williams. He was in town this past week and reports that the sheep were in good health and were daily improving.  He has not given any medicine besides moving them about and giving “them common sense care.”

Safford, Allison, McGary, and Aguirre all believe that they now have the experience needed to import sheep from California which will result in bringing them to a healthy condition much sooner. Further the newspaper reported, “They are all convinced that sheep will prosper in this county as well as any place they ever knew”.

One year later, in an article dated August 18, 1877, the newspaper, The Arizona Citizen, stated that the Governor had rented his sheep to Pedro Aguirre giving him 10,000 sheep in his charge. It seemed that Aguirre had a system in place that insured the well being of sheep brought into the territory. The article stated that Aguirre’s flocks were “almost constantly moving which gives the sheep a clean place to sleep and fresh feed all the time.” This may be the reason that Safford assigned his sheep to Aguirre. The newspaper account was unclear as to how many of these 10,000 sheep actually belonged to Aguirre as we know from the information above that Aguirre was taking care of the sheep that Carr brought into Arizona. It should also be noted that a week earlier, Aguirre had put an ad in the newspaper in which he stated he had many thoroughbred Spanish and French bucks for sale ranging in price from $10 to $20. Thus, some of those 10,000 sheep must have belonged to Aguirre or he was selling for owners.

One final piece of information from the August 18, 1877 newspaper, Mr. R. B. Campbell, a rancher near Crittenden, was on his way to California to purchase a minimum of 2,000 head of sheep. Campbell also believed that the pasturage in Arizona was the best where he was located and believes that the sheep will do well. He was going to ship the sheep as far as Yuma and then would trail them across to his ranch.

The River Crossing

Today we concluded the final stage of my husband and I following the sheep. While I have been on the trail many times I never regret the time I get to spend watching a part of the Arizona history that has taken place over the last one hundred years. The Auza’s have been part of this history since the mid 1910s with Frank Auza came to the United States as a young boy and went into the sheep business during the Spanish flu pandemic. I have written about the Auza’s history in an earlier blog so I will not repeat it here.

The Auza’s, other family members and friends begin to arrive at the park about noon.  An area on the grass under the trees was hastily made into a picnic area. Tables were set up, tablecloths graced the tables and food: fried chicken, cooked beans, a variety of salads, vegetables, potato chips, and dessert. Water and soft drinks were already chilling in coolers. The herders arrived with three donkeys and removed the boxes that they carried. Supplies for the next few days was unloaded from the owners’ trucks and piled on the ground. Eggs, potatoes, fruit, ramen noodles, etc., were then loaded in the boxes and fastened back on the donkeys once again.   Any supplies that could not be put in these boxes was carried down to the river by the men and would be loaded on the other donkeys. The herders were not gone long as they were the guest of honor at the picnic and went through first to be feed.  Then everyone else helped themselves. It was during this time that I gave Jose the pictures from Friday’s adventures and he seemed pleased that I remembered to make copies for him.  I promise that when I saw them the next time, I would have more pictures for them.

Supplies for the herders.
Family, friends and herders enjoy a picnic lunch. The herders are in the background next to the tree.

After eating, two of the herders left and headed back to the river along with some of the family members and friends. Jose stayed and grabbed chicken and other items that they could take with them on the trail. Tonight, the camp tender would not have to cook! The family worked together and picked up food that needed to be kept cold. Then the rest of us headed to the river. Margaret accompanied Carmen and me.

Other onlookers had started to gather at the designated time of 1 PM and were watching for the family to head to the river. Others had already gone down to where the sheep were. One family had two small children, one in a stroller!  The men headed to help the herders as two donkeys were not cooperative and did not want to stand still while the boxes were loaded on them. With the donkeys loaded, a herder set out with them to take them across the river.

Donkeys heading to the river.
Three generations of Auza’s

I am sure that anyone who was watching from above in a plane or flew a drone over the scene would think pandemonium had set in. But there is a process to move the sheep and the herders and those who have done this before knew what needed to be accomplished to get the sheep across the river. The family and friends began to move around the flank of the sheep.

Family and friends head to the river behind the donkeys.

The herders moved toward the water pushing the sheep that direction. Dust began to be kicked up by the hooves of the sheep. The sound of sheep bells and bleating were heard. Onlookers were everywhere. Joseph Auza held some onlookers back as herders, the family and dogs began to push the sheep more and more to the river. The path to the river now went through wet gullies. The sheep were wet from crossing these gullies. It was now time for the onlookers to cross these. Some of us helped each other. After one obstacle was crossed there was the second to cross; it was much wider. Everyone was in a hurry to get to the river’s edge to see the sheep crossing. I moved around to the right flank when I could not penetrate through the sheep or the onlookers to get my pictures on the left flank. Even as the official photographer for the Auza’s, I tried to be courteous and let others get to the front and take pictures. Being short usually means I can be in the front and others take their pictures over me!

Moving toward the river is a slow process in the beginning.
Sheep begin to kick up the dust.

Margaret, who had been near me as we started down to the river, was soon caught up in the action of the day and moved mostly where she could get a good glimpse of the crossing. Lila had known to flank to the right to be down river of the crossing. Herders and some of the young family members were in the water keeping the sheep moving. In about fifteen minutes the sheep were across the river. It was now just to get the last of the dogs to cross over with a little help from a herder. And this portion of the trailing was in the history books!

Why are you pushing us toward the water? I don’t want a bath!
Being at the right location to get that picture!
Herder, family and friends help move the sheep.
A Great Pyrenees helped across the river.

Sheep in the Canyon by Lila Wright

Barbara Jaquay and I hurried up the ridge trail, even though it was only 7:00 a.m.  The lead sheep herder told us the sheep were coming at 7:00 a.m.  Amazing that he was so precise in timing.  Two spectators across the deep canyon were waiting.  We paused to listen for the bells: hearing none, we climbed higher. 

All was quiet, beautiful morning, slight breeze.  Then we heard the pack animals’ bells before we saw them.  One herdsman came with 5 donkeys, laden with all the camp supplies needed for the 3 herdsmen, 5 herd dogs and 2 Pyrenees guardian dogs.   They briskly walked on down the canyon to the Verde River to set up the midday rest spot.  This would be a highlight for them; a meal with the owner’s family and a visit.

After a quiet space of time, we heard a gentler chorus of tinkly bells.  I learned that about one out of one hundred sheep have a bell.   The flock of 2,000 flowed down the sandy bottom, some spilling out over the sides of the canyon.  Catching a few sprigs here and there, the sheep kept moving with the herd dogs holding the fringes from straying too far.  Occasionally, we could hear the whistle signals to the dogs from the herdsmen at the rear.  From this distance, the white Pyrenees blended in with the flock and limestone rocks.  A little haze of dust rose over them.

As the first sheep came even with us, we descended the ridge so we would be able to observe them going to their resting spot by the river.  A few other spectators were there.  One of the Pyrenees came between the flock and the people, calmly marked a boundary spot and then moved on with the sheep.  Later we would watch the family, friends, herdsmen and dogs herd the sheep across the river and on their way to the mountain meadows for the summer.

The sheep begin their trek to the Verde River.

The Run to the River

Knowing the sheep were heading our way, a crowd grew to watch at different advantage points along their route. At 7 AM, the donkeys and sheep were on the move.  A few residents were watching high up on the hill facing eastward and were the first to see as the donkeys appeared and made their way into the canyon and continued down the wash onto the floodplain of the Verde River. Then, all eyes were focused on being the first to catch a glimpse of the sheep. First to spot the sheep were the people on the hill facing eastward as the sheep came around the foot of the hill before descending all the way into the canyon following in the footpaths of the donkeys.

On the opposite side of the canyon, the east side, Lila Wright, and I were watching from a path that climbed up to an overlook where we could see southward into the canyon. Once again, Lila and I had picked a good place to watch most of the action and could still descend the hill quickly enough to see the sheep as they came out of the wash and headed to the river. Bells were heard and the donkeys came into view. Lila had not seen this aspect of moving the sheep and even though I had, I never get tired of watching the herders with the aid of their dogs moving 2,000 sheep!  A herder followed behind the donkeys keeping them moving in the wash and heading toward the river. Then he made his way back up into the canyon to help the other two herders. The donkeys got short changed here as no pictures were taken of them! I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures of the donkeys as they are very important to the operation of the outfit, carrying everything needed for man, dog, and sheep.

The first sheep are sighted.

It was several minutes before the sheep could be seen at our location. At first, it looked like rocks were just moving until more of the sheep made their appearance. Sheep bells could be heard as well as their bleating as they moved. The sheep dogs were hard at work moving around the sheep flanks trying to keep them moving forward. One herder was on the east side and another herder was slightly behind the sheep. The first few sheep stopped to graze on the trees and shrubs in the wash and a bottle neck was formed. With so many sheep moving at once, dust rose from the wash. The first sheep were in no hurry to move with such good food offered for them to partake of. The sheep behind tried to move around them, but in the narrow space only two options were available – go up the steep embankment on one side or the other or just stay were they were. Some of the sheep climbed on the backs of those in front of them not moving, but the sheep in the front were to busy eating to care to move. The herder in the back moved along the west side of the wash and signaled for the dogs to move the sheep. Slowly forward progress was made. One herder was now just slightly in front and off to one side of the sheep.

A bottle neck occurs as the front sheep stop to nibble on the trees and shrubs!

All this time while trying to observe the operation and to photograph the sheep movement through the canyon I was trying to direct my husband and our friend, Margaret Hangan, who joined us this morning to head up the hill to where Lila and I were. But before they got far up the hill, they had seen the donkeys and decided to go back to the road to watch from there.

But the next hurdle was now upon the sheep as they moved further down the wash toward the river – people. I hurried down the trail to get to the road crossing within the park. Lila was behind me a short distance. Those who had watched this active many times who lived in the park, said the sheep would just go around them, the people could “pet” the sheep and the sheep would not be affected by the crowd. Even with warnings from my husband and I telling people to move, they would not listen and the sheep were now impeded to move across the road and down into the floodplain. Sheep were now going every which way, but the way the herders needed them to go. Some sheep became confused as campers came out of the campsite and flanked their right side. The sheep began to move on the road to their left instead of heading straight.

Moving away from the crowd along the road.

My husband got caught in their path and stayed where he was. A herder observing the sheep heading away from the path to the river, moved in to flank them and push them to the floodplain and then down the river to the crossing area. People were told to move back, but they would not; their pictures was more important. It is easy to understand the people wanting to see a part of this historic event that has been a part of Arizona’s history for over a hundred years. But it was also obvious that the people were keeping the flock from moving in the direction that the herders needed them to move and they became frustrated with the crowd. Finally, the herder with the help of his trusted sheep dogs, got the sheep moving to the river. As more sheep came out onto the road, the sheep in front had paved the way for those behind and a smooth flow finally occurred as they crossed the road and headed toward the river.

Some of us, who knew the next procedure, directed people to watch out of the way for the sheep to run along the floodplain and to their goal for the morning, a place that they could feed by the river until the crossing later in the afternoon. But too many people would not stay out of the way and the sheep once again were running on the wrong side of a fence that separated the park from the floodplain. Margaret and I stood in an area to force the sheep back to around the fence and to the path they should have naturally taken. We watched for a time as all the sheep passed in front of the camp area and then were out of sight.  It would be after lunch before the next event would take place, the crossing of the river.

To their resting place for the day.

The Underpass

After walking around the sheep for more pictures my husband climbed over the fence and headed to our car. By this time, my friend Lila had gotten to the camp. We then proceeded to re-walk what my husband and I had just walked. The donkeys were still skittish, but we were able to touch a couple and Lila got her picture with one.  Then it was time to go.  We looked for another route back to our cars, but realized we would have many barbed wire fences to contend with if we did not return the same way my husband had come only in reverse; along the road and up over one barbed fence.

Lila makes a friend.

Leaving the sheep to graze and the herders to their siesta, Lila and I crawled under the fence, and we headed to our cars. It would be later this afternoon before the herders would proceed to move the sheep down the hill and under Highway 260. The herders would eat lunch and take a siesta. The sheep would continue to graze or sleep.

Herders’ Camp

Mid-afternoon the warning went out via phone calls and texts that the herders may be about to move the sheep. A crowd began to form to watch part of the trailing of sheep, an event that has occurring for over a hundred years in Arizona. A shepherd came to open the locked gates and told the onlookers to move their cars as they were parked in the path that the sheep would take. Cars were moved from the field and parked down along the road. More people came and parking directions were given to those drivers. My husband stayed back to do the directing as he had seen this event before.  A crowd of 15 or more people ventured down to view this trailing of the sheep that one day will be gone from our state. My husband waited until he could see dust being kicked up on the hill. He began to walk across the field staying out of the path he knew the donkeys and sheep would soon take.

The herders began to round up the donkeys and the boxes carrying camp supplies loaded onto them.  Once the donkeys were loaded, they began to move down the hill into the gulley and through the underpass. The dogs were called to start the sheep behind the donkeys. Dust rose in the air and excitement of the onlookers began to grow as only a few of those present had seen this event last year. One last attendee parked her car in the path of the sheep and came running across the field not wanting to miss this historic event.

Sheep on the move.

The donkeys came through the underpass and made their way to the top of the hill, but then stopped. A man, thinking he had found a great photographic location, had hidden behind bushes right next to the trail to film the progress of the sheep up the trail, but the donkeys were having none of it. They waited a moment and then turned around and went back down the hill. The sheep were trying to move through the underpass and now had to contend with the donkeys moving against them. The sheep proceeded to reverse course. Shouts were heard from the herders as they realized the donkeys were coming back toward them and bringing the sheep. The sheep became the first to move cautiously up the hill. My husband and I told those hiding in the bushes they were impeding the animal’s movement and needed to move away.

The donkeys came first or did they?

Here come the sheep!

On to our next adventure!

Still many of the onlookers stayed as close as they could. Once the sheep began their run across the field, forward momentum kept the sheep all running across the field and toward the next incline that they would climb. Donkeys were now intermixed with the sheep, but soon they were ahead of all the sheep as the herders directed the sheep to keep moving forward and telling the crowd to stay back. 

The donkeys figured it out.

Cars speeding along Highway 260 could now see the flock of sheep and the most curious of them stopped to photograph this rare event. A Great Pyrenees and the some of the collies were running with the sheep. As the last of the dogs came up the hill, one being carried by a shepherd, the gate was locked. The puppies in training ran to catch up with the flock, but not before most of the dogs peed on the lady’s car that was parked in the wrong location! I don’t think one of the dogs missed doing this.

That’s a lot of sheep!

The next gate had been opened and with the final passing of the sheep through it, it was fastened. Several of us began to walk with the sheep as they made their way up the limestone hill or around its side. There was a quickness to their gait as if they knew greener pastures were on the other side of the hill.  Most of the other onlookers now left and there were just three of us to follow, Lila, my husband and myself. We stayed behind the sheep and watched as they would be in a gully and then had to make their way up. Some found the path of least resistance while others kept trying to find their footing right where they were. Some gave up and found an easier path. Others were determined to climb right where they were. By watching their progress, us three hikers could also determine our route to follow.

Finding the easy path?

Out ahead, the donkeys were seen with the camp tender. One herder was slightly ahead but off to the right of the sheep keeping them moving forward with the aid of the dogs. The last herder was in the rear checking for any stragglers. He turned and waved and shouted he would see us tomorrow.

One last view.

We watched them climb one more limestone bluff and then we turned around to head to our cars.  By the time we had returned to our cars and drove toward Cottonwood, the sheep were in the green pasture munching on the green foliage. The herders were standing off to the side with a dog or two. The camp tender must have gone ahead to get the evening meal ready as he and the donkeys could not be seen.

Tomorrow, the sheep entrance into and through Thousand Trails and the river crossing.

On the Sheep Trail

It was early morning when we came upon the sheep camp. The sheep were grazing and laying in the grass. The seven donkeys had been unloaded and free to move around the top of the hill overlooking Highway 260 in the area of the Verde Valley, Arizona. The dogs did not bark or even come up to me when I walked up the hill. Most of the herder dogs had seen me before so I was not surprised. I called out and identified myself. I was invited to come up to the camp. As I approached the dogs were hunkered under the shrubs and bushes to get out of the sun. Even this early in the morning, it was beginning to heat up. A cool breeze was blowing which helped.

A fire had been built some time earlier as it didn’t have many flames, just hot coals left. A Dutch oven was sitting among the coals. I asked if they were preparing breakfast. But, no they had had their breakfast earlier before they moved the sheep to this location. The camp tender was preparing their lunch. Oil was added to the Dutch oven and the lid was put on. While the oil in the pot was heating, he cut up carrots, onions, potatoes, and some other vegetables which I did not see. A few minutes later, the lid to the Dutch oven was removed and the vegetables were dumped into the pot. The lid was once again returned to the pot and it was left to simmer.

While I was watching the cook, a third herder joined the first two. I asked to take pictures of each of the herders, their camp, the sheep, and their activities. At first the three of them said no! Then as I started to walk away one said, yes, he wanted his picture taken and asked if he could have copies of my pictures I took that day. My Spanish is limited. Thank goodness for programs that will translate for you! I agreed as I knew I would see these herders again.

Jose, I believe was his name, proceeded to walk over to the burros and grabbed one of them. This is the picture he wanted me to take with his own camera and then allowed me to take pictures with my camera.

He then asked for me to take his picture with the sheep in the background. Once again, pictures were taken with his phone and my camera. In his broken English and my limited Spanish I learned that the three herders were brothers and from Huancayo, Peru. A smile came to his face when I told him I had been to their hometown.

We returned to the camp fire. I told him that I was with my husband, but he could not crawl under the barb wire fences as I did. He asked if my husband had pushed me under? I didn’t need a translation for these words and he graphically proceed to show me. All three of the herders had a good laugh about it. One of the pictures that I gave him was this one!

Stay tuned for the rest of the day’s activities.

Early Stock Raisers in Southern AZ

The January 1st 1881, Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, told of many ranches in Southern Arizona. The article “Our Stock Raisers – Notes of the Principal Ranch-Owners and Their Properties” listed five ranches that had sheep, a total of 41,900 sheep. That’s a lot of sheep in 1881!

D. A. Sanford’s ranch, situated 12 miles north of Pantano, on the Patagonia road, had 3,000 head of cattle and 300 head of sheep.

More information on Sanford’s sheep operation was found in the October 23, 1881 edition of the newspaper. It stated that “A short time ago Mr. Sanford had about 2,100 sheep stolen from his ranch on the Sonoita by a Mexican herder. The latter drove them towards Harshaw, and failing to dispose of but few of them he continued his journey with them towards Sonora. A Mr. Fleming, of Harshaw, suspecting that the Mexican had stolen the sheep, went after him, and in the difficulty that ensued, killed the Mexican. The Sonora authorities arrested Fleming and seized the sheep, but Sanford who had traced them and proved his ownership, recovered his flock minus about 200 hundred. Fleming was held for the murder of the Mexican, by the Sonora authorities and will be tried for the offense.” Whether Mr. Fleming was exonerated of the charge of murder has not been found in the next few newspapers. The other interesting thing about this story is Sanford had 2,100 sheep but in January he had 300 sheep; quite an increase in just nine months. Some of the increase could be attributed to lambs born but would not account for all 2,100 sheep. No story was found that he purchased more sheep, however that is the most likely answer. One other possibility is that the 300 sheep was not accurate as stated in the January news article.

The Cienga Ranch, owned by Ochoa & Co., had situated near Pantano, has 1,000 head of cattle and 23,000 sheep.

Pierre Aguirre, situated at Arivaca, has several hundred head of cattle, and 13,000 head of sheep.

The Barbacomari Ranch, owned by E. H. Read had 2,600 head of sheep. (Today, this ranch is a family owned and operated cattle ranch since 1935. It was established through a Mexican Land Grant in 1832.It is located in Elgin in the rich savanna rangelands of Southeast Arizona. It is considered one of the first ranches in territorial Arizona. The Brophy’s are the third owners of the ranch. Now the Perrins, a sheep rancher of Northern Arizona and obviously land owner in Southern Arizona, also were owners of the ranch, but that is another story.)

R. Bolen, California Ranch, six miles above A. D. Sanford’s, on the road to Patagonia from Pantano, had 3,000 head of sheep.

Stock cattle are worth from $8 to $10 a head, and more. Stock sheep are worth $2.25 a head.

Other sheep outfits in southern Arizona have been found in Haskett’s 1936 report on the Sheep Industry in Arizona published in the Arizona Historical Review. Another source for sheep herding in Southern Arizona comes from the Tubac Historical Society’s Facebook page. It states that in 1868 Henry Glassman had 200 sheep along the bottom land below the town. He had a dog, Stubbs, who herded them. Their Facebook page goes on to say that sheep were found earlier in the Santa Cruz River Valley. Further south near Calabazas, the Apaches raided and killed 1,360 sheep. The Historical Society continued:

“The Franciscan mission had been marketing serapes and blankets woven from the wool and in 1803 they were still weaving. The slaughtered sheep were probably shorn. Waste not, want not.” The Tubac Historical Society Facebook site continued, “Tubac Commander, Manuel de León, reported on August 1, 1804, that Tubac was a hub of shepherding. He noted, ‘We have 5000 head of sheep, evaluated at 1,875 pesos, three reales a head.’ Tubac was industrious. ‘Wool weaving has produced some 600 blankets, selling at a little over five pesos apiece. Over 1000 yards of coarse serge has been woven, selling at about half a peso per yard.’

More information on the sheep at Tubac and Calabasas will follow as I am able to research it. I have included maps to help you locate these ranches and missions. One last comment, I am not sure that they would have shorn the slaughtered sheep, but that will need to be investigated to determine the validity of that statement.

Arivaca is on this map.
Pantano is at the top of the map on the right and Elgin is about the middle on the right. Calabasas is just south of Rio Rico and north of Nogales.