In the late 1910s and early 1920s any person who was not a citizen of the United States could not hold forest leases for their sheep. These forest leases were important for the grazing of the animals in the summer in the northern and eastern portion of the state. One of the ways Basque sheepmen were able to get started in the sheep business or stay in the sheep business was to form partnerships and corporations with other Basque men who were citizens. Four men would eventually join forces sharing equally in the expenses and profits of the Ohaco Sheep Company, Inc. The four men were Michel Ohaco, Fermin Echeverria, Jose Antonio (Tony) Manterola and Mario Jorajuria.
The four men began the company based on trust and a handshake. Michel Ohaco became a citizen in 1921. He ran the company under his name obtaining all forest service permits and land. But, all four of the men put in equal amounts to get the company going. They ran their sheep under the name of the Ohaco Sheep Company between 1923-1933. Then it was made a corporation when Arizona law required that 80% of the shares had to be owned by U.S. citizens. This was accomplished through Michel’s wife, Louisa, holding shares for Tony. Fermin’s wife, Benancia, held shares for her husband and Mario. Michel was the president, Louisa the vice president and Benancia was the secretary of the corporation. The Ohaco’s held 301 shares together and Benancia held 299. This corporation functioned between 1933 and 1941. Property was bought, leased forest land obtained, equipment bought, herders hired. The integrity and honesty of those men and their wives worked well for everyone. Fermin got his citizenship in 1938 and Tony in 1939.
In 1941, Michel sold out and obtained the Chevelon Butte Ranch, sheep, equipment and other things. The Ohaco Sheep Company, Inc. then was owned by Fermin, Tony and Mario. In 1945, Tony Manterola, who had always wanted to own his own sheep company, bought Dr. Raymond’s Flagstaff Sheep Company. He also got equivalent proceeds for the corporation. That left two owners, Fermin and Mario. Mario sold out in 1951 and the corporation was run with Fermin and his sons.
What is the importance of this story is the trust each man held with the other partners. Based on a handshake they all prospered and when the times were bad they shared the burden together.
By no means is this the whole story as the men worked together in the decade of the 1910 under various sheep company names.
Fermin Echeverria (picture taken on his 50th wedding anniversary)Jose Antonio (Tony) Manterola with his wife Marianne. When I am able to obtain a picture of Mario I will add it.