The “Jolly Sheepmen”, rainfall, fire, and the forest preserves.

In perusing early 1901 – 1903 Williams News through the Arizona Memory Project (azmemory.azlibrary.gov/digital) I found a few tidbits about the sheepmen in the area, weather, and what was happening with the forest. Weather is important to know about as it gives some perspective on grazing conditions as we will see. And the forest, well, that is where the sheep grazed.

One thing that appeared odd was the newspaper had the habit of calling the sheepmen “jolly”.  For July 27, 1901, C.C. Hutchinson was described as the “jolly sheepman”. Another edition, August 3, 1901, reported that “H. J. Gray, the jolly sheepman, and estimable wife, were town visitors Thursday evening. Harry went up agin’ that measly goat in the K. of P. second degree, yet he went in prepared for anything and everything.” In the same newspaper, Gus Reamer is described as “the jolly sheepman”. But, the next couple of statements we are told of Reamer’s bad luck of striking his head after falling from his wagon. It all ended well though as Reamer had friends that went to his sheep camp and brought him into town where many friends would look after him. Continuing my browsing of the newspapers a new description is giving to a sheepman: J.H. Sterling was described as “the popular sheep man”. I wonder why these descriptions for the sheep men. I never saw a cattle rancher described as “jolly” or “popular”.

It was interesting the comments about the amount of rainfall received. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers to these rain reports. Since the newspapers I am reading are found online at Arizona Memory Project I have questioned several of these newspaper accounts. Each page for each edition that has been scanned are not given dates making it hard to determine the validity of the pages being for that date. Case in point it seems strange that there would be two sections with the caption “Local” and two places where the newspaper talks about the amount of rainfall. It was reported the rainfall for the summer of 1901, August 3, appeared to be very good. “It has rained heavy rains over northern Arizona every day for the past two weeks. An immense quantity of water has fallen. All dams and reservoirs are full and overflowing. The ranges are assured for a year at least.” In another section of that same newspaper (if one can trust that it is the same day) it stated that the “Rain God” was very good to all of Arizona for the past two weeks. Checking national weather statistics for rainfall total for the summer of 1901 can resolve part of the issue.

Monsoon rains may have been particularly good that year. It seems likely that both mentions could conceivably be the same newspaper as each does give a little different perspective on where the rain occurred. But then there is this turn of events. While looking at the July 6, 1901 newspaper, the third page ran this story, “About four inches of snow fell on last Saturday and Sunday. Present indications predict a very favorable season for stockmen.” Ok, snowfall in July? Future searching of the newspaper page containing that story shows a date of February 2, 1903! So, it is likely that the August 3, 1901 newspaper has another newspaper that was scanned with it.

The last story I want to present also may not be from July 27, 1901 newspaper. The newspaper reported that Forest Ranger Ben H. Crowe and Forest Superintendent H. F. Breen was prosecuting Andrew Alasor, a sheepherder, for a fire he caused near Maine. Judge Ranney hearing the case agreed and bound Alasor over to the grand jury with a $500 bond. The newspaper account described fire damage in the past sixty days amounted “to more than all the damage from sheep and cattle since the day of Adam.” The paper further stated that although the decision on the poor man was tough, the Superintendent needs to set an example to protect the forest reserve and enforce the laws of the forest. I doubt that this could be a story from July 27, 1901 when a week later the newspaper reported the heavy rains that have been falling over the state for the past two weeks. If the forests were wet, I would think that the fire damage would not have been so great that it amounted to the description of the “most damage since the time of Adam”!

While these newspapers add to the overall history of the sheep industry in the state even with the uncertainty of the newspaper date, names of sheepmen and herders are gathered. These sheepmen’s names can then be compared to the Arizona Wool Growers Association early records to see if the sheepmen were members. Other information than can be gathered through their records of these men.
And there you have it; a few more tidbits of Arizona sheep history.

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