James E. Bark, cattleman and E.S. Gosney, sheep man, square off.

The Pleasant Valley War may have ended in the early 1890s (1882-1892) however, the cattlemen still were making disparaging remarks about the sheep and the sheep men. In two different issues of the Williams News, one December 5, 1903 and the second, December 12, 1903, a prominent cattle owner, James E. Bark, and E. S. Gosney, president of the Arizona Wool Growers Association squared off with each citing their opinions of what they perceived of the others industry. This square off was a result of a statement made in the Phoenix Republican that 400,000 sheep were headed to the Salt River Valley and that sheep commanded the northern lands of the state.

On December 5th, Mr. Bark decided to answer this with what he perceived of the true problem with the sheep industry and how the sheep were ruining the forest reserves, the watershed of the Salt River Valley and adding little to the tax revenues of Maricopa County even though they benefitted from grazing in the county each winter.

He began by stating that before the influx of sheep in the Salt River Valley there were many cattle but that the herds had been reduced because the sheep had eaten everything, leaving nothing but higher branches on trees for the cattle. He further stated “there were many dozen cattlemen, each paying more taxes than all the sheepmen paid into this county (Maricopa) in 1902. He went on stating that if there were 300,000 sheep in the county, where were they when it was taxation time as the county only collected $99.85 on 60,700 sheep from Apache, Navajo and Coconino counties. His next point of contention was the destroying of the watershed, “is destroying our forests, tramping the watersheds of each little stream until the blessed rain when it comes can no more penetrate it than it could a sack of flour, but cuts gullies into it and washes it into the streams leaving nothing but a barren and hard subsoil or bedrock on which nothing can grow and destroying the greatest reservoir Salt River ever had or ever will have.” He continued that the sheep men say that the amount of rainfall is less than in previous years, but he disagrees with that statement and said he can prove it with the rain totals kept by the Weather Bureau!

His closing remarks “Action must be taken by the people of the Salt River Valley to stop the destruction of their watershed or give up the valley and the Tonto reservoir to the sheep. But can we afford to give it up for $99.85 per year?” Clearly, he did not care for the sheep industry.

Mr. Gosney’s answer will be in the next post.

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