Reading weather reports as they appear in the early newspapers help to tell the history of the livestock industry in Arizona. When the snows had been good, it meant reservoirs were filled and much of the water then goes into the rivers and ends up in the Salt River Valley. Summer rains are also important to both cattle and sheep and when the rains slack off, the sheepmen and cattlemen become concerned about the forage for their animals and where they will obtain water for them. With a heavy snow fall in the winter of 1901, it appeared that the land was drying out and the livestock men were becoming concerned for their livestock and livelihood. But at the end of July a very heavy downpour of rain northwest of Williams made at least the sheepmen feel jubilant, especially James Walsh who had come into town and reported the good news. All reservoirs were filled and running over by the heavy fall of rain.
The next week another article in the Williams News appeared stating that the rains had been heavy over the northern portion of Arizona every day for the past two weeks. No data was given for the amount of rainfall, but it was reported that all dams and reservoirs were full and in fact they were overflowing. The newspaper assumed that the ranges were assured for a year at least.
At the end of October another interesting article appeared concerning permitting the grazing of sheep on the forest reserves of Arizona. But it seemed that the Department of the Interior so no reason to bar the sheep. The Snips and St. Johns Herald newspaper reported that keeping the sheep off the reserves was really only a fight between the sheep and cattle men. Drought had hit the state and the cattle men were using their influence to convince the residents in the Salt River Valley and especially the farmers that the sheep were denuding the forests and causing the drought. The newspaper went on: “If our friends in Phoenix would learn the real fact in the case they would know that we have not lessened the water supply. We are just as much in favor of water storage as they are. The more water is stored the more rains we will have. The more rains we have the better the range, and the better our crops, though few they be”. As was reported in the Williams News, the Snips and St. Johns Herald continued “But fortunately we have had a good season and there is plenty of water and plenty of grass. Facts are stubborn things, and this one gives the lie to the hatched up theory of those who claimed that the sheep were causing the drouths. But we truly hope the strife has ended and that henceforth we know no north nor south, but only Arizona, a unit.”
In November the forest reserve question is raised again as how best to allow all livestock to graze on the reserves. I will post this in my next blog.