The Thude Family Part 1

I posted sometime ago that I was going to present the story of the Thude family.  So here is their story as researched by me after interviews with many of the family members.

Gunnar Thude was a humble man instilling in his family the traits of hard work, honesty and always willing to lend a helping hand to other ranchers and others. The story of the Thude family begins when Niels Pedersen (Petersen), a naturalized Arizonan, in 1887, went back to Vilslev, Ribe County, Denmark, his home village, and recruited his cousin Hans Peder Thude with two other men to come to Arizona and help settle the land. Pedersen, being well established in the Arizona farming community by this time, had two reasons for bringing men from his home village: workers for his farm and ultimately for them to acquire their own farmland. Pedersen paid the passage of the three men and the men paid off their debt by working for Pedersen.

In 1892, using the Homestead Act Hans Peder acquired 160 acres.  What Hans did between 1892 and when he returned to Vilslev, Denmark is still being researched and someday more historical information will be able to be added to Hans story. But sometime in 1901 or 1902 Hans Peder visited his hometown.  His plans to return to the United States were thwarted when he met Kirstine Frandsen and they married. Some in the family suggested that he may have had to stay to care for the family farm but stay he did. Hans and Kirstine had seven children from which three of his sons would later migrate to Arizona.

Gunnar, the eldest son, migrated in 1921 at the age of 17. He first worked in New York, moving onto Nevada before coming to Arizona and working for Pedersen just as his father, Hans had done. It was during this time, Gunnar met his future wife, Anna Norby, Pedersen’s maid. The couple married in 1924 and they had three children: Eldon (1924), Elma (1926), and Mary (1928).

Gunnar and Anna bought land near Price and Ray Roads and began their own farm.  The years 1923 to 1927 were good to Thude. Thude believed in what he was doing in Arizona and officially became a naturalized citizen in 1928.  He was able to buy land and made good money. But the depression came and he lost everything, but his land which saved him. Hay was cut using horses as no one had money for fuel to use gasoline powered equipment. Hay that was sold helped pay the expenses during those lean years of the depression. But he did not sell all of the hay and this was stacked on his property. His foreman, Jose Valencia, told Gunnar to buy cattle or they would be eating the hay themselves.  And so, began his livestock business! In the 1930s he started to keep sheep. He bought a bigger farm in 1937 and expanded his sheep flock. Also Gunnar bought the Moose Ranch near Williams, Arizona to run his sheep sometime in the early 1940s. An exact date for the purchase has not been researched as of this writing.

By the mid-1940s, Gunnar was raising sheep under the name of the Paradise Sheep Company. Gunnar and his daughter, Elma, partnered with Kemper Marley and Don Brown. Marley had land in Scottsdale that could be used to winter the sheep.   

Thude trailed his sheep into the White Mountains along the Heber-Reno Driveway. Land acquisitions were made on ranches in many different parts of northern Arizona: Williams, Heber, Holbrook, and Springerville. Sheep and cattle were both raised. His land in Chandler was used for winter grazing of the sheep. A circuit of his ranches was required weekly to check on his flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, his workers, and his crops which were raised on his land in Chandler.

In 1948 Gunnar married Pat Pearce.  Three children were born of this union: Betty (1950), Gunnar Mikel (1953), and Frances (1955).  Pat had two children from a previous marriage, Charlene (1944) and Bill (1945).  She would ride horseback with him to the sheep camp in the White Mountains. She told her children that the sorest she ever was happened when she rode a horse with Gunnar on the range!

In the late 1940s, Francis Line, a film maker, traveled with a flock of Gunnar’s sheep as the herder took them into the White Mountains. Francis Line documented his travels in the National Geographic Magazine, April 1950, a book titled: Sheep, Stars, and Solitude: Adventure Saga of a Wilderness Trail, (1986), and in a documentary film.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story tomorrow!

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