Arizona Supreme Court – Illegal grazing fees charged on Utah livestock owners -May 1921

Some weeks there is lots of news about the sheep industry-the men moving their sheep or shipments of lambs and wool, how many are being shipped and the amount of wool by different wool growers and then other weeks there is absolutely nothing or maybe just one story. The biggest story and the only story this week one hundred years ago was the rendering of a verdict by the Arizona Supreme Court declaring that it was illegal to tax sheep, goats, herds of cattle and horses from another state grazing on land in Arizona. Now that was a big concern to livestock raisers in Arizona who already were having hard times with the drought, low prices for their animal products – meat, wool, pelts, high supply costs, high freight costs and higher taxation.  These were the concerns for both the sheep men and cattle men in Arizona and would result in a joint annual meeting which took in July, but more on that meeting later. First let’s look at what brought about this decision of the Supreme Court of Arizona.

A resident of Utah, James Smith, had taken his case to the Arizona Supreme Court when he was charged in Mohave County by W. P. Mahoney, sheriff for illegal transporting sheep and grazing them on land in Arizona without paying grazing fees. Mohave County attorney and the chairman of the board of supervisors had gone to Phoenix in March to present to the Supreme Court of Arizona the county’s issue with Utah residents, like Smith, from grazing on land that they felt should only be used by livestock owners who are residents of their county or of the state. The local county court found Smith guilty and he was ordered to pay an undisclosed fee. So far this year, Mohave County had collected $15,000 from Utah sheep men. In question also were the grazing fees collected last year, in the amount of $20,000.  

The newspaper reported, “The decision of the state supreme court is a great disappointment to this county. Every year many thousands of sheep and cattle are driven across the line from Utah and graze in this county, crowding the stockowners who live here.”  Assistant County Attorney for Mohave County, George W. Harben believes that unless relief from the encroachment of Utah stock growers is afforded to Arizonan’s own residents north of the canyon, there is likely to be blood shed there, as a lot of bad feeling have naturally been engendered. “An attempt will be made,” Mr. Harben said, “to have the governor make for a special session of the state legislature to request for the enactment of a new law covering this matter.”  The newspaper speculated that a new law would be in the form of an assessment against the invaders for the expense of policing the border.  

Fourteen other Utah sheep owners had been charged and were scheduled for trial in Fredonia. It was unclear whether these trials would be held at the time of the writing of the article.  

This encroachment by Utah sheep and cattle men was taken up in the joint meeting of the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association and Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association in July.  It was put forth as a resolution to get the state legislation to act to prohibit or restrict access to the area north of the Grand Canyon.  So, obviously the governor never called for a special session of the state legislature or the legislators were in no hurry to help provide relieve to an important industry within Arizona. It will be a topic to watch for in future newspapers.


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