It came to my attention a few years ago that the sheep industry in Arizona was disappearing. I love history, traveling to new places and research. These have been combined in researching this history. I am an independent researcher and speaker and also part of AZ Speaks with the Arizona Humanities. I hold a BA in Anthropology, a MA and Ph.D. in geography. My masters was in land use geography and the Ph.D. was more in historical geography. I love to travel and have visited all seven continents and more than 50 countries. I am a member of the Women Writing the West.
In the The Tribune, Holbrook, October 21, 2020, under “One Hundred Years Ago” there was an short article about the sheep industry. I have included the article below.
This is the time of year that many sheep outfits move their sheep to the Salt River area. Obviously in 1920, there would have been many sheep outfits in the state, thus the number of sheep moving. Holbrook shipped many sheep in and out of the area as many outfits were headquartered in and around Holbrook.
Today, the sheep are moved by truck. The three outfits in our state haven’t gone south yet as it is still to warm for the ewes that are pregnant. It will probably be another week before they are moved to pastures in central Arizona. I’ll post pictures later of them being shipped.
In the Daily Sun, Flagstaff, Sunday, September 24, 2020, a partial article appeared for what happened 100 years ago. Researching that article from the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, 9-24-1920, there was more to the article and there were several other interesting sheep articles too hidden in its pages. These will be explored in future posts. With today being the last day of September 2020, let’s just look at this one article as it leaves some interesting questions that need to be researched.
In their column of the happenings for 100 years ago, the Daily Sun wrote about the article titled: “Local Forest Service Has Revoked Alien Sheep Grazing Rights.” From the Daily Sun, they wrote:
“1920: All 1921 sheep grazing permits in the Coconino National Forest held by the Basque aliens were recently revoked by the local forest service office, and it is understood here, the action of the local office has been endorsed by the Secretary of Agriculture. There are five of these permits and 13,000 sheep involved. This action had been anticipated for some time since it had become necessary to reduce the number of sheep grazing in the forest exceeds the grazing available. This action was originally proposed in 1903 but was modified by the action of the Wool Growers Association until the forests became overcrowded.”
Information obtained from the original article states that the permits belonged or were held by Bernardo Bedegain, Mike Ohaco, Echeverria, & Co., Pete Espiel (Espil) and Julio Saucet. These men were Basque. The men owned a total of 13,100 sheep.
Seventeen years earlier, in 1903, as the forest became more crowded with livestock and especially sheep, a regulation denying aliens the right to graze their animals in the national forests. Because the Basque had been determined to keep their grazing rights, they appealed to ambassadors and the noise from the Basque and the ambassadors forced the department of agriculture to modify the regulation. The new regulation called for the aliens to lose their grazing rights when the forest became to crowded, which was what happened in 1920 and thus the men were losing their grazing abilities starting in 1921.
A law firm had been retained by the five sheep men. The firm, Stockton, Townsend and Drake wrote a brief and presented it to the secretary of agriculture in which they stated that the actions of the forest service were “cowardly, unfair and un-American.” The men lost their appeal this time and were given temporary permits to use until the end of the year. They now had only three months to procure grazing rights for the following year. Of the five men, Mike Ohaca was thought to be negotiating with another sheep men of Ash Fork, Charlie Burton, who might be able to obtain grazing rights on public domain.
In the back part of the Coconino Sun for this date, a little article was placed that related to this story. It read, “Deputy Forest Supervisor K. C. Kartchner got back Wednesday from a two-weeks trip to the Morman Lake and Anderson Mesa country, where he was checking up on the new sheep allotment lines established for 1921 as a result of the revocation of alien licenses.”
This leaves three unanswered questions:
1. When was the date that these men were told that their grazing rights had been revoked?
2. Were these men aware of the 1903 resolution that if overgrazing occurred, aliens would be the first to lose their grazing permits? Of the five men, dates can be somewhat accurately given for Pete Espil (early 1890s) and Mike Ohaca (1898) arrivals in Arizona and thus both should have known about the resolution that would affect them in the future. Bernardo Bidegain came to Arizona in 1906 and may have not been aware of the 1903 decision. The Echeverrias, Miguel, Matias and Fermin, arrived in Arizona in 1903, 1906 and 1910, respectfully, and they too may not have known about the regulation. That leaves Julio Saucet. It is unclear as to when he arrived in the United States. It is known that in the 1920s he was partnering with another sheep man. More research will need to be undertaken to determine his arrival date and other pertinent information.
As for Bernardo Bidegain, a family member said that not only did he lose grazing permits, but the house he had built for his family. Did any of the other men loose buildings and improvements that they had made to the land? This is really another unanswered question.
3. Finally, why did these men not obtain citizenship by 1920? It would have been the prudent thing to do. More research will be needed to ascertain naturalization of these men.
An article from September 27, 1902 in the Williams News caught my attention this week. The article was entitled “Wreck on Canyon Railroad. Work Train Derailed by a Band of Sheep – One Man Killed.” The information was obtained by the newspaper at the coroner’s investigation because of the death that occurred. So here are the facts of that dreadful day.
The article began “A backing train, a cut on a curve with a heavy down grade, a large band of sheep and an excited herder resulted in a wrecked train, the loss of one life and a number of men being badly injured on the Canyon railroad, about four miles north of Williams, last Saturday afternoon (September 20th).”
The work train had been sidetracked to allow for another train to pass, the “No.33.” (Probably that train can be identified with further research.) A small train with one engine, two coal cars and a caboose but with a steep grade was all that was needed for this accident to occur. Conductor J. O. Dodge, brakeman E. S. McClure, engineer Lumsden, fireman Price and the 12 men who made up the stringer work crew were on the train. In an area hidden from view by those on the train were a band of Frank Everett’s sheep in the process of crossing the track.
The train was progressing through a deep cut and then a sharp curve when the brakeman sitting in the cupola of the caboose with the conductor saw in front of him no more than 300 yards away the sheep crossing the track. While the brakeman reached to apply the air in the caboose to slow the train, the grade and the curve made it impossible to stop the train from crashing into the sheep. The brakeman testified that the train was going about 20 miles an hour when they hit the sheep. He also testified that the man killed was in the door of the caboose and may have tried to jump and failed.
The caboose ran about 100 feet on the ties before it jumped the track and toppled down the embankment. The two coal cars and engine continued down the track. As soon as possible those men who could help, cut the engine loose and as fast as it could the engine headed to Williams to summons the doctor and help. Once in Williams another car was quickly attached to the engine and with Dr. Tyroler, Agent Hudson and others headed to where the wreck had occurred.
A horrendous site was met by these newcomers. Dr. Tyroler was much in need as every man, except one, had been injured, some worse than others. One man had died. The doctor saw to the best care of those injured in this emergency. It was now time to remove the shattered pieces of the caboose off the deceased. The injured men and the deceased were loaded on the train and all headed back to Williams where Dr. Tyroler would be able to better attend many of the men’s injuries. Some of the injuries were cuts, sprained ankles and bruises to arms and legs. One man had a compound fracture of his leg.
One of the injured was sent to Los Angeles to be further treated. Some of the men were sent to wherever their homes were for recouping.
The six member jury that the coroner had empaneled stated, “We find that the said P.H. Swan, deceased, came to his death in a railroad wreck, on the Grand Canyon railroad, on this, the 20th day of September, A.D. 1902, and said cause was purely accidental and unavoidable; and we, the jury, exonerate all parties from any and all blame.”
I found no other mention of the sheep and how many were injured or killed in the train accident. Mr. Everett is not listed in the January issue of the Williams News as a member of the Arizona Wool Growers Association nor, is he listed in any comment for the rest of 1902 or the year of 1903. Further research will need to be undertaken to determine if this ended Mr. Everett from continuing as a sheep raiser in the state. It is likely he partnered with someone too. Stay tuned for new information that may be uncovered.
The Pleasant Valley War between the Grahams and Tewksbury, cattle and sheep, is well known in Arizona history. It is an understatement to say that there were some cowboys that just did not like sheep and that was any sheep no matter who owned those white woolly creatures. Of course, there were those like George Wilbur who I wrote about in my last blog that raised both sheep and cattle but let’s not muddy up our story.
Our story today is about, well, a sheep owner! The Candelarias had brought sheep into Arizona from New Mexico settling in the areas around Concho on over to Springerville, the Round Valley area. There were many Candelarias but only one we are interested in in this story: Don Pedro. Our story took place sometime between 1891 and 1912. A Texas cowboy family had moved into the area and one of them thought it was fun to shoot Don Pedro’s rams. Don Pedro tried to convince the cowboy not to shoot the rams. Well, that cowboy, whose name is not known, shot once to many times at Don Pedro’s rams. The next thing the cowboy knew was Don Pedro had shot the horse from under him.
But this is not the end of the story by any means. Don Pedro was unable to seek legal justice and came up with a better idea to stop the cowboy. A friend was asked to report to Don Pedro when the Texas cowboy and his family had their next family gathering. How long of a wait this was is anyone’s guess?
When the family gathering was reported, Don Pedro went to their ranch telling those with him he would be back in thirty minutes. Continuing to ride to the ranch house, Don Pedro asked to speak to the patriarch of the family. Now, with little English spoken by Don Pedro and the patriarch speaking little Spanish, one would think that the conversation would be difficult for either to understand the other. But Don Pedro had no trouble in getting the family patriarch to understand him. As the story goes, Don Pedro told him that every man, woman and child that was present at the ranch that day would be killed if he was not out in the thirty-minute time he told his men about. The patriarch did not believe Don Pedro and threatened to kill him. But Don Pedro’s plan was now revealed to the patriarch and his family as he was directed to look out the window and see Native Americans had surrounded the ranch house while Don Pedro had been inside.
Moral of the story: do not mess with Don Pedro! He would not be intimidated by Texas cowboys nor would he allow his livelihood (i.e. killing of his rams) taken from him.
A bright blue sky, a few wispy clouds, temperatures in the low 80s made for a perfect day trip spent on the rim and in the White Mountains. Leaving early last Wednesday, we drove for three-hours to Heber with a stop in Payson at the Beeline Café for breakfast. The reason for our trip today – a visit to George Wilbur Ranch! My husband and I were met by Gerald and Gunnar Hancock who graciously took us on this adventure.
The ranch has had a few owners since it was first started in 1885. George Wilbur was the original owner. Later it was owned by Bill (William) Ryan and his family. Ryan bought the property from the widow of George in the 1940s. Gunnar Thude in turn bought it from Ryan and he sold it to his daughter, Elma, in the late 1960s. Gerald and Gunnar are grandsons of Gunnar Thude and Elma Thude Sanudo was their mother. The present owners are in the process of remodeling – house, barn, workshop, root cellar and other places – to be made livable. As much as can be is being preserved as it was when it was used by Wilbur, Ryan, Thude and Sanudo.
One of the biggest changes that have been made at the Wilbur homestead is the solar system (seen on the picture above), allowing for electricity in the house and other buildings. Some cosmetic changes have also taken place. The floor in the cabin had to be replaced and so did the flooring upstairs. The bed in the upstairs is one that Gunnar told me he remembered sleeping in when his mother owned the ranch.
Elma and Carlos Sanudo’s ashes have been scattered over the ranch. Gunnar told me that he would like his ashes scattered over the rocks he remembered playing on.
All four of these families grazed sheep here and on forest permits in the surrounding area. Sheep grazed these lands up to the late 1990s when Elma Thude Sanudo sold her sheep outfit to the Auza Sheep Company in Casa Grande. Today, sheep may graze for a day or two on the land and use the water tanks that have been here from early times. The tanks have been expanded over the years.
I am thankful that I was able to visit this unique ranch with its connection to the sheep industry. The Hancock’s drove around the area for a glimpse of the sheep that are grazing in the area, but we had no luck in finding them. Another visit is planned soon as one of Ryan’s granddaughters wants to visit and I would love to have her stories to go along with her family’s time at the ranch. Maybe sheep viewing will be on that trip. So, stay tuned.
Northern Arizona’s newspapers had a fair number of references to sheep men during the months of June, July, and August 1920. References were found in the Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff). Both newspapers were consulted, for many times they both have the same story, but the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) would have more information than the other newspaper. For instance, the Holbrook (Arizona) News gave a brief overview of the happenings at the July joint conference of the Cattle Growers’ Association and the Wool Growers’ Association, but the Flagstaff newspaper had covered the meeting in greater detail. Of course, the meeting was held in Flagstaff.
The Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) in one article said that wool prices for the summer were down and gave the price at $0.44 per pound. I searched agricultural statistics for 1920 and found the following information. Wool prices were down from January prices of $0.50 per pound to April prices at $0.44 per pound or a 12% decrease. A further drop occurred in July with a 57% drop to $0.28 per pound. The October price for wool continued the decrease, but at a much smaller decline to $0.26 per pound or just 7%.
Prices had decreased substantially during the middle part of 1920 which forced the Navajo people back to making their own blankets. The August 20 Holbrook (Arizona) News reported that until recently the Navajos had enjoyed high enough prices for their wool that they could allow blankets to be made by eastern manufacturers. The paper stated, “But now the bottom has dropped out of the wool market and the wool of the Navajos is moving slowly, if at all, at ten cents a pound.” One can assume from this statement, that Navajo wool sold at a lower rate than wool from the other sheep found within the state.
A trader at Tuba City, John Kerley, had bought about 150,000 pounds of wool from the Navajo and he was not anticipating making a profit, but was expecting to lose about $10,000. That is about $128,197.00 in today’s money!
It is interesting how the Holbrook (Arizona) News listed information about sheepmen. They were listed as prominent “sheepmen” or just “sheepmen” with such information that they were in Holbrook for a day or a couple of days conducting business. Holbrook would have been the largest community in the area being on the railroad and had stores (H.H. Scorse, for example, written about earlier) to buy supplies for their herders and themselves. Several of the men had other information that I have included. This information was from several different weeks of the newspaper.
From Heber: George Wilbur (he had come up from Phoenix with his family and they would be guests until they went to their home in Heber), John Nelson and E. B. Newman (Newman was taking a band of sheep to the Kansas City Market)
From Silver Creek: George C. Morse (came into town, the article stated, to check out the political scene as elections were just months away), Percy Morse (brother to George) came to town with his wife. Another article found under the heading “Holbrook News Notes” commented that George was a woolgrower of Navajo County and was serving on jury duty. Since he was a freeholder in both Navajo and Apache counties, he could conceivably serve on jury duty in both counties. He told the newspaper, “feed and water are plentiful in the mountains and the sheep are doing fine.” At least for July 9th period, we have a clue as to the overall health of the range and in turn the sheep.
From St. Johns: W.A. Saunders (just stated he was a woolgrower and would be in town a couple of days).
H.H. Scorse (written about previously), John Nelson, and E. B. Newman were also listed in the Coconino Sun for July 1920 as having attended the joint meeting of the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association and Cattle Growers’ Association. I will have more information about the joint meeting in a future blog as a few facts need to be verified.
The Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) for July 30 reported the death of a 25-year old sheepherder that worked for Colin Campbell. The herder, Antonio Valencio, was struct by lightning while watching a flock of sheep 23 miles southwest of Seligman. Just goes to show that sheep herding can be a dangerous occupation.
A week later the paper reported that George L. Pratt was in Flagstaff from his ranch southwest of Winslow. He had shipped several carloads of lambs to the Kansas City market. This is the second mention of shipment of lambs.
This gives us a glimpse into some of the wool growers and the health of the sheep industry during the summer of 1920.
George Wilbur was a sheep man in the early days of the industry in Arizona. He built these buildings sometime in the early 1880s. They were marked on a 1885 Forest Service map, thus the buildings are younger than 1885. No sheep in the pictures, but I will post more information about George Wilbur soon.