Wool Growers’ Happenings: Summer 1920

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.

Navajo Weaver

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.

Sheep at the Verde River

The Joe Manterola Sheep Company gave me the two pictures of his sheep crossing a flooded Verde River in the early 2000s; I think I was told 2005. The other picture is his sheep crossing the river when it was not at flood stage. This picture was given to me by George Groseta. Quite the contrast!

The last picture has been my observations of the sheep crossing the river as you can view in previous posts and in media. It was dangerous for both sheep, donkeys, guard dogs and herding dogs plus the herders to cross the river at flood stage. Notice that the donkey’s ears are just above the sheep’s head in the first picture. Mr. Manterola told me that the sheep were going every which way and they were fighting to get the flock across the river where the trail was for the northward movement toward Flagstaff-Williams area. While I would like to see sheep, donkeys, dogs and herder crossing during flood stage, I would be so worried for any of the animals or men. Flood waters are nothing to joke about and can easily sweep all down the river away from protection or worse, death. This would have been the last crossing the outfit would make before arriving at their summer grazing destination.

Wool Growers’ Happenings: Summer 1920

The months of June, July and August 1920 had a fair number of references to sheep men of northern Arizona in the Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff). Both newspapers were consulted for the Holbrook newspaper 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. More information about this meeting will appear in a future blog as a few facts need to be verified.

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%.   That $0.50 per pound would be equivalent to $6.44 today which I sure all sheep raisers across the world would like to see this year! Even the low end of $0.26 would equate to $3.35 today!

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 have 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 near 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 in 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

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. 

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 look into some of the wool growers and the health of the industry during the summer of 1920.

Forest Fires July 1920 and a little sheep.

Fires were raging in Arizona the month of July, 1920, but from what was reported in the The Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) one wonders if we are repeating the same scenario again 100 years later. But upon further reading “Raging Forest Fires” the size of the fires was relatively small in comparison to the fires this summer where 100,000s of acres are burned with the loss of buildings, i.e., homes. The largest fire in 1920 consumed over 5,000 acres in comparison, but nevertheless they still thought the fires had burned to much forest and land. Any loss of forest land is devastating!

In the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) July 16, there appeared an article entitled “Raging Forest Fires.”  Information included how many acres had been burned, the cause if known and how many men were fighting the fires in some cases.

Forest fires have been raging in several places in the Coconino National Forest during the last few days of the week of July 4 and into this week of July 12, burning over 5,000 acres of land. These fires were under complete control this past Tuesday night of July 11.

The fires in the Tusayan National Forest have been even more extensive. A fire in the Saginaw tract, northeast of Williams, had burned over more than 2,000 acres on Wednesday, July 14, and it was still raging along a 4-mile forest.

Three other larger fires in the Coconino forest were listed in the order in which they broke out:

Dead Man’s Flat had burned over 1,500 acres of uncut timber of the forest reserve. It took 40 men to put out the fire which was believed to have been set by sheepherder.

The Greenlaw Fire located southeast of Flagstaff near the road to the Cliff Dwellings has burned over 900 acres of which over half the forest had been cut.  Most of this forest land belonged to the A.L.&T. company. The cause of this fire was unknown. Even though the fire was smaller than Dead Man’s Flat it took 75 men to handle it.

The last fire in the Coconino forest is the Black Bill Park fire which has burned over 2,000 acres, all forest land and uncut timber land. One hundred men and three days were needed to get it under control. Unfortunately, the fire was started by Nestor Garcia, Campbell & Francis sheepherder, who was bringing a band of bucks through. Nestor threw away a burning cigarette stub catching the grass on fire. He fought the fire a few moments, then gave up and left it without reporting it. He was arrested and had a hearing before Justice of the Peace R. J. Kidd, who fined him $25 and gave him a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

Another fire was called Dry Lake, near Fred Garing’s ranch. It covered 300 acres, of partly uncut lumber, partly private land and the rest University and A.L. & T. land. It was reported as a very stubborn fire to fight and took 69 men to handle it.

This article appeared in the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) for July 16th. It was not uncommon for the newspapers back in early Arizona times to include such topics of interest to the community at large. It is included here in its entirety:

Preventing Fires on Farm

Experience has shown that fire prevention should be universally practiced. The farmer, however, should give special attention to the elimination of fire hazards and the adoption of protective methods. This is true for several reasons. In the first place, his house, barn and outbuildings are usually constructed of combustible materials; being more or less isolated they are subject to lightning strokes; kerosene and gasoline are likely to be stored about the premises and used for light and power; he must fill his barn with hay, straw and feed which are subject to spontaneous combustion and last but not least, he is usually outside of the protection of a fire department. Too often a fire once started in a farm building results in a total loss, while the owner stands sadly by with his family and his neighbors, and wishes that he had taken some of those precautions which he had been considering.

Now you may wonder why a website devoted to the history of Arizona’s sheep industry would include information on forest fires. The forest reserves were home to the sheep in the summer and burning of the forest would not be beneficial to any sheep rancher. He would lose his grazing land maybe for a year or two until the grasses had sufficiently recovered to allow grazing once again. The fire could be in areas that where the trailing of the sheep occurred each spring and fall and thus there would not be sufficient feed for the animals while on the trails. Concern for his flock every summer in years of drought, thus making the forest more susceptible to fires, was never far was the sheep rancher’s mind. He could lose a band of sheep. There were reports of herders and the dogs, who helped keep the flocks together, had been killed by lightning. Obviously, forest fires are detrimental to the environment and thus affected domesticated livestock and forest animals. In this time-period, fires were just as deadly as they are today!

And that is the news from July 1920.

H. H. Scorse

An update to an earlier article “Where do I live” – A friend sent me some information about H. H. Scorse after he read the forementioned blog. He told me that there are still Scorse in the Holbrook area.  Obviously Scorse had lived a while in the Holbrook area as the H. H. Scorse Mercantile building was built in 1890.  He leased the building in 1896 to Julius Wetzler for the Wetzler Brothers mercantile store. They ran their business for four years then in 1900 it was operated as the Henry H. Scorse mercantile. There are several older buildings in Holbrook with the Arizona Rancho built in 1881 and the Navajo County Sheriff office building was built in 1882. The former building was used by the Hashknife Cattle Company. These are the two oldest buildings I have found at press time; there may be older ones.

Scorse built a second building in 1922 as it was a trading post in the 1960s according to my source anad is owned by Paul Ortega today. I’m glad these old buildings have been preserved. I can’t wait to see them myself. Pictures of Scorse’s buildings:

Where do I live?

In the June 11, 1920 Holbrook (Arizona) News an interesting article about H. H. Scorse appeared. As I was scanning the newspapers for 1920, I had noticed an ad that had appeared for several weeks for H. H. Scorse, but never gave it much thought. It does not say much as one can see.

I always look at the advertisements in the old newspapers because many times the store will be selling woolen products for both men and women. They also may sell wool, pelts, or fleeces.  It does not mean that the owners of these stores are in the wool growers’ business, but they may have connections to those that do. Patterns for woolen outfits have been given which are always interesting to look at them. Once in a while, there would be an advertisement for selling of sheep. Pierre Aguirre, located in southern Arizona and written about previously, was a sheep man and he was selling fine thoroughbred bucks. The advertisement below was placed in the Tucson Citizen.

But, getting back to Scorse, not remembering his name as a member of the wool growers’ association, I did not assume that he was a sheep grower and did not pay much attention to his ad. I only went back and copied the ad after reading this about H. H. Scorse:  

“H. H. Scorse, a sheep grower, went before the State tax commission to find out where he lived. It was a question whether he lived in Pinal or Navajo counties, inasmuch as his flocks (emphasized added) ranged in both counties. The question of residence arose when Scorse paid his taxes in Pinal county lasts year, remitting a portion to Navajo county. Navajo refused to accept the payment and the matter was carried to the tax commission. The commission decided Scorse shall pay his taxes in Navajo county. That county, however, will make proper distribution of taxes to other counties, according to an affidavit to be submitted by Scorse showing the time during which sheep ranged in other counties.”

Further research found that Hasket, in his “History of the Sheep Industry in Arizona” published in The Arizona Historical Review, 1936, lists Scorse as having sheep in the Navajo County between 1891 to 1906 period. At no time in my research have I found what was the name of his sheep outfit, the number of sheep he had or the trail he may have used to bring his sheep up to Navajo County. His name does appear as an attendee for the joint Cattle Growers’ Association and the Wool Growers’ Association that was held in July 1920 in Flagstaff. I will be writing more about this joint meeting as soon as I have put all the puzzle pieces together for the many complaints and resolutions that the two organizations agreed upon at the meeting.

I am finding that early sheep raisers also were involved in other businesses such as owning a store, banking, or were a local politician. Wool growers’ were involved in their communities as I stated when I wrote the family histories in Where Have All the Sheep Gone? Sheep Herders and Ranchers in Arizona-A Disappearing Industry.  

One Hundred Years Ago

Just out of curiosity I decided to look at the sheep industry one hundred years ago, June 1920.  There will be further articles I will write about, but I thought this was apropos for what is happening in the meat industry. It was astounding that what was happening in 1920 is still going on today. Looking at only the sheep industry the imports for July 1, 1919 to June 30, 1920 were as follows:

Wool 427,578,038 pounds

Mutton and lamb 16,358,299 pounds

Sheep (live) 199,549

(I will do a comparison of these numbers with July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 statistics when they are available)

In looking further into the year, the July to Oct the imports were as follows:

Wool 44,435,248 pounds

Mutton and lamb 64,623,776 pounds

Sheep (live) 94,960

Lambs waiting for their mothers being sheared.

It did not get better for the sheep men in the next quarter of the year, 1920 as the above numbers revealed. Prices for wool averaged for the July 1, 1919 to June 30, 1920 about $0.48 per pound, with the highest price at $0.50 and the lowest at $0.44.  A drop of six cents can be a lot of money to a wool grower.  Using 100,000 pounds of wool for illustrative purposes:  100,000 pounds of wool at the 50 cents a pound price, $50,000 is made at the sale of the wool. But at $0.44 he loses $6,000. Some of the sheep men relied on the wool to pay their expenses for the year. Those expenses would include the herders pay and their room and board, grazing fees, other expenses for the outfit such as shearers and transportation of the wool to the purchaser and expenses for their own family, taxes, etc.  At about 6 pounds per sheep that 100,000 pounds means the sheep grower had more than 16,000 sheep which only a few sheep men had that many sheep. Most flocks averaged about between 5,000 and 7,500 sheep from what can be garnished from the wool growers’ records.  

It was also suggested by J. R. Howard, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, writing to the extension director of Arizona, “There is no reason to believe that the demoralized condition of the wool market is more than temporary, and we suggest that you immediately get this report to every county agent and county farm bureau and urge them to advise their members to avail themselves when necessary, of credit extended through the federal reserve bank agreement and to pool their wool and hold it until the market becomes stabilized.” Unfortunately, the price of wool dropped further in 1920, selling at $0.28 a pound in the third quarter and decreasing another two cents in the fourth quarter of 1920. Looking at the wool market today, sheep growers have no market for the wool and they must hold onto it, paying for storage and other costs. Some sheep owners could not sell their lambs for a decent price either this year. They could not afford to hold onto the lambs so had to take the reduced price.

How true it is that in an article written in February 1921, it stated, “It doesn’t require an expert to realize just how much the above free competitive imports (see list above of imports of wool, sheep, mutton and live animals) have discriminated against our farmers and stockmen, and their consequent losses thus occasioned.“  The article further stated that it was about time that the American farms and ranches products have priority so a living wage can be paid” and “we must so arrange our tariff schedules on such products and substitutes as will equalize our cost of production with that of foreign countries.”  It seems we do not learn from the past.  Tariffs were eliminated over one hundred years ago hurting the American farmer and rancher and it is still going on today.  Farmers and ranchers are not paid fair wages for their products. The consumer of these products are paying more; the additional price paid goes to middle men and not the farmer or rancher.