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.
The men 30 strong, had organized themselves in squads searching every canyon and ravine. Certain signals were agreed upon. So if any trace should be found they could soon be called together. They finally crossed his track followed it on and on and on – it seemed in creditable (sic) a child of seven could walk so far with out food nor water. Now a track: now a bit of clothing on the bushes on and on they went, their hopes rising with each new evidence that they might yet find the little fellow still alive. They heeded not the pangs of hunger nor the weary fatigue of their own bodies – on and on they wet as far as their horses could go. Still the tracks went on, they left their horses with tow of the party, took water and a little brandy, and crept along the ledge over precipices – down ledges they slid – till finally there they saw him on the very brink of a perpendicular ledge, his clothing torn from his little body, feet bleeding, flesh torn by the thorns of the underbrush. So crazed by fatigue, fright, thirst and hunger, they dared not disturb (sic) him lest he plunge over the brink and be lost forever.
Not a man spoke a word, not a sound dared they make. The father went back from the terrible scene and called the lads name ever so softly. He became conscious, turned saw his father with outstretched arms and sprang back and ran to the fond embrace. The men seeing him safely back from the brink rushed to him with water and with a few drops of brandy added to a few spoonsful of water in a baking powder can revived him sufficiently to be carried back to camp. They wrapped him in a Navajo blanket and took him on the horse. He seemed to be terribly frightened at this mode of travel. He squirmed loosed from the blanket, so he was placed in the saddle with his father behind and his arms around the terrified lad.
It was many days before he regained his sanity and became normal. Then they finally arrived at the Park all the men had heard the good news of his rescue and the whole party had assembled. The father asked the men how much he owed them for their efforts. They had put in six days and nights searching. They all answered as one man – “Nothing!”
That completes the story of the unknown sheepherder and his lost little boy.
“The sheep were moved from one canyon to another according to feed conditions. At this particular time they were being driven down the canyon near Bright Angel, the herd split in two sections, father and son became separated, each following a different herd in different canyons. The boy wandered on and on – until he was out of gun shot.
“The father hunted for days not daring to give up the hunt long enough to go for help. Thinking of course he would run across the little fellow in each revine or on top of each ridge. He finally was obliged to give up the lonely hunt and send for help.
“He found the cowboys at VT ready and willing at a minute notice to mount their horses and ride in haste to rescue the lost child. As the word spread over the country that the boy was lost, men sprang in to their saddles and were off to join in the search. Word finally reached Kanab. A rescuing party was formed in a few hours. Women came from every direction with food and supplies for the hunters. When they were off they stood around in terrifeid groups too grief stricken to go back to their homes. The children felt the terror in the air. And every night in every home a prayer was offered to God that the little fellow would be found alive and brought home in safety to his grief stricken parents. The women of the little town took turns watching and waiting comforting the prostrate mother as best they could.”
It has been awhile since I have had time to post a story. So today’s story actually comes from Rachel W. Dalley. In research at the Southern Utah University in October, this story was in a file about the Woolley family. It has little to do with sheep but sheep were the reason for the circumstances of the story. It seems only logical that this situation was repeated in many sheep raiser’s families. When the story was first written is unknown. There were two pages found together in the file and the second page was titled “Then and Now Part II” and dated July 1938. Part II has nothing to do with sheep, sheepherders, dogs, donkeys or a little boy as the story that is about to be told. Thus the story could have taken place in 1938 or 37 years before. The reader can decide for themselves on the date.
So in her own words, lets look at the story over the next couple of days.
“If we could let our minds wander back 37 years and see this beautiful peaceful valley as the lonely sheepherder saw it. Tall grass beautiful flowers blooming in profusion. The silence was broken only by the bleating of the sheep or the tinkle of the bell of his donkey as they followed the herd. This lone herder had brought his seven year old boy along for company, justs to have some one to talk to besides the dog and donkey. The omenous silence, the great aloneness-the monotony of the sameness of each day to the last one just gone by. This monotony became so oppressive that it was really dangerous for one man to spend so many weeks and months alone. So the little boy was brought along for company.”
A story written by Janice Bryson for theArizona CattleLog,December 2013, about the Atkins Family tells ofa sheepman on the Arizona Strip. There were Atkins that had sheep on the Strip but I will relate their story later in future blogs. For now, we will just stick with this sheepman.
Joy illustrated the remoteness of the strip with the story of sheep man Wayne Gardner. He was a prominent St. George resident who grazed sheep on the Arizona strip. A fierce snowstorm hit the strip in January 1949, Gardner was worried about his sheep and his herder Ed Harrington. He left home early one morning and his family raised the alarm when he did not return. Due to the continuing storm, Maurice Miles and Rudger Atkin flew to the vicinity of the sheep camp and dropped a note to Harrington. Through signaled replies, they determined that Gardner had not arrived and Harrington needed help. No sign of Gardner could be located from the air. Two weeks after Gardner left home, a search party traveled three days through the snow to rescue Harrington and move the sheep to lower country. Gardner’s hat was located but no sign of the man. The Sheriff called off the search until the snow melted but was convinced to try again one more time. Searchers with hunting dogs traveled to the area and the body of Gardner was discovered 75 yards from the sheep camp. He had walked twelve miles from his pickup in snow up to his waist. His frozen body, covered with snow, was found leaning against a Cedar tree as he had apparently stopped to rest and froze to death.
A sad ending for just one of about twelve families that raised sheep on the Arizona Strip. Other sheepmen stories from Utah and Nevada will be posted soon.
I will get back to writing about the Etchamendy’s next week but today in researching the sheep industry of the Arizona strip I have found some early sheep ranchers.
One source said that in the early 1900’s a minimum of 50,000 sheep grazed the Strip. Who these sheep belonged to is still being researched and more information will follow soon.
Mohave County tax records for 1936 showed 56 people owned a total of 64,470 sheep. In comparison 5 people owned 1,590 goats and 131 people owned 20,523 cattle which included milk cows.
A few names – Mr, Trumbull, Wayne Gardner and Persia Heston. The records showed that Gardner had 600 ewes and 15 bucks. Heston had 1,008 ewes and 20 bucks. Heston lived in Alton, Utah. He along with the other 77 taxpayers from Utah and Nevada would pay taxes in Arizona. Of those 77 taxpayers 52 lived in St. George, Utah and 16 lived in Mesquite and St. Thomas, both in Nevada.
These three cities were close to the Arizona Strip and would be easy to trail sheep down into this area. A bridge had been built over the Virgin River for easy access for the sheep. I’m looking for a picture of the bridge and will add when I find.
So a start on the history of the Arizona Strip sheep industry. Stay tuned as next will be information on Woolley who had sheep that he leased to others that had those sheep on the Strip. Woolley lived in Kanab, Utah. And then there are the sheep brought into Pipe Springs in the mid 1800s.
Two sheep families have been selected to be inducted into the Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame for 2023. They are John and Frances Aleman and the Etchamendy Family – Arnaud, Jean, Jean Baptista (JB) and Martin. Both the Aleman’s and the Etchamendy’s are of Basque descent. John Aleman came from Spain while the four Etchamendy’s are of French descent. Just a little information is given here but more will follow with pictures.
John and Frances Aleman.
John Aleman came to the United States in March 1914 settling in the Winslow area. He was led here by a boyhood friend, Juan Bicondon, who had migrated a year earlier. Juan wrote to John, “a land full of golden opportunities, knee high grass where sheep and cattle grazed as far as the eye could see, and cowboys riding horseback with forty-fives on their hips and Winchesters on the saddle.” John wanted to see this land for himself. He began as a camp cook there before moving to Flagstaff where he went to work for MP Espil and MI Powers at Frisco Mountain Sheep Company. By 1926 with saving his money he partnered with Mike Echeverria in the Cross Mountain Sheep Company. He partnered with Joe and Leon Pouquette also before he started the John Aleman Sheep Company in 1952.
John married Frances Abbie Hendrix in 1936. The couple had met when she came to Arizona and was visting her father’s ranch near St. Johns. Frances became very active in promoting lamb and wool. Along with Ora Chipman, of Utah, they co-founded the Make It Yourself with Wool competition. That competition, now called Make It With Wool, is still strong in both Arizona and Utah and many other states. The competition will be held in November in Arizona. (Pictures to follow once the competition is over.) Winners from each state move on to the national competition held during the national conference of the American Sheep Industry, held in January.
Just one more note about Frances taken from the nomination form submitted by her daughter-in-law. “In 1968 the American Sheep Producers Council started the annual Aleman-Chipman Scholarship Award for the senior winner in honor of their contribution to introducing young people from across the country to the beauty of woolen garments.”
Arnaud was the first of the family members to migrate to the United States in 1930. He began to work as a sheepherder until he was able to purchase his own sheep company. Once he became an American citizen though he was drafted into the military during World War II which forced him to sell his beloved sheep. After his 27 months of service, he returned to Arizona and purchased more sheep. He brought over his nephew Jean in 1949.
Jean and his uncle worked together for many years. Then Jean partnered with a boyhood friend, Jean Arriage who had come over in 1957. That partnership only lasted a year and then Jean went out on his own. Upon Arnaud’s death, Jean helped his aunt, Ramona with the sheep until her passing in the 1970s.
JB was the next brother to migrate to the United States also in 1957. He began his sheep career in California but within a year he was in Arizona working along side his brother and their uncle. The youngest Etchamendy, Martin would come in 1961. JB and Martin worked many years together until Martin returned to France. Martin would return and begin to run sheep again, mostly in California where he still to this day has a flock of sheep. Martin is 83 years young and still visits his sheep everyday with the exception of vacations and when he is not the grand marshal of the Basque activities in his hometown of Bakersfield, California.
All four of the Etchamendy’s wives were active in the Arizona Wool Producers Auxiliary (its title today) promoting sheep and wool along with Frances Aleman. The men would serve on the various boards of the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association.
There is a great deal more about each of the four Etchamendy’s and John and Frances Aleman and the Make It With Wool competition that can be written about. Over the next several weeks more information will be given with pictures. Hopefully, I will be able to photograph the Make It With Wool, Arizona competition this November.
Well, there wasn’t much going on in the sheep business at least. This was the only article I could find in researching newspapers across the state for 1922. For those from the Buckeye, Arizona area, this will be of interest to you!
On September 19, 1922, The Arizona Republic reported that the Long Brothers were engaged in constructing a large and modern concrete sheep dipping vat. It was necessary because of the number of sheep they owned. The pit was to be 45 feet long with a 20 by 20 feet drain floor.
From talking with one of the descendants of the Longs, I believe that this vat was south of the present-day post office in Buckeye, Arizona. The Buckeye area was a winter sheep grazing location for many sheep families in the early to mid-part of the 1900s. It was still farmland and not with all the housing developments and warehouses that have sprung up in the last 10 years and taken over our precious farmland. We are losing farmland every day in the Salt River Valley and it was one of the reasons so many sheep ranchers sold out in the 1970s – 1990s among other reasons. Without farmland for winter grazing, the sheep had no place to go.
Friends have told me of the days up to the 1970s when they would be caught on road behind sheep being moved between one field to another. While they complained about it then because they were in a rush to get where they were going, they all have told me that they miss seeing the sheep grazing in the fields around Buckeye.
While there are not the large numbers of sheep grazing on the pastures today in the Buckeye area, one can still find pastures that still have less than 100 but you must be diligently looking for them.
And that is the story for this week one hundred years ago!
Our guest writer for today is Laura Flood on her using sheep for mountain property firewise prepping. I hope you enjoy her story.
Cattle, horses, sheep, lawnmowers and weed eaters. Three are peaceful, the others are noisy and wear out your joints and pocketbook!
A recent quote I obtained, to mow and weed-eat my little half acre, was between $300 and $425 dollars! That did not include trimming the oak leaves and branches to make it firewise.
After the season of wonderful rain in Groom Creek, Arizona, which lies about 7 miles south of Prescott, in the Bradshaw Mountains, we have native grasses, pigs ears, foxtails and new shoots of oak brush everywhere!
A few years ago, I decided to look for sheep for sale to graze my property and enjoy the peace of letting them quietly crop the vegetation. Family and near-by children and adults also enjoyed visiting. I found an ad in Chino Valley and the seller turned out to be a young man who was the son of an old friend who had recently returned from Afghanistan.
I headed out to Chino and saw the little flock of white sheep that I learned were St. Croix Hair sheep.* I chose two and loaded them in the little wood trailer my friends, Mark and Jessiann, loaned me and brought them home. Jessiann and I unloaded them near the corral, where I let them see the safety of the green pipe corral with a cover, matts, and mesh wire around the bottom so the dogs couldn’t hop in there- especially my overly interested Jolly, the Border Collie/Aussie.
During the next couple months, I saw daylight emerge under the thick oak brush bushes, which is always my goal for being both firewise and to be sure no creepy crawlers are hiding. I gave “Prancy” and “Dancy” (handles that fit their dainty quick movements) about a flake of orchard grass each day to munch on between time in the corral when I was away and at night. They cropped the tall grasses and were a joy to have. When it was nearing November, I put an add on Craigslist and a family bought the pair to add to a small herd they were building. It was time well spent and I didn’t have to buy and store a lawn mower and walker around with my right arm swaying back and forth for hours using a weed-eater.
After buying and selling a sweet Red Roan horse in 2020 to ride and graze a bit; I had not been able to find a border for his temporary barn buddy and he was lonely. Purchasing two wasn’t in my budget and the cleaning up after one horse was quite enough on my small place. I need to constantly throw out horse apples, as my Kanga “Roo” pup would roll in them and consume a lot of this reprocessed hay. I found they did not do this with the small sheep droppings, which dried out quickly.
The last two autumn seasons, I acquired Suffolk sheep from a large farm in Paulden, owned by Barbara Killian and her retired veterinarian husband, Myles Killian. Barbara raises top quality Suffolk sheep and has been a 4-H leader for decades.
Agent 64, came to me as the name of one of the sheep that was very observant, if not a little suspicious, and Olive was just sweet and confident. I learned with the sheep that when it was time to put them in their shelter for the night, there is no need to grab halters or push them from behind yelling, is the way with some livestock. The Shepherds job is to go in front of them and call quietly and they follow you, trusting where you are taking them. Very sweet. They did a very good job in the few weeks they were at my cabin home.
The following year, per the abundant rains and overly abundant weeds and grasses, I requested three ewes from Barbara. She was coming my way and brought them out in a livestock trailer. They unloaded and went to town.
During theses short grazing visits, it is a simplistic time of renting animals, without ownership duties such as shearing, veterinarian care etc.
Of course, I was responsible for their safety and well-being, i.e., providing fresh water, salt, and a roof over their head during stormy weather, and safety from predators. Fortunately, my half acre is all fenced, with no-climb fencing over the five-foot-tall wooden posts on the roadside, and the same fencing attached to metal t-posts in the back of the property. The dogs have a separate yard up the hill and were kept in it when the sheep were out grazing.
Other necessities on my place, were putting fence barriers around my garden, such as the corn, tomatoes, strawberries and flowers. They did find there way into a few of these items, though they did not care for geraniums or zucchini. The abundant rain also grew lots of mushroom, which I pulled up and threw out, although they left a few stray ones alone that popped up before I got to them.
I also found with the three ewes this year, they became curious occasionally when I was inside and would come look in the windows and park out on the porch now and then. I barricaded a few areas and if they relaxed in the carport too long, I would walk out in the grass and weeds, talking to them in an upbeat tone and they would take the hint to get back to work. My niece and nephews enjoyed learning about them and watching their unique personalities.
Inquiries from neighbors surfaced and we talked about where and how they could acquire sheep to graze down their properties. I also shared the preference for sheep over goats. I found them more suitable for my small place. I had kept goats in a larger property I lived in the past and found sheep more docile and easier to handle. For the country home or business where it isn’t feasible to do a controlled burn or pay for high-priced labor – sheep may work for you. If you are tired of performing time-consuming physical work yourself, weed-eating and mowing around rocks and hilly areas – ten twelve times during Arizona’s long growing season – sheep are a great answer!
Next blog I will have information on the St. Croix sheep Laura mentioned in this article. There are several ranches/farms that raise these sheep in Arizona.
Continuing from the article written in the Arizona Republic, December 27, 1925, that I posted on an earlier, we find information on angora goats in Arizona. The paper stated that they were “Closely allied with the sheep industry of the state is that of goat raising.” This statement can more fully be understood when the facts are presented.
From other newspaper articles and family stories, I know that goats have been in Arizona for about as long as sheep. Sheep were brought in with Coronado in the 1500s. I don’t know if he brought goats.
A few differences between the raising of sheep and angora goats, the predominate breed, were implicitly given. The principal counties for raising the woolies, i.e., sheep, such as Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo and Apache to name just four, goats were raised almost exclusively in Cochise, Graham, Yavapai, Pinal and Mohave. While sheep were raised for both meat and their wool, goats are raised principally for their mohair. The head count for sheep was approximately 580,000 without counting any owned by the Native Americans and goats totaled about 160,000. The total investment value for goats was close to $800,000 while sheep had a value of $10 million. Unfortunately, the article did not state the annual pounds of mohair produced by these goats.
Both sheep and goat raisers, almost 90 percent, are members of the Arizona Wool Growers association, a corporation. Its primary purpose was to protect and foster the wool and mohair industries within the state. The officers of the association and board of directors given for the end of 1925 appeared to be those only owning sheep. The newspaper named: “A. A. Johns, Prescott, president; C. E. Burton, Ash Fork, first vice president; E. H. Duffield, McNary, second vice president; Aubrey Gist, Skull Valley, third vice president; Louise A. Hodges, Phoenix, acting secretary and treasurer. The board of directors are Colin Campbell, Ash Fork, chairman; Lou Charlebois, Wickenburg; H. B. Embach, Flagstaff; T. J. Hudspeth, Seligman; T. E. Pollock, Flagstaff; E. A. Sawyer, Winslow, and Williams Wilkins, Prescott.”
As the sheep make their trek from their winter green pastures to their summer cool air retreat, the office of the association follows. In the winter the office is in Phoenix and the summer it will move to Flagstaff. During the month of January, the winter meeting of the association takes place in Phoenix and the summer meeting is held in Flagstaff. The movement of the meeting to the location of where the sheep and goat men are located makes sense so the majority of them may attend the meetings.
If anyone following this blog had relatives raising goats in Arizona, I sure would like to hear from you. I have some stories; I am always on the lookout for more. A future blog will be on goats! And that is today’s baas and bleats!