On the Sheep Trail

It was early morning when we came upon the sheep camp. The sheep were grazing and laying in the grass. The seven donkeys had been unloaded and free to move around the top of the hill overlooking Highway 260 in the area of the Verde Valley, Arizona. The dogs did not bark or even come up to me when I walked up the hill. Most of the herder dogs had seen me before so I was not surprised. I called out and identified myself. I was invited to come up to the camp. As I approached the dogs were hunkered under the shrubs and bushes to get out of the sun. Even this early in the morning, it was beginning to heat up. A cool breeze was blowing which helped.

A fire had been built some time earlier as it didn’t have many flames, just hot coals left. A Dutch oven was sitting among the coals. I asked if they were preparing breakfast. But, no they had had their breakfast earlier before they moved the sheep to this location. The camp tender was preparing their lunch. Oil was added to the Dutch oven and the lid was put on. While the oil in the pot was heating, he cut up carrots, onions, potatoes, and some other vegetables which I did not see. A few minutes later, the lid to the Dutch oven was removed and the vegetables were dumped into the pot. The lid was once again returned to the pot and it was left to simmer.

While I was watching the cook, a third herder joined the first two. I asked to take pictures of each of the herders, their camp, the sheep, and their activities. At first the three of them said no! Then as I started to walk away one said, yes, he wanted his picture taken and asked if he could have copies of my pictures I took that day. My Spanish is limited. Thank goodness for programs that will translate for you! I agreed as I knew I would see these herders again.

Jose, I believe was his name, proceeded to walk over to the burros and grabbed one of them. This is the picture he wanted me to take with his own camera and then allowed me to take pictures with my camera.

He then asked for me to take his picture with the sheep in the background. Once again, pictures were taken with his phone and my camera. In his broken English and my limited Spanish I learned that the three herders were brothers and from Huancayo, Peru. A smile came to his face when I told him I had been to their hometown.

We returned to the camp fire. I told him that I was with my husband, but he could not crawl under the barb wire fences as I did. He asked if my husband had pushed me under? I didn’t need a translation for these words and he graphically proceed to show me. All three of the herders had a good laugh about it. One of the pictures that I gave him was this one!

Stay tuned for the rest of the day’s activities.

Early Stock Raisers in Southern AZ

The January 1st 1881, Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, told of many ranches in Southern Arizona. The article “Our Stock Raisers – Notes of the Principal Ranch-Owners and Their Properties” listed five ranches that had sheep, a total of 41,900 sheep. That’s a lot of sheep in 1881!

D. A. Sanford’s ranch, situated 12 miles north of Pantano, on the Patagonia road, had 3,000 head of cattle and 300 head of sheep.

More information on Sanford’s sheep operation was found in the October 23, 1881 edition of the newspaper. It stated that “A short time ago Mr. Sanford had about 2,100 sheep stolen from his ranch on the Sonoita by a Mexican herder. The latter drove them towards Harshaw, and failing to dispose of but few of them he continued his journey with them towards Sonora. A Mr. Fleming, of Harshaw, suspecting that the Mexican had stolen the sheep, went after him, and in the difficulty that ensued, killed the Mexican. The Sonora authorities arrested Fleming and seized the sheep, but Sanford who had traced them and proved his ownership, recovered his flock minus about 200 hundred. Fleming was held for the murder of the Mexican, by the Sonora authorities and will be tried for the offense.” Whether Mr. Fleming was exonerated of the charge of murder has not been found in the next few newspapers. The other interesting thing about this story is Sanford had 2,100 sheep but in January he had 300 sheep; quite an increase in just nine months. Some of the increase could be attributed to lambs born but would not account for all 2,100 sheep. No story was found that he purchased more sheep, however that is the most likely answer. One other possibility is that the 300 sheep was not accurate as stated in the January news article.

The Cienga Ranch, owned by Ochoa & Co., had situated near Pantano, has 1,000 head of cattle and 23,000 sheep.

Pierre Aguirre, situated at Arivaca, has several hundred head of cattle, and 13,000 head of sheep.

The Barbacomari Ranch, owned by E. H. Read had 2,600 head of sheep. (Today, this ranch is a family owned and operated cattle ranch since 1935. It was established through a Mexican Land Grant in 1832.It is located in Elgin in the rich savanna rangelands of Southeast Arizona. It is considered one of the first ranches in territorial Arizona. The Brophy’s are the third owners of the ranch. Now the Perrins, a sheep rancher of Northern Arizona and obviously land owner in Southern Arizona, also were owners of the ranch, but that is another story.)

R. Bolen, California Ranch, six miles above A. D. Sanford’s, on the road to Patagonia from Pantano, had 3,000 head of sheep.

Stock cattle are worth from $8 to $10 a head, and more. Stock sheep are worth $2.25 a head.

Other sheep outfits in southern Arizona have been found in Haskett’s 1936 report on the Sheep Industry in Arizona published in the Arizona Historical Review. Another source for sheep herding in Southern Arizona comes from the Tubac Historical Society’s Facebook page. It states that in 1868 Henry Glassman had 200 sheep along the bottom land below the town. He had a dog, Stubbs, who herded them. Their Facebook page goes on to say that sheep were found earlier in the Santa Cruz River Valley. Further south near Calabazas, the Apaches raided and killed 1,360 sheep. The Historical Society continued:

“The Franciscan mission had been marketing serapes and blankets woven from the wool and in 1803 they were still weaving. The slaughtered sheep were probably shorn. Waste not, want not.” The Tubac Historical Society Facebook site continued, “Tubac Commander, Manuel de León, reported on August 1, 1804, that Tubac was a hub of shepherding. He noted, ‘We have 5000 head of sheep, evaluated at 1,875 pesos, three reales a head.’ Tubac was industrious. ‘Wool weaving has produced some 600 blankets, selling at a little over five pesos apiece. Over 1000 yards of coarse serge has been woven, selling at about half a peso per yard.’

More information on the sheep at Tubac and Calabasas will follow as I am able to research it. I have included maps to help you locate these ranches and missions. One last comment, I am not sure that they would have shorn the slaughtered sheep, but that will need to be investigated to determine the validity of that statement.

Arivaca is on this map.
Pantano is at the top of the map on the right and Elgin is about the middle on the right. Calabasas is just south of Rio Rico and north of Nogales.

A Thumb Nail Sketch

Browsing through old territorial newspaper one can find short little tidbits of information about people and an industry that help paint a picture. It’s what I call a “thumb nail sketch”.  Searching keys words brings up other newsworthy articles about the topic being searched that may otherwise go unnoticed. There isn’t always a great deal of information found this way, but it may give the researcher new names to look for.  Those names or stories can be crossed referenced in other newspapers of the time. Other archives may be searched leading to a more complete record of the industry.

Take for instance obituaries. The information in an obituary can give us a little information such as where and when the person was born, arrival in the country and/or into Arizona, their age at death, and their occupation.  While that may not seem like a great deal of information what it does is add names to those who were participants in Arizona’s sheep industry which may not have been known before. It may add other areas of the state to the distribution of the sheep and how many sheep were in the state at a given time. From these obituaries there may be enough information to track them through Ancestry.com and learn more about the person.  Here are just four obituaries found in the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association files:

Tom Jones, born in Wales came to the United States in 1908 and shortly after arriving in New York City made his way to Mesa. In his obituary in the Arizona Republic, May 9, 1967, it states that he was a retired sheep rancher. He died at the age of 82. A footnote to the obituary that was attached to a paper in a file of the Arizona Wool Growers Association, it noted, “Tom shipped wool through the Arizona Wool Growers Ass’n (Association) in 1951 and 1952, and thus held membership in the association. He was an “expert herdmen.”

Frank Ybanez was a Buckeye sheep company foreman who passed away May 12, 1967 at the age of 65 years. He was from France and was about to retire and return to his native country where he had a sister and two brothers. Frank was an early arrival to the state coming in 1920. It was stated in his obituary that he worked in the sheep industry in Arizona for over 40 years.

Frank Pina, 75, was in the sheep shearing business with his brother between 1926 and 1946. He died in Mesa Sunday, February 4, 1969.   He was born in San Angelo, Texas in 1894 and arrived in the Mesa area in 1924.

In an obituary for Henry Albers from the Arizona Republic, Thursday, December 10, 1970 there is no mention of his involvement in the sheep industry. The obituary was attached on a piece of paper along with a typed footnote. It seems Mr. Albers had a small sheep outfit in 1907 when the then secretary of the Arizona Wool Growers Association arrived in Arizona. Albers range was between Government Hill and Sitgreaves Mountain, north west of Maine Station on the Santa Fe. It is believed that in 1908 he sold his outfit to Charlebois. 

Tomorrow, I will share what I learned about the sheep industry in the southern part of our state from two different stories.

A Six-legged Sheep? A Two-headed Sheep?

Today’s story isn’t about the sheep industry, but once in awhile a little tidbit of news is printed from times past that just needs to be retold. It also goes along with a picture sent to me by a sheep family of yesteryear, the Thudes.

If you had been around in 1881 and ventured to visit P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome you just might have seen this six-legged sheep. Barnum was known for his museum of freaks and a six-legged sheep would have just fit in with his theme.  By 1881 Barnum had merged with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson and the show was shortened to Barnum & Bailey’s.

But what about that six-legged sheep? Well, the sheep had two legs in front and four in the back. The sheep was a double-bodied beast, but simply had two fore feet. It only used two of its four back feet.  It was estimated to be about a year and a half old. It would come when called and its name was Jose.  It was very gentle.

The owner of the animal had hopes of selling the animal to Barnum for a whopping $500, a lot of money for 1881. It will take further research to determine if the man departed with his sheep and gained $500!

And just for those who are curious that $500 in 1881 would be worth $2,530.54 today!

And the two-headed sheep….

Poisonous Wool

An interesting newspaper story on poisonous wool was found in the Tucson “Arizona Weekly Citizen” for October 28, 1881. Death can occur when a shearer or a wool sorter carelessly handles wool from a diseased or dead sheep.

The story mentions wool sorters in England being subject to a peculiar disease when wool has been taken from sheep that had died from Anthrax, a malignant splenie fever that exists among sheep.

In the United States, another person’s death had also been attributed to wool. Mr. Naud, a prominent citizen of Los Angeles, had been sorting wool that had been placed in his care. Some of the clipped that he was sorting came from scabby sheep and “was, consequently, poisonous to a certain degree. After handling the wool he chanced to touch a small bleeding wound on his person and became inoculated with the poison from the wool. His blood became thoroughly impregnated with the poison, and after a long illness and great suffering from pyemia, he died.

“It is possible that the sheep in Arizona are not affected with disease to any extent, yet the greatest caution should be used to exclude the wool of sheep that have died or are suffering from any disease, from the better wool intended for the market.”

There were many dipping vats in Arizona to rid sheep of scabby in the early history of the industry. One of those dipping vats was at Cordes where many sheep were sheared each year. The sheep were run through the vats before leaving Cordes. I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog where scabby had been reduced if not eliminated in the years 1906 to 1916 because sheep owners were vigilant in this practice of dipping. The cost to dip a sheep ran between 2 1/2 to 3 cents. The picture of a dipping vat; it is the same one I used in the earlier blog.

Dipping Vat at Cordes. Date unknown. Unknown men.

There were other dipping vats within the state. One was at the Verde River Sheep Bridge and another on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. There had to be other dipping stations within the state along the trails used by the sheep men as they drove their sheep northward each year.

One further comment and that is the story failed to mention whose wool Mr. Naud was handling; they may not have known or did not think it was necessary to mention the wool grower.

Two last comments – if anyone knows who any of the men were in the picture above, please send me a message and if anyone knows of other locations of dipping vats, I would appreciate that information as well.

Wool Industry Nov. 1881

In my research yesterday looking for any information on the death of George E. Johnson, who I previously wrote about, I find an interesting article on the status of the wool industry for the state dated November 18, 1881.

From the Weekly Arizona Miner, Prescott – “Papers in Southern Arizona have been very generously giving Northern Arizona credit for having 150,000 head of sheep. They could have made the number 350,000 head, and still have been below the mark. Recently C. P. Head & Co., through their agent, Hon. Hugo Richards, shipped from Holbrook, per Atlantic and Pacific R. R, 19 cars of wool weighing 300,000 pounds. This is the largest shipment ever made from Arizona, and reminds us very forcibly that a woolen factory should be established here, and thus save the exporting of wool and the importing of woolen goods. With a Territory of 40,000 white inhabitants and as many more Indians, we cannot but conceive that the establishing of a woolen factory would pay beyond calculation. Some of the finer woolen fabrics might be brought in from States, but such goods as the miner, teamster and laboring man requires, together with blankets of all grades, could be manufactured in Arizona at a great saving. We earnestly call the attention of outside capitalist to this rare chance for investment.”

In the same newspaper on page 3 we find this – “The largest single shipment of wool ever made by any Arizona firm is that of C.P. Head & Co. They shipped a few days since from Holbrook, per Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, 300,000 pounds, making a train load of nineteen cars.” This piece of information was also found in the Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, dated November 20, 1881 under Prescott Paragraphs. It was common for newspapers to run stories from other newspapers within the state and out-of-state.

Author’s note: If we use 8 pounds of wool per head of sheep that would calculate to 37,500 sheep owned by C.P. Head and Co.

In searching the Tucson newspapers for October and November 1881, no substantiation of the number of sheep given by Southern Arizona newspapers was found. That does not mean that the information is incorrect; it just means that it has not been found yet. Although, usually one newspaper picking up information from another was written about fairly quickly so that is suspect. On the other hand, no mention of which newspaper contained the information that the Weekly Arizona Miner reported about. Phoenix newspapers have not been checked for this date. Holbrook did not have a newspaper that early, so no help there. On October 30, 1881, the Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, reported on an article from the Miner stating, “the wool industry of northern Arizona is taking an important place alongside of the most formidable enterprises. Sheep can be brought to the Territory from either direction and herded upon the fine, juicy grasses, so abundant. The increase is estimated at 70 per cent. The wool of 2000 sheep will more than pay the expenses of herding, etc., therefore it will be seen at a glance that here is a chance for safe and remunerative investment.”

What is exciting about these articles is the early dates, October and November 1881, and the number of sheep already in the state. Sheep had began to be trailed here in the mid 1970s. Could it be possible that the number of head of sheep surpassed 150,000 or even 350,000 in just a few years? And, another question raised is who is C.P. Head & Co.? Haskett’s “History of the Sheep Industry in Arizona” written in 1936 lists those in the business in 1890 to 1906. C.P. Head & Co. was not on the list. In ten years, C. P. Head either sold out of the sheep business or the name was missed by Haskett. It will be another mystery to solve.

In conclusion, more historical facts have been learned about the sheep industry in Arizona and there are still more questions coming from these facts. So, stay tuned for updates.

George E. Johnson, obituary.

Early newspapers very often had brief mentions of visitors coming into town and residents and others who left. There may even be who the person visited and why they were in town. It was known that Elizabeth had hitched up the horses to take ill George to Prescott for treatment for an unknown illness. It was a long shot that I would find mention of them coming into Prescott. I was lucky and thus substantiated information that the family thought was true from statements made by family members, who either remembered or information that had been told to them by someone who had lived through the event.

The first mention of George was in a column titled “Thursday”: “The funeral of the late Geo. E. Johnson took place today from the residence, on South Montezuma street.” The paper, The Weekly Arizona Miner is published on Fridays so his death was probably on Wednesday as the family believed. In the next column more information is learned: “A Mr. Johnson, resident of Bill Williams’ Mountain, died in Prescott last night, of heart disease. He leaves a wife and five children.” His wife and children were not mentioned by name. However, we know that at this time the couple did have five children and a sixth was on his way, as a son was born in March, 1882.

The Citizen Cemetery in Prescott was began in 1864, however, no grave has been found there. That does not mean there wasn’t one as Elizabeth may not have had the means to buy a headstone so the grave location is unknown. Or, did she take his body back to their ranch and bury him or to the cemetery at Simms’ Camp? Simms’ Construction Camp sprang up as a place to house the workers building the railroad in Johnson Canyon. In the Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/3/1882 two men who killed each other were buried nearby. It is reported that old maps show several graves, but there is only one headstone that remains today. (Weintraub, 2005, revised paper, “The Johnson Canyon Abandoned Railroad Grade: A History of 9.3 Miles of Treacherous Railroading in Northern Arizona”, pgs. 11-13)

It was known that twice a year George would make a trip to Prescott for supplies. The exact months are unknown but it is very likely that I will find something mentioned about his visits with a tedious search of the newspapers for the years from 1876 (the family arrived in late 1875 so his first trip to Prescott would not have been to after that) to several months prior to his death in November 1881. If I am successful in finding mention of his supply runs into Prescott, I may find other information about him, also.

This information helps substantiate information from the family about George’s death in Prescott. Only time and more research will tell what other information can be found about Johnson and his sheep ranch near Johnson Canyon.

Our Wool Industry – Papers in Northern Arizona have been very generously giving Northern Arizona credit for having 150,000 head of sheep. They could have made the number 350,000 head, and still have been below the mark. Recently C. P. Head & Co., through their agent, Hon. Hugo Richards, shipped from Holbrook, per Atlantic and Pacific R. R, 19 cars of wool weighing 300,000 pounds. This is the largest shipment ever made from Arizona, and reminds us very forcibly that a woolen factory should be established here, and thus save the exporting of wool and the importing of woolen goods. With a Territory of 40,000 white inhabitants and as many more Indians, we cannot but conceive that the establishing of a woolen factory would pay beyond calculation. Some of the finer woolen fabrics might be brought in from States, but such goods as the miner, teamster and laboring man requires, together with blankets of all grades, could be manufactured in Arizona at a great saving. We earnestly call the attention of outside capitalist to this rare chance for investment.