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.