From the January 30, 1898, Arizona Republic it is possible to gleam a great deal of information on the happenings in the sheep industry in Arizona. The newspaper began its article “The Sheep of Arizona Congregated in the Salt River Valley for Shearing” reflecting on how the democratic congress of the past four years had allowed the sheep industry “to go to ruin” under the Dingley tariff. Many sheep men in not only Arizona but the United States were affected and many went out of business. In Arizona, it was estimated that 50 per cent of those engaged in raising sheep “went to the wall.”
But the article was really on the positive side as it stated that the sheep men were happy and their profits looked good from the bountiful harvest of the previous year. “And to add to their fortune the elements have given them the most favorable conditions for ‘lambing’ they have had in a long time, ” the newspaper stated. George Scott told the newspaper that the average lambing for an outfit will be 80 percent. Mr. Scott, with one band of 1,700 ewes got 1,900 lambs.
The exact number of sheep that will be in the Salt River Valley for shearing was not known as a band contained from 1,500 to 2,500 and no outfit had the same number. From the number of bands listed below there were 58 in the valley and it had been estimated to be between 130,000 and 140,000 total sheep. Those sheepmen, where they were from and how many bands each had in the valley as reported in the newspaper were as follows:
Winslow – Cart & Noble, four bands
Flagstaff – Campbell & Francis, seven; Bill Campbell, three
Ash Fork – Joe Rice, three; Mr. Sterling, one; C. Hutchinson, two; J. Q. Adamson, four; Frank Evart, two; Mr. Renner, one
Show Low – Scott Bros., four; J. E. Porter, one; Clarence Morrow, one; Cole Campbell, four; William Morgan, three; Mr. Longmore, three; John Nelson, three; A.&B. Schuster, four; Lorenza Baca, one; Archie Cameron, one; Amos Bros., two; J. D. Houck, four.
A side note: Not all the above names are listed on Bert Haskett’s History of the Sheep Industry. There are more names on Haskett’s list than here but many of those on his list would have shipped their wool and lambs from a northern location. (Maybe that would be interesting to record here who Haskett’s has as sheep raisers.)
Charles Goddard had contracted with most of the sheep outfits to shear their sheep. He had set up one shearing camp and another camp had also been established. A wool buyer, A. Vandewert, from Boston was here to buy that wool. He estimated that in Arizona there was nearly 500,000 sheep. He had contracted for 2,500,000 pounds of wool from Arizona; a sheep averages eight and one-half pounds of wool. Another benefit to the wool raisers was that the prices for wool were up this year compared to last with wool selling between 12 and 14 cents per pound this year compared to 7 ½ cents last year. Selling of sheep in 1897 went for $2.30 and $2.75 per head but it is estimated that they will sell from $3 to $3.50 in 1898.
Other changes that were seen in 1898 included new plans for shearing and handling the wool. The newspaper continued, “The Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad company has prepared plans of a plant for shearing and handling wool which will facilitate the work to a great extent. The company will erect a plant at Peoria immediately, which they will hand over to shearing contractors ten days after the material for construction of the plant arrives. It has been delayed by the tunnel accident on the Santa Fe, but is expected to arrive soon. The plant will contain forty shearing pens, a large dipping vault, and a warehouse for the storage of wool. Machine shears will be put in each pen, and the old shears will be relegated to a place among the crude implements of the old days. The machines will be the means of saving a greater portion of the wool to the owners, as they clip much closer and cleaner than it is possible to do with hand shears.”
Shearing at the railroad yard also reduced the cost to the wool raisers as they did not have to haul their wool clip to the railroad for shipping to the eastern markets.
It is the goal to continue to find more information on 1898 wool and sheep prices and how the wool raisers felt when they were done shearing and shipping the lambs which would take place in May. The sheep raisers estimated that they would need 250 double decked railroad cars.