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.

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.  

Picture

The picture below was sent to me and I do not know by who or when. I do not have any details about the picture. Does anyone recognize the people in the picture? It definitely was taken near the San Francisco Peaks as they can be seen in the background. Maybe Lockett’s Meadow. Had to be very early in the 1900s.

Thanks for any help in identification of this picture.

Who do these sheep belong to?

1876 Southern Arizona Sheep Growers Information

In an earlier blog, “Early Stock Raisers in Southern AZ” I had written about a few sheep men in this area of Arizona. In an newspaper dated five years earlier from southern Arizona, The Arizona Citizen, August 19, 1876, I found more information about sheep men who were raising sheep for themselves or the sheep were in their care and owned by someone else. It was disappointing not to have how many sheep each of the men had with the exception of McGary and his brother, who went unnamed.

The headline was “Sheep Grazers Encouraged.”  Governor Safford, Charles McGary, Pedro Aguirre and George Allison were the subject of this article. The article stated that between the men they had thousands of sheep. The sheep had arrived from California sometime in the past year. The article discussed the fact that theses sheep had arrived “more or less sick and many had died.” It continued “Perhaps some had not proper care but it is believed that fine California sheep must go through acclimatization with more or less fatality, before a permanent healthy growth is secured.”

Anson P. K. Safford.jpg
Governor Safford. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anson_P._K._Safford

The Governor had his sheep under the care of Mr. George Allison along the Santa Cruz. Allison also had his own sheep grazing here. Stafford was pleased with his sheep and those of Allison saying that “they look very thrifty and (he) fully believes they have passed through the necessary acclimatization and hereafter will be healthy, and says he has the highest hopes that they will prove very profitable.”

Nearly four thousand sheep of Mr. Charles McGary and his brother are on the Sonoita and have been been for nearly a year. They had lost many old and young sheep when a winter snow storm hit right after 1,500 lambs had been born.  McGary told the newspaper the week of August 19, that the band was doing very well and he was satisfied with the care that they had given the sheep and hopes that with this care the sheep will “retain their present good health.”  McGary believed that sheep should be sheared twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall.

Mr. Pedro Aguirre, for the past few months has been in charge of the fine sheep brought to Arizona by Larkin W. Carr, and now owned by Lord & Williams. He was in town this past week and reports that the sheep were in good health and were daily improving.  He has not given any medicine besides moving them about and giving “them common sense care.”

Safford, Allison, McGary, and Aguirre all believe that they now have the experience needed to import sheep from California which will result in bringing them to a healthy condition much sooner. Further the newspaper reported, “They are all convinced that sheep will prosper in this county as well as any place they ever knew”.

One year later, in an article dated August 18, 1877, the newspaper, The Arizona Citizen, stated that the Governor had rented his sheep to Pedro Aguirre giving him 10,000 sheep in his charge. It seemed that Aguirre had a system in place that insured the well being of sheep brought into the territory. The article stated that Aguirre’s flocks were “almost constantly moving which gives the sheep a clean place to sleep and fresh feed all the time.” This may be the reason that Safford assigned his sheep to Aguirre. The newspaper account was unclear as to how many of these 10,000 sheep actually belonged to Aguirre as we know from the information above that Aguirre was taking care of the sheep that Carr brought into Arizona. It should also be noted that a week earlier, Aguirre had put an ad in the newspaper in which he stated he had many thoroughbred Spanish and French bucks for sale ranging in price from $10 to $20. Thus, some of those 10,000 sheep must have belonged to Aguirre or he was selling for owners.

One final piece of information from the August 18, 1877 newspaper, Mr. R. B. Campbell, a rancher near Crittenden, was on his way to California to purchase a minimum of 2,000 head of sheep. Campbell also believed that the pasturage in Arizona was the best where he was located and believes that the sheep will do well. He was going to ship the sheep as far as Yuma and then would trail them across to his ranch.

The River Crossing

Today we concluded the final stage of my husband and I following the sheep. While I have been on the trail many times I never regret the time I get to spend watching a part of the Arizona history that has taken place over the last one hundred years. The Auza’s have been part of this history since the mid 1910s with Frank Auza came to the United States as a young boy and went into the sheep business during the Spanish flu pandemic. I have written about the Auza’s history in an earlier blog so I will not repeat it here.

The Auza’s, other family members and friends begin to arrive at the park about noon.  An area on the grass under the trees was hastily made into a picnic area. Tables were set up, tablecloths graced the tables and food: fried chicken, cooked beans, a variety of salads, vegetables, potato chips, and dessert. Water and soft drinks were already chilling in coolers. The herders arrived with three donkeys and removed the boxes that they carried. Supplies for the next few days was unloaded from the owners’ trucks and piled on the ground. Eggs, potatoes, fruit, ramen noodles, etc., were then loaded in the boxes and fastened back on the donkeys once again.   Any supplies that could not be put in these boxes was carried down to the river by the men and would be loaded on the other donkeys. The herders were not gone long as they were the guest of honor at the picnic and went through first to be feed.  Then everyone else helped themselves. It was during this time that I gave Jose the pictures from Friday’s adventures and he seemed pleased that I remembered to make copies for him.  I promise that when I saw them the next time, I would have more pictures for them.

Supplies for the herders.
Family, friends and herders enjoy a picnic lunch. The herders are in the background next to the tree.

After eating, two of the herders left and headed back to the river along with some of the family members and friends. Jose stayed and grabbed chicken and other items that they could take with them on the trail. Tonight, the camp tender would not have to cook! The family worked together and picked up food that needed to be kept cold. Then the rest of us headed to the river. Margaret accompanied Carmen and me.

Other onlookers had started to gather at the designated time of 1 PM and were watching for the family to head to the river. Others had already gone down to where the sheep were. One family had two small children, one in a stroller!  The men headed to help the herders as two donkeys were not cooperative and did not want to stand still while the boxes were loaded on them. With the donkeys loaded, a herder set out with them to take them across the river.

Donkeys heading to the river.
Three generations of Auza’s

I am sure that anyone who was watching from above in a plane or flew a drone over the scene would think pandemonium had set in. But there is a process to move the sheep and the herders and those who have done this before knew what needed to be accomplished to get the sheep across the river. The family and friends began to move around the flank of the sheep.

Family and friends head to the river behind the donkeys.

The herders moved toward the water pushing the sheep that direction. Dust began to be kicked up by the hooves of the sheep. The sound of sheep bells and bleating were heard. Onlookers were everywhere. Joseph Auza held some onlookers back as herders, the family and dogs began to push the sheep more and more to the river. The path to the river now went through wet gullies. The sheep were wet from crossing these gullies. It was now time for the onlookers to cross these. Some of us helped each other. After one obstacle was crossed there was the second to cross; it was much wider. Everyone was in a hurry to get to the river’s edge to see the sheep crossing. I moved around to the right flank when I could not penetrate through the sheep or the onlookers to get my pictures on the left flank. Even as the official photographer for the Auza’s, I tried to be courteous and let others get to the front and take pictures. Being short usually means I can be in the front and others take their pictures over me!

Moving toward the river is a slow process in the beginning.
Sheep begin to kick up the dust.

Margaret, who had been near me as we started down to the river, was soon caught up in the action of the day and moved mostly where she could get a good glimpse of the crossing. Lila had known to flank to the right to be down river of the crossing. Herders and some of the young family members were in the water keeping the sheep moving. In about fifteen minutes the sheep were across the river. It was now just to get the last of the dogs to cross over with a little help from a herder. And this portion of the trailing was in the history books!

Why are you pushing us toward the water? I don’t want a bath!
Being at the right location to get that picture!
Herder, family and friends help move the sheep.
A Great Pyrenees helped across the river.

The Underpass

After walking around the sheep for more pictures my husband climbed over the fence and headed to our car. By this time, my friend Lila had gotten to the camp. We then proceeded to re-walk what my husband and I had just walked. The donkeys were still skittish, but we were able to touch a couple and Lila got her picture with one.  Then it was time to go.  We looked for another route back to our cars, but realized we would have many barbed wire fences to contend with if we did not return the same way my husband had come only in reverse; along the road and up over one barbed fence.

Lila makes a friend.

Leaving the sheep to graze and the herders to their siesta, Lila and I crawled under the fence, and we headed to our cars. It would be later this afternoon before the herders would proceed to move the sheep down the hill and under Highway 260. The herders would eat lunch and take a siesta. The sheep would continue to graze or sleep.

Herders’ Camp

Mid-afternoon the warning went out via phone calls and texts that the herders may be about to move the sheep. A crowd began to form to watch part of the trailing of sheep, an event that has occurring for over a hundred years in Arizona. A shepherd came to open the locked gates and told the onlookers to move their cars as they were parked in the path that the sheep would take. Cars were moved from the field and parked down along the road. More people came and parking directions were given to those drivers. My husband stayed back to do the directing as he had seen this event before.  A crowd of 15 or more people ventured down to view this trailing of the sheep that one day will be gone from our state. My husband waited until he could see dust being kicked up on the hill. He began to walk across the field staying out of the path he knew the donkeys and sheep would soon take.

The herders began to round up the donkeys and the boxes carrying camp supplies loaded onto them.  Once the donkeys were loaded, they began to move down the hill into the gulley and through the underpass. The dogs were called to start the sheep behind the donkeys. Dust rose in the air and excitement of the onlookers began to grow as only a few of those present had seen this event last year. One last attendee parked her car in the path of the sheep and came running across the field not wanting to miss this historic event.

Sheep on the move.

The donkeys came through the underpass and made their way to the top of the hill, but then stopped. A man, thinking he had found a great photographic location, had hidden behind bushes right next to the trail to film the progress of the sheep up the trail, but the donkeys were having none of it. They waited a moment and then turned around and went back down the hill. The sheep were trying to move through the underpass and now had to contend with the donkeys moving against them. The sheep proceeded to reverse course. Shouts were heard from the herders as they realized the donkeys were coming back toward them and bringing the sheep. The sheep became the first to move cautiously up the hill. My husband and I told those hiding in the bushes they were impeding the animal’s movement and needed to move away.

The donkeys came first or did they?

Here come the sheep!

On to our next adventure!

Still many of the onlookers stayed as close as they could. Once the sheep began their run across the field, forward momentum kept the sheep all running across the field and toward the next incline that they would climb. Donkeys were now intermixed with the sheep, but soon they were ahead of all the sheep as the herders directed the sheep to keep moving forward and telling the crowd to stay back. 

The donkeys figured it out.

Cars speeding along Highway 260 could now see the flock of sheep and the most curious of them stopped to photograph this rare event. A Great Pyrenees and the some of the collies were running with the sheep. As the last of the dogs came up the hill, one being carried by a shepherd, the gate was locked. The puppies in training ran to catch up with the flock, but not before most of the dogs peed on the lady’s car that was parked in the wrong location! I don’t think one of the dogs missed doing this.

That’s a lot of sheep!

The next gate had been opened and with the final passing of the sheep through it, it was fastened. Several of us began to walk with the sheep as they made their way up the limestone hill or around its side. There was a quickness to their gait as if they knew greener pastures were on the other side of the hill.  Most of the other onlookers now left and there were just three of us to follow, Lila, my husband and myself. We stayed behind the sheep and watched as they would be in a gully and then had to make their way up. Some found the path of least resistance while others kept trying to find their footing right where they were. Some gave up and found an easier path. Others were determined to climb right where they were. By watching their progress, us three hikers could also determine our route to follow.

Finding the easy path?

Out ahead, the donkeys were seen with the camp tender. One herder was slightly ahead but off to the right of the sheep keeping them moving forward with the aid of the dogs. The last herder was in the rear checking for any stragglers. He turned and waved and shouted he would see us tomorrow.

One last view.

We watched them climb one more limestone bluff and then we turned around to head to our cars.  By the time we had returned to our cars and drove toward Cottonwood, the sheep were in the green pasture munching on the green foliage. The herders were standing off to the side with a dog or two. The camp tender must have gone ahead to get the evening meal ready as he and the donkeys could not be seen.

Tomorrow, the sheep entrance into and through Thousand Trails and the river crossing.