Guest Writer – Janice Bryson

A story written by Janice Bryson for the Arizona 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. 

Sheep Families to be inducted

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.”

Etchamendy Family.

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.

This Week in 1922 Nothing Happened!

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!

A lamb on one of the sheep farms today in Buckeye.

Peaceful Purpose

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.

Baas and Bleats

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!

Not angora goats! Just cute goats.

Arizona Sheep Worth $10 million?

Today’s blog comes exclusively from an article that appeared in the Arizona Republic, December 27, 1925. There are several interesting points starting with this quote which began the article:

“With an investment of approximately $10,000,000, Arizona’s sheep industry is one of the most profitable and successful phases of the livestock and agricultural industry of the state and brings a tremendous return each year to the growers”.

Two things with the above quote: 1. What about the cattle industry in 1925? and 2. This was not the height of the sheep industry as that would be before the end of World War I when sheep were needed for their wool and meat for the troops. An comparison of the sheep to the cattle industry would have been interesting. That information should be available with a little more research.

The Arizona Republic stated that the best estimate for the number of sheep in Arizona for 1925 was about 580,000 excluding any owned by the Native American. The reasons given for non-recording of Native American stock was the “lack of records, supervision, or methods of marketing prevent any accurate estimate.” The Navajo Tribe would have had the most sheep of all the tribes.

The total value of Arizona ranch land, equipment, sheep and other necessities for sheep raising had a minimum value of $10,000,000.  Annually it is estimated that the gross return on the clip from the sheep amounts to $2 million from approximately 5 million pounds of wool, grease basis, and 2 million pounds cleaned.

Quoting again from the newspaper, “Pure bred Rambouillet have been found to bear the heaviest fleece and predominate in Arizona flocks. About 95 per cent of the sheep found in Arizona are Rambouillet and the remaining animals are Hamsphires.” Boston mills are the primary market for Arizona’s wool. The Republic continued, “Arizona sheepmen keep in close touch with market conditions and are enabled to take advantage of situations arising at any time in the sale of their wool.”

The newspaper gave a little history on the first sheep brought into Arizona. “Sheep were first introduced into Arizona by Felix Subrey (most likely Aubrey) in 1852, and as far as is known he was practically alone in the business until following the settlement of the Indian troubles of the seventies, when the sheep industry in this state started to grow. These sheep were drawn from Utah, Colorado, California and New Mexico. The foundation stock at that time was a degenerate Mexican breed descended from sheep brought to Mexico by the Spaniards much earlier than the introduction of sheep in the English colonies. By the time these sheep had reached Arizona, however, they had been considerably bred up. It is interesting to note that sheep and the domestic manufacture of wool were firmly established in Mexico early in the 16th century.” 

This is interesting as a family has reported to this author that their family had sheep in Arizona on a Spanish Land Grant in the 1700s. More information will be forthcoming on this family and their claim. We do know that Father Kino, who was the traveling priest in the Pimeria Alta from 1680s until his death in 1711, had brought both sheep and cattle into this region. Where exactly were these sheep is uncertain but we do know that a wool industry was in progress during Kino’s lifetime. We know that there were sheep in the mid-1700s on the Navajo Reservation according to early reports by a padre that had visited.

Another interesting piece of data was the number of sheep that the Republic stated were in Arizona for various census. It stated, “The census of 1870 shows Arizona with 1,000 head of adult sheep. In 1919, the census gives the state 917,000 head, valued at three and a half million dollars. The 1920 census shows 882,000 sheep with a valuation of over seven million dollars, a decrease in numbers but an increase in evaluation.” Arizona ranked thirteenth for amount of wool produced in the United States.

And that is your sheep news for today or rather what was happening in 1925!

Lambs waiting for their mom’s to get sheared, Auza Farm

Colin Campbell Part IV

Most of this information comes from an interview that Colin Campbell gave to the Kansas City Journal in May 1905. It was reported in the Winslow Mail May 27, 1905.  

Colin told the newspaper that he had been engaged in the sheep business in Arizona for over twenty years and he had taken his sheep multiple times east to Kansas City. During the interview, Campbell related this trip east with the six carloads of sheep, all wethers, that had been grass fed. It had taken three weeks to make the journey from Mayer to Kansas City. Mayer is considered to be the center of Arizona and has good grazing land.  He told of being caught between two floods, unloading his sheep five times and then still had to hold his sheep on the cars for over 40 hours without furnishing them with food or water. More about the journey has not been recorded in newspapers in Kansas City or Winslow which was disappointing as many questions were left unanswered such as what condition the wethers were in when they arrived in Kansas City as he does not say in the quote below.

“The range men are bound to make some money this year,” said Mr. Campbell, “and they certainly deserve it, as they have been having hard luck in the southwest country for several years. This change is due to the fact that we have been having plenty of rain all over the country. In making this trip to Kansas City I noticed that in all the years that I have traveled over that long stretch of country I never saw it when it looked as green and beautiful as it does now. In Arizona the ground has been soaked a half dozen times since the first of the present year, as it never was before. This not only insures feed this year but prepares the ground for grass next year. The sheepmen of that country are making good money in two ways, one on wool and the other in the fat that the sheep will put on which make them sell at better prices. I sold all my wool clip this spring at 20 cents a pound ($6.73 in 2022 dollars), which is the highest price that I ever received for my wool. And the lamb crop was a good one, and we are going to bring to market the fattest sheep we ever marketed. This year the bulk of the mutton sheep of Arizona will come east, owing to the heavy rains that fell all over California this spring. These rains enabled  them to fatten their own stock and so they will need fewer of our sheep.”

For reference, in 1897 Colin sold his wool clip for $.10 a pound ($3.57 today).  And now just waiting to find more stories of the Campbell’s.

A. & B. Schuster

A year or so ago, I spent some time in Holbrook, Arizona taking pictures of the old buildings and learning more about Holbrook’s part in the sheep business. I was curious about the A. & B. Schuster store but at the time was told they were not in the sheep business only sold mutton in the mercantile store in Holbrook. In a recent newspaper search from various newspapers and relooking at an old one, The Holbrook Argus, 1897, this information was found.

A & B. Schuster was the name the two brothers used for their mercantile store.  Adolph and Ben were natives of Westphalia, Germany.  They settled in Holbrook in 1885 after various business enterprises in New and Old Mexico. They had a lot of sheep at one point, 5,000 to be exact as they were assessed by the Board of Equalization of Apache County for $6,500 on them as reported by the St. Johns Herald, July 1895.  In October of 1895, they trailed the 5,000 sheep to Las (sic) Vegas, New Mexico. Their names appear on Bert Haskett’s list of sheep owners in Arizona for the time period 1891-1906 from Apache County.

As more research is completed, I am sure there will be more information about the Schusters.

unknown date
The Schuster Family. Unfortunately I was not told or maybe it is unknown which man is which. I’ll update if and when I find out.

Shearing and lambing Early 1898

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.