Wool Growers’ Happenings: Summer 1920

The months of June, July and August 1920 had a fair number of references to sheep men of northern Arizona in the Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff). Both newspapers were consulted for the Holbrook newspaper 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. More information about this meeting will appear in a future blog as a few facts need to be verified.

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%.   That $0.50 per pound would be equivalent to $6.44 today which I sure all sheep raisers across the world would like to see this year! Even the low end of $0.26 would equate to $3.35 today!

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.

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 have 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 near 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 in 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

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. 

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 look into some of the wool growers and the health of the industry during the summer of 1920.

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.