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.

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.

Forest Fires July 1920 and a little sheep.

Fires were raging in Arizona the month of July, 1920, but from what was reported in the The Holbrook (Arizona) News and the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) one wonders if we are repeating the same scenario again 100 years later. But upon further reading “Raging Forest Fires” the size of the fires was relatively small in comparison to the fires this summer where 100,000s of acres are burned with the loss of buildings, i.e., homes. The largest fire in 1920 consumed over 5,000 acres in comparison, but nevertheless they still thought the fires had burned to much forest and land. Any loss of forest land is devastating!

In the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) July 16, there appeared an article entitled “Raging Forest Fires.”  Information included how many acres had been burned, the cause if known and how many men were fighting the fires in some cases.

Forest fires have been raging in several places in the Coconino National Forest during the last few days of the week of July 4 and into this week of July 12, burning over 5,000 acres of land. These fires were under complete control this past Tuesday night of July 11.

The fires in the Tusayan National Forest have been even more extensive. A fire in the Saginaw tract, northeast of Williams, had burned over more than 2,000 acres on Wednesday, July 14, and it was still raging along a 4-mile forest.

Three other larger fires in the Coconino forest were listed in the order in which they broke out:

Dead Man’s Flat had burned over 1,500 acres of uncut timber of the forest reserve. It took 40 men to put out the fire which was believed to have been set by sheepherder.

The Greenlaw Fire located southeast of Flagstaff near the road to the Cliff Dwellings has burned over 900 acres of which over half the forest had been cut.  Most of this forest land belonged to the A.L.&T. company. The cause of this fire was unknown. Even though the fire was smaller than Dead Man’s Flat it took 75 men to handle it.

The last fire in the Coconino forest is the Black Bill Park fire which has burned over 2,000 acres, all forest land and uncut timber land. One hundred men and three days were needed to get it under control. Unfortunately, the fire was started by Nestor Garcia, Campbell & Francis sheepherder, who was bringing a band of bucks through. Nestor threw away a burning cigarette stub catching the grass on fire. He fought the fire a few moments, then gave up and left it without reporting it. He was arrested and had a hearing before Justice of the Peace R. J. Kidd, who fined him $25 and gave him a 90-day suspended jail sentence.

Another fire was called Dry Lake, near Fred Garing’s ranch. It covered 300 acres, of partly uncut lumber, partly private land and the rest University and A.L. & T. land. It was reported as a very stubborn fire to fight and took 69 men to handle it.

This article appeared in the Coconino Sun (Flagstaff) for July 16th. It was not uncommon for the newspapers back in early Arizona times to include such topics of interest to the community at large. It is included here in its entirety:

Preventing Fires on Farm

Experience has shown that fire prevention should be universally practiced. The farmer, however, should give special attention to the elimination of fire hazards and the adoption of protective methods. This is true for several reasons. In the first place, his house, barn and outbuildings are usually constructed of combustible materials; being more or less isolated they are subject to lightning strokes; kerosene and gasoline are likely to be stored about the premises and used for light and power; he must fill his barn with hay, straw and feed which are subject to spontaneous combustion and last but not least, he is usually outside of the protection of a fire department. Too often a fire once started in a farm building results in a total loss, while the owner stands sadly by with his family and his neighbors, and wishes that he had taken some of those precautions which he had been considering.

Now you may wonder why a website devoted to the history of Arizona’s sheep industry would include information on forest fires. The forest reserves were home to the sheep in the summer and burning of the forest would not be beneficial to any sheep rancher. He would lose his grazing land maybe for a year or two until the grasses had sufficiently recovered to allow grazing once again. The fire could be in areas that where the trailing of the sheep occurred each spring and fall and thus there would not be sufficient feed for the animals while on the trails. Concern for his flock every summer in years of drought, thus making the forest more susceptible to fires, was never far was the sheep rancher’s mind. He could lose a band of sheep. There were reports of herders and the dogs, who helped keep the flocks together, had been killed by lightning. Obviously, forest fires are detrimental to the environment and thus affected domesticated livestock and forest animals. In this time-period, fires were just as deadly as they are today!

And that is the news from July 1920.