Stockmen Started a Glee Club!

As I researched the first part of August 1921 a few items of interest on the livestock industry were reported in the northern Arizona newspapers.  The biggest story was the rains. It is reminiscence of this August, 100 years later. We sure have been blessed across the state with rains this monsoon season and we still have over six weeks to it officially ends, September 30th. So, let’s see what was happening 100 years ago August.

August continued to be wet across the state. In the Flagstaff area it was reported that the Spring Valley stock tanks had been filled almost everywhere.  With the precipitation the grass was doing well and the range stock, especially the cattle, were putting on weight. No one was complaining about the thundering rains that returned during the middle of the month.  It was reported that the sheep range north of Winona where Jack LeBarron run his sheep brought so much rain that his water tanks filled in ten minutes.  That must have been quite a storm.  He was so happy that it was said he had joined the stockmen’s glee club as he said the rains will provide water for a year!  The Holbrook News had also reported that northern stockmen had great cause for rejoicing with the amount of rain that had fallen. The country has some much grass that the Coconino Sun reported that it needed a haircut! Must have been good grazing for both sheep and cattle.  It went on stating, “Dry Lake, one of the last of the watering places to get the benefit of the summer rains, got its full measure on Saturday.”

In the Williams News, Friday, August 5, 1921, they reported “Williams and vicinity have been visited by additional heavy rains this week. In many localities dams have been filled and everywhere range is good and crops are much improved. A heavy rain fell at Williams Sunday morning. Gutters were filled to overflowing and the fields received a thorough (sic) drenching. The Santa Fe dam received an inflow from this rain which raised its water level fully five feet. A similarly heavy rainfall was reported for the same morning from Red Lake, Main and parts of Garland Prairie. It was first hoped this same storm would add materially to the supply of water in the city reservoir, but investigation proved that neither the city nor the Saginaw dams were (sic)  materially affected by the storm. Another heavy rain fell today but at the time of going to press it had not been learned what effect it had upon any of the reservoirs. Indications point to a continuance of the rainy season.

The Holbrook News reported rain was falling across the state. Tombstone had received an inch (time frame unclear), Miami had received over 5 inches for the month of July and Bisbee had received just under 8.5 inches for the month of July. What is interesting is Bisbee in 1920 only received a total of 9 inches for the year! It would be interesting to see what the totals were for 1921 in Bisbee.

The rainy weather must have lifted the spirits of some of the sheepmen as two of  them were visiting family or were enjoying time trying their hand at fishing. Harlow Yaeger decided that it was a good time to try salmon egg bait on those fish in Oak Creek.  Zeke Newman with his family was a visitor of his sister, Mrs. Frank Leslie in Flagstaff.  Newman’s sheep outfit is in Navajo County.

There was some shipping of lambs out of Flagstaff the first part of August too. Shipping three carloads and two carloads, respectfully, Jack LeBarron and Harry Gray shipped to California and got $5 a head.  Looking at markets in Denver, the price was low.

A story that needs to be reprinted in its entirety is:

Old Tom Goes Gunnin’ after Young Tom.   Father attempts to correct Son via the Gun Route.

According to information received by the News, Thomas Ortega, sheep man and resident of Holbrook, sought to correct his boy, Tom, by means of hot lead applied vigorously about the person. Rather primitive but thought to be effective.

The shooting took place Monday morning and resulted in a running affair, with young Tom executing a strategic retreat, closely pursued by the father, who fired as he advanced. The pursuit and retreat carried the pair across the Santa Fe tracks in the neighborhood of the ice plant and resulted in old Tom failing to make a thorough correction of the boy, due to the fleetness of young Tom.

Some say that young Tom rounded Woodruff Butte shortly before noon.

No arrests have been made.

A strange story to appear on the front page of the Holbrook News August 5, 1921!

And lastly, in Washington, a new Federal grazing law was being proposed by Chairman Sinnot of the House Public Lands Committee.  The committee would like to see a “division of the western public lands into tracts to be leased for grazing upon a rental basis of one cent per acre where the annual rainfall is more than 10 inches and one-half cent per acre where the annual rainfall is less than 10 inches.”  This would have benefitted many stockmen in Arizona.

More to come on August 1921!

January 1921 Wool Prices and Range Conditions

At the start of 1921, the sheep industry and for that matter, the cattle industry, were in bad shape. Both had seen good years during World War I as the government bought the meat and wool was used for making uniforms. It took wool from approximately twenty sheep to make all the needed clothes for one soldier.  But as 1920 ended wool prices were low, the Arizona range was dry, reducing feed for sheep and cattle, and many sheep men were concerned with the future of the industry. By the end of January there was hope that the wool situation had taken a turn for the better. The Salter Brothers, Boston wool brokers, had expressed in letters to M.I. Powers of the Citizens Bank, Flagstaff and Babbitt Brothers that there was considerable improvement in the wool market. The Salter Brothers were offering 30 cents per pound on wool three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, the price from another mill in Boston had offered 32 cents.  Another mill had offered to buy Arizona wool at 35 cents a pound. “Salter Bros. say that they feel once they have sold a block it will ease up the situation considerably and there will be money to loan on the new clip.” (Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, January 28, 1921)

For a perspective on those amounts: 30 cents in 1921 would be worth $4.37 today, 32 cents equivalent to $4.66 and 35 cents would be $5.09.  The sheep industry today would be thrilled to receive that type of money today for a pound of wool!

Range Conditions through most of 1920 were not good. The ranges were dry which reduced feed for livestock in many areas of the state. The outlook for 1921 seemed a little more promising as rains began to fall in the later part of January. Rain fell in the western portion of the state partially filling dry water holes and providing moisture for winter annuals to begin. A good inch of rain fell in Seligman vicinity. Yuma exceeded their monthly total for the month of January. The area received over a half inch. In the northcentral portion of Arizona snow had fallen but it melted without runoff to any stock ponds. The Grand Canyon and Williams areas had three inches of snow still on the ground. Water tanks were frozen though. The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff reported that some snow had been on the ground since winter began and livestock had been able to graze far from established water holes. The eastern and southern portion of the state reported to be in need of precipitation as the range was dry and water scarce. In the Douglas area the stock was in poor shape as water was scarce.

A Flagstaff observer reported, “Recent light snows melt within a few days after falling’ this moistens the ground, and will put it in good condition for farming, but it does not run and makes no stock water. Stock on the lower ranges adjacent to the San Francisco Peaks (the Canyon Diablo country, etc.) is wintering well as the weather has not at any time been severe and there is plenty of dry feed.” 

In other sections of the Coconino Sun, Flagstaff for January 28, 1921, we learn more about the condition of the range from sheep men who visited Flagstaff.  Returning from Phoenix, Lewis Benedict told of range conditions in the south as serious and there was a fear of heavy loss of sheep if the rains did not come soon.  In the Congress Junction area, William Pitts, foreman for the Howard Sheep Company, reported that the recent rains in the area had made good feed and the range had greatly improved in the last ten day. Two other sheep men, Harlow Yaeger and Charlie Woolfolk, who had winter sheep ranges in close proximity to one another, said that even with little rainfall in the area since last spring, the feed for their sheep was splendid.

Let us hope that our winter 2021 rains continue for the next several months with rain in the Salt River Valley and snow in the high country.  Slow melting snow in the high country with runoff will fill the stock ponds that both cattle and sheep men rely on and that water makes its way to the Salt River Valley for use by the farmers in the southern portion of the state.

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.