Wool and Sheep Industry Navajo County

The June 19, 1897 issue of The Argus, Holbrook stated that one of their permanent sources of wealth was the sheep and wool industry.  It went on to state that everyone showed an interest in being owners of sheep. Quoting, the newspaper stated, “It has been found to be a safe investment and exceedingly profitable. It beats stock speculations, gift-edge securities, money lending, bond purchasing or any other branch of business venture.” The newspaper further stated that a person could purchase sheep with a small investment and if was careful in their attention to the sheep business especially in husbandry they would reap benefits to the tune of being “comparatively  well-to-do and enjoying a liberal yearly income.”

The newspaper continued, “Nature has lavishly fitted this section for the successful operation of this industry. The vast regions covered with nutritive grasses added to the varied altitudes in different localities, so that the flocks can be moved slowly from one place to another and obviate the extremes of the climate of one altitude, renders it a veritable paradise to the sheepman.”  Sheep found shelter into the deep canyons and lower valleys of the county during the winter extremes. In summer when the heat began to be felt in these deep canyons and the lower valleys, the sheep could be moved to the slopes of the mountains where they would have “cool nights, the pure mountain water and the abundance of rich grass.”

With following the sheep industry over the last few years and what was reported in the newspaper, it can best be described in what Carmen Auza called “The yearly Cycle in Sheep Ranching.” There are two differences from this chart to that as reported in the 1897 newspaper, and they are, the sheep were not moved long distances between summer and winter grazing land as they are today and mostly by truck,  and lambing took place prior to shearing, not afterwards as in 1897.

The shearing season brings men work as the woolies all needed sheared. Shearing camps would be a frenzy of activity as fences were built, the shearing shed assembled and the sheep were brought in to be sheared. It was reported that over 100,000 were ranging in the county in 1897. More men could find jobs in the hauling of the wool clip to Holbrook for shipping. These activities took place from late March into May. Wool bags weighing upwards of 400 pounds were loaded on trains heading east. The Eastern wool buyers had already purchased the clip at the shearing camps. It was reported that in 1897, over a million pounds of wool was shipped from Holbrook. There was also additional wool that was on consignment from Winslow.

The newspaper went on, “During the last four years, while wool was on the free list, the sheep and wool industry languished. The Australian and European wool poured in and flooded our markets making the wool industry in the far West unprofitable through the lack of the cheap transportation by water which Europe and Australia enjoyed. Since the change of administration, with a reasonable prospect for the tariff upon wool to  restored, the price of wool has been more than doubled, and the price of sheep has jumped from $1.25 per head to $2.75 and $3.00 per head. It is estimated that the wool sales in Navajo county last spring were $60,000 more than the year preceding, and the mutton sales will exceed last year by another $60,000. These excesses can be reckoned as clear profit to the sheep and wool growers of Navajo county, in addition to the increased value of their herds, due to the rise in the price of sheep. The sheepmen are jubilant and feel that the next four years to come will continue to be a season of golden harvests.”

During the 1897 season lambing season was in May. Most sheep owners had reported a 100 per cent increase in their herds so they were quite happy with their herds. Once lambing is over the flocks are slowly moved to their summer grazing areas in the cool pines of the mountains.  

The newspaper reported that the sheep had no diseases. Sheep were dipped because of scab and sheep with scab were not allowed to be used for sacrifice as described in Leviticus 22:22. The disease may not have hit the area during this time but was definitely a problem in the west during the early 1900s. Dipping stations were established along the trails for the eradication of the disease in a flock and its spreading.

The  newspaper also reported that there was greater profitability for the sheep owners if a scouring plant could be built in the area. Clean wool would ship at a lower cost than the unscoured and save the sheep owners money in freight cost. As the newspaper stated, “Dirt is cheap to pack up and ship to Boston at about three cents per pound. In the second place the wool would sell for vastly enhanced prices, enhancing the profits of wool-raising in addition to fostering a home enterprise giving employment to the laboring element in our midst. Then on the heels of this should follow a woolen mill. Few places on the face of the earth offer such unusual facilities for the profitable operation of a woolen mill. In numberless places along the Little Colorado, and on Silver Creek, and Show Low plenty of waterpower can be obtained at very little expense, and the raw material right at their door. These enterprises should be investigated and pushed to completion at once by our citizens. They are paying propositions and confer incalculable benefits upon this section.”  The newspaper had high ambitions for the sheep industry in their county.

And that is a look at the sheep industry in 1897 as reported by The Argus, Holbrook and me, the jolly sheep lady.

Joint Meetings, New Sheep Raisers and Wool Shipments

While July 1921 may have seemed there was little information on the sheep industry, there was some important happenings, especially in regards to the joint meeting of the Wool Growers and Cattle Growers Association. While that topic will only be briefly highlighted in this post, it really deserves a post all to itself which I will do next time. But some other happenings for the month were the announcement of new sheep raisers, i.e, births, and the amount of wool shipped from Holbrook. 

Joint Meeting Announced

A joint meeting between the Wool Growers Association and the Cattle Growers Association was announced and was to be held at the Orpheum Theatre in Flagstaff, the second week of July.  Due to the common interests of both organizations, a joint meeting was called to agree upon common goals and to work together for the benefit of both sheep and cattle men in the state.  Drought, short feed and other grazing troubles that the government has put on both industries compelled them to work together.  The Coconino Sun stated, “The general comment is ‘most of us are busted but haven’t found it out yet.’ Still the grim faced old cow and sheep men are not putting up a great wail, but are digging in believing that hard work and patience will again see them enjoying their full measure of prosperity.”  The Secretary of State, Ernest Hall, expressed similar sentiment during the joint meeting of the States’ Farm Bureaus.  “It commences to look as though business conditions throughout the state have been struck rock bottom and there is a feeling that Arizona will soon be on her way back to prosperity again,” he declared.  Others attending the State Farm Bureau meeting stated that it was imperative that livestock owners and farmers work together for the beneficial good of them all.

The State Livestock Sanitary Board also held meetings this week. Many of the cattle or sheep men  belong to this organizations and having the meetings in one location, allows a larger attendance and sharing of ideas.

Future Wool Growers

The Coconino Sun, Flagstaff, announced the birth of two new wool growers in the state. Both children were born in May but the newspapers were often late in publishing such information usually because of not being notified. Word did not travel as fast in 1921 as it does in 2021. The births could have happened elsewhere in the state as the men were with their sheep while the wives were often in summer or winter grazing homes depending on the time of year and had not moved with their family belongings to where the sheep would be for the season. Travel especially could be delayed if the woman was expecting soon.  It was the women’s responsibility to pack up the house goods needed each time their husbands moved the sheep and follow, usually after school was out for the summer and before school would begin in the fall to keep school age children in one school for the year.  Both wool growers had summer homes in the Flagstaff area and sometimes the birth news came from family members or friends of the family. Let’s see who these youngsters were: Mike and Vicencia (the correct spelling) Martinez Echeverria were the proud parents of a girl which they named Josephine.  Harlow Alfonso was born to Harlow A. and Rose A. Gibson Yaeger.  There is more to the story of the birth of Harlow though. In another newspaper(this article was given to me by a member of the Yaeger family), it was reported, “After trying in vain on Monday to get word to Harlow Yaeger that he was wanted at home, Stuart Campbell went to Harlow’s Diablo Canyon ranch and corralled him, to bring him back to town. The reason Harlow’s presence was so badly needed at home was because of the arrival of a young man that morning who claimed that his name was Harlow jr. (sic) and who cried lustily for his dad.”

Wool Shipped

 In other news, 29,000 pounds of wool was heading to the Boston wool market from Holbrook according to the Holbrook Tribune. Five wool growers were the shippers: Gloria Baca of Springerville; L. S. Garcia and J. Dunley, St. Johns;  J. Hancock, Show Low, and Sandoval & Son, Concha.  Hancock was shipping the most wool, 10,000 pounds. It was believed that another 31,000 pounds would be heading east in the near future by other sheep growers.

Holbrook Train Station, rebuilt in 1900. Used for shipment of wool, sheep and cattle to eastern markets. This is the building today, just one of the historic buildings found in Holbrook, Arizona.

And that is the news for the first part of July 1921.  Next blog will have more details on the joint meeting of the Wool Growers and Cattle Growers and some interesting weather correlations to today.

Wool Industry Nov. 1881

In my research yesterday looking for any information on the death of George E. Johnson, who I previously wrote about, I find an interesting article on the status of the wool industry for the state dated November 18, 1881.

From the Weekly Arizona Miner, Prescott – “Papers in Southern Arizona have been very generously giving Northern Arizona credit for having 150,000 head of sheep. They could have made the number 350,000 head, and still have been below the mark. Recently C. P. Head & Co., through their agent, Hon. Hugo Richards, shipped from Holbrook, per Atlantic and Pacific R. R, 19 cars of wool weighing 300,000 pounds. This is the largest shipment ever made from Arizona, and reminds us very forcibly that a woolen factory should be established here, and thus save the exporting of wool and the importing of woolen goods. With a Territory of 40,000 white inhabitants and as many more Indians, we cannot but conceive that the establishing of a woolen factory would pay beyond calculation. Some of the finer woolen fabrics might be brought in from States, but such goods as the miner, teamster and laboring man requires, together with blankets of all grades, could be manufactured in Arizona at a great saving. We earnestly call the attention of outside capitalist to this rare chance for investment.”

In the same newspaper on page 3 we find this – “The largest single shipment of wool ever made by any Arizona firm is that of C.P. Head & Co. They shipped a few days since from Holbrook, per Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, 300,000 pounds, making a train load of nineteen cars.” This piece of information was also found in the Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, dated November 20, 1881 under Prescott Paragraphs. It was common for newspapers to run stories from other newspapers within the state and out-of-state.

Author’s note: If we use 8 pounds of wool per head of sheep that would calculate to 37,500 sheep owned by C.P. Head and Co.

In searching the Tucson newspapers for October and November 1881, no substantiation of the number of sheep given by Southern Arizona newspapers was found. That does not mean that the information is incorrect; it just means that it has not been found yet. Although, usually one newspaper picking up information from another was written about fairly quickly so that is suspect. On the other hand, no mention of which newspaper contained the information that the Weekly Arizona Miner reported about. Phoenix newspapers have not been checked for this date. Holbrook did not have a newspaper that early, so no help there. On October 30, 1881, the Arizona Weekly Citizen, Tucson, reported on an article from the Miner stating, “the wool industry of northern Arizona is taking an important place alongside of the most formidable enterprises. Sheep can be brought to the Territory from either direction and herded upon the fine, juicy grasses, so abundant. The increase is estimated at 70 per cent. The wool of 2000 sheep will more than pay the expenses of herding, etc., therefore it will be seen at a glance that here is a chance for safe and remunerative investment.”

What is exciting about these articles is the early dates, October and November 1881, and the number of sheep already in the state. Sheep had began to be trailed here in the mid 1970s. Could it be possible that the number of head of sheep surpassed 150,000 or even 350,000 in just a few years? And, another question raised is who is C.P. Head & Co.? Haskett’s “History of the Sheep Industry in Arizona” written in 1936 lists those in the business in 1890 to 1906. C.P. Head & Co. was not on the list. In ten years, C. P. Head either sold out of the sheep business or the name was missed by Haskett. It will be another mystery to solve.

In conclusion, more historical facts have been learned about the sheep industry in Arizona and there are still more questions coming from these facts. So, stay tuned for updates.