A Thumb Nail Sketch

Browsing through old territorial newspaper one can find short little tidbits of information about people and an industry that help paint a picture. It’s what I call a “thumb nail sketch”.  Searching keys words brings up other newsworthy articles about the topic being searched that may otherwise go unnoticed. There isn’t always a great deal of information found this way, but it may give the researcher new names to look for.  Those names or stories can be crossed referenced in other newspapers of the time. Other archives may be searched leading to a more complete record of the industry.

Take for instance obituaries. The information in an obituary can give us a little information such as where and when the person was born, arrival in the country and/or into Arizona, their age at death, and their occupation.  While that may not seem like a great deal of information what it does is add names to those who were participants in Arizona’s sheep industry which may not have been known before. It may add other areas of the state to the distribution of the sheep and how many sheep were in the state at a given time. From these obituaries there may be enough information to track them through Ancestry.com and learn more about the person.  Here are just four obituaries found in the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association files:

Tom Jones, born in Wales came to the United States in 1908 and shortly after arriving in New York City made his way to Mesa. In his obituary in the Arizona Republic, May 9, 1967, it states that he was a retired sheep rancher. He died at the age of 82. A footnote to the obituary that was attached to a paper in a file of the Arizona Wool Growers Association, it noted, “Tom shipped wool through the Arizona Wool Growers Ass’n (Association) in 1951 and 1952, and thus held membership in the association. He was an “expert herdmen.”

Frank Ybanez was a Buckeye sheep company foreman who passed away May 12, 1967 at the age of 65 years. He was from France and was about to retire and return to his native country where he had a sister and two brothers. Frank was an early arrival to the state coming in 1920. It was stated in his obituary that he worked in the sheep industry in Arizona for over 40 years.

Frank Pina, 75, was in the sheep shearing business with his brother between 1926 and 1946. He died in Mesa Sunday, February 4, 1969.   He was born in San Angelo, Texas in 1894 and arrived in the Mesa area in 1924.

In an obituary for Henry Albers from the Arizona Republic, Thursday, December 10, 1970 there is no mention of his involvement in the sheep industry. The obituary was attached on a piece of paper along with a typed footnote. It seems Mr. Albers had a small sheep outfit in 1907 when the then secretary of the Arizona Wool Growers Association arrived in Arizona. Albers range was between Government Hill and Sitgreaves Mountain, north west of Maine Station on the Santa Fe. It is believed that in 1908 he sold his outfit to Charlebois. 

Tomorrow, I will share what I learned about the sheep industry in the southern part of our state from two different stories.

A Six-legged Sheep? A Two-headed Sheep?

Today’s story isn’t about the sheep industry, but once in awhile a little tidbit of news is printed from times past that just needs to be retold. It also goes along with a picture sent to me by a sheep family of yesteryear, the Thudes.

If you had been around in 1881 and ventured to visit P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome you just might have seen this six-legged sheep. Barnum was known for his museum of freaks and a six-legged sheep would have just fit in with his theme.  By 1881 Barnum had merged with James Bailey and James L. Hutchinson and the show was shortened to Barnum & Bailey’s.

But what about that six-legged sheep? Well, the sheep had two legs in front and four in the back. The sheep was a double-bodied beast, but simply had two fore feet. It only used two of its four back feet.  It was estimated to be about a year and a half old. It would come when called and its name was Jose.  It was very gentle.

The owner of the animal had hopes of selling the animal to Barnum for a whopping $500, a lot of money for 1881. It will take further research to determine if the man departed with his sheep and gained $500!

And just for those who are curious that $500 in 1881 would be worth $2,530.54 today!

And the two-headed sheep….

Poisonous Wool

An interesting newspaper story on poisonous wool was found in the Tucson “Arizona Weekly Citizen” for October 28, 1881. Death can occur when a shearer or a wool sorter carelessly handles wool from a diseased or dead sheep.

The story mentions wool sorters in England being subject to a peculiar disease when wool has been taken from sheep that had died from Anthrax, a malignant splenie fever that exists among sheep.

In the United States, another person’s death had also been attributed to wool. Mr. Naud, a prominent citizen of Los Angeles, had been sorting wool that had been placed in his care. Some of the clipped that he was sorting came from scabby sheep and “was, consequently, poisonous to a certain degree. After handling the wool he chanced to touch a small bleeding wound on his person and became inoculated with the poison from the wool. His blood became thoroughly impregnated with the poison, and after a long illness and great suffering from pyemia, he died.

“It is possible that the sheep in Arizona are not affected with disease to any extent, yet the greatest caution should be used to exclude the wool of sheep that have died or are suffering from any disease, from the better wool intended for the market.”

There were many dipping vats in Arizona to rid sheep of scabby in the early history of the industry. One of those dipping vats was at Cordes where many sheep were sheared each year. The sheep were run through the vats before leaving Cordes. I wrote about this topic in an earlier blog where scabby had been reduced if not eliminated in the years 1906 to 1916 because sheep owners were vigilant in this practice of dipping. The cost to dip a sheep ran between 2 1/2 to 3 cents. The picture of a dipping vat; it is the same one I used in the earlier blog.

Dipping Vat at Cordes. Date unknown. Unknown men.

There were other dipping vats within the state. One was at the Verde River Sheep Bridge and another on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. There had to be other dipping stations within the state along the trails used by the sheep men as they drove their sheep northward each year.

One further comment and that is the story failed to mention whose wool Mr. Naud was handling; they may not have known or did not think it was necessary to mention the wool grower.

Two last comments – if anyone knows who any of the men were in the picture above, please send me a message and if anyone knows of other locations of dipping vats, I would appreciate that information as well.