Arivaca pioneers: the Campas family

by Mary Kasulaitis

As you come driving into Arivaca from Amado, at about milepost 4, you can see a small ranch a half a mile or so south of the road. That is the location of what was the Campas Ranch, situated on rolling hills. Those hills between milepost 3 and 4 are known as El Andulado, which means undulating in Spanish.
This story doesn’t really start with Matildo Campas, but it is his name on the ranch. Matildo was born in Tucson on March 10, 1861, the son of Bernardino Campas and Guadalupe Camacho, both born in Tubac. They were living in Tucson at the time of his birth, but moved to San Xavier where they farmed. They later obtained title to land near Ft. Lowell in the Tanque Verde Valley. In 1904, Matildo married Amelia Montaño de Miranda. She was the sister of Nabor Montaño, Sr , a long time resident and cattleman of the Guijas valley and Arivaca. At the time of her marriage to Matildo, she was a widow with a daughter, Rita. She was first married to Pedro Miranda in 1893 and he died in 1899. Apparently, because she had a home in Arivaca, Matildo moved here. Amelia’s family had homesteaded in the Guijas valley and she knew this part of the country well. Her family homestead is still well marked with a big corral and house, somewhat west of Arivaca Road on Pima County property. She and Matildo homesteaded the Campas ranch in Amelia’s name and proved up on it in 1919. Matildo died in 1940 at the ranch in Arivaca. It also is now on Pima County property.

Amelia’s parents were Feliciano “Nabor” Montaño and Leonides Elias Valenzuela y Alvarez. They were married in Tucson in 1863 and had many children, including Nabor Sr. who homesteaded the Montaño Ranch. Amelia was born in Arivaca in 1879.

Amelia Campas was a memorable woman, always helping people. Katherine Grantham remembers that she took care of new mothers, including attending her own mother, Martha Noon, when Katherine was born. She adopted the young son of Francisca Ortiz, Jose Angel, when Francisca died. He later changed his name to Campas—and most of us knew him by another name: Bill.

Billy was born on August 2, 1908 in San Juan, Sonora, Mexico. His parents were Gabriel Ortiz and Francisca Quijada Ortiz. The family moved to Arivaca in 1910 when Bill was a baby. He had three older brothers and an older sister. In 1913 another sister Rita was born here in Arivaca and it was of complications of that birth that Francisca passed away, leaving her young family to be raised by others. Their father took the older children and moved to California. Here in Arivaca, Charlie Bent and his wife took one son, John. Rita was taken by a Martinez family from Sonora. Bill was adopted by the Campas’ and in 1931, when he became a U.S. citizen, he legally changed his name to Campas. We don’t really know where the name Bill came from. Many years later the brothers and sisters managed to find each other and some of the families got to meet one another.

On July 23, 1935, Bill married Matilde Lopez. She was born in 1907 at Aguajito on the Buenos Aires Ranch west of Arivaca. Her parents were Refugio Lopez and Isabel Durán Lopez. She had five brothers, three sisters and a half brother. Most everyone in Arivaca knew the family: Jose, Amparo (Maria), Peregrina, Francisco “Chacho,” Matilde, Luis, Manuel, Feliciano and Isabel. When Matilde was growing up the family lived at La Canoa on the Buenos Aires Ranch, not in the Santa Cruz Valley, and later homesteaded what is now known as the Lopez Ranch 3.5 miles west of Arivaca. One of the Lopez women applied for a Coronado National Forest grazing permit when they were first being handed out, and was unsuccessful, who knows for what reason. A niece, Gloria Pacheco Lopez, still owns the Lopez ranch.

When Matilde and Bill were first married they lived on the Sopori KX Ranch when it was part of the Chiricahua Cattle Company, owned by the Boice brothers. In 1943-44 Bill held a commission as Deputy Sheriff for Pima County when Ed Echols was Sheriff. Bill worked for Charlie Boice for many years and later on they lived at Dr. Ball’s place, which by then was Arivaca Ranch property, just southwest of the First Baptist Church. In the early 40s they moved to Arivaca and lived in the Acevedo house, next to what is now the house with the old gas pump, then moved across the street to a house on the property west of Human Resources. That house is now gone. Bill and Matilde had two daughters, Rosie Robles and Alma Castillo, who live in Tucson. Rosie’s oldest son, Hoot Engle, and his family lived in Arivaca. Hoot passed away in 2013 but his widow Virginia still serves Mexican food at La Rancherita on Main Street and his daughter Sophia is busy with gardening and town activities.

Bill left the Arivaca Ranch in the mid-1950s and started working for Pima County in the Highway Maintenance department, helping Gene Casey grade the dirt road between Amado and Arivaca and from there west to 286. They also went south on the Ruby Road to the Santa Cruz County line. Bill was a jack-of-all-trades: he was a cowboy, a welder and mechanic and an electrician too. He helped wire houses when Trico brought electricity to Arivaca. He helped Tony Prevor and Joe Pianka build the Arivaca Mercantile and St. Ferdinand’s Catholic Church. He could do just about anything that needed doing. Billy was known about town as a happy go lucky person who enjoyed his friends and family. Bill passed away in early 1970. Matilde passed away in 1984.

As I write this during Womens’ History Month, I am reminded that there were any number of memorable women in the history of Arivaca, and especially in the Lopez and Montaño families.
Thanks to Rosie Campas Robles for her family’s story.

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