By Mary Kasulaitis
In 1941 Carmen O’Neill Lee sold the Sopori Ranch to Emanuel Lycurgus (Eman) Beck, a native of Indiana, graduate of Franklin College and Indiana Law School, who had lived in Mexico City since he was a young man. Born in 1875, he married Mary Payne in 1900 and they had two girls: Elizabeth and Mary Susannah. Eman must have been gifted with a natural talent for business. Having started out selling shoes in Mexico, he became a banker and real estate mogul in Mexico City but had dabbled in ranches in Southern Arizona. Before he bought the Sopori Ranch he had owned a ranch at Vail and over the years, various prominent properties in Tucson. Within a few months of the Sopori purchase, his wife Mary passed away of the TB that brought them to Southern Arizona. Evan remodeled and extensively expanded the houses at the headquarters. Eman Beck’s family members would come and stay for a time. He never spent much time there himself, leaving the management to others, including for a time, rancher Horton Noon of Arivaca and then William DeCook. William had been with Southern Arizona Bank, where he became acquainted with Beck. After a visit to see him in Mexico, DeCook agreed to manage the Sopori, which he did for about a year and a half during World War II. DeCook and his wife and daughter lived in the main house. His daughter remembered that the home was beautiful and had a cook and chauffeur. The Hereford bulls were also well cared for, living in tiled stalls where they couldn’t hurt themselves. DeCook also had a side job: helping manage the German prisoners of war that were being housed in a camp on the Bull Ranch outside of Sahuarita. They were kept busy working on the local farms. Some of them didn’t like what they were being told to do, so DeCook got help from his friend, Fred Enke, the University of Arizona basketball coach. They bribed them with cigarettes. (Star, Bonnie Henry, Apr 13, 2009; Sahuarita Sun, May 29, 2016) In late 1945, DeCook went back to working for the bank. Walter R. (Budd) Thurber became the new manager. From a Sonoita ranch family that specialized in registered Herefords, he had more background with cattle and even went to Ft Worth to buy some prime Hereford heifers. Sopori cattle appeared frequently in livestock shows across the Southwest. In those days, Herefords were the breed of choice for most ranchers and many bought bulls from the Thurbers to improve their herds. In 1949, Budd Thurber and his wife Yvonne moved to Texas to a ranch of their own.
In late 1946, the Sopori Ranch acquired a prime piece of ranch property that adjoined it on the west side. The KX Ranch had apparently been the Rosario Brena Ranch until acquired by Robert Catlett in 1912. He sold it to the Arivaca Land & Cattle Co. which was purchased by the Boices in 1930. (Star, April 21, 1929.) In the mid 1940s the Arivaca Ranch (Boice’s CCC) began breaking up its extensive properties for legal reasons. Charlie Boice sold 2200 acres with two cowboy houses worth $50,000 to Beck. Thereafter that ranch was known as the Sopori KX. (Star, Dec 14, 1946)
Beck’s additions to the Sopori ranch property brought the acreage to around 59,000 acres. This included state and federal grazing leases all along the northwestern slopes of the Tumacacoris, some of the most inaccessible and beautiful land in Southern Arizona.
In 1950 the Becks began to sell, ten years before Eman died at the age of 86 in Mexico City. (Franklin Evening Star, Franklin Ind., Jan 22, 1960) The Beck daughters sold 3 sections down near Amado to Bob Morrison and family of Tucson in 1950, in the name of Morrison Farms (Citizen Dec 5, 1950) as well as a section to authoress Ruth Mitchell (Citizen, June 24, 1950. There was still a lot left.
The Becks sold the headquarters and the major part of the Sopori Ranch to Ann Boyer Warner, wife of movie mogul Jack Warner (Citizen, Feb 10, 1951). Jack had co-founded Warner Brothers. Reportedly, Jack thought it might be nice to have a ranch, and this one was for sale. Jack brought film crews to roundup, capturing real ranch life in the movies. John Wayne and Bing Crosby were visitors. Ann’s first husband and father of her daughter Joy was the “Cisco Kid,” actually the cowboy actor Don Page or possibly Duncan Renaldo or some other name, and he managed the Sopori in his retirement. (Kroll, Brian; IMDB database) But it was really Ann who owned it–she loved the Sopori, and although she also never spent much time there, she called frequently and was concerned that it be maintained as a working ranch until her death in 1990. In 1954, the Sopori cloud fell on ranch hand Cecil Yoas, who drowned in the lake while swimming at night. (Citizen, June 15, 1954) In those days, neighbors could (with permission) visit the Lake near the headquarters and fish and enjoy the beauty of the vegetation and the mountain views. However, the Lake was used pimarily to water the downstream fields. During the 50 years that Ann owned the Sopori there were four managers: Maurice Handman, Don Page, Jack Tucker and Jeff Cameron. Reflecting Ann’s environmental attitude, manager Jack Tucker went on record opposing the Arivaca Lake construction and the Twin Peaks lake (that didn’t happen) because they would damage the Sopori’s water resources downstream. Jeff remembered that Ann had the opportunity to sell the Sopori Ranch for an exorbitant sum and she turned it down, valuing the open space more than what she could have gotten for it monetarily.
Prescott’s Inscription Canyon developer John B. Croll purchased the Sopori ranch in 1993. His son Brian said it was just his kind of place; a dream of a ranch. But John passed away in 1999, leaving it to his children who still own it and who continue to run it as a traditional working cattle ranch. In 2009, the northern portion of the Sopori Ranch in Pima County was purchased by the County as part of its Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, taking it off potential developers’ plates. 4,135 acres of private land plus 10,480 acres of State agricultural leases were purchased with 2004 Bond Funds. This included the Sopori KX Ranch. This purchase preserves wildlife corridors and reduces threats to groundwater pumping along Sopori Wash. This is still a working cattle ranch, however, being managed by the previous owners and County staff. The rest of the Sopori Ranch is in Santa Cruz County, which in its 2016 Comprehensive Plan designated that portion of the County as Rural, very low density, thus putting a limit on housing development.
Enter the Arizona Land and Water Trust: an environmental conservation organization committed to protecting southern Arizona’s vanishing western landscapes, its heritage of working farms and ranches, wildlife habitat and the water resources that sustain them. (www.alwt.org) Beginning in 2016 and now in this current year of 2021, the “Arizona Land and Water Trust has successfully acquired 371 acres, Phase I and II of its strategic campaign to purchase and protect the Sopori Creek and Farm in Amado, a unique area with rare grandfathered water rights, irrigated farmland, a rich biotic community and a storied history.” ALWT is working to raise monies to purchase and protect the Sopori Creek and Farm, having raised $2.96M to date. Over the next three years, the Trust will raise a total of $8M to purchase a total of 1,319 acres, provide infrastructure improvements like fencing, well repairs and creek restoration needs. The funding will also be applied to the goal of making this a nationally recognized center for sustainable land use practices, with the Trust envisioning an Agricultural Apprenticeship Center on site…. (ALWT’s Facebook page posted 5/20/2021 and the AZ Daily Star, June 2, 2021) For more information and a guided tour of the Sopori Project, email Executive Director Liz Petterson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kroll, Brian. A history of Rancho El Sopori, 2003.
The Sopori Ranch in Pima County: http://www.pima.gov/cmo/admin/reports/ConservationReport/
(Retrieved June 17, 2021)
Santa Cruz County Comprehensive Plan 2016
Arizona Daily Star
June 2, 2021: https://tucson.com/news/local/trust-buys-historic-farm-south-of-tucson-once-proposed-for-residential-development/article_aa5e4630-bd80-11eb-91dd-93e5262b6c50.html (retrieved June 17, 2021)
by Mary Kasulaitis
In Southern Arizona in the 1920s there was an era of large ranch building, wherein homesteaders sold out to a few wealthy entrepreneurs who expanded their properties exponentially. Regular homesteads and Desert Land entries were augmented by the Stock Raising Homestead Act, passed in 1916, in which one could make entry on up to 640 acres in areas that had been designated by the Secretary of the Interior as “stock-raising lands.” Much of the rangeland was in this category. After 1912 you only had to live on a homestead for 3 years, not 5, and make suitable improvements for cattle raising, not just farming. From 1915 to the early 1920s, ranchers had been picking up State school land leases, usually 620 acres. These added considerably to the grazing possibilities, but generally not really enough to allow for very many cattle, thus there was a need for accumulating multiple properties adjoining each other. Deep wells could now be drilled and water tanks filled. The era of open range was coming to an end. The window was closing on ranch building: in 1934 the Taylor Grazing Act provided for regulated grazing on federal public lands to improve range conditions. Under this law, President Franklin Roosevelt withdrew most public lands in the western United States for classification as part of grazing districts thus effectively ending the opportunity for further homesteading almost everywhere except Alaska. (Muhn and Stewart, 1988) the 1920s a number of wealthy Easterners began arriving in the area and picking up ranches, such as La Osa, near Sasabe, which attracted more visitors and potential ranch buyers. Dude ranches began to flourish.
As the 1920s open, several thousand acres of the Sopori valley belonged to the Elias family and separately the Sopori Land and Cattle Company, which at that point had run into financial trouble, probably due to the large loan it had taken out. Evidently they couldn’t pay it back, so the land went up for sale by the Sheriff in February 1924. Grace Davis Lee, an heiress from the Robert E. Lee family whose father was a U.S. Senator from West Virginia, had moved to Southern Arizona in 1923 where her son Arthur, Jr. was going to the University of Arizona. There were two other sons, Henry and Thomas. Her husband, Arthur Lee, Sr., died in 1925. Grace bought the ranch from the widow of the mortgage holder, Mrs. A.O. Jahren. (Arizona Daily Star, April 5, 1926) But this was not all of the Sopori ranch land. In May of 1927, Tomas Elias and his wife Juana Orosco de Elias, and their children Amalia, Armida, Arturo and Federico sold to Arthur Lee, Jr. their homestead properties in the area west of Amado. (Santa Cruz County Records of Deeds.)
Besides the Elias properties, another reportedly extensive ranch was sold to the Lee Family: that of John Walter Chambers and his partner James Converse. Walter, who was from Texas, had been working for several years for the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company and gotten to know the country. In 1926, he had proved up on a stock raising homestead of 560 acres in an area west of Agua Linda ranch.(BLM Land Patents) In times past it had been part of the Sabino Otero ranch, which was one of the oldest in the Santa Cruz Valley. It bordered the Sopori on the south, so the purchase extended the ranch lands deeper into Santa Cruz County and made the Sopori one of the larger ranches in the valley. (Tucson Daily Citizen, Apr 30, 1926) James Converse was more of a real estate dealer: he had not homesteaded in this area but apparently had acquired some range. He went on to buy the Tanque Verde Ranch in 1928 from the Carrillo family, east of Tucson, and operated it as a guest ranch for many years.(Star, Feb 20, 1932; Star, Feb 20, 1957)
North of the Sopori, in the early 20s, Canoa owner L.H. Manning and his son Howell Manning, Sr. had begun buying and leasing State land to the west of La Canoa Ranch. This included land that bordered the Elias’ Sopori on the north. Jesusita Proctor Elias, along with neighbor Robert Catlett, sold out to Manning, contributing to his extensive properties which would eventually extend all the way to the Altar Valley. (Citizen, Feb 11, 1926) Earlier, Catlett had taken a dangerous fall off a stack of hay, and injured himself considerably. (Citizen, May 23, 1921) He had been accumulating properties since 1912 but this event may have led him to sell out to the Mannings and also the Arivaca Ranch, both of which bordered him. (Star, Sept 9, 1926) Catlett passed away in Tucson in 1934 at the age of 66. (Baltimore Sun, Dec 20, 1934.)
Meanwhile, at the Sopori headquarters, the Lees were building an an elaborate water development system to put 1200 acres under cultivation and purchasing purebred Hereford cattle (popular at the time). They incorporated the “Sopori Ranch.” Grace joined the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association. Grace was also completing a large Spanish style home, a showplace of the county, with Mexican builders. (Arizona Daily Star, March 11, 1927; August 7, 1927) In 1929, Grace built a rock shrine on Arivaca road, on a rocky bluff above the ranch buildings. The dedication ceremony was conducted by Msgr Louis Duval of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nogales with a large number in attendance at the festivities. (Star, May 24, 1929) Because of the view of the mountains to the east, it was dedicated to Santa Rita, the patroness of desperate causes and miners. The shrine quickly became a place of devotion to travelers on the Arivaca road, as it is to this day.* All went well for awhile, then Grace Lee died suddenly in a nighttime car accident on the Nogales highway (Citizen, Jan 19, 1931) when the car in which she was riding sideswiped a car parked on the side of the road. Her son Arthur was apparently driving.
Arthur was learning how to be a rancher and cowboy, but he wasn’t a natural. On March 4, 1930 Arthur was working cattle and was hit in the head by some kind of …bar, rendering him unconscious for an hour. (Citizen, March 5, 1930) Doug Cummings remembered some stories about Arthur and his eccentricities, learned in his patrician home in Virginia, which didn’t set well with the cowboys. One had to do with a stolen lunch, apparently made by his family cook and which bore no resemblance to the usual food carried by cowboys. (Cummings autobiography, Chapter 14.) In a small Catholic ceremony in Tucson, Arthur Lee, Jr. married Carmen O’Neill, who was a Nogales socialite and Deputy County recorder, the daughter of Ralph L. and Dolores Avila O’Neill. (Star, March 21, 1932) Her father was a U.S. Commissioner in Nogales and Carmen was part of the social set.
For several years the Lees lived well on the Sopori, attending many social events in Tucson and Nogales interspersed with hunting trips here and there. Then, in 1937 at the age of 32, Arthur had a fatal accident during a roundup in which his horse fell and rolled on him, and then kicked him in the head as he tried to get up. One story said he frequently rode mean horses while wearing work shoes, not boots, so that when the horse fell his foot didn’t release from the stirrup. A funeral service was held in Tucson but Arthur was buried in West Virginia in the family plot. He left his wife Carmen and two children, Grace Davis Lee and Arthur Lee III. (Star, Nov. 8, 1937) Arthur’s elder brother, Henry, had had something to do with the Sopori, but he had bought a ranch in the Huachuca mountains that kept him far away and uninvolved. Henry’s second wife, Margaret, remembered Carmen as being charming and very gracious, an accomplished hostess and good friend.
When Arthur died, his estate appointed neighboring rancher Gabriel O. Angulo as manager of the Sopori until about 1942. (Accomazzo) Gabe and his father had owned the Santa Lucia Ranch just to the west, but Gabe, Sr. had also died in 1937 and their ranch was sold. In 1941 Carmen sold the Sopori Ranch to Eman L. Beck, a Mexico City Banker who was originally from Indiana. (Star, Feb 16, 1941) She moved to Tucson and remained active in the social life of town, including becoming a charter member of the Mountain Oyster Club when it was first located in the Santa Rita Hotel. (It was started to provide a place for local ranchers to associate without having to dress up). Carmen lived to the age of 83 and passed away 1978 in Phoenix. She is buried in Elkins, WVa next to her husband, Arthur, Jr. (Arizona Republic, Oct 20, 1978)
More about the Sopori next month.
*Note: in previous stories about the Shrine I wrote that Carmen built it in memory of Arthur, but his mother, Grace, was also a Mrs Arthur Lee and I was in error. Grace built the shrine.
“Gabriel Ochoa Angulo,” Betty Accomazzo, ed. Arizona National Pioneer Ranch Histories, Vol VIII, 1986, pp 1-4.
Muhn, James and Hanson R Stuart. Opportunity and challenge: the story of BLM, U.S. Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 1988.
Borderline Lady by Margaret Linley, Henry Lee’s second wife (he had married first, Polly Titcomb of Nogales.)
Stories of Douglas Cumming, Santa Cruz County rancher. Typescript manuscript.
Bureau of Land Management. https://glorecords.blm.gov/
Arizona Daily Star
by Mary Kasulaitis
The story of any ranch is the story of the acquisition of various parcels of land that, when put together, become a working ranch. Prior to around 1900, obtaining property was relatively simple, but became more bureaucratic as time went on, especially after statehood. The acquisition methods might involve squatting, buying, filing County land claims (Territorial days), leasing and/or homesteading land. The Federal Land Office (now Bureau of Land Management) issued homesteads that were commonly 160 acres but could be less if the applicant wanted the particular parcel bad enough (if it had a spring, let’s say). It could be a Desert Land entry which was 320 acres but was not blessed with surface water. In this desert, one could not support a ranch on one homestead. Once the government surveyed the territory into township and ranges, parcels were generally marked or acquired as quarter sections, half sections or full sections (640 acres) and sometimes Lots. There are 36 sections in a Township. Once someone had proved up, or was officially issued a homestead or a patented mining claim, it was private land to be disposed with at will. (For land patents arranged by Township/Range, see Bureau of Land Management land patents database: https://glorecords.blm.gov) Besides land, and perhaps more important, you need legal rights to the surface or underground water so that you can water your cattle, horses and crops. Without water, there is no ranch.
The whole area around the Sopori Ranch and in the valley upstream was commonly referred to as “the Sopori.” It was well known. Besides the Elias family which had been working the Sopori for years, there were a number of prominent ranchers who had land nearby, including Sabino Otero, Tucson merchant Rosario Brena, Tomás Bustamante, Gabriel Angulo, the Moyzas, Robert Catlett, Charles A Proctor, Levi Manning and the Amados. Jose Maria Orosco was also adjoining, but was a relative of the Elias’. Water rights were one of the major reasons for acquiring a homestead. Tomás, Jr had had a water rights conflict with Juan B. and Ramon Elias in 1902. In any large family there will not always be agreement.
Charles A Proctor had purchased land adjoining the Elias’ property in 1909 from Tomás Elias, Sr and his wife, Juana Orozco de Elias.* (T20S, R 12E, Lots 10, 11 Sec 5. 50.37 acres, and a 1902 water right by deed belonging to Thomas Elias, Sr. He also then bought from Albert Steinfeld Lots 7,8,9, or 116.75 acres, which Elias had sold to Steinfeld in 1910.) This gave Proctor a good piece of property west of and next door to the Elias’, on which he built a white house, still standing. Allegedly, Tomás, Jr., had not been on the best of terms with Charles Proctor, and it had to do with water rights. Some time after Charles’ death in 1913, his widow Jesusita was courted by Tomás Elias, Jr., and they planned to marry. Jesusita’s sons (Charles R., George M., Henry P, and Frank M. Proctor) were reportedly opposed to the marriage because they believed that somehow Tomás, Jr. had been responsible for their father’s death, although the Sheriff had not found evidence of murder. Tomás Jr. was reportedly somewhat of a ladies man, with a temper. He had allegedly threatened the sons. Nevertheless, Jesusita Proctor and Tomás Elias, Jr. were married in September of 1915.
Four days after the wedding, the Eliases were at home at the Proctor Ranch by the Sopori. According to a detailed story in The Oasis, a Nogales newspaper, and Santa Cruz County Superior Court testimony, on the morning of September 13, 1915, Tomás was getting some horseshoes in a vacant building used for storage when George and Frank Proctor shot him. They may have come in when he was already there, or they may have been waiting for him. At least two different guns were apparently used and at least four shots hit him. There were bullets in the wall behind the place where Tomás had been kneeling. In court testimony, Frank said he shot him and George did also, thus accounting for the two guns. George said he alone was responsible, having shot with his own gun and then using Frank’s, perhaps because he wanted to protect Frank. Charles R. Proctor was in Tucson, newly married, and was not involved, nor was Henry. Both George and Frank claimed that when they confronted Tomás, he was about to shoot them, so they fired in self defense. They related several incidents in the past in which they said Tomás had threatened them. In one case Tomás had allegedly suggested settling water rights with a duel. But Tomás’ gun was in his pocket, thus giving rise to another version of the story which was that the Proctor boys ambushed him. Tomás lived several hours but his severe head wound ensured that there was no chance that he could have survived. George immediately went to Amado (then called Amadoville) and called the Sheriff of Santa Cruz County, confessing that he had shot Elias. Frank went to Tucson, but sent word to the Sheriff that he also was involved. Attorneys were hired. The case went to court in October 1915 in Nogales, with County Attorney S.F. Noon prosecuting. In the trial, much detail was given about the way in which Tomás was shot, and there was no doubt as to who had done it. But apparently the person on trial was really Tomás and his reputation. The court allowed testimony involving some of his past actions. The defense witnesses included several men who had had confrontations with Elias and a man who claimed Tomás took away his wife, too. After the testimony of many witnesses and character witnesses, the jury was out only a few minutes before it found the verdict of not guilty, by reason of self defense. (The Oasis, 30 Oct 1915) Living now in the legal milieu of the twenty first century, a murder conviction seemed likely. But no one on the jury had a Hispanic surname and most were acquainted with the Proctors. The Border Vidette said: “Public sympathy was strong for the accused boys.” (6 Nov 1915) So it seems that Tomás’ own reputation was on trial here as well as perhaps his ethnicity. Things legal and otherwise were very different in 1915. The results complicated matters in terms of the future of land ownership in the Sopori valley.
Tomas’ father was devastated. According to great-grandson Charles Jimenez, Tomás, Sr. never felt the same about the Sopori Ranch as he had before. There was always a bad taste about the whole place. Jesusita Proctor Elias, with her two small girls, was on her own, and estranged from her sons, but she soldiered on and filed on a homestead in 1916, proved up in 1921. During this time she became acquainted with the bachelor neighbor, Robert Catlett, who had arrived in 1912. On Jan 7, 1912 the Citizen had reported that Catlett had bought the nearby Rosario Brena ranch (the KX) for $30,000. (see also Star, 21 April 1929) A newcomer to the area, he was also appointed a Deputy Sheriff of Pima County. Over the next decade he added neighboring property from the Bustamantes, B.M. Jacobs and James Shults, besides acquiring two homesteads and State land leases of his own. He provided Jesusita some support in terms of her property, motives unknown. She thought he had more interest in her than he apparently did.
Charles R Proctor, the eldest son, was working at the other family properties in Box Canyon and at a mine near Helvetia. He sold his rights at .the Batamote Ranch, northwest of the Sopori and later homesteaded near Madera Canyon. Henry Proctor went into the service to fight in World War I, and after he got out of the military he also homesteaded property in the Santa Ritas. Both Frank and George also served in WWI after which George moved to Tucson and Frank to California.
The Elias family kept on at the Sopori Ranch. In 1916, the siblings of Tomas, Jr., Federico, Arturo, Armida and Amalia, filed on homesteads on unclaimed parcels in the vicinity of or adjacent to those of Tomas, Sr., all proved up in 1921. Ramon also made final proof for a Desert Land Entry in 1921. The Sopori Land and Cattle Company had a change of Directors: in 1916, Juan Elias sold out to Ramon Elias who became President, Jose Camou, Secretary, and Luis Robledo stayed on as Treasurer. Tomas Sr. also sold some of his property to the Company in 1917. The Sopori Land and Cattle Co obtained a large mortgage of $50,000 in 1916: apparently it was for an irrigation water system (McFallen Report). In Sahuarita and Tucson wells were being sunk and farms expanded as never before, with new pump systems and irrigation canals being developed. By the early 1920s, the area around the Sopori springs and up and down the Creek was owned or claimed. In 1915, ranchers had to contend with the newly organized… …Arizona State Lands Department, which began apportioning leases to ranchers as they applied for them. Nothing was as simple as it had been before 1900. Open range was going away and grazing homesteads of 640 acres could be obtained. Changes were in the wind for the Sopori. La Canoa, the big ranch to the northeast, was expanding under the ownership of Howell Manning, son of the local tycoon and former Tucson mayor, Levi Manning. They had eyes on the land adjoining the Sopori.
(More about the Sopori and water rights next time.)
Cosulich, Bernice. “Scenic Charm and Tragic history may be found along Southern Arizona roads,” Arizona Daily Star, 21 April 1929.
Redondo, Margaret Proctor. ” Valley of iron: one family’s history of Madera Canyon.” The Journal of Arizona History. Vol. 34, No. 3, Autumn, 1993.
McFallen, H. General Land Office report on Sopori Land and Cattle Co, approved Feb 18, 1916. Special thanks to hydrologist and historian Phil Halpenny.
The Oasis (Nogales, AZ) and Border Vidette (Nogales, AZ)
Arizona Daily Star. In those days, land transfer records were frequently published in the newspaper.
Tucson Daily Citizen
*Santa Cruz County Records, 25 Nov 1902, Misc or Min bk 2, p. 454-456
Same as sold by Tomas to Steinfeld 27 April 1910 (See SC Co Deeds 7:66)
**Proctor Pioneer website: http://proctorpioneer.com/caphistory/
For Sopori, KX, Rancho Seco and the Marley ranch stories
by Mary Kasulaitis
The Eliases were a part of what historian Tom Sheridan calls the Mexican elite of Tucson who had roots that went back to the Spanish era. Prior to the coming of the railroad in 1880, Tucson’s political scene was fairly integrated with persons of Mexican descent holding office alongside Anglos. After the influx of many more Anglos, Hispanic-Americans, no matter how long their lineage or prominence in this area, had trouble holding political office. Since the middle of the twentieth century, descendents of some of these folks have resumed the family tradition. Another family tradition was ranching, which the Elias family had practiced for decades at the Sopori and Punta de Agua, south of the San Xavier Mission. But times were changing. The U.S. government took this ranch in the 1880s and gave it to the Tohono O’dham, leaving them with just the Sopori. The Anglo rancher population was also expanding. There were more government regulations, land surveys and in the case of the Sopori ranch, suddenly a new County line on the northern edge. Santa Cruz County was established in 1899 and the northern boundary line, as surveyed in 1902, bordered the townships that would make up the Elias’ ranch. More or less along this line runs the Arivaca Road as it comes west from Amado.
At the Sopori, the Elias family lived in a house on the Arivaca road. Juan B. Elias, Jr. and his wife, Maria, had eight children, of which Juan B. the 3rd was the eldest. Their location saw a lot of visitors. “In 1877 two men on their way to and from Oro Blanco stopped at the Sopori ranch ‘where we put up and fed our animals…and while opening our mess-kits…Mrs. Elias, that very kind and amiable lady, invited us to breakfast’…On their return they were invited to an oyster supper with the Eliases. ‘We do not wonder that when Mr. Elias comes to town he is always anxious to get back to Sopori and good living.’ In 1891 they were raising barley and had fruit orchards, but in that July floods filled the watering places with sand and buried the crops.”(Brownell) The Star reported in 1902 that some visitors to the Elias home were served burro meat, owing to the scarcity of beef. They loved it and brought some back to Tucson to the Durazo family of butchers who also considered it a treat. The Elias family in successive generations lived at the Sopori Ranch, while maintaining homes in Tucson, into the 20th Century. They had started a school on the ranch itself, with Prof. George A Raven as teacher in 1898. Juan B Elias, Jr. passed away in 1896 at the age of 57, but his children and brothers continued to ranch the Sopori. That included his son, Juan B. the 3rd and his brothers Ramon and Tomás, Sr. Tomás and his wife, Juana Ortiz de Elias, had ten children, of which Tomás Elias, Jr. was the eldest. On October 2, 1895 the Supreme Court rejected the Aztiazarán claim on the Sopori land grant. The ranch went on the market, by homestead and cash sale. The earliest federal homestead filed was in 1903, by Tomás Elias, Jr, then Juan B. Elias, 3rd. Juana O de Elias filed in 1904, followed by Ramon in 1905, then Gertrudis, Arturo, Ramona, Federico and the twins, Amalia and Armida and several others, so that by 1914 the family had accumulated over 3800 acres of private land. In 1913 Juan B. Elias and Luis Robledo incorporated the Sopori Land and Cattle Company to develop their hold on the Sopori Ranch. They filed on water rights, an important part of any homestead in dry Southern Arizona. As recounted by Brian Kroll, “there were many disputes between neighbors, as at least seven different members of the Elias family each strategically homesteaded between 160 and 640 acres to control the three springs and the best bottomland for farming.” Water was necessary to form the basis for one of the largest ranches in Southern Arizona, in terms of privately owned land, as it is to this day.
Charles Proctor had somehow acquired 160 acres adjoining the Sopori and built a house next door to Tomás Elias. According to the Nogales Oasis, he bought this land in 1910 from Ramon Elias. Some say it happened earlier, but he could not have legally bought it until after 1895 if it was on the contested land grant. In about 1911, Charles and Jesusita Salazar Proctor moved in next door to the Tomás Elias family, living at what is now the Marley Ranch at milepost 18.5 on the Arivaca Road.
Charles Proctor (1857-1913) was one of three brothers, the others being Henry and Frank, who came as children with their family from Vermont to California. The three arrived in Southern Arizona in 1876, driving a herd of horses. Charles worked at or owned several ranches in the area, including the Tesota Ranch near Canoa, the Batamote Ranch and the Box Canyon Ranch. He was at one point or other, the manager of the Vail Ranch, the Maish and Driscoll Ranch (Canoa) in the Santa Cruz Valley and was appointed to be Sahuarita school trustee because he was well known there. He was respected enough as a cattleman to be tapped to manage one section of the annual cattle roundup that was communally operated in those days of open range. From Pima County he leased 640 acres of school land east of Sahuarita in the Santa Rita foothills in 1898. (Tucson Citizen, Dec 2, 1898) He recorded the Four Bar brand. Charles had had a store in Quijotoa (on the Res). But lest we think he was solely interested in Pima County; in 1892 he obtained a homestead in Graham County. His brother Frank was the under sheriff of Pima County and also the father in law of Col. W. Greene of the Cananea mines and cattle company. In 1896, Frank had begun to run a large herd of cattle on the Tohono O’Odham lands west of Baboquivari Peak in Fresnal Canyon. When the O’Odham absconded with a hundred or so head, Charles reported it to the Arizona Republic. He suggested that hanging or shooting them was the answer, but other cattlemen decided on a patrol system. ( 29 August 1896.) He went to visit family in California and then stayed at Yuma for a year and a half where he worked as a guard. Back in the Santa Cruz Valley, he held the Graveyard mine at Helvetia and ranched at Box Canyon. Given that Charles was all over Southern Arizona, he was aware of opportunities for acquiring more ranch properties than he had already.
Charles A Proctor had married Jesus Maria (Jesusita) Salazar in 1888, when she was 15 and he was 31. Jesusita was an adopted daughter of the Jose Salazar family from the Tesota Ranch, her own parents having been reportedly killed by Apaches. Charles and Jesusita had six children: Charles R., George, Henry, Frank, Lucinda and Marybelle. By 1913, apparently there were marital difficulties. For many years Charles had been moving around but most of the time Jesusita was not with him. But then they moved to their house by the Sopori, and Charles began to feud with close neighbor Tomás Elias Jr. over water rights. This would put pressure on any marriage, besides whatever else might have been going on. Jesusita was unhappy, as evidenced by a apparent suicide attempt using laudanum, in which she was hospitalized, a few weeks before Charles died.
An insomniac, Charles apparently often went outside at night and walked around. One night in May, 1913, he did not return to the house. The next morning he was found dead, about 50 feet away from the house, his gun near him but not fired, and blood on his mouth. Perhaps he had died of a heart attack or stroke. Some speculated that he had been poisoned, but this was not proved, since in those days there was no medical examiners’ office. One report said that he had committed suicide, but this was quickly discounted. In the end, the cause of his demise was never proved. Meanwhile, his sons had other ideas about it.
More about the death of Charles A Proctor and subsequent events, next month.
Bradfute, Richard Wells. The Court of Private Land Claims. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1975.
Sheridan, Thomas E. Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941. Tucson, AZ:
The University of Arizona Press, 1986
Brownell, Elizabeth. The Story of El Sópori, typed manuscript, dated April 14, 1973 on the occasion of
a picnic at El Sopori Ranch. Tubac Historical Society.
Redondo, Margaret Proctor, James S Griffith. Valley of iron: One Family’s History of Madera Canyon.
The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 233-274
Proctor, KK. “Proctor Pioneer.” wwwproctorpioneer.com/caphistory/. Accessed 16 May 2021.
Arizona Daily Star, many articles.
The Oasis. Nogales, AZ: December 16, 1911.
by Mary Kasulaitis
The path of ownership, occupation and development of the Sópori Ranch after the 1860s is not easy to follow, because of the long period of wait for the land grant to be adjudicated. In 1881, the Sópori land claim came before the Surveyor General of Arizona, John Wasson. Testimony in this case provides some little information about the comings and goings of persons in the area. Ferdinand Francis, a teamster, said “[Apache incursions] continued up till about 1877, and that during the years of the rebellion, from 1861 to 1865, they practically held possession of the country and drove out all settlers; and from 1865 up to 1872 there was no safety in living upon a ranch anywhere in that vicinity, so that the country round about the Sópori was practically unoccupied during those years.”
Tucson pioneer William S. Oury figures in the history of Sopori because he apparently had some kind of a land claim on the ranch in the 1860s. He was living in Tucson in 1865, however, so he invited the Pennington family* to live on the ranch as “caretakers.” Widower Elias Pennington and his children (8 girls, 4 boys) had arrived in southern Arizona in 1857 after a hazardous journey from Texas through Apache country on their way west to California. They stopped in Sonoita Valley near Fort Buchanan and stayed. For some years, they attempted to do hauling, farm in various likely places and make money from Army contracts for hay etc. One Pennington house, still standing, is near the Mexican border south of Kino Springs and is obviously built to be a fortress. For some time, they survived Apache attacks designed to steal livestock in the American inhabited areas. In late 1859, third child Larcena Pennington (b. 1837) married another intrepid pioneer, John Page. In March of 1860, Larcena and a little girl, Mercedes Quiroz, had just arrived at a pinery in Madera Canyon where John had been working felling trees and hauling them to building sites. (this is the origin of the vigas in the Smets house on the north side of Main Street in Arivaca). The next day the men went to work, leaving Larcena and Mercedes alone. A band of Tonto Apaches attacked the camp and took them prisoner, making the two walk north. Somewhere near Helvetia, when Larcena could go no further, they lanced her 16 times and left her for dead. She survived, however, and due to her injuries was forced to crawl 16 miles back to the pinery, a journey of two weeks in the snow. When she arrived back she was almost unrecognizable, but due to her indomitable spirit was able to heal (over several months) and lead a long life. Mercedes was rescued. Larcena’s husband John, however, was killed by Apaches in February, 1861 while freighting north of Tucson, leaving her pregnant with a daughter, Mary Ann. She went back to living with her father and siblings in various places. Mary Ann was born at the Mowry mine near Patagonia. In 1865, Elias Pennington moved Larcena and the family to the precarious Sopori ranch, conveniently located on the road from Tubac to Arivaca, which was also used as a trail by Apaches. They lived in a rock and adobe building on a outcrop above the creek, reportedly built around 1800 by a member of the Orosco family, a relation of the Juan Elíases. Elias Pennington fixed up a small building to serve as a schoolhouse, with the older girls teaching the younger children. Frequently the women of the family were left alone but well armed. Apaches stole Josephine’s favorite pony, but otherwise they weren’t attacked. Disease, especially malaria, was another threat: Ann Pennington died there in 1867, the first of the family to succumb to life in Southern Arizona. In 1868, two of the brothers, James and Green, were freighting lumber when they were killed by Apaches near Tucson. Then the family moved back to the Sonoita valley where Camp Crittenden had been erected to replace the abandoned Ft. Buchanan. While attempting to farm, Elias Pennington was attacked and killed by Apaches in 1869. He and James were laid to rest in the Sopori cemetery alongside Ann. The family moved to the relative safety of Tucson. In 1870, Larcena married Fisher Scott, had two children, William and Georgia, and died in 1913 at the age of 76.* The small Sopori Cemetery has markers commemorating the various Pennington family members who had died near there.
In the 1870s, with the lessening of the Apache threat, Sopori Ranch moved back into the hands of the Elíases. William Oury testified in the Land Grant case that Juan Elías, Jr. and Jesús María Elías , the sons of Juan Elías , Sr. were living on the ranch in 1881 along with another brother (Tomás), and that they had been there for perhaps 4 or 5 years. Charles Poston testified that he thought “Juan Elías occupied the old houses at Sópori and has part of the arable land in cultivation and owns quite a stock of cattle there.” Elizabeth Brownell’s “Story of El Sópori” says that Juan and another brother, Tomás Elías , sought confirmation of their claims to El Sópori in 1877, under the Desert Land Act. She said, “They claimed to have been engaged in making ‘favorable improvements’ on the land and to have compiled with the requirements of the law in paying 25 cents per acre for the land claim.” But the land claim was not decided until the mid 1890s.
Jesús María (1829-96) and his brother Juan Elías, Jr. (1838-96) were indeed well known in Southern Arizona. They belonged to the very large and many-branched family of Elías (also Elías Gonzalez), which had been in the Santa Cruz Valley since the 18th century. According to historian James Officer, who documented many of the old Hispanic families in this area, they were the sons of Jesúsa Orozco and Juan Bautista Elías, Sr. (1801-66), who was probably the son of one Cornelio Elías, a member of the Presidio garrison at Tucson. There was also the younger son, Tomás, and a number of other siblings. Juan and Jesús María had been living in Tucson, owning property there, and participating in the political life. Juan was on Tucson’s first City Council in 1864 when William S. Oury was Mayor. Later he was a member of the 6th Legislative Assembly of the Territorial Legislature in 1871 and the 7th in 1873. Jesús María was a member of the First Legislative Assembly in 1864, the Fifth in 1868 and the 8th in 1875. Besides the Sopori Ranch, both owned fields in Tucson immediately adjacent to the Convento site and Juan had land at Punta de Agua, south of the mission along the Santa Cruz River.
Pioneer families, no matter their ethnicity, had lost numerous loved ones to the Apaches in the early European settlement years of Arizona. In the late 60s and early 70s, with the return of the military, there was an attempt to sequester Apaches and other tribes on reservations. “The brutal aspects of Apache warfare,” Officer says, was shocking to newly arrived Anglos, but there were some who felt the Indians had been treated badly. Those with personal experience had no sympathy for the attitude of these newcomers, which included a sympathetic U.S. Army officer. In 1871, a group of Pinal Apaches was being allowed to live in Arivaipa Canyon (not on the reservation) and was being fed by the Army. Meanwhile, raiding was still going on in the Santa Cruz Valley. The Elíases had lost at least three members of their family in the 1850s and 60s. They became part of the home front against the Apaches. In 1863 Jesús María led a large force of Mexicans, Papagos, and Anglos into Arivaipa Canyon (nowhere near Arivaca, if you please) where they attacked the Apache camp. In what came to be called the Camp Grant Massacre, the assault killed more than a hundred Apaches, mostly women and children, since the men were gone at the time. President Grant called it murder, but the local jury exonerated the perpetrators in record time. Juan Elías had no problem getting elected to the Territorial Legislature the next year. When Jesús María Elías passed away, he was noted as being “one of the oldest and noted of Arizona frontiersmen, a daring Indian fighter and government scout. He came from a family of famous fighters.”(Nogales Oasis, 1/18/1896)
More about Sopori next month.
*Theirs is a long story: see With their Own Blood, a Saga of Southwestern Pioneers by Virginia Culin Roberts, Ft. Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1992. (Note: don’t confuse Elias Pennington with Juan, Tomas and Jesus Maria Elías, even if they have the same name.)
See also: Hispanic Arizona: 1536-1856, by James Officer, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1987; They Lived in Tubac, by Elizabeth Brownell, Los Tucsonenses: the Mexican community in Tucson, 1854-1941 by Thomas E. Sheridan, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1986.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Captain Juan de Anza, and his father before him, ran cattle on the Sópori and although he didn’t live there, he maintained a mayordomo and vaqueros there. Perhaps he was issued a government land grant, which has not remained. When he died in 1788, the ranch purportedly went to his two nieces, Ana and Rosa. Shortly after 1800, they reportedly sold it to Ramona de Vildosola. According to Elizabeth Brownell’s research, Ramona gave it to her cousin Benancio Tato in 1819. In 1810, however, a document certifies ownership of the Sópori ranch by Don Antonio Narbona, Commandante of the Tucson Presidio, because the ranch had been abandoned. Abandonment due to the Apache threat runs throughout the history of the Sópori during the 19th century because it was not close enough to either Tucson or the Tubac presidios for safety. Nevertheless, due to its lush pastures and springs, with mineralized hills nearby, someone was always trying to claim it, sell it, buy it or just squat on it. There are three different land grant periods: Spanish, Mexican and American. For example, the Canoa and Arivaca land grants went through all three, but it isn’t certain there was a Sopori land grant in the Spanish period, at least not one for which valid documentation remained in 1880. After 1821, when Mexico was created, a kind of land rush by wealthy Mexicans took place in Southern Arizona because Apaches had been relatively pacified during the previous two decades.
One of those was the Elias family: it has figured prominently in the history of Sópori. An extensive and political family, its members have spread all over Sonora and Arizona. Several held officer positions in the presidios. Lt. Simon Elías Gonzalez had became commandant of the Tubac company in 1807 and held that position for a brief period. Tubac Commander Ignacio Elias Gonzalez surveyed the Canoa grant in 1821 by for his inlaws the Ortiz brothers and the Sonoita grant for Leon Herreras. Just when the Elias’ first became associated with the Sopori ranch is in question; family members claim they had some possession as early as 1816 or 1820, despite the fact that others had made their own claims. The family claims that a house of stone was built there in 1801 by one Orozco, who was possibly from Juan Elias’ mother’s family. area. Members of the Elias family went on to live at or near the Sopori in later years and some filed on a grant in the Nogales area.
After 1833, the Apache threat increased once again as the Mexican government could not continue to feed and supply them near the Tucson presidio as it had been doing. In 1843, Apaches raided a sizeable Mexican establishment of mining and ranching at El Sópori. Who these Mexicans were is not recorded.
The Mexican war and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase in 1854 brought entrepreneurial Americans into the act. Mining was the attraction. Col. James W. Douglass, William Rhodes and C.C. Dodson settled on the Sópori and started working the Sopori silver mine in 1855. Rhodes (or Rood) figures in a remarkable story in which he was wounded and then trapped by Apaches in a thicket of trees somewhere north of the Sópori on the Santa Cruz River. As they tried to reach him, he picked them off one by one with shots from his revolver. After six shots were fired, the Apaches rushed him, thinking he was out of bullets, but he had coolly reloaded after each shot, and brought down a few more. Admiring his courage, they shouted for him to come out and join them. “Oh you devils, you! I know what you’ll do with me if you get me!” he called back. After this he heard them shout: “Sópori! Sópori! And they galloped away. He gave them a few minutes and then came out of hiding and proceeded on to the Reventon, another ranch in the vicinity. Raphael Pumpelly, who recounts this story firsthand, goes on to describe what happened to Richmond Jones, superintendent of the ranch and mining company. The Apaches had kept on to the Sópori and found him unprotected. He died, pierced by lances and a pitchfork. They had then driven off the horses and cattle on the ranch. Col. Douglass had stocked the ranch with cattle from California. J. Ross Browne described it: “ at the time Col. James W. Douglass lived here the Sopori was one of the most flourishing ranches in the country. He had herds of fat cattle ranging over the pastures; fields of grain and vegetables in the rich bottom lands… and domestic animals and fowls of various kinds.” (Douglass passed away in 1859.)
Others had also settled in the mid 1850s on the Sópori. They include Frederick Ronstadt, who had acquired some papers to the Sópori in 1854. His claim included the spring and bottomlands. Charles Poston, who was part owner of the Arivaca Land Grant, claimed to have received these papers from Ronstadt in 1858. This leads up to a discussion of a complicated series of dealings by Lt. Sylvester Mowry to obtain the Sópori from whoever claimed to own it. A claim to the Sópori had been made at …some point by the family of Joaquin Astiazarán, a prominent wealthy Sonoran. Reportedly, he had made an 1838 petition to pre-empt the ranch. However, since the documents included in his claim for the El Sópori land grant were subsequently found to be forgeries, one cannot assume that there ever really was an 1838 document. In the mid-1850s, Sylvester Mowry was negotiating with the Astiazarán heirs on behalf of the Sópori Land and Mining Company, a Rhode Island Company which he had developed with the sponsorship of some Eastern investors. They had also established the Arizona Land and Mining Company. In the dealings, Mowry kept some of the land for himself. In 1858, he purchased part of the Mexican claims in the name of the company. The company also bought out Douglass and the other American “owners.” The mining company took control of the ranch, but as we have seen, fell victim to Apache depredations and after the raid that took Richmond Jones’ life, sold out to the Arizona Company. A few years later, in 1866, the Sópori Land and Mining Company, probably under new ownership, repurchased the interests and began to try to gain the title as part of the Mexican land grant settlements that were being investigated by the U.S. government.
The Sópori Land Grant as claimed by Joaquin Astiazarán’s heirs asserted ownership of land all the way from San Xavier to the Tumacacoris and from the Santa Ritas to the Sierritas, an area of 140,000 acres or 32 leagues. Valid land grants such as La Canoa were included within its boundaries, complicating the proceedings being heard by Arizona Surveyor General John Wasson in 1880-81 when he was attempting to validate all the Mexican land grant claims in Arizona. Certain criteria such as accurate boundaries and original documentation had to be provided by the claimants to be able to reclaim their grants under U.S. law. Wasson found that it was not a valid land grant. The next step was the Court of Private Land Claims where it was rejected in 1895 on the grounds that the documents were forged or antedated. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. Thus from the mid-1850s to 1895, some forty years, no one was really able to validly own the land. That does not mean no one was living there but Sópori in the 1860s remained a difficult place to live because of the Apaches.
More about Sópori next time.
References: unpublished history of El Sópori by Elizabeth Brownell; Pumpelly’s Arizona by Raphael Pumpelly; Samuel Peter Heintzelman and the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company by Diane M.T. North; Early Arizona by Jay J. Wagoner; A Tour through Arizona in 1864 by J. Ross Browne; “Tubac through four centuries,” by Henry F. Dobyns, online exhibit at the University of Arizona Library website. “The case of Sylvester Mowry: the Mowry mine,” by Constance Wynn Altschuler, Arizona and the West, Summer, 1973. Senate documents pertaining to the Sópori land grant: Senate Ex. Doc, No 93. 48th Congress, 1st Session.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Story continued from last month’s Connection:
When the Jesuits established themselves at Guevavi Mission in the 1730s they went forth to the rancherias where native people were living. Preaching and teaching, they baptized and married the local folk and tried to get them to move closer to the mission headquarters or cabecera. At Sópori in 1743, Father Torres Perea found that several had died and were buried without confession or Church services because they didn’t tell him until it was too late, and “finding out for myself hit or miss requires real effort.” He noted the diseases of which they had died, such as “yellow vomit.” As far as I can tell, there was only a village, no actual visita or mission station at Sópori, since it never seems to have a saint name associated with it. It is just referred to as Sópori or Sóporic. Harry Winter, an expert in the O’Odham language, translated Sópori as more like Shopolik or shopol, which can mean short hill or short ridge. This was corroborated by Ellie Kurtz who consulted O’Odham speakers at the San Xavier Mission.
The commonly-traveled route to Arivaca from the missions in the Santa Cruz valley went up the Sópori Creek, possibly to Papalote Wash and then across to Arivaca. After 1736, miners and settlers began moving north. A Spanish ranch was established at Arivaca, where Antonio de Rivera and the Guevavi mission ranches ran cattle and had a number of vaqueros.
Sópori and Arivaca are mentioned again in Pima Rebellion documents. In 1751, the Pimas* rebelled against the Spanish and their heavy handed controlling ways in a coordinated effort that extended from the San Xavier Mission south to the Altar Valley in Sonora. On November 20, 1751, all the communities were attacked and many of the Spanish or their workers were killed or wounded. Right after the massacre, Antonio de Rivera and some others had headed out from Tubac to see what had happened at his Arivaca ranch, using the route through Sópori, near which they encountered Pimas, had a small skirmish, and after which they retreated to Tubac. Alferez Joseph Fontes and Antonio Olguin and their troop of men were sent from San Ignacio by Governor Ortiz Parilla to reconnoiter the situation in Arivaca. They went through Sópori, which they found destroyed, the people gone and the livestock dead. When the soldiers under Fontes arrived at Arivaca on December 28, 1751, they found the bodies of nine dead. The buildings had been destroyed by fire and the village of about 15 people had been massacred. They troops decided to set up headquarters here and await orders from the Governor. He responded by sending twenty-five men, under the command of Bernardo de Urrea (founder of Altar, Sonora and justicia mayor of the Pimeria Alta, who was then living at Opodepe) and Lt. Salazar. Native ambassadors went along in a attempt to settle things peacefully. Travelling up the (Sonoran) Altar Valley via Sáric and Tres Bellotas , the troops arrived in Arivaca on January 2, 1752. They met with Fontes’ troops and made an encampment, probably a few miles west of Arivaca. After an unsuccessful meeting with the native ambassadors, the rebellious Pimas under the leadership of Luis Oacpicagigua came down from the Baboquivaris and attacked the Spanish on the morning of the 5th. Two Spanish soldiers were injured but apparently 43 of the natives were killed after which the Pimas retreated, eventually to the Catalina Mountains. The ranch at Arivaca was reportedly abandoned for several decades after this, by Spanish, if not by natives, however, in mid 1754 there were some 27 families of O’Odham living there. This may have been because they tended to move around seasonally, but there may have been no permanent population, or at least no one there regularly when Spanish soldiers went through.
In 1752 a presidio was established at Tubac, in response to the Pima rebellion. Governor Arce y Arroyo and Father Visitor Roxas toured the Pimeria Alta in mid 1754, a year after the uprising had been put down, and noted that the people of Sopori had gone to lived at Guevavi. In other records of that same year, Father Pauer noted that six children from Sópori had been baptized, but perhaps their families were the ones who went to Guevavi. By this time, Lt. Bernardo de Urrea (1710-77), apparently had the cattle ranch at Sópori. He may have acquired it from Doña Maria de Anza after her husband, Capt. Juan Bautista de Anza the elder, was killed in 1740. Perhaps Urrea ran cattle on her property. Ownership of the property is not mentioned by the priests. No one leaves a fertile valley with natural water for very long, nor any country with minerals to be found. Chances are, mission and presidio cattle ranged through the valley. South of the Sópori valley are hills in which the Spanish had already begun to mine silver. Originally the whole range was called the Atascosas, after the Spanish word for barrier, “atasco.” The northern part of the range is now referred to as the Tumacacoris, after the mission. In the northernmost foothills of the Tumacacoris there were mines that carried the name of Sópori, to which in later years was added the word “Lost.” More later about the mines, lost or not.
In 1762, Fr Juan Nentvig, the author of Rudo Ensayo, a description of Sonora and Arizona in 1764, mentioned that the Sopori ranch was depopulated. It was close to Tubac but not close enough for safety. Apaches were a problem from this time on, so it is understandable if occupation of the area was sporadic, depending on the kind of protection available.
Captain Juan de Anza the younger was the next European to ranch in the Sópori valley during the time he was commandant of the Tubac Presidio (1760-75). Brian Kroll wrote that the Spanish crown granted a title of land to him in 1751, called the Ojo del Agua de Sopori (spring). There were 80 families living there in 1771. It was through Sópori and Arivaca that Anza’s first expedition traveled on the way to settle northern California in 1774, along what he called the highway to the Pimas of the West, but what later was called the Camino del Diablo. The next year he took a group of settlers from Tubac and the Santa Cruz Valley north through Tucson and then Yuma to settle San Francisco. Anza went on to become even more famous as the Governor of New Mexico in 1777. He returned to Sonora early in 1788 to be commandante de armas for Sonora and captain of the Tucson presidio, but he died suddenly on December 19, 1788 in Arizpe.
In 1780, on May 12, Geronimo de la Rocha mentioned “Zopori” as he spelled it, in his diary of the expedition he and Brigadier Jacobo Ugarte undertook to search for possible presidio sites. He said, “the spring of Zopori has a very large pool, however, it seems to lack any sign of having a current.” This was the year in which no water at all was found at Arivaca. Rocha does not mention any occupants in the Sopori valley at that time. At that time the Presidio was in Tucson, not Tubac, so it was probably not safe to live there any more, although a few settlers still lived in Tubac. Any cattle they may have had were constantly at risk from Apaches. This situation remained for quite some time and depended, for the most part, on what was happening at Tubac.
More about Sopori next month.
Reference: Garate, Donald T. Juan Bautista de Anza: Basque Explorer in the New World, 1693-1740, Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2–3.
Kessell, John L. Friars, soldiers and reformers: Hispanic Arizona and the Sonora Mission Frontier, 1767-1856. Tucson, Az: The University of Arizona Press, 1976.
Kroll, Brian. Unpublished manuscript entitled “A history of Rancho El Sopori, November 2003.”
Winters, Harry J. O’odham Place Names: Meanings, Origins and Histories, Arizona and Sonora, Second Edition, 2020.
*Prior to the time that the O’Odham publicly reclaimed their own name, they were known as Pimas by the Spanish but it was not by their choice.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Down on the Sópori. Four words that somehow convey the size and expectations one have regarding what is today one of the largest and arguably the oldest cattle ranch in the Santa Cruz Valley. It begins in the west, along the reaches of Sópori Wash. As the Sópori widens out into a valley, east of the confluence with Batamote Wash, agriculture can be practiced. A natural spring, known in Spanish as an Ojo del Agua, feeds the fields. Upstream, large washes like the Papalote and the Moyza carry water from the western slopes of the Tumacacori Mountains. As Sópori Creek flows into the Santa Cruz River at Amado the creek with the mellifluous name disappears, but not before it has witnessed history. As with any natural source of water in the Southwest, there was settlement, first by Native Americans and later by Europeans.
The name Sópori comes from an O’Odham (Pima) word, probably something that sounds like “Sóporic,” with a Spanish pronunciation, accenting the first “o.” Spanish speakers softened the hard endings of words by adding an “a” or an “o”. Eventually the “c” was dropped and Sópori remained. Traditionally a group of Pimas known as “Sobaipuri” lived in the Santa Cruz and San Pedro valleys, and possibly the name is related.
In 1691 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino established a mission at Guevavi, several miles south of Sopori, on the Santa Cruz River near present day Nogales. Missionaries found it a difficult place to live, so there were few. Some natives had been Christianized, so we see that Sópori is first mentioned in church records. Father Agustín de Campos came north from his headquarters at San Ignacio to baptize and marry natives in the rancherias along the Santa Cruz and its tributaries. On March 10, 1722, he baptized three in Sóporica: Agustin, Marcos and Maria Rosa. Visits by missionaries escorted by soldiers, revealed the possibilities of farming and cattle ranching along the upper Santa Cruz River and its tributaries.
The first rancher at Sópori was Don Juan Bautista de Anza (1693-1740), who had come from his Basque homeland in Spain to the New World. At the age of 28, he joined the cavalry as an alferez and was assigned to the presidio at Janos in Chihuahua where he met his wife, Maria Rosa Bezerra Nieto, the daughter of the commander. He brought to the marriage two daughters, whose mother may have died. He and Doña Maria Rosa had several children: Francisco Antonio (b 1725), Margarita (b 1727), Josefa Gregoria (b 1732) and Juan Bautista (b 1736) and perhaps others. Doña Maria Rosa became a skilled curandera and over the years many sick priests and others were sent to her for treatment. Don Juan’s military training at Janos was to make him an exceptional Apache fighter, but as Janos is in farming country, he was able to acquire agricultural knowledge that he would need later. In a previous home, he also had some mines for which he operated supply stores. Back in Spain, his parents owned a pharmacy and he was trained by his father in law and business. Don Juan was ready for all he might need to do in life.
Anza was raised to the rank of Captain and assigned as commander of the presidio at Fronteras, Sonora, in 1726, with the removal of the previous commander. He took on a vast area from there to the Gila River and from there to the Gulf of Mexico. It was to his benefit that this area had excellent ranch country close to the Guevavi mission. Ranches were being located in the San Luis valley in Sonora, near what is now the US Mexico border. As he explored his assigned area further, he came north into the Santa Cruz valley and set up a ranch near the Guevavi mission. Manuel Jose de Sosa was appointed as foreman at Guevavi ranch, and was to accompany Anza whenever he needed a scribe. Moving north, he founded the San Mateo ranch at the confluence of the Sonoita creek and another one called Sicurisuta in the Pajarito mountains west of there.
Further north, he arrived at the northern end of the Tumacacori mountains where the valley of the Sopori wash spreads out and a native village was already in place. Realizing its value for both ranching and potential farming, he established the Sópori Ranch sometime in the late 1720s, assigning Juan Manuel Bais as foreman. Anza did not live there himself. It is likely that they raised both sheep and cattle. Besides meat, sheep provided wool for blankets and serapes, while cattle provided meat and leather for buckets and other useful items. Anza established a ranch manager and workers at each of his ranches, providing houses, outbuildings and corrals for them. Some of those people lived on the Anza ranches for decades and have descendants still living in Southern Arizona today, including the Sosas, Figueroas, Grijalvas, Salazars, Nuñez, and Romeros, among others. Juan Manuel’s wife, Josefa de Luque, survived two husbands and probably lived at the Sopori her entire life (Garate, p 125). Many of the employees were Opata, Pima, Yaqui or mestizo. As needed, vaqueros might travel from one ranch to another for seasonal work.
In 1732, second group of Jesuits were assigned to the missions at Suamca, Guevavi and San Xavier del Bac, escorted to their posts by Captain Juan Bautista de Anza the elder and his troops. The troops were necessary for protection against Apaches who had been raiding all the other native tribes and soon found the Spanish settlers even more lucrative. Anza had made a preliminary trip to build a house for the priest at Guevavi, Father Juan Bautista Grazhoffer. Upon their arrival, Anza organized a pageant to celebrate the entry of Father Grazhoffer and introduce him to the natives living in villages in the area. Anza and his family were very devoted to the priests of the Jesuit order, possibly because the founder, Ignatius of Loyola, was also a Basque from northern Spain.
In 1736, the discovery of an amazing silver strike called the Planchas de Plata was made southwest of Guevavi. Anza was then the Justicia Mayor of Sonora, so it was his job to decide whether it was a treasure or an ore body that could be mined. For a base of operations, he stayed with fellow Basque and deputy justicia, Bernardo de Urrea, at his La Arizona ranch, just south of the silver strike, while Anza attempted to make a determination of origin. The miners wanted it to be considered mineable ore, for which they would be taxed one fifth of the value, but if it was a treasure, the Crown could claim half plus the tax. Anza wanted to do what was right, but by the time it was all over, months later, the miners had moved on and the silver mass was gone, either to prospectors or to Mexico City. Some of the miners then came north up the canyons towards Arivaca and the Oro Blanco mountains. During this time, the name Arizona became relatively famous due to its appearance on many Spanish documents, and ultimately the name of a U.S. state.
Sadly, Juan Bautista de Anza the elder was killed by Apaches on May 9, 1740 near Suamca. His wife did not remarry. She likely took on the responsibilities of their properties, including the Sópori Ranch. She moved away from Fronteras to live elsewhere, and eventually came to the Santa Cruz Valley. She was living at Tubac when she passed away in 1760 and was buried at the mission at Guevavi.
Anza’s son, Juan Bautista de Anza the younger, four years old at the time of his father’s death, went on to be an illustrious figure in Southern Arizona and Sonora history, more well known than his pioneering father.
Reference: Garate, Donald T. Juan Bautista de Anza: Basque Explorer in the New World, 1693-1740, Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2003.
Garate, Donald T. “Arizonac: a twentieth century myth”
The Journal of Arizona History. Vol. 46, No. 2 (summer 2005), pp. 161-184
Sópori ranch story continued next month.
by Mary Kasulaitis
A recent article on screwworms in Arizona Wildlife Views, put out by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, inspired me to do a little reminiscing about that dreaded insect. Once upon a time I overheard some folks in Arivaca complaining about flies. These were different, not ordinary house flies: an airplane had dropped a little box filled with flies just a little too close to their house and by accident, the flies went inside. As soon as I realized what they were talking about I was angry: what are a few flies compared to the devastation done by screwworms, not just to cows, but wildlife and people as well. Perhaps they didn’t realize just what screwworms are.
Those flies were a kind of parasite of the species Cochliomyia hominivorax, which in its larvae stage eats live flesh: yours, mine, cows, deer, whatever. The flies lay their eggs in any kind of open wound. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to feed on the flesh. Unlike maggots, which they resemble but which eat dead flesh, screwworms eat living flesh. An untreated wound, which has screwworms in it, can grow in size until the animal dies of the infestation or a secondary infection.
In the old days, ranchers had to check their cattle frequently for screwworms. Baby calves often had infestations in their umbilical cords. Branding and castrating created wounds that had to be watched carefully. Black smear, made of pine tar, was used to coat the wounds to keep the flies away until they healed. A great deal of time was spent checking the cattle to see if they were healthy, and hunting in all the corners and under bushes to find those who went into hiding if they had screwworms and didn’t feel well. That’s what cowboys spent most of their time doing. You may remember reading Eva Wilbur-Cruce’s memoir, in which she tells of having to clean screwworms out of a wound. My father never made me do anything like that when I was a child, but I vividly remember watching him do it. He poured pink liquid screwworm killer onto the larvae in a wound that was about eight inches across, the heifer having eluded the cowboys for some time, using his finger to scoop them out, and when all were removed and the wound clean, covering the edges with black smear to protect it from another infestation. Not a fun process and one that was repeated frequently every year.
Once my dog had gotten a barbed wire cut on her foot. It was small, so I thought it would heal by itself. She kept licking, so I finally took a good look at it. There were six screwworms in the cut, eating away. Licking hadn’t dislodged them, nor had it kept them from hatching.
Obviously, wild animals were just as susceptible, and less likely to get treatment. David E. Brown, in his Wildlife Views article, told of finding a buck, the top of whose skull had been almost eaten away by the worms. He had had them for weeks, probably ever since his antlers were in velvet. He was in intense discomfort, if not agony, and had to be euthanized.
You don’t even have to have a wound to attract screwworm flies. The Nogales’ Oasis newspaper recounted the following story in 1906: a Mr. A. Wilson came into the hospital for treatment of an unknown ailment, which he had contracted in Mexico. Turns out, he had screwworms in his nose. “Eighty-five worms were removed, after which the sick man was allowed to rest…The worms had burrowed into the cavities of the nose, into the cheeks, into the roof of the mouth and well into the throat…At the second sitting about fifty were removed. On the evening of the same day what remained of the worms were taken out and the patient was able to rest and recuperate.” That is a gross story, I must admit, but there are some things that ought to be remembered. Screwworms were an ever-present threat until just recently. “Never Again,” as they say.
It was because of economic losses to the agricultural industry and wildlife that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture worked out a way to eradicate the pest. Apparently, there was more trouble with screwworms in the 1950s in the Southeast and Florida than there was here. Brown recounts: “Using the fact that the female screwworm mates only once in her life, entomologists …devised an ingenious method to ensure that her eggs never hatched. Using Atomic Age technology developed in the years immediately after World War II, scientists in a laboratory in Mission, Texas, began irradiating from 50 million to 70 million screwworm pupae per week with gamma rays from radioactive cobalt. Now sterile, the newly emerging flies were boxed up and dropped from airplanes at a density of between 200 and 1,000 flies per square mile. Because the sterile flies greatly outnumbered the native flies, the sterilized males did most of the breeding. All, or nearly all, of the females mated with sterile males and deposited only infertile eggs. Within a few years, the screwworm was declared eradicated in Florida.” In 1962, the program expanded into Texas, New Mexico and then Arizona. The Federal government began to realize that this project would have to include Mexico, so it shouldered the burden of paying for an expanded effort. For years, whenever a case of screwworms was suspected, the rancher would collect a few of the larvae and drop them into a special container that was mailed to a laboratory. (It isn’t easy to tell screwworm larvae from maggots with the naked eye.) If identification was made, an airplane would soon be dropping sterile flies into the area. This went on for years, because according to Brown, Sonora was not declared screwworm-free until 1982. The program extended down into Central America, and I expect it will continue to go on. There is absolutely no redeeming value to this species of fly.
Mr. Brown notes that he wishes he’d kept one of the little gray boxes with the red target printed on it; the ones they dropped from planes. For sentimental reasons, he said. I have one, which my father kept, for the same reasons. I also have a bottle and packaging that you would use to send the sample into the laboratory. That was one government program that made him a happy man. Screw worm eradication would never have happened except the U.S. Dept of Agriculture saw the need and implemented a successful program.
References: “Turning on the worm that turned,” by David E. Brown, Arizona Wildlife Views, May-June 2001.
“Had screwworms,” The Oasis, April 14, 1906.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Next month we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Arivaca Clinic, for which current Arivaca Area Health Services past Board President Julie Beal has produced a most interesting history. (Let her know if you would like a copy). But before the present day, there were any number of doctors who lived in this area. Some did not practice here. In more or less chronological order, they are:
Dr. Charles Lord (b 1832) was from New York State. He was a surgeon in the Union Army and came to Arizona to be the surgeon at the Cerro Colorado and Enriqueta Mines near Arivaca in 1866, probably because the mine manager was also a New Yorker. He served as Postmaster there in 1866. Shortly after that the mines closed down and he removed to Tucson where he began a long career as a partner with W.W. Williams in a large wholesale and retail merchandise business, which included lumber from the Santa Rita Mountains. Subsequently he became Territorial Auditor and Postmaster in Tucson, which he served from 1869 to 84. In those days, Tucson had no bank, so Lord received the appointment of Depository, so that Lord and Williams served as a bank for the southern part of the state. That relationship lasted from 1867 to 1881 when several banks opened separate from businesses. After some serious financial difficulties, Dr. Lord went to Mexico, where he was reported to have died (but perhaps didn’t).
Dr. Reuben H. Wilbur (b. 1840 )came from Massachusetts in the early 1870s. He had a medical degree from Harvard. In 1877 he claimed some land 3 miles northwest of Arivaca where he built a house. His primary interest here was mining, and his medical practice was in Tucson, where he specialized in women’s ailments. He married and had three children, whose descendants retained their property in Arivaca until just a few years ago. While here, he spent most of his time filing mining claims. He also spent time in Mexico. He caught some kind of fever, probably malaria, and went back to Massachusetts where he passed away in 1882.
Dr. Martin Gerould (b 1841) was from New Hampshire and had served as a Civil War Surgeon (Union) aboard an ironclad, the USS Eastport, along the Mississippi. but while in Arivaca he worked as mill manager for the Arivaca Mining Milling and Commercial Company with headquarters a mile or so northwest of Arivaca. During his tenure he was into mining, but I expect he had to do some doctoring, given that he was the only doctor here. After about five years in Arizona, he went to Missouri where he spent the remainder of his life and practiced medicine.
Dr. Adolphus H. Noon (b 1837) received his degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco. He had a medical practice in this area from 1879 until 1898. During that time he was the only doctor in the area, with headquarters in Oro Blanco. In 1898 he and his family moved to Nogales where he helped found the Santa Cruz Medical Society. He continued to practice there until he died in 1931 at the age of 94. Dr Noon left medical journals and articles that illustrate what a medical practice was like on the Southern Arizona frontier. He delivered dozens of babies, including 23 of his own children and grandchildren. He was adamant that delivery be done in as clean an environment as possible. He made useful suggestions for treating bites of rabid animals. Gunshots and accidental injuries made up a large part of his practice, besides the ever-present fevers such as typhoid and malaria.
Dr. Joseph H. Ball came to Arivaca for his health in about 1900. Born in Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1860, he received a University degree in Dublin. He came to the United States and took another degree in operative surgery at the University of New York from which he graduated in 1891. After practicing for some years in the East, he developed asthma and went west for his health. Dr. Ball came to Oro Blanco first and then Arivaca, to recuperate and set up a medical practice. He homesteaded a short distance west of Arivaca in the early 1900s, proving up on the homestead in 1910. He built two buildings on the little hill in the center of his property, the ruins of which can still be seen southwest of First Baptist Church. One building was a house and the other a medical office. For at least nine years he was the only doctor in the area, and delivered many babies, including my aunt and uncle. He sold his property to the Jarillas Ranch and retired to Tucson in 1919. He passed away at the age of 73 in 1933.
Dr. Julius H. Woodard was the most beloved physician at Ruby during the 1930s. Considerate and kind, he is one of the reasons that former Ruby residents look back on that period of time in their lives with such good memories. Dr. Woodard and his wife Pauline came to Ruby with the Eagle-Picher Lead Mining Company in 1930. He was from Missouri, as was the Company. Between 1000 and 1500 folks had moved into the area. This included mine or mill workers and their families and those who provided services to the miners. One of those services was medical, since a mining operation is hazardous at best. In the 1930s there were no doctors in Arivaca, so people from there and the surrounding ranches and mines would travel to Ruby to be treated by Dr. Woodard. Whether it was mine accidents, horseback accidents, gunshot wounds, or eating too many peaches, no ailment was too small to ignore. He delivered at least 40 babies.
Born in 1900 in Missouri, Dr. Woodard graduated from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis when he took a position with the Company. However, he contracted TB, and came to Ruby because it offered a drier climate for his recuperation, while maintaining a medical position for him with Eagle-Picher. It seems that when he arrived, a local curandera, the grandmother of Sammy Rosthenhausler, provided him with a local herb to speed his recovery. She attributed his shorter rest cure time to this treatment.
Those were the days when doctors provided personal attention and made house calls (or in Ruby, tent calls) and Dr. was nothing if not conscientious. Fortunately, he was licensed to do surgery, anesthesiology, pediatrics and just about anything else he needed to do while so far out in the hills. Dr. Woodard maintained a clinic with as many as nine beds. Or perhaps as many as he had filled at any given moment. The facilities included an adobe building with an attached porch, covered with canvas, where patients could stay overnight. However, Dr. and Mrs. Woodard frequently took patients to their home if they needed to be watched overnight. Mrs. Woodard was a nurse and also worked in the office, which was tiny, as was the examination room. Another of the nurses was Anne Worth, wife of machinist Norman Worth. Katherine Grover Duff, also a miner’s wife, served as anesthesiologist. The Ruby community was like a family, and that included the medical team. Dr and Pauline inspired devotion in their patients. The first baby he delivered in Ruby, Maria Jackson, went on to become a nurse in his office in Tucson. Frequently Dr. Woodard would recommend that patients go to a specialist for help, and just as frequently the patient thought he could handle it just fine. Sometimes he could.
In 1935, Dr. Woodard helped organize a Boy Scout Troop at Ruby with 15 members. He belonged to the Santa Cruz County Medical Society. It might be good to point out that Dr. Woodard was a stutterer, but he never let that have an effect on his capabilities as a physician. When Ruby closed in 1940, Dr. moved to Tucson and practiced at St Mary’s hospital, with an office at 188 N. Church. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the young age of 54, and left behind a host of sorrowful patients and friends.
Historically, the greatest amount of time that medical service was NOT available in the Arivaca area was fairly recently, in the so-called modern age, 1940-80, during which time you had to drive to Nogales or Tucson over dirt roads. At least one woman almost gave birth while waiting for a wash to run down. So it was very nice when the opportunity came for medical service nearby.