by Mary Kasulaitis
It has something for everyone, our Merc. At least, that’s the goal of the current owners, Mary and Roger Beal and Andrea Morondos. The Merc provides affordable food, produce, meat, fresh bread and pastries, as well as hardware supplies and unique items which you may expect to find in a country grocery store. A Mercantile is supposed to be able to provide everything the community needs, not just groceries. They try to satisfy a clientele that includes large families and single folks, country-types, city-types, people on food stamps and those with gourmet tastes, as well as hunters, tourists, vegetarians, and those who need pesticide-free food. Not an easy task, and a long ways from the fresh beef, beans, coffee and flour that were all the Mercantile once provided.
There has been a store in Arivaca since at least the early 1870s, when Pedro Aguirre made Arivaca a stage stop. Noah W. Bernard, his nephew by marriage, came here in 1877 and became the storekeeper and Postmaster. The town grew and Nonie grew with it. He prospected for mines and established a ranch in partnership with John Bogan. He built a store, in which he sold the beef he raised and became wealthy on the two enterprises. We don’t know exactly when he built his store but it appears in a 1907 photograph taken by Mrs. Leslie Farrell, with Les in the doorway. This building is now Jack Baker’s Double L Feeds. One of the better-known storekeepers was Phil Clarke, who came here in 1906, hired on at the store, learned the trade and then opened his own store at Ruby. The storekeeper usually served as the Postmaster also.
In 1912, Noah was dead, but his ranch was doing well. The Arivaca Land and Cattle Company, made up of his son, Noah C. Bernard, John Bogan, George Pusch, Ramon Ahumada and other partners, was the major ranch in the Arivaca Valley. They decided to build a new store building, east of the older store, on the current location of the Mercantile. In those days, Arivaca was almost a company town and most of the folks in the town worked for the Arivaca Ranch. There were other ranches and plenty of mines, but there was also competition down the road with stores at Oro Blanco and Ruby, besides at the smaller mining camps like the Warsaw, Old Oro Blanco, and Old Glory. In 1916, the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company applied for a federal patent for the town of Arivaca, but the quarter of a quarter section on which the new store sat was (is) not in the townsite, but on the ranch property, despite appearances to the contrary.
From then on, the store kept on doing business and stayed in the hands of the Arivaca ranch owners. Armando Membrila remembered that Cecil Burg and his mom and uncle Ira clerked in the general store there for awhile in the late 20s. He thought it was before the Boices took over because when they took over they brought Herb Mills and his family in. The last one Armando remembered before they left Arivaca was a man named Mr. Poe and his son Alton. He also remembered, “There was a guy from Nogales, he was a Mexican fellow–he did the bookkeeping–a young guy. He couldn’t speak English very well. The general store had two gas pumps with tanks up high and the Gitana bar had one gas pump.”
When the Boice family came here in 1931, the store came with the ranch. A number of folks worked for them as storekeeper, including Bob Grantham, who met Katherine Noon there at the store in 1936. Ernesto Salazar worked here for a number of years in the early 1940s and then moved to Sasabe where he operated a store. Later he and his wife, Flora, opened the Rancher’s Mercantile at Amado. Eva Gonzalez Grimm worked in the post office for awhile when Ernesto had the store.
In 1947 the Boices sold the store to Melvin Hoefle and his wife Minerva. Melvin owned a sheet metal business in Tucson, but had been convinced that Arivaca was an up and coming place in 1947, potentially even an artists’ colony. He and some partners, Edwin Kreitemeyer and his wife Irene, along with Richard Chambers of Tucson planned a Club here, known and actually incorporated in 1947 as the Arivaca Community and Country Club. They renovated the house across the street from the store (now Casino Rural/Helping Hearts), which was included in the sale, and turned it into a club building and gambling house. Its large front rooms and high ceilings seemed more like public rooms, as indeed they had been when that building was a hotel in its earlier days. Eva Grimm remembered going to a dance there. Krietemeyer and his wife worked at the store and Irene was Postmaster. Mr. Krietemeyer came to a sad end when he drank some Clorox. Irene tried to stay on, but after a few months she moved away. After that, Gene Casey was the storekeeper and Postmaster for a while, leasing the store until 1951 when Mr. Hoefle sold the store.
The next owners were Sally and Fred McGinn, who came to Arizona for his health and thought the Arivaca store would be a good investment. Fred wanted to live in the country. They had five children and lived in the building across the street from the Mercantile where they also had Church of Christ services. In those days there was no indoor plumbing. Sally remembers the mirrored bar in the front room that still remained after the exodus of the Hoefles. The McGinns moved to Colorado after only three years here, but their oldest son, Fred, fondly remembers his childhood here with its burros and piñatas, cowboys and horses.
Tony Prevor and Marge and Fred Schwanderlik had come to Tucson from Illinois after World War II for Margie’s health. They’d never had a store before they owned Mexico Way, which was on the Old Nogales Highway. Arivacans like Helen Brouse often stopped by to gas up on the way home. Helen invited them to come down to a dance at Arivaca, and so they did. Margie loved Arivaca right away, and they thought for a while that they might buy La Gitana from the Brouses. That fell through, but about that time the McGinns put the Arivaca Mercantile up for sale. Margie, Fred, and Tony bought it in partnership in 1954. The house was included.
Tony remembered: “The store was quite old fashioned in those days with high shelves in the main room, accessed by a rolling ladder. The other room was devoted to saddles and harnesses, which dated back to who-knows-when. There were even buggy whips! There was no electricity and the iceboxes were run with big butane generators.” They sold a little of everything that people might need: food, hardware, paint, clothing, stationary, dishes, jewelry and even religious goods, but they got rid of the tack. Because of the dirt road to town, people were more inclined to buy things here. In those days the storekeeper was also the Postmaster, and Margie was so appointed. She took that very seriously and even attended Postal conventions.
On January 31, 1956, in the early morning hours, the store (with Post Office) burned down. No one ever determined the actual cause, but it was a crisis at the time. Without missing a beat, they opened the store and Post Office in the front room of Marge’s house across the street. By that same evening, Tony had brought shelves and groceries from Mexico Way. Fred Noon and Gene Casey had retrieved the old Post Office boxes from the abandoned store at Ruby and installed them in Marge’s house. Life went on as usual for the rest of us. Hard work went into the restoration of the store, and Tony rebuilt it, with the help of Joe Pianka and Bill Campas, much as it appears today. All that remains of the old building is one interior wall.
Marge and Fred were divorced in 1956 and Margie kept the Arivaca property. They changed the name of the store to Marge’s Arivaca Mercantile. She and Tony Prevor were married in 1967. Marge’s brother Bill Poznecki with his wife Helen bought the store from the Prevors in 1972 and built the house next door to the east. Their daughter Joan and her husband Bill Anderson ran the store until 1979 when the Minards arrived in town.
Darrell and DeYette Minard were looking for a place to be self-sufficient. They had been living in Payson but it was too cold and rocky, in Darrell’s opinion, for a good garden. One night, DeYette had a dream about a bell ringing. On a map, she saw the shape of a bell, and it seemed to her that Arivaca was where the clapper would be. They took this as a good sign and came down to see what was available in “Arivaca Lakes Estates.” Lakes not withstanding, Darrell decided this would be a good place where his family could be together and he could do some truck farming. At the same time, daughters Andrea Morondos and Mary Beal and their husbands Oly Morondos and Roger Beal were looking for a change in their lives. Things seemed to fall into place. The store was for sale, but the post office was separate by this time. Owning the store would provide a built-in job for several family members. So they all moved here and Andrea and Mary and Mary’s husband Roger Beal began a partnership that has lasted 40 years. (Oly has his own landscaping business) They weren’t storekeepers when they came, although Mary did have a marketing degree. Everybody did have certain expertise that allowed them to work together toward the common goal, that of making the Mercantile into the best store it could be in this place, and also provide an income for themselves. Mary said the very thing that makes this community diverse makes it very difficult to provide something for everyone. Roger said they were forever changing things in an attempt to meet community needs. Andrea and Mary shop here themselves. They weathered economic cycles, kept an eye out for new trends, and at the same time made the Mercantile truly the center of the community, a forum for information and assisting with fund-raising for town organizations. They have all participated in the community in other ways. Andrea and Oly are the mainstays of the Bahai community, Roger has been a pillar of the Fire Department, and what would Halloween be without Mary?
The years rolled on, Darrell and DeYette passed away. But now times have changed. Roger, Mary and Andrea decided to retire and after 40 years there are fresh faces at the Mercantile!
Damon and Hannah Goodmanson and boys Mason and Graham are from Northwestern Minnesota, where Damon worked in the snow and mud of road construction. They came to visit her parents in Benson a couple of years ago, and decided Arizona was for them. Fortuitously, real estate agent Mark Wiley is Damon’s long time good friend. Mark had already been in Arivaca a couple of years so Damon decided to come see him in his new neighborhood. Damon said he loved Arivaca right away. Mark gave him a call when the Mercantile was about to come up for sale so Damon could think about what it would be like to own a general store. By then, they had already moved to Arizona. Once the decision was made, Damon began working in the store so he was already familiar with most everything by the time they took over. December 16, 2019. Hannah is still working as an accountant in Tucson but hopes to be working in the Merc here soon. We hope their tenure in the Mercantile is long and successful.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Bernardo Caviglia arrived in Arivaca in 1887. He was born in Genoa, Italy, and had come to America in 1876 with several other Italians. After spending some time in Nevada and Leadville, Colorado, they settled near Tombstone. Bernardo told the story this way: “Of course we had to travel through a very bad Indian country where we heard of three men having been recently killed but the Indians did not bother us. One Indian was even so kind as to take me up behind him on his horse and ride me for a short distance. He wanted me to get on in front but I objected. We were walking and driving a couple of burros in front of us with our blankets, etc. Guess the Indian just wanted to see if we had any money or not and when he found that we had none he decided he had allowed me to ride far enough.
“We threw in our lot with five or six Italian farmers from California who were supplying Tombstone and the country between there and the San Pedro River (with vegetables) . . .We had a few cattle too. We were on the roundup in 1883 when Geronimo was out on a raid and several Mexicans were killed just across the line. Never had any of my stock stolen either by Indians or rustlers but had a man come into my house and steal some money and a pistol. Have a good idea who it was but that did me no good, things went on just the same. . .”
Bernardo moved to Arivaca in 1887. He first homesteaded in the canyon where Arivaca Lake now lies. Nicknamed Bartolo, the mountain behind the lake and a well are named for him. (There was also a Bartolo Avancino, who had lived with Bernardo)
In 1893 he married Pastora Vega of Oro Blanco. They had one son, Angelo, who was born in December of 1894. Pastora died in childbirth. Bernardo said, “We had only been married 10 months and 12 days when his mother died and I have been a widower ever since.” He purchased the Rita Mora homestead above Alamo Park, east of Arivaca, and lived there for some time. Bernardo started a store in Arivaca, in what is now the Culling residence on Main Street. He was a frugal and careful man, and at the time of his death owned many parcels of land in Arivaca valley. Besides those properties mentioned, he owned the Calera Ranch, about four miles north east of Arivaca, and several in Tucson, including the Parkview Hotel. In an interview with Mrs. George Kitt in 1928, he said, “Arivaca is not as it used to be. When I first came there were lots of ranches around but now they are all eaten up by the big companies. We manage to make a pretty good living though and when I get real tired of the store I lock it up, put the key in my pocket and come to town.
Bernardo died August 6, 1932 and is buried in the Arivaca cemetery. The rest of the family carried on.
Bernardo’s brother, Angelo, had come to San Francisco and had a nightclub there. In the 1906 earthquake he lost everything and soon found his way to Arizona where he had bars in Bisbee and the Clifton-Morenci area. He died in Pirtleville in 1941 and was buried in Douglas.
Bernardo’s son Angelo followed in his uncle’s footsteps and constructed a bar and cafe on the corner where Arivaca Road meets the Fraguita Road. (Lately the corner house renovated by Nell Smets.) Known as Caviglia’s Cafe, it was built only after the teetotaling Bernardo had passed away in 1932. Ray Caviglia remembered that Jose Garcia (Chochi) built the cafe and remodeled the house to the east.
Angelo Caviglia entertained the whole territory. He had tardeadas and horse races, dances and barbecues. Armando Membrila recalled a typical activity: “Whenever they had a fiesta they had horse races at Alamo Park and everybody would go to Alamo Park for a barbeque and the horse races. There was a straight stretch of ground where they used to race. In fact, Arthur Noon’s horse raced against Caviglia’s horse one time. Caviglia had a beautiful horse. They called him El Vallo because he was a light tan. Arthur had a horse called El Rentito because he was a black horse, a beautiful horse, and they raced. In fact my sister Martha’s boyfriend, was the jockey for Arthur’s horse. His name was Lorenzo Bareda. Anyway, Arthur’s horse lost badly. El Vallo was a real good racehorse. He was long and sleek and El Rentito was just a little cowpony. I guess Arthur Noon just put him up there to give the people a race. Because he lost by about five or six horse lengths. El Vallo raced quite a few different horses and he always won. He never lost. They took real good care of him. He was just a real sleek, long racehorse. He ran against other horses until they all decided they couldn’t beat El Vallo so they quit racing him because they had to bet money, you know. And El Vallo was just too good of a horse. I remember that particular race because my dad got real enthused about it and so did we. Most of the times when there was a feast day like Día San Juan they would have a barbecue or something.” People came from Sasabe and Buenos Aires, Ruby and Amado to party with Angelo.
Angelo also maintained the Calera Ranch, assisted by his Encinas cousins. He also built the reservoir at milepost 3 on Arivaca road, known as Caviglia Tank.
Angelo had married Luz Encinas from Oro Blanco. They had seven children. Around 1940, when Arivaca appeared to be on the downswing, Angelo decided to sell out. He moved his family to Tucson where the prospects appeared better. There he opened another bar.
Angelo and Luz’s son, Ramón (Ray) married Diane Aguirre Hamilton of Tucson. Diane was the great granddaughter of Pedro Aguirre, who was one of Arivaca’s founders and who built the old School. Diane was very involved with historic preservation in Tucson, but passed away of cancer in 1994. The Caviglia-Arivaca branch of Pima County Public Library is named in her honor.
Ray Caviglia passed away on June 20, 2005. Ray had always been very interested in Arivaca history and helpful to those who listened to his stories about growing up in Arivaca in the 1920s and 30s. His surviving children are Ron, Gary, Debbie and Cathy and many grandchildren. His sister Bernardina and his brothers Simon and Arthur have also passed. Brother Albert survives them.
Ray and Diane Caviglia interviews, Armando Membrila interview, Arizona Historical Society biofiles
by Mary Kasulaitis
Many of you have read Eva Wilbur Cruce’s memoir, A Beautiful, Cruel Country, in which she tells of her childhood on a ranch three miles west of Arivaca. If you were living in Arivaca in the 30s and 40s, you would have heard about Eva Wilbur Cruce in a less flattering way: she was accused of stealing cattle and finally went to jail for killing a horse, not her own, and branding its colt.
Eva Wilbur was born February 22, 1904, to Agustin and Ramona Vilducea Wilbur. Agustin’s father, Dr. Reuben Wilbur, had come to Arizona sometime in the 1860s and practiced medicine in Tucson, also taking the post of Indian Agent and physician at San Xavier. He married Rafaela Salazar in 1873 in Tucson. They had three children, Agustin, Charles and Mary. In 1877 Dr. Wilbur made a land claim on the western edge of what was then the Arivaca Land Grant, choosing a site downstream from town, near a mill site owned by promoter John McCafferty.* Wilbur purchased horses and cattle and began ranching. Tragically, Dr. Wilbur died of pneumonia in 1882 at his family home in Massachusetts, leaving his wife and children in Arizona. They lived in Tucson and left the ranch to the care of neighbors Bob Paul and the Luisa Figueroa family. The latter took care of the livestock, branding the horses and cattle and keeping a count of numbers, until the time when Agustin was old enough to take over. Agustin’s brother Charles and sister Mary were also involved with the ranch.
In the early days there was open range: cattle and horses ran wild. Great roundups were held with all ranchers participating, separating the cows by brand and then branding their calves. Ranchers would own a small piece of their own land, either by homestead or County land claim with a water source and then let their cattle run on unclaimed public domain land. Beginning about 1906, the Forest Service determined what would be National Forest and began to issue permits for grazing use. Ranchers who had been grazing their cattle on this land had first choice, however, Agustin did not get a Forest grazing permit. Reportedly, he may have had one and lost it, or he may never have had one. He had a place called the Cochi ranch, because of the pigs he raised, near the border several miles to the south of his house. This land ended up in the Jarillas Ranch’s allotment. However, he could still run cattle on this land until it was all fenced off, probably about 1920. When Arizona became a state, much of the federal public domain land became state land. Ranchers, including the Wilburs, obtained grazing leases on this state land. With the regulation of government land and fencing, there was no more open range. Small ranches that did not have Forest allotments or State Land in conjunction with their private land could not survive as ranches, since they could no longer feed many cattle. The larger ranches frequently bought them out and sometimes they were forced out. This was a time of change.
During the 1920s the Arivaca Ranch and the Jarillas Ranch consolidated, but they had financial troubles and the ranch was mortgaged. There was a bad drought in 1920. Then the depression hit. In 1931, the Arivaca Ranch was bought out by the Chiricahua Cattle Company, owned by the Boice family. The youngest brother, Charlie Boice, was put in charge of the Arivaca Ranch.
Charlie Boice arrived in Arivaca during this time of change and he himself brought about many of the changes, particularly the redirecting of Arivaca Creek. He bought some of those small ranches. I have been told that some of the small ranchers felt they were forced out, but if it hadn’t been by Charlie, it would have been by someone else, such as the Pima County Assessor. They either had enough land for a ranch or they didn’t.
Central to this story is the claim that Eva Wilbur Cruce made regarding the “land baron” she referred to in a 1995 Arizona Highways article. She claimed he wanted her ranch and tried to force her out. Allegedly, this person was Charlie Boice. But the Wilbur Ranch conflicts had not started with Charlie Boice and the Chiricahua Cattle Company. Under different ownership, the Arivaca Ranch and the Jarillas Ranch had been buying up small ranches and homesteads for years, including those in the vicinity of Wilburs such as the Morenos and Earles. In 1895, Eva’s grandmother, Rafaela Wilbur, sold 320 acres of the Wilbur ranch, a substantial amount, which eventually became part of the Jarillas Cattle Company.
Eva Wilbur was raised on the family ranch. She did not attend school in Arivaca, but when she was a teenager she was sent to convent school in California. That is where she was living in 1933 when her father was killed after being thrown from a horse. Her mother had already passed away in 1932. Eva returned to Arivaca to take care of the ranch and married Marshall Cruce in Tucson later that same year.
The 30s were very different times from when Eva was growing up. When Agustin died, the Wilbur ranch apparently had some 700 head of horses and 250 cows. That was far too many livestock for the amount and quality of land they had, so allegedly, they were still acting as if there was open range. Reportedly, her horses and cattle were running on other people’s land. Because of this, someone shot a large number of them and left them in piles all over the range, not on her land. Eva attributed this event to Charlie Boice, but she never filed a formal complaint. However, the fact is, she had not confined her animals: they were on other people’s land and there were a lot of them. Even in 1941, when the Gills bought the Figueroa place, her cattle were on their range. The surrounding ranches had to fence her animals out, rather than the other way around.
Although Eva claimed a wealthy cattle baron wanted her land and was trying to drive her off, others said if she was referring to Charlie, he didn’t need her land, he had plenty already. Besides, her land wasn’t the best. Charlie already had several good perennial water sources just to the east and upstream of her land, so he didn’t need it for water, either, although she claimed he did. For whatever reason, Eva believed that he was out to get her because she was a woman and apparently she set out to get even.
In July 1936, Chiricahua Cattle Company cattle were said to have strayed onto her property. Believing that she had stolen them, Charlie Boice requested that the cattle inspector, Ed Echols, investigate. With a search warrant, Echols and some CCC cowboys seized eleven motherless, newly branded calves. Eva protested. It went to court, mainly to decide if the seizure was valid. The Tucson Citizen said there was “a fiery battle in justice court.” Eva won the first round. She was able to convince the jury that the calves’ mothers were on the premises and/or that she had a bill of sale for two of them. An appeal was filed and again Eva won. The cattle were returned to her. In October, 1936, Boice filed a complaint that another calf was stolen from him and concealed on the Wilbur Ranch. This too was returned. Eva and her husband, Marshall, filed a complaint alleging damages to the sum of $10,000 against Charlie. The wheels of justice moved more slowly this time and the case of Cruce v. Boice was not dismissed until January 1939, but Eva did not win that case. Things were not over yet. The major case in which she was convicted and sent to jail did not include Charlie Boice as either defendant or plaintiff.
In 1942 Eva was charged with killing a horse that didn’t belong to her and branding its colt. This mare belonged to Carlos Ibarra, a former resident of Arivaca. Eva and her cowboy had been seen with it. Cattle inspector Richard Merchant was called in. Apparently he went with trepidation, given Eva’s reputation. He found the remains of Ibarra’s mare, and a colt, newly branded with Eva’s brand. In the trial, Eva said it was hers and that they had roped the mare, which tried to get away and hurt itself. They shot it to put it out of its misery. There was some question as to who had shot it. Mr. Cruce said he did. The brand had been cut out. Eva said she had preserved the piece of hide with the brand on it to prove whose animal it was, however, Mr. Cruce’s coon hounds must have eaten the piece of hide because it was gone. Eva said she had to cut the brand out of any animal that died and tack it up on the fence so that everyone would know whose animal it was that died. This, after all the court cases with the CCC, was to prove she hadn’t stolen it. The jury did not believe this story and found Eva and her cowboy guilty of taking and killing the horse of another person and branding a horse belonging to another person. Because her cowboy had done what he did on her orders, he received a lighter sentence. Besides, he said Eva told him what to say. Eva was convicted on several counts. She appealed it to the Arizona Supreme Court, which denied her appeal. Eva spent around a year in jail, and afterwards she must have continued to seek revenge. In the Arizona Daily Star article accompanying her obituary, Eva is quoted as saying that no one knows what she did to get even with Charlie Boice after she got out of jail. Apparently she did something. In Eva’s attempt to get even with Charlie, her revenge touched everyone in the valley.
Eva claimed to be just a poor innocent woman, taken advantage of by the evil cattle baron, and forced to defend herself. However, Eva was not a lone woman; she was married to Marshall Cruce and had brothers and sisters and an uncle and aunt. She was not without support, unless they couldn’t or wouldn’t provide it. In addition, her father’s reputation had preceded her: allegedly, even before Eva took over, people would customarily go to look for missing animals at the Wilbur place, although as far as I know, Agustin was not charged with any crimes. When Eva took over the ranch, her father had just died, the result of an accident involving a horse. Apparently he had been thrown off and landed on a stick, and was perhaps dragged. The cowboys said, “the horses finally got even.” In her own words Eva described her father’s abusive ways, towards herself and animals as well. Which abuse she perpetuated upon her own horses, despite her claims to the contrary and her latter-day protests of love for them. Upon seeing the title of Eva’s book, my father said, “This country here is the best cattle country in the world. It’s beautiful country. It’s not cruel. It was the Wilburs who were cruel.”
Perhaps Eva thought everyone was her enemy. She developed a reputation of someone who might shoot first and ask questions afterwards. When she came to the Gills to claim her strayed cattle in 1941, she got out of the car with a gun in her hand. Others reported that they only saw her at a distance, riding with a pistol on her hip. Eva became known as “La Pistolera.” Large “no trespassing” signs went up on her property. “Don’t go near her place,” my father warned. “She’ll shoot you.”
When I was growing up in the mid 50s, my friends and I would occasionally ride by Eva’s place, despite the parental admonitions, where I saw her horses being starved. She did not have enough land for all the horses she had re-accumulated by then, because she apparently let them breed at will. Nature is brutal in those conditions. I remember seeing her starving horses, with nothing to eat and the bark stripped off trees as high up as they could reach. We children wanted to cut the fence, to let them get out, but of course, we did not. A cowboy told me he saw one of her stallions actually break the fence down so the mares could get out and get something to eat. This was not an isolated event, because she apparently did not limit the number of horses she kept, and the herd was confined in a relatively small area. When the U.S.F.W.S. bought her place it was terribly overgrazed. When she died in 1998, coincidentally, a front-page article entitled, “Animal cruelty trial opens over horse’s death,” sat alongside her obituary in the Star. At first, I thought the two articles were related.
One of the issues I want to address in this article is whether or not Eva’s horses were what she claimed. Were they or were they not “Spanish Barbs.” In the early days, most all horses had Mexican ancestry. Horses with similar ancestry could probably be found near Magdalena, Sonora to this day. After her grandfather bought them in the late 1870s, he also purchased a thoroughbred stallion. After Dr. Wilbur died, the horses were on open range for at least 30 but possibly 50 years, with opportunity to interbreed with other horses, most of which had a similar ancestry. Supposedly, there were about 700 horses when Eva took over the ranch in 1933 . In 1943 perhaps 70 remained, although she had paid taxes on only ten. From the 1940s until the early 1990s when the Refuge bought the property, the horses were confined and lived on what they could find to eat on her small property. With the limited diet, they became stunted. Natural selection took over. The horses she sold in the early 90s were the result of starvation, isolation, and forced inbreeding. If they were interesting looking, it is for reasons that no responsible horse breeder would have chosen. I often think that the ones who survived were descendants of those who survived the shooting back in the 1930s. In other words, the smarter, quicker ones.
Another issue I want to address is Eva’s credibility as a resource for Arivaca history. Eva’s book is a memoir, and memories can be faulty. There are many factual errors. For example, she says Charles Poston officiated at the marriage of her parents, when he was actually living in poverty in Phoenix. Phoebe Bogan was not married to John, but to his brother, A.E. Bogan. In the corrido story, Eva claims to be five years old when she saw Nonie Bernard and his wife Mary. She must been older than that, because in 1909 they weren’t married yet. Eva made the claim that Ignacio Pesqueira, Governor of Sonora, stayed at her grandfather’s house when he removed himself from Sonora in 1865. There is no evidence that her grandfather even lived in Arivaca at that date, since he made his first land claim in 1877. Local stories say that Pesqueira’s men stayed in the Guijas valley, in a place appropriately named Pesqueira Canyon. I question most the chapter on the Indian exodus. This appears in no one else’s stories or documents, and in fact my grandfather, Arthur Noon, had said he remembered very few Papagos (O’Odham) in the Arivaca area when he homesteaded there in 1910. Besides, the O’Odham were not forced onto the Reservation, but received it as a guaranteed tribal ownership of their homeland, protected from incursions by outsiders. Reportedly, Eva spent little or no time in Arivaca itself, so she cannot be relied on for anything other than her immediate environs at the ranch.
In the testimony Eva gave in 1943 at her trial for horse killing, you see a very different woman from the one in the book: one who visits her ranch perhaps once a month, who does not know how many horses she has, who thinks her grandfather came in 1868 but isn’t sure. A woman who, on the witness stand of a trial in which he is not implicated, accuses Charlie Boice of killing her horses, but who had not filed a complaint against him even though, she said, the sheriff asked her if she wanted to. Although Charlie was not involved in the 1943 case, Eva continually brought up the previous legal actions. But Eva didn’t even know when Charlie Boice came to Arivaca. She couldn’t remember what happened ten years before when she was administrator of her father’s will. Significantly, there is no mention of a mortgage on the Wilbur ranch being held by Charlie Boice, as she later claimed in the Arizona Highways article. In short, she was someone who was apparently not a responsible caretaker of her own land or her own animals, who didn’t handle her business dealings properly, and who was a convicted felon, all the while blaming someone else for her troubles.
What Eva has in A Beautiful, Cruel Country is not reliable Arivaca history, but a memoir. It was an opportunity to reinvent her life on the ranch to gain the respect she didn’t have in Arivaca. And it was another opportunity to get even.
See “A Fenian in the Desert: Captain John McCafferty and the 1870s Arivaca Mining Boom” by Mary N. Kasulaitis, in The Journal of Arizona History, Spring 2006.
References: A Beautiful, Cruel Country by Eva Wilbur Cruce; Charles D. Poston, Sunland Seer by A.W. Gressinger; Pima County Superior Court records; Arizona Supreme Court records; Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen articles; Reuben Wilbur file at Special Collections, University of Arizona Library; Arizona Historical Society Library clipbook and Wilbur files.
Also see “La Pistolera” by Leo Banks in the Tucson Weekly, August 1 and 8, 2002.
by Newell Searle
edited for the Connection by Mary N. Kasulaitis
Herman and Ella Searle were the kind of pioneers every historian loves. Educated and articulate, they kept diaries and wrote letters. With these in hand, territorial Arizona comes to life.
Herman Searle came to Arizona during the silver boom in the late 1870s. Newspaper stories reported fabulous mines. Everyone expected to get rich, Herman among them. He arrived in the Oro Blanco district in 1878, then bought or filed his first claims in January, 1879. One claim caught his attention. With money from savings and Philadelphia investors, he set up the Arizona Southern Mining and Milling Company in 1881. Herman got $151,000 of capital stock. Wealth and position seemed close at hand.
Herman was born in Cattaragus County, New York, in 1848. Hungry for a grander life, he left his family’s farm in 1866, lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. When he finished soldiering , Herman went to business college in Rochester, New York, found work and married his employer’s eldest daughter, Ella Newell. Thirteen months later they had a son, George Samuel Searle. Four years later, with Ella again pregnant, Herman left his family to buy silver claims in Mexico and Arizona. Ella, George and Herman Jr. did not see Herman for five years.
In the Oro Blanco Mining District, Herman teamed up with Don and Will Picket, Nat Crocomb and Tom Tonkin to develop his silver claim. His mine was in a remote site (in Mexico, actually, but then believed to be Pima County) reached only on horseback and mules. The men lived in a camp, known as Searleton, until the mine was opened, then set up quarters in the tunnel.
Herman met Ella, George and Hermie Searle at the Tucson train station in October, 1881. They had left a comfortable life in New York for an Arizona silver camp. For 10 year-old George, this was a boy’s paradise. Within months, he paired up with Arthur Noon and the two became friends for life. Life in the wild among miners and teamsters left a deep impression on George. When he wrote his memoirs, 40 years later, he recalled events and people with exact details of time and place.
Like all miners, Herman gloried in the potential of his claim. However, crude frontier life might be, it must have felt like the threshold of success. His letters reflected optimism. In newspaper reports, he made buoyant, expansive statements. In December, 1883, miners in the district elected him justice of the peace. He held court in the lean-to room at the back of his adobe house.
But silver prices began to fall in 1884. The pockets of silver near the surface didn’t lead to a mother lode below. There was silver enough to entice investors, but not enough to pay off their loans. The mine was a hole that swallowed Herman’s money, ambition and pride.
Gone. Everything he had worked for. His life’s savings and the money of Philadelphia backers. Herman closed his mine in August, 1885, and took a three week buckboard trip to Cananea, Mexico, to look for work. Down and back, he dodged Apaches that raided in Mexico. He returned, empty-handed. Two weeks later, he and Ella left for Calabasas. They packed their belongings into Herman’s buckboard and a wagon borrowed from Adolphus Noon. He hoped to land a job on the railroad but didn’t. They moved to Nogales in 1887, then to Bisbee a year later where Herman ran the railway express office. Three years later, the Searle family returned to Rochester, New York. All except George, who left in 1895. Arizona mining remained a bitter memory for Herman. He seldom spoke of it. Failure meant shame and both were hard to bear. After his wife died in 1918, he bought a printing company that made money. Herman died in 1928.
Ella Newell was born to a middle class family and grew up in Rochester, New York. Her self-educated, successful father was a man of generous public spirit who made civic betterment his cause–an impulse that Ella inherited. A year after she graduated from Rochester Free Academy, in 1870, she married Herman Searle. For five years, Herman worked hard and built up a picture frame business. Ella kept house, raised their first son, George, and took an active role in the Sunday School movement. She and Herman had reached the threshold of a comfortable, respectable middle-class life. But silver fever hit Herman. He sold out his business, moved her to his parents house and left for Mexico before the birth of his second son. Ella didn’t see her husband for five years.
Reunited with Herman, Ella and her boys reached Oro Blanco by stage coach in October, 1881. They moved into a two-room adobe house with a plank lean-to on the back. A far cry from her father’s house in Rochester, New York! But she had spirit. Before long she and Emma Noon, Genoviva Crocomb, Bee Noon and other women in camp organized a Sunday School for all the children, American and Mexican. Children called her “the boss Jesus lady.” The women of Oro Blanco made the camp a community, a place of such fond memories that children, like George, recalled the tiniest details 40 years later. Working together, the women put on Christmas parties. They put up a community Christmas tree. The women made paper cornucopias for the children and filled them with treats.
Ella took a more realistic view of mines than Herman or the other men. She had her doubts, perhaps. In July, 1883, already three months pregnant, she rode to Herman’s mine. Her only visit. Then, as now, it was a hard, hot ride to the border across low mountains and deep canyons through cactus and ocotillo to the place where Herman and the men worked so hard. For this, the men went to great trouble to entertain her in as much style as they could. Ten days later, Ella boarded a train in Tucson to pay a long visit to family in New York.
Raising children proved difficult. Mining camp temptations lured George outside and away from his mother’s rein. He spent his days among miners and teamsters instead of books. And those wild Noon boys! When Ella bore William in 1884, twelve-year old George ran to Dr. Noon’s ranch to fetch him to deliver the baby. Sadly, Herman Jr. died of typhoid at the age of five. Ella taught school in Oro Blanco in 1884-5 and 1886-87 to support the family when Herman’s mine failed.
Ella and William left Oro Blanco in 1887, following Herman to Bisbee where they all lived in a box car for 10 months until a house could be built. Ella didn’t leave the cramped quarters for seven weeks while she nursed William and then George through scarlet fever.
When the family returned to Rochester in 1894, Ella settled back into Rochester society, re-established old friendships and took an active part in the growing suffrage movement. She lectured women’s groups on frontier life in Arizona, and took a protective interest in the WCTU chapters of Arizona until the end of her life. Ella Searle wrote letters to Emma Noon and other Arizona friends until her death in 1918. In later life, George Searle wrote a memoir of his Oro Blanco experiences. His last letter to Arthur Noon was in 1938, the year before George died. William Searle, born in Oro Blanco in 1884, told the Arizona stories to his sons and grandson. And when they were able, they visited Arizona, and met the descendants of the Noon family. They took a hike over the hills to Searleton and the site of Herman Searle’s mine.
Newell Searle is William Searle’s grandson. Thanks to the Searle family, who wrote memoirs, told stories, and didn’t throw out their old letters, we have a wonderful picture of life in this part of territorial Arizona.
by Mary Kasulaitis
The early years of the 20th century were busy with the activities of homesteaders in the Arivaca valley. Up at the headwaters of Arivaca Creek, William M. Marteny and his family settled on arable land and he traded cattle and horses.
Marteny, not to be confused with any of the Martinez folks, was born in Philippi, West Virginia, in 1869 and was left an orphan at a young age, whereupon he was sent to live with an aunt in Texas. His interest in cattle and horses developed early and remained with him for life. Reportedly he drove cattle on the Chisholm trail. It would be interesting to know how he came to arrive in the Arivaca-Oro Blanco area. He was here as early as 1889 and became associated with N.W. Bernard, who had a large cattle and horse ranch in the area. They partnered in several ventures including the Tres Bellotas Ranch. They purchased part of the late John Moloney’s homestead from Bee L. Noon (McNamara) in 1899. Over time, Marteny also bought the John Lyle homestead that adjoins Oro Blanco, the Bernardo (Bartolo) Caviglia homestead that is now under Arivaca Lake and the William Tonkin homestead just south of Arivaca lake road. (I think also the Perry homestead). Marteny homesteaded his own property and proved up on it in 1910, followed by an additional homestead which he acquired in 1918. Billy recorded several brands, prominent of which was the 800, the T+, and the 3-B which referred to Tres Bellotas. Later he recorded the 15 (and the branded cattle) which had belonged to Alonzo Noon and family, after Alonzo died. He acquired a National Forest grazing lease. After twenty years of developing his quite-extensive ranch, Marteny sold his homestead and other properties to Phil Clarke in 1919. Nowadays, that land is now owned by the Buenos Aires Refuge (Quail facility) and the Chilton Ranch. With the proceeds, Marteny purchased the Robles ranch in the Altar Valley. He and his family lived there and in Tucson until his death in 1930. In his diary he does not say why he sold the ranch, but it may have had to do with the Mexican Revolution or the fact that his children were growing up and he wanted to be closer to city life in Tucson.
Like many of the new Westerners, Billy Marteny had gone home to find a wife. He married Della Talbot in 1898 in Philippi and brought her back here. They had a daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1907), who is mentioned below and a son, William Wesley (b 1914). The family owned apartments in Tucson, where they were active in civic affairs. Billy was interested in politics, was reportedly Deputy Sheriff of Pima County at one time and also ran for the Board of Supervisors. Elizabeth never married, but lived out her life in Tucson. William Wesley moved to the Midwest, married, and had a family there. He is buried in Tucson with his parents and sister.
Billy Marteny might have gone the way of many homesteaders, with just a few bits and pieces of his life’s story remaining in the documents but for one thing: he kept an extensive diary, including business dealings, weather, a little poetry and general comments, which his family saw fit to leave to the Arizona Historical Society. You can get a feel for what it was like living here from the following selected entries:
Work January 1st to August 6, 1904–7 mo. and 6 days– $40.00 (per month) $288.00
March 3 Start for Tucson with Bartolo (Caviglia) in buggy and Porfirio’s mules. Got in Tucson 10 p.m. Had lunch at Smiths.*
March 4 Loaded wagon in afternoon, began to rain
March 5 Rainy day in Tucson
March 7 Mrs M, Elizabeth and myself start for home at 8 a.m. Pretty day. At Smiths 3 p.m. George Atkinson also at Smiths.
March 8 Left Smiths at 8 a.m.– house at 2 p.m. Elizabeth was a very good baby. Carmen (Zepeda) had 3 turkey eggs and 22 chicken eggs. We now have 4 Plymouth Rock roosters, 32 hens, 2 turkeys–7 ducks.
March 13–moved into John Lyle house (in Oro Blanco), brought the furniture, 24 hens–3 roosters–2 turkeys–4 ducks. Have carpets down and painted inside.
March 17–go to Rita’s (Mora) for washing and via Arivaca, home at 2:30 p.m. Gumercinda (?) for dinner, bought of her one colt for $15.00, paid $10.00 in cash down.
March 26–went to Arivaca. Got new 800 brand. Mrs Andrews visited today.
April 1–Finished new reservoir and wire corral at my ranch, turned water on Tonkin’s garden. Very warm, cloudy and some rain. Ordered pair boots from Montgomery Ward and Co. Arthur Noon and Miss Clayton married a few days ago.
April 17–Received of Brady Levin Cow. Co, Nogales, 386 steer calves–10 steer yearling calves cash delivered at house $9.20 Yearlings $10.75. A good bunch of calves. Left Nogales, branded at Walker ranch and home on the 22nd. Porfirio and Quate and Guero with me. Paid Guero $4.00 and Porfirio $15.00
March 23–Porfirio and myself fixed windmill–took bath–
–Mrs. M got word her father died Saturday night at 8:30
March 26–planted corn and beans–garden truck. Irrigating wheat. Quate hauling wood. Mrs Andrews visiting–windy weather.
May 1–bought of Antonio Madril one gray horse. His name is Tajon– for $18.00. Made out tax list for Roman Rodriguez.
May 2–Rode into Bear Valley–branded one red heifer T+ , caught her asleep. Recorded in name of Elizabeth A. Marteny.
May –Finished putting up windmill April 16 at cost of $250 for mill, tank and troughs. Very dry spring. No weeds of any kind. Cattle in good shape. Put up fence at Tonkin’s ranch –15 spools new wire. Got lease on 160 acres from Forest Service.
May 19–Returned from Calabasas where I sold to J.E. Wise for Cox Hall Cow Co. 314 steers. Arthur Noon and George Sayers had 96 steers in hand–only 4 steers cut back out of 412 head.
Dry, no rain since Jan 3. No cattle dying yet. No barley raised this year. We are thinking of starting to West Virginia.
June 4–visited at the Andrews–Mr and Mrs Fraser also; chicken dinner. Home at 8 p.m. Gave Mr. A check for $100 to pay men while I am on trip east. Hired boy of Trinidad’s to draw water, Guero to go tomorrow for hay at Dr. Ball’s. I go to Bear Valley to brand. Halley’s comet very fine in evening. Was visible in morning from May 1st to May 17th now visible in evening after sundown.
November 13–Thundered and lightning, big rain, the first good rain of the season. gathering beef for F.C. Weber of Tucson, this is the third bunch for him, sold at steers .04¢ per pound, cows at .03¢ per pound
Go to Nogales the 27th to cut cattle bought in Sonora of Pinson and Donadieu Bros at $10.00 per head for heifer calves–$11.00 for steer calves. The outlook is good for cattle. Built up the Bartolo ranch at cost of $600. 34 spools of wire $119, windmill $100, tank and troughs $40. Patent is now issued for my homestead will soon have it recorded. Pima County taxes for 1910 –$84.27, Santa Cruz Co taxes for 1910– $163.92. Forest Service charges for 1910–$100
Sept 1–One of the worst and dryest seasons ever witnessed up to date Cedar Canyon has not run, wells very low, grass brown and no crops. Grasshoppers ate up everything. Planted 300# of sorghum and 300# of millet. None of it came up–too dry. Yesterday we took over 200 of my and Arthur Noon’ cattle to Bear Valley, branded 35 calves. Took all day to drive cattle from Bartolo ranch. (where Arivaca Lake is now) A little rain today. Grass is fairly good in mountains. Got Bell Mare in mountains now, will keep her there until next year.
Oct 3–Rain began during night and rained all the 4th and night of the 4th and 5th until 11 a.m.
Billy Marteny’s diary goes from 1904 to 1930, more or less. This is a reminder to everyone–keeping a diary is a wonderful thing for your descendants, and anyone else privileged enough to read it. If we don’t remember how things were, it’s almost as if they never happened.
*Smith’s is the Halfway Station–that is, the white building about a mile north of the Cow Palace on the I19 west Frontage Road.
by Mary Kasulaitis
On the news we often see horrific crimes that have been committed by people who could have been stopped, we think, if only we had known. Many think this kind of thing didn’t happen in the “good old days.” I invite you to read a few old newspapers. There is nothing new under the sun. Evaluating our neighbors’ mental health is an old if not honorable activity. A certain man who lived in the Oro Blanco mining district was alleged by the neighbors to be insane. But in 1892 they didn’t use the words allege or insane. They said he was crazy and that was that!
It seems there was a man who had immigrated from China and came to Southern Arizona to work in the early 1880s. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, so it must have been before that date. He was known simply as Charley, a Chinaman. Perhaps he worked on the railroad but he was in Oro Blanco Mining District quite early. Chinese could not work in the mines, after a law was passed in 1878, but they could cook or do other jobs. He apparently learned English. Charley would have left China for many reasons: famine or wars, or just because the U.S. offered opportunity. Apparently he had relatives in Tucson, but preferred to stay in the Arivaca area.
In 1891 a charge of insanity was brought against him and he was examined by a physician in Tucson. He had claimed that a certain family owed him money, which they denied. He claimed that he was the true owner of the Montana and other mines in the area and that he had been robbed of their ore. This too, could be refuted. He customarily carried a big knife and talked to everyone about the injustices against him. As a result, many people in the area considered him crazy and were afraid he might actually try to use the knife. The physician found him to be insane, and felt that he was homicidal. However, Judge Wood did not think he was dangerous to property, himself or others, and released him into the custody of a cousin in Tucson in August of 1891. Charley told someone that the Judge let him out of jail after only a day or two, and after that he came back to Oro Blanco.
In January of 1892, another charge was brought against him, supported by members of the community of Oro Blanco. One person wrote to the Judge: “I have known the Chinaman for twelve years and have considered him (Charley) crazy all that time.” Nine other members of the community petitioned: “We the undersigned residents of Oro Blanco have known this Chinaman named Charley for a number of years and from his actions have always considered him crazy and unsafe to be at large and his removal from this district is in our opinion absolutely necessary as he is a dangerous nuisance here and liable to try to kill someone at any time as he is reported to be carrying a large concealed knife and to have threatened to commit murder.” Another letter said, “I thought you would be up to take charge of that crazy Chinaman before this time. . .Is it necessary to wait for a crazy man to try to kill someone before arresting him? Suppose he accomplishes the deed, where would the responsibility lay, the officers being notified before and requested to take charge of him?. . . Now, Judge, I wish you to arrest him right away. Be careful as he packs a big knife. You will have to keep a good watch on him on the road.”
Well, needless to say, times were different then. As a result of these petitions and a somewhat cursory questioning given Charley by a Doctor, he was indeed committed to the Territorial Mental Hospital in Phoenix. I don’t know what happened to him after that, or how long he stayed there. There were 5 Chinese men living in the hospital in 1900, but since we don’t know his Chinese name we don’t know which one he was, or if he was still there. The question is, How did he come to be the way he was? It might be interesting to look into the experiences people from China were having in Southern Arizona in the 1880s and 90s. The kind that might drive you nuts.
Chinese gold seekers began arriving in the California gold fields as soon as the word was out. After they had exhausted the possibilities there, they turned to other sources of employment such as working in laboring jobs or for the railroad. Anti-Chinese sentiment grew gradually. Beginning in the early 1850s, the U.S. and local governments began to enact legislation that limited foreign labor, such as the California Foreign Miners’ Tax. In times of economic difficulty, Non-Asians blamed Chinese immigration for their troubles, resulting in legislation that limited immigration. According to Lawrence Michael Fong, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 provided for the rejection of laborers–‘skilled and unskilled and those engaged in mining’–over the next ten years… The Geary Act of 1892 extended the Exclusion Law for another ten years and required certificates of residency with detailed particulars about the person…Regulations called for the arrest of any Chinese without one. So even Chinese who had lived here in the U.S. for years, if they had not become citizens, found themselves unable to be naturalized. These laws underscored the discrimination practiced against the Chinese immigrants. In fact, there were Anti-Chinese Leagues in most major towns in the Territory, although not in Tucson. Charley must have arrived before the Chinese Exclusion Act, but he found himself in a hotbed of prejudice.
There were about 300 Chinese people in the Tucson area in 1900. There were few Chinese women and Chinese men had little opportunity to marry. Laws were passed that denied marriage with non-Chinese. They tended to be shunned socially by the predominant Anglos and Hispanics, and if they did not have a colony of other Chinese with which to socialize, they had few opportunities to make friends. Charley had relatives in Tucson, where there was a sizeable Chinese community, but apparently he didn’t want to stay in Tucson.
In (new) Oro Blanco in the early 1890s, the Kempton family had Chinese domestic servants, but they were not the only Asians in the district. Arthur Noon told this story: “In 1895 there was a Chinese cook at the Old Glory Mine south of Oro Blanco. (Perhaps Charley?) One of the miners thought to have some fun, so after catching a rat in one of the tunnels, he placed it in his lunch box. When the box was opened in the kitchen, the rat crawled to the top of the Chinaman’s head before he was able to knock it off. The cook, recognizing the box and realizing who the joker was, burst into the dining room wielding a cleaver. The guilty miner, not taking any chances, jumped for the door and was last seen scampering down a hillside trail.” This scene reappeared in the dreams of Arthur’s son Fred for years.
There may have been other Chinese besides Charley working in the camps and they definitely had minority status. Since we do not have the 1890 census we don’t know the ethnic makeup of the area in those years, particularly when it comes to counting the people who didn’t own a business. There was a Japanese man who had a cabin on the Warsaw road, date unknown, which was unofficially called “Jap’s Cabin.” Nearby was a water tank for cattle. Now that has been changed to “Japanese” Tank.
I was reminded of Charley’s story while recently reading an article about Betty Lee Sung, a Chinese American scholar. She was determined to go to college in the 1940s, but was told by her diplomat father that she must do what he said and marry, or he would disown her. She went ahead with her college plans, graduated in 1948, and he did disown her. Betty went on to become a college professor and write numerous books on the Chinese American experience. And she married the man of her own choosing and raised eight children in a very organized household. Now 94 years old, Betty continues to educate the country about her ancestral culture.
We must all keep in mind the struggles of our ancestors, no matter what their ethnicity or country of origin, as we read about the struggles of the current immigrants.
References: “The Chinese Experience in Arizona and Northern Mexico”
by Lawrence Michael Fong, Journal of Arizona History reprint, 1980.
“Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans” by Ronald Takaki.
Mountain of Gold: the story of the Chinese in America, by Betty Lee Sung
Newspaper articles accessed on newspapers.com
by Mary Kasulaitis
Stories of the old days in Arivaca and Oro Blanco are remembered by the families of the relatively few people who settled in this area in the 1800s. The Tonkin family arrived in new Oro Blanco in about 1880, probably following William’s younger brother, Thomas. William S. Tonkin had been doing some mining in California and had heard about the Oro Blanco area. He was from England, probably from the county of Cornwall, known for its tin mines. His wife Ella was born in Missouri but come to the West Coast with her family, where she met William. When they arrived here in the Oro Blanco area they had a baby, also named William. They settled first in the Warsaw Camp and William did some prospecting. In September of 1881 their second son, Jesse, was born, delivered by Dr. A. H. Noon. They went on to have several more children. They became good friends with the few other families who were living in or near Oro Blanco, joining in community programs and inviting folks over to eat turkey and other homegrown food.
In the late 1880s, homesteads were opened up in the Oro Blanco area. William Tonkin took advantage of the opportunity to get 160 acres of land and filed on land near Alaska Hill. This area is where the Tonkin Well is located and some of us know it as the place where the Cobre Ridge Endurance Horse Race used to be staged, off the road to Arivaca Lake. Adobe ruins of their home still remain there, under Alaska Hill, on Oro Blanco Wash. William filed for a brand and began raising cattle.
Growing up in Oro Blanco, son Jesse collected stories, which in his later years he related to Fred Noon, whose father was about ten years older than Jesse. Some of these were tales of the Apache raids that took place in 1886. Many of us have heard about the murder in Bear Valley at Yank Bartlett’s ranch of Phil Shanahan and his horse, and the daring run of Johnny Bartlett to get help. Less well known is the murder of Jack Smith near the Ruby Mine and also that of Dutch Moore near Arivaca. 1886: Jesse remembered being warned by Dolf Noon that Apaches were raiding: “The folks hustled us kids, Will, me and Ruth out of bed and after dressing took off for town. I had dressed in such a hurry I hadn’t laced my shoes and kept stepping on the laces while on that pitch dark night trip to town. The group consisted of us kids, Mother carrying sister Ruth and father some bedding and clothes and his 45-60 Winchester. We arrived without incident and took up lodging in the Graddicaps Hotel on Main Street (new Oro Blanco)… My father made daily trips to the ranch to water the cattle and feed the horses and look things over. On one of these trips Father noticed a man on horseback traveling along a ridge when suddenly the rider disappeared from view. Father mounted his horse and with his 45-60 carbine took chase. Arriving at the ridge he spied the rider, an Indian, riding like mad and kicking up the dust about a mile away. The Indians didn’t bother a thing during that raid and we always believed it was on account of the following incident: One bitter cold night while we were huddled around the wood range there was a knock at the kitchen door. Father opened the door and admitted a girl about 17 years old. Through her broken English she told us she was Mexican. She was dressed sort of gypsy fashion with long very full skirt. My parents treated her kindly, made her a hot meal and coffee and bedded her down on the kitchen floor. Father had his suspicious that she was Apache. To verify this he rode to the Noon home (about 2 miles south) and asked your Uncle Alonzo to come with him and ascertain if she could speak Spanish. Alonzo wasn’t what you could call a Spanish linguist but said she didn’t speak Spanish as he did. During the morning, while Father was at the Noon home, this girl coaxed me and my brother Will to accompany her to the top of the Alaska Hill. Arriving at the top she pulled from the folds of her dress a white cloth about two feet wide and five feet long and began waving it in an odd manner. She would repeat this every minute or so. Then she did sort of a wig-wag signal, waited a few seconds, then (with) one long sweep she cast the cloth down and returned it to its place of concealment. She left that afternoon, after another meal. She was evidently giving her people the ‘lay off’ signal.” The Tonkin family was never bothered by Apaches after that, except that they did go to stay at the Hotel in Oro Blanco when danger threatened. Ella Searle, in her letters home, remarked that she didn’t like being so cramped up in the hotel room. Over time, the fears lessened until the day that the Apaches were back on the reservation.
The Tonkins proved up on their homestead in 1892 and subsequently sold it to William Marteny. He farmed the area, as it was bottom land, and maintained the well. He sold the homestead to Phil Clarke in 1919 along with several other homesteads that he had acquired. The Tonkins moved to Tucson where William passed away in 1910. Ella moved to California and lived many more years.
References: Letters from Jess Tonkin to Fred C. Noon, Ella Searle letters, U.S. Census records
by Mary Kasulaitis
After alluding to the Shanahan murder in the last article, I thought I should tell the whole sad story. Apaches had been the biggest deterrent to settlement in Southern Arizona up until the early 1870s when they were subdued and put on a reservation, but the last ditch effort in 1886 by Geronimo and his band to maintain a free life brought tragedy to the local settlers.
A little background: for decades, both Mexican and American settlers had been moving into country that the Apache considered theirs. Being nomadic, they had no farms or towns, and actually had only been in Arizona, south of the Little Colorado River, since the 1600s. They tried to maintain their traditional hunting way of life in spite of the growing number of settlers on both sides of the border. A warlike mentality prevailed, especially among the Chiricahua Apaches. Treaties were made and broken. Apaches tended to live in small bands and each was autonomous. For a long time this confused the American military, which would consider the whole tribe responsible whenever one band attacked.
American settlers realized the value of military protection during the U.S. Civil War when troops were removed to points east and Apache attacks escalated. After the war, the military returned to the Southwest and attempted to “pacify” the Indians. Reservations were set up. The Chiricahua Apache were to go to the San Carlos reservation. This included one of their leaders, Geronimo, who would not stay put. Geronimo was on and off the reservation several times between 1878 and 1886. In 1885, thinking they planned to hang him, he left with forty-two followers. General Crook, premier Indian fighter, took chase. When they had gone into Mexico, he tried to keep them there. In March 1886, Crook thought he had Geronimo again. But that didn’t last long. Geronimo, Naiche, and thirty-five other Chiricahuas including women and children escaped again. In the wake of this colossal failure, Crook was reassigned. General Nelson A. Miles took his place.
Up till this time, most of the Apache action had been in Mexico, New Mexico and eastern Arizona. Now both Mexican and American armies chased the small group, pushing it from here to there. The band split into two small groups. Roberts says, “Geronimo took six men and four women and slipped once more through the intensive border patrol, then raided north all the way to Ojo Caliente. Along the way, he killed his last white Americans, raising the pitch of terror among the settlers.” Some of those last unfortunate Americans were Mrs. A.L. Peck and her baby in the Santa Cruz valley near Calabasas, and Phil Shanahan at the Bartlett-Hewett ranch in Bear Valley, southeast of Arivaca.
The Arizona Daily Star recounted the murders:
“At A.L. Peck’s ranch on Tuesday, Mrs. Peck and her eleven month old baby were brutally murdered. Mr. Peck and his assistant, Charles Owen…were about two miles up the canyon above the house at the time and were themselves surprised by the assassins. Both were unarmed. Mr. Peck’s horse was shot under him at the first fire and he was captured, tied and kept under guard for half an hour or more. Young Owen made a dash for his life, being mounted on a fine animal. Turning into a side ravine he met a shower of bullets…a shot broke the young man’s neck and another broke an arm. . . At the house with Mrs. Peck, was her little niece, Jenny, twelve years of age. She was taken into captivity. Old Geronimo finally came up and had a brief conversation with the Mr. Peck, saying he (Peck) was a good man and he could not kill him. He then released the prisoner, took his boots away from him, gave him thirty-five cents in money and told him to go, but not to go to the house. Mr. Peck asked permission to talk to the little girl, who was on a horse behind a buck, and crying bitterly, but they were not permitted to speak to each other. Mr. Peck went directly to his house and there found his wife and child lying dead by the door.” It is unknown why Peck was spared but his wife and child were slaughtered. Perhaps it is because Geronimo’s family was killed by Mexican soldiers and he retaliated by killing families, leaving the bereaved husbands alive.
However, Geronimo may not have been with this band. The leader was supposedly young and spoke good English, possibly the younger, English-speaking Naiche. About six weeks later Jenny was rescued from the Indians by some Mexican cowboys at a point about forty miles from Magdalena, where she was delivered to Mr. Peck, who had gone after her.
The day following the killing of Mrs. Peck and her baby, Phil Shanahan left John “Yank” Bartlett’s ranch in Bear Valley at the entrance to Sycamore Canyon, and headed for his own home a few miles away. His ten-year-old son Phil was staying back with his friend Johnny Bartlett, Yank’s son. A few minutes later the boys heard shots, then a yell, and Phil staggered into the yard, saying he had been shot by Indians. Yank saw he was badly wounded and would need a doctor, so he told Johnny to run to Oro Blanco to fetch Dr. Noon and warn the folks there. He directed Little Phil to go home and warn his mother and two little sisters of the danger. Phil made it there successfully and they concealed themselves in the mountains until the following day.
Johnny set off on horseback for Oro Blanco but within a few miles he saw three men ahead of him dressed in black and acting as if they were drunk. He came back quickly, finding the Indians firing on the house. He reached the house safely, but his horse and another were shot. One horse followed them into the house and fell dead in the doorway. Yank himself received a wound of which he later recovered.
When night came, Yank sent Johnny off to get help again. For the first two miles he went barefoot to move more quietly. At the Smith house, south of Oro Blanco, he found E.W. Smith, whose home had been broken into and black clothes, guns and a bottle of brandy taken. They went on to Oro Blanco, arriving at 2 in the morning, where the settlers were raised and armed. Johnny was put to bed. Early the next morning he and the men, including Dr Noon and Yank’s partner Hank Hewitt, set off for Bear Valley. Arriving back at the ranch, they found Shanahan on his deathbed and Mrs. Shanahan and the children newly emerged from hiding. At the Shanahan ranch the Apaches had taken all their food and clothing, killed several head of horses and run off many others. Perhaps Mrs. Shanahan would have been killed had it not been for little Phil’s warning.
For their bravery, Johnny Bartlett and young Phil Shanahan were rewarded with rifles and money. However, the Oro Blanco settlers were still uneasy. Women in particular were nervous and fearful in the wake of Mrs. Peck’s death. The Tonkins had been spared, but no one knew what would happen next. All summer long, Ella and Herman Searle wrote worried letters to their family members back East. The attacks had been so unexpected. Apaches could move so fast and so far that no one knew exactly where they might be and speculation was rampant. So it was with considerable relief that the settlers heard the news in September, 1886, that Geronimo had surrendered for the last time.
References: Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo and the Apache Wars, by David Roberts; The Arizona Daily Star; unpublished Peck family manuscript; Searle family letters; No Place for Angels by Roscoe Willson
by Mary N. Kasulaitis
John “Yank” Bartlett was the one person responsible for the initial development of the town of new Oro Blanco and the mining district of the same name. (He probably got the name from old Oro Blanco, several miles south, which had been mined and named by Mexicans long before) His name comes up again and again from the time he arrived in 1873 until his death more than 30 years later.
John Bartlett was born in New Hampshire in 1827 and was a freighter by trade. He came to Arizona with the Army under General George Crook in 1871 and stayed. He and his friend Henry “Hank” Hewitt were well known as Indian fighters and scouts as well as proficient packers. In the early 1870s, the Apaches were subdued, so he and Hank went looking for a ranch. Allegedly it was Pete Kitchen who suggested Bear Valley. This is the valley on the west side of the Atascosas that feeds into Sycamore Canyon, west of Nogales. There is a spring and good grass for cattle. It also has a trail from Mexico, used in old times by the Yaqui.
Just over Mule Ridge to the west of their homestead was a rugged mineralized area of canyons and gulches which had been mined during Spanish and Mexican times. Now called California Gulch. Yank Bartlett and some Tucsonans began prospecting in the old abandoned locations. Large oak trees had grown in the cuts where previous work had been done, leading the prospectors to think that it must have been many years ago, perhaps as far back as the Spanish period. Called “Oro Blanco,” this gold mine was about three miles from the border. At the time no one was very sure exactly where the border was, since at this rugged location it had never been officially marked, and both Americans and Mexicans were somewhat excited over the prospects. Bartlett and some others did a survey and determined that the mine was on this side of the line. In April of 1873 they filed a location notice on the Oro Blanco mine and set up some arrastras.* As time went on, the partners disappeared, but John Bartlett held on to his Oro Blanco white gold. He also located, with other partners, the “Old Mine” which was a few miles west of the Oro Blanco.
In 1873 Bartlett married a widow, Gertrudes Marques Ward, who had two children, and they had seventeen more children, raising 10 to adulthood. The eldest, John Giles “Johnny” Bartlett, became famous in his own right. But that is another story.
In 1875, Yank decided to get involved with the Ostrich mill operation, which they located on a flat mesa, with arroyos on each side, several miles north of the Oro Blanco mine. This mill was affiliated with the Ostrich Mine, which was about three miles west in the hills of Cobre Ridge. According to the Tucson Citizen newspaper: “The gold ore brought in from there was so rich that it excited people to go out of town who have not done so for years.” The Ostrich mill, owned by Bartlett, Hewitt, Dr. Handy and Robert Leatherwood of Tucson, was centrally located to the mining districts, so that ore could be brought there and processed, then transported to Tucson or El Paso. And of course, Bartlett was doing the freighting. As one newspaper said about Yank, “Doing his regular amount of work daily—48 hours out of the twenty-four without turning a hair.” Next on the list was the Yellow Jacket Mine, near the Ostrich lode. The Yellow Jacket became one of the more successful mines in the district.
At the site of the Ostrich Mill, “new” Oro Blanco grew up. Bartlett built an adobe house for his family, an office for his freighting business with Hewitt and a stable and other such buildings as might be necessary to a town. A store went in, later a hotel, Chinese laundry, butcher shop, and other buildings. Dr Noon had his office nearby. Bartlett and Hewett were still raising cattle over in Bear Valley, but when homesteading was allowed in the 1880s, Bartlett filed on a homestead at the New Oro Blanco location. New Oro Blanco became a hub for the area, and many mining men brought their families to live in the more accessible town, which was already well populated with the Bartlett family. This included the A.H. Noon family, the Searles, the Tonkins, the Encinas’, Rodriguez’ and the Orozcos, among others. For all the children, a school was constructed in 1882. After a time, more mills were constructed at the Warsaw and Arivaca, and the Ostrich mill went out of business.
It was in 1886 that an Apache band left the reservation and began raiding again in Southern Arizona. They attacked Bartlett’s ranch in Bear Valley, while Bartlett and Johnny were there. A visiting neighbor, Phil Shanahan, was killed, along with his horse. But that is another story.
Yank Bartlett was nothing if not a hard worker. He was still working hard at the time of his death at the age of 70 in 1905, having outlived his partner Hank Hewitt by 15 years. The story merited the front page, column one, of the May 20 issue of the Nogales paper. With his son George, Yank was hauling a load to Oro Blanco, going down a steep grade near the Tres Amigos mine. (It was to have been the last load.) The brakes gave way and Yank was thrown under the wagon and crushed. At his funeral he was eulogized as being “one of the old timers who had earned with their rifles the right to live in Arizona, in the days when that was vigorously contested by the various tribes of Indians. In those days Mr. Bartlett was known as a man of mettle. Since the Indians gave up the struggle, John Bartlett has been one of the peaceful, highly respected citizens of the territory who numbered his friends by the hundreds.” And his children and their descendants as well.
After 1893 and the devaluation of silver, many mines closed and new Oro Blanco began to lose population, with the Bartlett’s and other nearby homesteads being purchased by A.H. Noon, who never lost hope. He turned it into his ranch headquarters. Since is still owned by the Noon family, it has never been a ghost town. Old Oro Blanco is another story, with mining operations having been worked over the years since that time by various companies up to almost the present day. No buildings are left, however.
*Arrastras are primitive ore mills, powered by donkeys or horses, which were commonly used in this country when a more sophisticated ore crusher was unavailable.
References: Nogales and Tucson newspapers, “Arizona Days and Ways” article by Roscoe Willson in the Arizona Republic newspaper.
by Mary Kasulaitis
On the west side of town going towards Sasabe, a dirt road takes off to the north. “The Old Ruggles Road,” the sign says. It’s named for C.B. and Etta Ruggles, who spent their retirement years enlivening Arivaca with activity and stories.
Some people still remember C.B. and his bout with something like Alzheimers. He was in decline for several years and was kept going through the sheer force of Etta’s will and caretaking ability. However, up to that time he had had a very interesting life, albeit not now politically correct. May I point out that in those days trapping and hunting were perfectly acceptable occupations.
C.B. and Etta moved to Arivaca in the late 30s and took up residence on some mining claims a few miles north of town. Bob Marshall described their place as he first saw it in 1956: “The camp was small, located in a draw. There were two good wells on the property, which consisted of about twenty mining claims. Besides the mail house, there were three small guest cabins. The yard was a hodge-podge of Indian artifacts, mineral specimens, deer racks, javelina skull, and other souvenirs of the surrounding country. Several varieties of prickly-pear cactus grew about the yard. A huge bear trap, one of a kind in use a century ago to trap the big grizzly of the Rockies, hung from an iron pole in one corner of the yard. A number of Gambel’s quail were feeding about the place.
The Ruggleses asked me in and showed me about the little house. It was a veritable museum inside, as the yard was outside. More mineral specimens, hunting trophies, guns and tanned hides were everywhere. I took a seat while the Ruggleses showed me their scrapbooks.
They had spent three years together trapping in Alaska. (They met in Anchorage) They had written two articles on their adventures in the north for The Saturday Evening Post. There were also pictures Ruggles had taken of Indians in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. He was, I found, mentioned several times in the Report of the Game and Fish Warden for New Mexico, 1912, and was pictured with bear and mountain lions he had killed. He had once been an intimate friend of J. Frank Dobie (read Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver for a story about C.B.). The two of them had once traveled together in the Sierra Madre. He had not done any lion hunting for a number of years. They had been living in this place about sixteen years on their Social Security.
Little by little, as we looked through the old scrapbooks and talked, C.B. Ruggles’ colorful life took shape. Now eighty years old (in 1956), he had certainly lived adventurously. His very start in life was unusual. He was named C.B. having been born on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy train while the train was some hours out of Quincy…
The son of a physician turned Indian agent and rancher, Ruggles had been reared on an Oregon ranch among Modoc Indians. In his earlier days, he had punched cows, mustanged, trapped for fur, and spent considerable time guiding hunting parties in the Rockies and Old Mexico. In the early 1900s Ruggles was chief guide for the Cliff Cities Pack Outfitters, a concern specializing in pack trips into the Four Corners country. For many years his headquarters was in Taos, New Mexico. Yes, he did have another family before Etta.
From professional hunting Ruggles turned to prospecting and mining, searching for the Lost Tayopa Mine in Mexico. Possessed of considerable medical knowledge picked up from his father, Ruggles was often in a position to administer medical aid to natives in the back country of Mexico. His status as El doctor saved his life many times.”* When C.B. started to slow down they came to Arivaca to retire and do a little prospecting. And a little story telling.
C.B. was a great storyteller. Robert Marshall reprinted his tale of the shooting of an onza in his book on those elusive big cats. He was also a great one for lost mine stories. He’d sit outside the store and entertain anyone who came by.
Etta was just as adventurous as C.B. in her own way. Born in Sweden in 1897, she came to the U.S. when she was 17 years old with a group of Mormons and settled with them in Salt Lake City. Somehow she ended up in Alaska, where she was known to trap, hunt and drive a dog sled with the best of them. When she came to Arivaca with C.B. she helped build their cabins. Some would say that she probably built them all by herself. It was her “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” For years she was the den mother of Arivaca. She had no children of her own, but all the kids in town had wooden toys or doll furniture that she had made. She started a 4-H club and taught crafts in Emma Mae Townsend’s class at Arivaca school. Every year she made sure all the children had something to take to the Pima County Fair. These kids also remember her little wire haired fox terriers, and especially her herd of goats and the experience of having to drink goat milk whenever you made a trip to her house. Etta organized activities and took care of everyone in town. One of the most exciting things she did was to get Santa Claus to make a trip to Arivaca! Besides that, she frequently worked at Hack’s store or for Stockwell’s Honey Company. Etta was nothing if not hard working, and always with enthusiasm and a big smile.
When C.B.’s health declined, they moved to Tucson. He died in 1962 and on his headstone in Evergreen Cemetery is a miner and burro that he drew himself. Etta moved to Prescott. She passed away in 1969 and is buried next to C.B. in Tucson. I would hate for people to forget the folks behind the name on the road sign. Its easy for me to remember Etta: she’s in one of our old home movies, taken on my first birthday. And of course, she brought the cake.
*The Onza, by Robert E. Marshall, New York : Exposition Press, c1961. (Bob was Barbara Stockwell’s father) Thanks to Haclene Townsend Culling and Alice Allen for their remembrances of Etta.