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.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Long time rancher Donald Honnas passed away this month in Sahuarita, where he and his wife Carolyn had retired after having lived for many years at Arivaca. His positive influence on Arivaca for so many years merits a story, so that he is remembered.
The Honnas family arrived in Arivaca in 1960, when they bought the Las Jarillas Ranch from Homer and Dottie Osborne. The Honnas family’s roots in Arizona go back to the late 1800s when Don’s grandmother Della and stepfather Peter Honnas arrived in the Sonoita area to do some homesteading. They had their own homestead, but also purchased others as they came up for sale by people who couldn’t make a go of it. Don’s father Cecil married Lottie Moore, who had been teaching at the Empire Ranch School in the late 1920s. Lottie’s mother, Nancy Moore, had come to Arizona about the turn of the century. Lottie was raised in Marana, where she was in the first graduating class of the high school there. Lottie and Cecil were serious ranchers who intended to make a go of it no matter what. Cecil sometimes had to work off the ranch while Lottie took care of the horses and cattle. But Lottie was also the mail carrier on the route to Greaterville. Lottie and Cecil had two boys, Ray and Donald.
Don married Carolyn Pine, whose family had been in Southern Arizona for four generations. Her great-grandfather John K. Brown, built the Sahuarita School which was founded by his wife. Carolyn’s step-grandfather, John S. Brown, raised cattle at Sahuarita. Her father, Kenneth Pine was from the Box Canyon area where his mother had property. They were among the first settlers in Santa Cruz County and donated land for the old Empire Ranch school. Carolyn was born in Morenci, but moved to Sonoita at age 4. That was where she grew up and met Don. She has 3 brothers, Mike, Walt and Bruce. The latter lived with them here at Arivaca after their father died.
When Lottie and Cecil decided to retire, they sold their Sonoita ranch, keeping their home there. When Las Jarillas Ranch came up for sale, they decided to buy it. Don and Ray brought their families to live on the ranch. In those days Las Jarillas (or Jarrillas) was about 36 sections of land with a Forest Service grazing lease as well as State land and BLM land. There was 1380 acres of private land. It extended from the Mexican border to Arivaca and from the Tres Bellotas Road to the old Buenos Aires Ranch boundary on the west side of the San Luis Mountains. Ray and his family lived at the Las Jarillas headquarters while Don and Carolyn lived in Arivaca; renting until they could get their house built. In 1962, Ray Honnas left the family business. His half of the ranch with the headquarters was sold to Lawrence and Mary Jones, and now belongs to Tom and Dena Kay.
In 1963 Don and Carolyn built a new house on a hill one mile due west of the town of Arivaca, where they raised their children, Debra, Jackie and Cliff. The kids attended Sopori and Sahuarita schools. All of them helped around the ranch. With this background, Cliff became a veterinarian and was a professor at Texas A&M University, specializing in equine science. (All the emphasis placed on education by their great-grandparents paid off.) Cliff is married to Lori Robinson. The girls also graduated from college, Debra becoming a nurse and Jackie a teacher.
Don and Carolyn are community minded, which they expressed in many ways. Don was on the Sopori School board and Sahuarita School board. Carolyn was an EMT and was involved with other activities like the Homemakers Club. The whole family was involved in church activities. They donated the land on which First Baptist Church is built. If you needed something, they would drop everything to help you, even if it was something like pulling a calf. Don is most proud of the several times that he was able to get people to the doctor in time (before the days of ambulances and helicopters.)
After 40 years in the cattle business, Don and Carolyn decided to retire. Not wanting to see their beautiful property subdivided, they sold part of it to the Chilton Ranch. The headquarters, with its cienaga on Arivaca Creek below the town, they sold to the USFWS’s Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge. That is still known as the Honnas Ranch. Down on the Arivaca creek is an old watering hole, which is still known as Honnas’ pond.
Don’s stories about ranching in Sonoita and Arivaca are now collected in a book, Happenings on the Pocahonnas: a Southern Arizona cattle ranch. Some of the valuable contributions of this book include: details of the cattle business, such as the screw worm eradication program, pulling calves and fencing. He tells what it is really like to live on the border, especially since their home was inadvertently built right on an old smuggler’s trail. Of course, smuggling wasn’t a big business in the 1960s, not like it became later. Don has stories about Arivaca that contribute significantly to the history of the area in the last half of the twentieth century. It’s a little like reading a James Herriot book, with many dog and horse stories, and a few strange neighbor stories as well. Some of his stories that illustrate life in Arivaca are published here and no place else.
Don really understood animals, of all kinds. Here is one of his dog stories (edited): “We got Old Sam fom Chris Clarke… I had always had a liking for hounds and everyone else should have that liking as well. He was a beautiful Black and Tan puppy. Everyone loved Sam for his loving and kissing disposition, his good carefree attitude, his company and his funny capers and especially when he bayed. He actually thought that he was just as good as any of the other dogs but never any better. If another dog or person got mad at him, he wondered why. He would kiss a dog in the mouth and then go kiss Jackie or Cliff on the mouth, if he could get away with it, and often times he did…When he grew up he was a big dog…Old Sam also thought he was a cow dog and I told him he was not, a good many times. When we were driving cattle he was another one of those dogs that was either in the way, way behind, right in the middle, out in the front of, or another other place he shouldn’t be. Also, when driving cattle he would stay way behind and let out a bay about once a minute. When he bayed at the cattle he always kept himself far enough away to make a good clean getaway. He thought he was helping and really enjoyed that. Other times when you were trying to corral a bunch of cattle he would be either standing, sitting or lying in the middle of the gateway or the watering trough. I would say some choice words to him and he would just stay there looking bored like, ‘I wonder what we are going to do next.’ He had already beaten us into the corral-watering trough to cool off. He really could mess up while going with you working cattle, but he didn’t really mean to. As he got older, he got fatter and slower, but to him he was just as important as any dog or human and he fit right in.” p. 74-75.
Don’s book is available at the Arivaca Library, just ask the Librarian.
by Mary Kasulaitis
Most of us are familiar with the heyday of Ruby in the 30s, when there were tents all over the hills, four roomfuls of children at the School and the regular shift changes at the mine. Back in the 19th century, Ruby was originally known as Montana Camp. The mine may have been named for the Spanish word for mountain, but probably it was named for the state of Montana. In the Lower Country there were mines named for California, Idaho, Wyoming, Vermont, Utah, Virginia, New York, Indiana and Alaska.
The area around the Montana Mine had shown promise for mining as early as the 1870s, during which time it produced gold and silver ore from near the surface. Eventually it became clear that lead and zinc would be its primary production, with copper on the side. In the early 1890s, George W. Cheyney, along with some other investors, bought the Montana Mine and set out to develop it.
George W. Cheyney, b. 1854, was a native of Philadelphia and the son of a businessman of that city. In the 1870s his father had become interested in mining in Arizona. George himself came to Tombstone in 1881, after some years of puttering around the country, and became superintendent of the Tombstone Mill and Mining Company. He married Annie Neal of Atchison, Kansas, and they had six children: one of whom, Mary Neal, later married Noah C. “Nonie” Bernard of Arivaca. Early in life, George expressed an interest in politics, and was Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona by 1890. Moving his family to Tucson in the early 1890s, George continued his mining interests, expending a considerable amount of energy on the Montana Mine in those years. He was appointed Postmaster of Tucson in 1898 and held that position for four years. In 1902 he was elected Probate Judge in Pima County, but acquired dropsy (edema or fluid retention) and passed away in August 1903 at the early age of 48. He did not live to see his daughter Mary Neal Cheyney Bernard pass away during the 1918 flu epidemic.
George W. Cheyney began his mining interests in the Oro Blanco country while the family still lived in Tombstone and began development of the Montana Mine in 1892. John Bogan (of the Arivaca Ranch) had made a strike there in 1891. Cheyney and his company were responsible for the little boom that ran through those hills in the 1890s. This included some Philadelphia backers. J. Knox Corbett and Louis Zeckendorf (uncle of Albert Steinfeld, long time merchant) of Tucson were also involved in the development of the Montana Mine and Camp. They had mining interests all over the state.
Bogan may have built a small mill for processing gold and silver ore in the early 90s, but Cheyney was responsible for the development of a larger operation. Cheyney determined that they needed more water for the mill. By March of 1894 they had built a dam and were waiting for rain. Before that they would have to siphon water from the creek to the well. In August 1895 they also put in a 20,000 gallon tank for water, since rains were late in coming and they were beginning to be worried.
The road to Nogales had to be improved and by December 1894 there were fifty men at work on the Nogales-Oro Blanco road. It was finished by August of 1895. Roberts and Broderick owned the Oro Blanco Stage Line which ran from Oro Blanco to Nogales, stopping at Montana Camp and Old Glory, three days a week with returns on alternate days.
A store at Montana Camp was being run, not very successfully, by J.B. “Pie” Allen. A.C. Bernard (brother of Noah Bernard) was the next manager, and he fell to the same fate. Cheyney suggested to J.S. Andrews that he purchase it, which he did in 1895. Andrews ran the store for seventeen years and as Postmaster was responsible for renaming the town Ruby.
Cheyney had the mill going by March of 1895. It had five stamps, with immediate plans for five more. On August 24, when they started up the mill, the engine blew up and caused considerable damage. This was repaired in short order, and large shipments of concentrates were soon being sent to the El Paso smelter for processing. Cheyney decided that he would experiment on the tailings, which carried considerable value, and erected a small cyanide plant in early 1896. He planned to double the work force, but apparently he began to have trouble. One of the principal owners from Philadelphia passed away, and with him some of the monetary support. The price of silver was dropping and the Montana Mine had not yet begun to produce in great amounts the lead and zinc for which it would become famous. It appears that Cheyney had to let it go, but not before he had paved the way for future development by improving the road and water sources and in general, putting the Montana Mine on the map. Louis Zeckendorf kept an interest and patented the Montana Mine in 1907.
George W. didn’t live to see the beautiful home his wife Annie had built in Tucson in 1905. For years it had been an eyesore in that pretty part of town known as Snob Hollow, but Gerald and Emma Talen purchased the mission revival style home at 252 N. Main and sunk a lot of money into its restoration. It is now beautiful. Annie Neal Cheyney, who passed away in 1947, would be happy to see its renovation.
References: Chapman’s Biography, numerous articles from the Arizona Daily Star and Nogales Oasis, Fred Noon’s files, Univ. of AZ mining bulletins, biography of J.S. Andrews
by Mary Kasulaitis
In the first half of the 20th century the Clarke Ranch, now known as the Montana Ranch and owned by the USFWS, anchored the headwaters of Arivaca valley. Phil and Gipsy Clarke were true pioneers who left home and family and came to Arivaca at a young age, where they met, married and established themselves with a homestead, ranch and store.
Phil Clarke was born in Ireland in 1888. He came to Arivaca in 1906 at the age of 19, looking for work on the Bernard Ranch. In an autobiography written in 1938 he remembered: “When I arrived at Arivaca I was not very much impressed. We pulled up in front of the P.O. I stood there with my big cardboard suitcase and it seemed like thirty or forty Mexicans, who were sitting in front of the store staring at me, had a good time laughing at the newly arrived tenderfoot. There were buckboards, pack burros, horses tied up to the hitching post all from outlying mining camps and ranches, that had come to town for the mail and supplies from the store—after the stage left I introduced myself to Les Farrell, the store keeper and assistant postmaster and told him I came out to get a job on a ranch…He asked all about me, why I came away out there, away from the beaten path, like h e suspected I might be hiding out from the law.
While I was talking to him a new rancher in the country by the name of (Bill) Earle came in and told me I could stay with him until I could get settled. So I got in his buckboard and went to his ranch about two miles below Arivaca. It was the old Kellner Ranch…While at this ranch I got acquainted with Dr. J.H. Ball—his farm was just south of the Kellner place. Dr. Ball was a highly educated man, spoke several languages and stressed the necessity of learning Spanish if I intended to stay in this country. He told me all about the surrounding country, the mines and the ranches, where they were located, who owned them. I worked for him during the hay harvest time, running the hay bailer, hauling the bailed hay. All the rest of the hands were Mexicans and I was learning Spanish from them very fast. After the harvest was over I went back to Arivaca to see Nonie Bernard, but he had not been out and Farrell did not seem to know when he could come, but he had some odd jobs I might do if I wanted to wait for him. I took this opportunity, put a new floor in the schoolhouse, fixed the shingles on the old hotel. I got two dollars a day for this which was 50 cents more a day than I earned with Dr. Ball.
There was considerable mining activity going on in the district. The old Cerro Colorado was working a lot of men. The Oceanic in the San Luis country, the Guijas in charge of a Mr. Bradley, the Yellow Jacket in charge of a Correy from Philadelphia, the Con Arizona whose mill was just below the Dr. Ball farm, was about to close down. In addition to these mines that were actually working, there was a lot of prospecting going on and all the camps in the Oro Blanco district were working lots of men. There was a good size store at Oro Blanco run by Charles O. Foltz, the Warsaw, Old Glory and the Austerlitz mines owned by Dr. Noon were operating.
The country was covered with a heavy growth of gramma grass and in the mountains was a dense growth of oak, white and Jack oak, and it seemed like there was running water everywhere. Farrell loaned me his horse and saddle and when I wasn’t working on odd jobs for him I rode as far as I could. I could speak a little Spanish and I visited the Bernard ranch. There I got acquainted with the foreman, Ramon Ahumada who, with his silver plated headstall, saddle all silver inlaid and beautiful horses, really fascinated me…This Arivaca was considered one of the largest ranches in this section. The whole country was wide open. The only fences were those around the homesteads of the various ranchers. It was the days of the open range, before statehood and the coming of the Forest reserve which was to be created in 1907, and after Arizona became a state in 1912 there came the state land that was reserved under the Enabling Act and the ranchers got busy and leased as much of this land at 3 cents per acre per year as they could, and that’s when the days of the open range in Arizona ended.
While I was enjoying myself getting acquainted with the people I still had no steady work. I remember debating on several occasions of going on to Los Angeles, but everyone told me when Nonie came out they were sure he would give me some kind of steady work. When Nonie finally came out and I asked him if he could put me to work, he said he would leave it up to Ramon. Nonie was homesteading at the Cienaga. He built a tow room shack and barn and established residence there in order to comply with homestead requirements and I lived with him at the Cienaga. (near the city well) After finishing building he paid me $1.50 a day and board which was very good for those days and then gave me a steady job as horse wrangler…”
Taken from a copy of the autobiography of Phil M. Clarke, courtesy of the late Virginia Clarke Cooper, Phil’s eldest daughter.
Gipsy Harper Clarke
In 1910 Gipsy Harper arrived in Arizona to teach school. A native of Texas, she had gone to Los Angeles to find work and had been recruited by Nonie Bernard, the owner of the Arivaca Ranch. After arriving by train in Tucson, she quickly took the required state examinations and was rewarded with an official certificate. A stage coach brought her to Arivaca, and the first person she met upon her arrival was a young man about her age, named Phil Clarke.
Arivaca was a company town in 1910, and the owner was the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company. Phil Clarke had hired on with them in 1907 and by 1910 they had him managing the store and holding the offices of Postmaster, Justice of the Peace and School Trustee. He was surprised to see Gipsy, for he thought he was responsible for hiring the teacher. Since she was there already, he took it upon himself to find her a boarding house and help her get acquainted. We know what went on that first week from stories she wrote later. The following is her own account of one of the first conversations she had with Phil:
“‘Mr. Clarke, have you notified the children that school is to open Monday?’
‘They’ll know when they see the school door open if they don’t know from you bein’ here.’
He unlocked the school door and pushed it open and I looked at what was to be my domain for the next… …eight months.
There wasn’t a thing in that school but filthy, ink-stained, hand whittled desks, a huge rusty iron stove without a pipe, and the teacher’s table and a bell. Not a map, nor a chart, nor a globe. Even the black-board erasers, if there had ever been any, had been carried away.
‘Where is the equipment?’
‘How d’you mean–equipment?’
‘Does the territory furnish books, paper and pencils?’
‘What’re you talkin’ about? It pays the teacher. Ain’t that enough?’
‘Do you mean to tell me there won’t even be books? Do the children buy them for themselves?’
‘Of course they don’t.’
‘Perhaps if you’d order them and put them in the sote, some of the more ambitious parents would pay for them.’
‘Look here, I’ve got that whole Cattle Company and every person for twenty miles around telling me what to order for that store; I’m not going to have you tellin’ me to start a book store!'”
But Gipsy was a self confident person, and after taking a few days to get settled, she began her first school:
“First day of school I awoke with a thrill. Outside my window Biejo was carrying out beer bottles and humming ‘La Golondrina.’ Across the patio sunlight fell on the adobe wall and a guinea hen chattered noisily.
After breakfast Rita gave me a sack of rags, some washing soap and a broom to take to school. I wore a dark linen dress and carried a red checked gingham bungalow apron with long sleeves. Bungalow aprons buttoned down the back and completely covered the dress.
All the children came to school that first morning. Uncle Beanie (Bogan) had rounded up sixty-five of them. I rang the bell and wrote the names and ages in my register with the help of Anita, an older girl who spoke good English. Then we went to work. The boys got the water. There was no well, all of the water of the village being hauled by a barrel and burro from the creek or from a well a mile up the valley. I had learned the word ‘agua’ and when I spoke it, off the boys went. We scrubbed walls, windows, blackboards, desks and the floor. The boys raked the yard and piled the rocks on the arroyo bank. At noon I sent a note to Phil asking for chalk, paper and pencils and charged it to myself. The ones he promised had not arrived.
Probably a dozen children had some kind of a book and some had tablets and pencils. I had Anita tell them to ask their parents if they would buy books, and I gave each of them a slip with his requirements, after classifying them the best I could.
Many of them were acting when they pretended not to understand, for they had had good teachers and so had their parents before them. Uncle Beanie’s wife (Phebe Bogan), the finest teacher ever, had taught them.
I wrote the multiplication tables and a long list of words for spelling on one side board. After they were learned I covered the board with a sheet I had borrowed and had the children recite them. On another board I printed the reading lesson for the beginners. I passed paper and pencils to all, and when the work was finished I had every pencil collected. Then there was the singing lesson. We had fun over that. I wrote one verse of ‘America’ on the board, but as few could read it all, they memorized the words from my singing rather from the board.
That afternoon being mail day, I sent an order to Tucson for thirty readers–first, second, and third–and charged them to myself. I selected the art readers we had used as supplementary readers back home. They were expensive, but I thought the children would enjoy them. I hoped many would buy the regular books that were required on the course of study. Also I ordered crayolas and drawing paper for every child.
While I taught one section, the others had recess. Of course they made a terrific noise, threw rocks at the school and broke several windows, which made it necessary for me to keep them after school and discover who did it. All faces were blank and tongues dumb. Cipriano’s eyes were downcast. He must be the culprit. I wrote a letter to his father, saying that until Cipriano brought three dollars he could not return to school.
That night I took it up with Mr. Clarke. He laughed when I told him about the note I sent Cipriano’s father. The man was a cowboy and Cipriano made money hauling water and chopping wood, but why should he pay for windows? Why didn’t I whip him? That was my duty, controlling those boys. Why did I send them out without anybody over them if I didn’t expect something like that to happen.”
As it turns out, Cipriano does bring the three dollars and Gipsy stays on at Arivaca school. After three short months, she and Phil Clarke are married and set up housekeeping in the large house across the street from the store.
The mural by C Hues at the Arivaca Schoolhouse portrays Gipsy H. Clarke, teaching.
Thanks to Chris Clarke, Gipsy’s grandson, for her stories