Arivaca in the early 1930s
What we think of as the Depression era of the 1930s began years before with a depressed agricultural industry all across the U.S. that had lasted a decade. Without price supports or controls (which came later) farmers unknowingly planted more and more crops, thus driving the prices down. There were many small farms in those days, with starving farmers who knew no other livelihood. This was one of the reasons for the stock market crash of 1929. Lack of regulation of banks and the stock market was another. Despite the fact that the Federal Reserve was established as far back as 1913 to protect against the frequent “Panics” or depressions that had been occurring since the 1850s, regulation was not yet sufficient to control speculation.
The “Roaring Twenties” was a time when stock market speculation went wild and economic prosperity seemed endless. “The era saw the large-scale adoption of automobiles, telephones, motion pictures, radio and household electricity, as well as unprecedented industrial growth, accelerated consumer demand and aspirations, and significant changes in lifestyle and culture. The media began to focus on celebrities, especially sports heroes and movie stars.” In Arivaca, life went on much as it had before, with the addition of the automobile and radio.
The stock market crash in 1929 was just the beginning of the depression. In those days there was little imagination to remedy the problems that occurred. Despite the fact that President Herbert Hoover was a progressive Republican, the predominant “laissez faire” mentality of the party (and previous President Coolidge) did not allow for federal government intervention. Hoover held office until 1932 when things had gone really downhill. By then it was obvious that pulling yourself up by the bootstraps was not within the ability of everyone in America.
More and more people were out of work and hungry, but during the Hoover era there was still an attempt to have relief provided by local charities unattached to the government or by state and local government, rather than federal. By the middle of 1933, Pima County was having to deal with a great increase in the number of indigents, many of them now white middle class people, more than they ever had before. The number of people now unable to pay their property taxes had exacerbated the problem. Veterans (World War I and Spanish American War) had been having compensation and pension cuts, throwing them onto the public welfare rolls as well. Two Arivaca teachers, Helen Noon and Nina Fay Adams were asked to act for the Tucson Organized Charities as distribution agents of local indigent relief. They had to make a survey of their district as to the number and condition of people in need and forward the information to the group who would provide relief services. The Board of Supervisors was anxious to work closely with state agencies since their own resources were overwhelmed. An increased budget was sent to the Arizona State Board of Public Welfare in Phoenix.
Franklin D Roosevelt, a Democrat, was elected President and took office in March, 1933. He immediately began to forge a different path to stability. Within his first 100 days he and his team had created a number of federal government programs to provide immediate relief. The slogan was: Relief (for the unemployed and poor), Recovery (of the economy) and Reform (of the financial system.) The New Deal was a series of programs that created government controls and regulations to provide stability and promote prosperity, in an attempt “to orchestrate the general welfare out of a myriad of competing self-interests.” Since the federal government had not done this before in any organized way, it was new ground. It was trial and error, but the conditions for many people in America were so desperate that any effort brought some hope. The terrible desperation in the South and in the farming heartland of America was so extreme as to be unimaginable today. Imagine if the only affordable food available was “splits”: broken pinto beans that were culled in the sorting process. Perhaps some were lucky to have even that.
Back home in Arivaca, people were surviving on traditional Sonoran food: beans and tortillas, along with whatever they could grow in their gardens and wild plants. If you worked on a ranch, beef might appear on the menu as well. According to a census, there were 511 people in the area with 21 farms (or ranches), however the 1930 census showed more like 350 people in the town, with 80% being Spanish speaking.
One of the big changes for Arivaca was the purchase in 1931 of the 300,000 acre Arivaca Ranch by the Boice brothers, Henry, Frank and Charlie. In those days it included the Tres Bellotas and Jarillas Ranches and Rancho Seco, besides what we think of now as the Arivaca Ranch. Later they bought the K-X. Charlie was named as the manager, and he set to work making changes all over the valley, which meant keeping people employed. He built dikes across the Arivaca Cienaga, diverting the water away from the townsite and building the pond. Using mules and wagons to haul equipment and cement, he built water catchments all over the remote areas of the ranch. He moved the Tres Bellotas road up onto Black Mesa. After the death of Agustin Wilbur in 1933, when his daughter Eva moved back to town and took over their ranch west of town, Charlie demanded she take her 700 straying horses off his adjoining property. When she did not, or perhaps would not, he had them shot. A feud ensued which lasted until 1950. Some of the 21 smaller ranches mentioned above were purchased by Charlie, expanding the ranch to its largest extent ever.
Agustin Wilbur was not the only well known person to pass away during the early 30s, with their children taking over the family businesses. His mother, Rafaela Suastegui de Wilbur, had died in 1932. Dr. Adolphus H. Noon passed away in Nogales in 1931, but his son Arthur was already managing the Oro Blanco ranch. Bernardo Caviglia passed away in 1932 and his son Angelo took over his many properties. Angelo had always wanted a saloon, so he built a dance hall on the SE corner of Main Street and Ruby Road. Prohibition had been repealed in 1933, just in time for Angelo’s business to take off. For years he held dances and fiestas, horse races and parties, fueled by the Ruby folks who came down in droves. In 1934, on the way home to Ruby at night, one Ramon Redondo died when the car he was riding in went around a curve and his door flew open. He fell out and broke his neck. A marker is still there roadside to commemorate his death.
Crime did not avoid Arivaca. In 1931, a domestic feud between Frank Cortez and Santiago Padilla culminated in a shootout in the cienaga, in which Padilla was killed. Cortez was found guilty of manslaughter (although tried for murder) and sentenced to the maximum 9-10 years. In late 1932 one Jose Villasenor was convicted of importing and concealing cocaine and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The defense said he was a victim of entrapment by three narcotics agents from three different agencies. The cocaine had been stashed somewhere along the Arivaca Road, but the seller was from Nogales. Villasenor was apparently from California. In another crime, the Arivaca Mercantile, owned now by the Boices, was broken into and robbed on February 24, 1933.
Mining continued in the area, with new work going on at the Yellow Jacket gold mine, briefly. Over in the Guijas valley, north of town, a 50-ton tungsten mill was being installed in 1930. Tungsten was the mineral with the most interest, and during the 30s General Electric bought the mine and operated it for some time. The Montana mine at Ruby had started up in 1926 by the Eagle Picher Company but had to close down in 1931 due to the depression. However development work was ongoing in anticipation of reopening, which did happen in 1934. In the meantime many folks were out of work. Some began prospecting for themselves, hoping to find some salable ore, especially gold. Panning in the local creeks became a constant pastime.
The United States went off the gold standard in 1934 because “adherence to the gold standard prevented the Federal Reserve from expanding the money supply to stimulate the economy, fund insolvent banks and fund government deficits that could “prime the pump” for an expansion.” Other countries had been doing the same. The Depression was world-wide, not just in the U.S. This also meant that prospectors could get far less for their gold than before. However, the same thing had happened to silver in 1893 when the U.S. went off silver. Both metals had been mined in this area. The Montana mine was a lead and zinc mine but gold and silver paid the bills. (continued next month)
Refs include articles from the Arizona Daily Star and Freedom from fear: the American people in Depression and War, 1929-1945 by David M. Kennedy)
By Francis “Frankie” Jenkins
It was a long day of me moving brush from the bottom of my yard. I’d been in the process of clearing an area for a pump. I’m done with hauling water back and forth from Green Valley and I’ve saved enough to get me a decent system. So as I was locking up my tool shed I had heard a loud screaming noise that ended in a howling yelp. It lasted several seconds and what got me shook up was that I knew that noise had come from somewhere on my property. The sun was going down and the moon was rising. I was close to ignoring the sound and contemplating on getting my camera out to take photos of the illuminating orb, but something in the back of my mind told me to check it out.
I was hesitant on getting my shotgun out with the flashlight: I didn’t want to come across someone by accident and make an unforgiving error. I took off down the hill into the mesquite bosque and immediately my vision was darkened by the overhanging branches. Out of the corner of my eye I can slowly see the horizon rise around me. I had gotten down to the bottom of the property and sunk my feet in the sandy wash. Quickly I saw there were other tracks, big tracks, with obvious talons at least an inch long attached to all five digits. As I looked closer I can see a line of blood between the indentations and in fear I propped up my trust side-by-side under the shoulder. The light dimmed ahead of me as it defracted into the branches. Fifty yards ahead I can hear something walking. It grunted heavily like a dying moose. In the sand the blood trail was thicker and warm with freshness. I dropped my light to hide my profile and followed the trail.
The sand sunk my boots deep and it gave a gravel noise that I could not mute, but whatever the animal was, it wasn’t hindered by my presence. As I approached a bend in the wash, a thick musky smell of a putrid wet skunk permeated the air. Within the smell I can taste the rusty blood from a recently deceased animal. I went to the bend of the wash and crouched down on the tall five foot bank and crept slowly over the top.
There, I saw it. A large wild beast with large pointed ears on the back of black and grey fur coat. It was twice the size of a full-grown man and it’s shoulders demonstrated superior physique. The arms were wet and with closer inspection, they were wet with blood. Dangling from the claws was a limp mule buck, flesh like spilt pasta. The buck groaned – it was still alive! In an instant, the creature responded with one bite across the animal’s neck. The cracking sound of bone jolted the buck’s legs – inconveniently I coughed in reaction! The large ears perked up and I hid behind the bank. I cocked the right hammer of the gun and slowly raised the barrel over my head.
For a moment the ground moved and I can hear the heavy thumping of the creature stampeding away from the area. I closed my eyes, holding the finger on the trigger.
In a second I turned and looked over the bank: the buck hung from a large mesquite branch, legs dangling over the wash drenched in blood and organs. I moved around the bend, looking up in all angles. The musky smell was gone. As I looked up I can see a large trampled trail that plowed over another bank that went through a split tree and up over the edge. The creature was gone.
-Francis “Frankie” Jenkins (Arivaca resident, retired military)
“Baboquivari Monster” encounter interview, recorded February 2017
Arivaca Ranch in the 1920s –
By Mary Kasulaitis
As the 1920s open in Arivaca, the 10th Cavalry was still occupying a barracks on Main Street, but it would soon pull out. The population of Arivaca was predominately (85%) Spanish speaking people, most of whom had origins in Sonora. They homesteaded for themselves or worked on ranches and in the mines. Almost everyone else spoke Spanish as a second language. The Mexican Revolution and World War I were over, but almost immediately there were two things that impacted the residents. One was not man made: a year without rain in 1920 impacted the cattle business in a drastic way. If you can’t feed them, either they die or you get rid of them. The Arivaca Ranch (largest ranch in the area) lost a lot of cattle and in those days you couldn’t just sell them easily the way you can now. The Cienaga wasn’t fenced, so cattle went into the mud and got stuck and died. After that, a downturn in the cattle industry in the nation at large made it difficult to sell the ones that had survived. Eugene Shepherd was a part owner of Las Jarillas ranch, which soon was consolidated with Arivaca Ranch (Arivaca Land and Cattle Co.) which he managed. He then homesteaded Tres Bellotas ranch. The Arivaca Land and Cattle Company had issued more stock in 1922 in the interest of development, as well as buying 4500 more head of cattle, but this was to no avail due to the national downturn of the agricultural industry. Other partners in the ALCC, John Bogan and Ramon Ahumada, passed away in the late 20s. In 1927, Shepherd held a big rodeo and BBQ at the Arivaca Ranch with 500 people in attendance and participating. Most men in Arivaca were employed as cowboys and they loved to show off their roping and riding skills. Nevertheless, Shepherd lost the ranch, but it was held together by those who held the mortgage until 1929 when it was sold to Border Land and Cattle Company.
In those days, Arivaca was closely tied to the mining camps in the area. A less well-known mining operation was of great benefit to the economy of Arivaca in the 1920s. Under the management of L.P. “Doc” Merriman, the Oreona Development Company came to town in about 1922 and began working claims at the Ajax, two miles south of town. They built a large (75 ton) mill just west of town where the Amado mine is, hiring many locals. (Evidence of this millsite is still visible) Merriman and James Kelso ran this operation until 1929 when it was sold to a California syndicate. What effect the national economic downturn had on this syndicate isn’t known. Jim Kelso has blessed us with a number of photos of Arivaca that he took during this period, provided to us by his son, who was also a good storyteller.
More well known is Ruby, 13 miles away, which later became the largest mining operation in the area in the 1930s. On February 27, 1920 the Ruby store was attacked by two bandits who murdered the storekeepers, Alexander and John Fraser. The bandits came up from Mexico through California Gulch and attacked the men in the store. Right before this happened there were 10th Cavalry soldiers stationed at Arivaca, Casa Piedra and Bear Valley, on the routes used by people going and coming from Mexico. But they had recently been pulled out. Possibly they would have deterred the murders. But in the next few months there were more depredations, stolen cattle and apparently an incident of “shooting up the town” which led the Arivaca people to ask for two rangers who could remain in the area and enforce the law. The Pima County Sheriffs’ department did not have the funds to do this so it was denied. (AZ Daily Star, 2/7/21) A few months later, the next Ruby Store owners, Frank and Myrtle Pearson, were killed by seven bandits on August 26, 1921. (See Ruby, Arizona: Mining Mayhem and Murder, for details of these murders) This led to a demand for more law enforcement. On 7 March 1923, W.L. Carpenter was sworn in as Deputy Sheriff at Arivaca, for which he received $35 a month. According to the newspaper, it was necessary since Arivaca was so remote and the residents had petitioned for law enforcement.
Many people had moved from Mexico into the U.S., fleeing the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20. Immigration became a concern at the national level because of a great influx of people from Europe and China as well as Mexico in that decade, leading to the Immigration Act of 1917, followed by quota laws in 1921 and 1924. Mexican agricultural and mine workers were waived from this, at the request of employers, but enforcement was also lax. People without the proper papers were still taken advantage of and many who had settled in the U.S. for years lost their property to unscrupulous land grabbers. The Roman Catholic chapel, El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, built in the early part of the 20th century, was demolished in the early 1920s by the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company due (probably) to a land ownership dispute.
Prohibition had a major impact on Arivaca and Ruby. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution made the selling, transportation and making of liquor prohibited in the United States. Of course, this was not a popular law, and immediately people began making their own in stills, or importing it from Mexico now that the military was gone. The road up California Gulch was a handy way to bring it in. One of the most important things was that people with no jobs or money immediately had a ready source of income in bootlegging. Prohibition had a negative impact on the country as a whole because it made people feel as though they didn’t have to obey laws they didn’t like. Since drinking was a traditional and popular activity for many subcultures in the U.S., many people ignored the law. This encouraged the growth of organized crime in the larger urban areas. Not until 1933 was the 21st Amendment passed to repeal Prohibition.
Prohibition, illegal immigration, and border related crime were behind the establishment of the Border Patrol, created on May 28, 1924. The new immigration laws had to be enforced. Later that year, the government advertised in the Tucson papers for potential agents, who had to have law enforcement or military experience. Soon a cadre of officers were on the job. In February of 1925 a pack train of 11 horses and a mule loaded with liquor, led by 6 men (all Mexicans) came up California Gulch, across to Bear Valley and up to Twin Buttes, where they were caught by Border Patrol officers, all of whom happened to be locals who knew the country. On Aug. 31, 1926 one Caledonio Mendoza died while resisting arrest. He was shot about a mile from Arivaca at a traffic stop held by Border Patrol officers on a Saturday night. He swung his car around and someone shot at the officers. They returned fire and hit Mendoza. The troubles facing Arivaca people in the 1920s were mostly created by the agricultural woes and the new federal laws on immigration and the prohibition of liquor. Laws that no one had to worry about before. But there were as yet few regulations on banking and stock market speculation. The weaknesses of laissez-faire capitalism were surfacing. In October 1929, the stock market went into a severe decline, helping create an economic downturn that would ultimately affect Arivaca.
In other happier news, the population of Arivaca in 1920 was about 320 people, many of them children. Arivaca’s two-room school had 55 elementary school students in 1922 up 17 from the year before. The teachers during most of that decade were Bertha and JP McDole in the early years and then Alice and WJ Barnett from 1926-1932. Many Arivaca children were awarded health certificates as a result of a program established by President Hoover in 1929. Arivaca also benefited from a newly constructed Pima County road from Arivaca Junction to Arivaca and then across to the also new Sasabe road (286). A bridge was completed in 1921 across Arivaca creek about 7 miles northwest of Arivaca. Heavy rains that summer immediately put it to the test, which it passed.
Next time: Arivaca in the 1930s.