by Mary Kasulaitis
The first Arizonan to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City was Arivaca’s own Ramón Ahumada. Although he had no children of his own, a generation of young men, too numerous to mention, proudly bear the name of Ramón, Ray or Raymond, in honor of the gentleman who managed the Arivaca Ranch for forty years.
Ramón Ahumada was born in Batuc in the Altar District of Sonora in 1868, the son of Jose Ahumada. His uncle, Jose Vega, was mayordomo on the Arivaca Ranch in its earliest years. Vega brought Ramón to Arivaca when he was just a young boy, and raised him to follow in his footsteps. Ramon became mayordomo before he was 21 years old. When the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company was incorporated in 1909 by Noah C. Bernard, John Bogan, George Pusch, John Zellweger and Ramón Ahumada, the principals were blessed with business savvy, personality, ambition, and in the case of Ahumada, the ability to manage cattle on a large scale. Thus the company was able to expand until it was one of the biggest operations in Southern Arizona.
In those days there were few fences and cattle roamed at will. As Phil Clarke said, “Cattle roamed from hell to breakfast before barbed wire came into general use. The cattle were wild and so were the cowboys.” The annual roundup was a community affair in which all the ranchers and cowboys gathered the cattle, separated and branded the calves. According to an extensive article in the Arizona Cattlelog, Ramón was frequently chosen to boss these roundups, because of his ability to manage cattle and men as well. “Sometimes as many as 5,000 cattle would be sorted in one day, with a crew of from 70 to 80 men. Ahumada would break his crew down into four wagons, assigning one group to work certain valleys of the Baboquivari foothills, another towards the east in the Atascosas, and so on, covering an up-country sweep 40 miles wide over countless hills, arroyos, flats and mountains. As the sorted and gathered bunches were driven in to the day’s campsite, the confusion to almost everybody would seem complete. But as the sun went down, order would gradually emerge, the calves being driven off in one direction, various bunches of 2 and 3-year old steers being merged into one driving herd, the mother cows, minus their calves, trailing off for their more familiar ranges, and other bunches going off under a little guidance from the cowboys to just where their owners wanted them. Old-timers still marvel at Ahumada’s timing…. Ahumada had a knack for handling men, assigning jobs to the various owners and cowboys alike with such courteous tact that they seldom realized they were being ‘bossed.'” Phil Clarke, who, along with Jack McVey, Luis Romero and probably many others, looked upon Ramón as his mentor, said that “Ramón was a genius at organization. Every man was assigned to a job, which included roping, branding, cutting out the strays, wrangling the remuda and collecting the beef herd. It looked like all dust and confusion, but Ramón’s men got the job done.”
“The knowledge displayed by Ahumada in the identification of cattle brands was regarded as little short of marvelous by cattlemen and cattle inspectors. The man had an uncanny instinct for correctly tracing a badly blurred brand, an instinct that was of inestimable value to owners and inspectors when the mystery of an animal’s marking required unraveling. He knew all the brands of the southwest range and would frequently sit at the elbow of a cattle inspector correctly identifying brands when there were as many as 40 or 50 different marks on a mixed herd of livestock. His identification in this respect was never questioned.” (Tucson Citizen, 1/13/26)
“Like most Mexican vaqueros, Ramón Ahumada’s horsemanship was superb. He rode with that easy grace and effortless dash which somehow inspires an alert horse to extra effort. And he frequently rode the same horse all day. The Texans who had ‘invaded’ the Altar Valley after 1914 or so, would express their disapproval of riding the same horse 60 or 80 miles in one day when others were available, But Ahumada and his Mexican cowboys’ horsemanship, compared with the stiffly erect, somewhat strained, I-am-the-boss Texas style, left each Arivaca man’s horse fresher after a day’s work than those used by the Tejanos, relay fashion.” (Arizona Cattlelog)
The Arivaca Ranch horses were of excellent stock, Standardbred-Thoroughbred crosses, imported from out of state. Ramón knew them all by name, and was responsible for training them so that they could be used on the ranch or sold to be polo ponies.
Ramón was married to the beautiful Virginia Zepeda, a member of the Moraga family, whose ancestors had included the co-founder of San Francisco and the captain of the Presidio at Tucson during Spanish times. She was the great-aunt of baseball pitcher Alex Kellner. She died in Tucson in 1954 at the age of 86.
Everyone seemed to have a story to tell about Ramón. Fred Noon was always impressed with his silver mounted saddle and bridle, which was once prominently displayed in the window of a store in Tucson and now reposes in the Arizona Historical Society Museum. One possibly apocryphal story said that when Gabriel Angulo praised this set, Ramón gave it to him, but perhaps this was only an illustration of his fabled generosity.
Phil Clarke admired his ability to talk his way out of bad situations, telling how he once mediated a difficult encounter with some Yaqui Indians who had been found butchering a company calf. Not sure of his welcome, and noting a number of Yaquis in the trees surrounding the illegal activity, Ramon went down to have a talk. A few minutes later they had given him the loin, but he had left the Yaquis with dinner and enough jerky to keep going. No one shot him in the back and they even left the hide so it could be counted, as he had requested.
As Ramón Ahumada had lived by the horse, so he died. Luis Romero, Arivaca Ranch cowboy who was as close to Ramón as a son, told of an accident, the results of which eventually claimed his life. They were riding in the Jalisco country near Clifford Well when Luis’ horse threw him. Ramón roped it, using his 60 foot reata, but in the process was thrown off his own horse and hit his head on a rock. Six months later, he had apparently recovered from this accident when he suddenly became ill and was taken to Tucson to the hospital. The Spanish language paper reported daily on his progress, but sadly he succumbed, an untimely death at the age of 56 on January 13, 1926. Not forgotten, however, so that when the National Cowboy Hall of Fame was created in 1958, Ramón Ahumada’s name was enthusiastically submitted with the first group of inductees. And I’m sure that somewhere in Southern Arizona, someone sang a corrido in honor of Arivaca’s most famous vaquero.
By Mary Kasulaitis
In 2009 we suffered through the murder of Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul. These murders tend to stand out in the history of a small place where everyone knows everyone else. However, the memory of those deeds eventually tends to get lost, and over the decades a story that seemed horrific at the time can just disappear. In times past two other murders shocked our town.
There may still be folks around (quite old, or family members) who remember very clearly the murder of Santiago Padilla. It happened on Christmas Day in 1931. It seems that Santiago was estranged from his wife, Francisca (Pancha), who had gone home to live with her mother, Dona Placida Aros. Frank Cortez, a relative of Mrs. Aros’, had come back to Arivaca after an absence of twelve years, and was staying with her, too. Santiago took offence at the interest Cortez apparently showed in Francisca. According to the Citizen: “Padilla, the evidence showed, resented the presence of Cortez at his wife’s home. He protested and is said to have threatened to kill his wife. He was asked to leave. On Sunday before Christmas, Francisca Padilla, her mother and Frank Cortez went to Ruby to see the officers there and register a protest against Padilla’s threats. Upon their return to Arivaca, Padilla stood in the road with a loaded rifle and without warning began shooting at the three. Cortez, to protect the women, leaped from the car and returned fire. Nine shots were exchanged with no damage but several dents in the body of the car. Padilla disappeared and the following day the trio came to Tucson and obtained a warrant for Padilla, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon. The warrant was never served.” Sheriff Bailey had apparently talked to Santiago and had reason to know that there are always two sides to every story. “Trouble over a woman” didn’t seem to him to merit an immediate arrest.
On Christmas Day the two men met and began to talk together as they walked towards Arivaca creek. Frank Cortez apparently took out his gun and shot Santiago Padilla once in the back, then again in the mouth. There were witnesses who would later testify at the trial that Padilla did not have a gun or knife, which contradicted Cortez’ testimony that it was “either him or me.”
Cortez ran away across the cienaga and hid in a shack south of town. By and by, he decided to give himself up to Frank Edgells, the local border patrol officer, mostly because he was afraid the friends and brothers of Padilla might find him first. Some say he was persuaded to give himself up. Cortez freely admitted he shot Padilla, but with reason. Assisting in the search for Cortez were George Smith and Fred Pyatt, customs officers stationed at Ruby. (Yes, there was local law enforcement in those days.)
The coroner’s inquest was held in Arivaca. The Arizona Daily Star reported: “The little school house was packed with the neighborhood of Arivaca, for the most part friends of the slain man and enemies of Cortez.” According to the Citizen, “The jury sat in the small and uncomfortable school seats while the judge and county attorney used kitchen chairs hurriedly brought from a nearby ranch house.” As the inquest began, one could hear in the distance, the hammering together of a coffin and “the clink of the pick and shovel of the friends of the dead cowboy who were preparing his last resting place in the cemetery adjacent to the school. The digging of the grave kept up monotonously and as the sun was slowly sinking behind the purple hills, a brother of the dead man asked the judge to excuse him in order that he might drive 60 miles across the desert and hills to secure a priest to officiate at the last rites.” The Star patronizingly considered this a “primitive setting,” to which the Coroner and Sheriff brought law and order. Frank Cortez pleaded not guilty.
The wheels of justice moved more swiftly in those days, and in February, 1932, the trial was held, lasting only a few days. Although charged with murder, the jury found Cortez guilty of manslaughter, and recommended the full punishment of 9-10 years in the State prison. Apparently Cortez served at least eight years. They say he came back to Arivaca at some point, but of course, he didn’t stay.
Vaquero friends composed and sang a corrido in memory of Santiago Padilla and the day on which he was killed.
The second murder recounted here took place some thirty years prior, in 1893. Frank Oury, the victim, was an exceptional, good looking young man whose parents, William S. Oury and Inez Garcia Oury were well-known Tucson pioneers. Frank was born in Tucson in 1864. He grew up there and later graduated from Berkeley. His parents had passed away some years before and he had returned to stay in Tucson. In 1893 he was just beginning the profession of mining engineer, and was in Arivaca to meet with General R.H. Manning who had mining interests here.
On September 19, the two men were in the hotel (the white house across the street from the Merc), along with Pedro Miranda, the owner, and Ignacio Ortiz. According to the Citizen: Three masked men entered the place and demanded money. Frank chose to grapple with the knife-wielding bandit nearest to him and seemed to be getting the better of the struggle when one of the others ran over to Frank, placed a gun against his ribs, and pulled the trigger. Frank continued to fight, following the bandit out the door, whereupon he was shot again, and this time the wound was mortal. A number of other shots were fired, but no one else was hurt. The bandits made their escape.
One of the outlaws apparently had ties to someone in Arivaca. The search for them extended into Mexico. Eventually, four men were implicated in the murder.
Tucson mourned the passing of its golden boy with an extensive funeral and daily articles in the newspapers, lamenting the loss of such a fine young man. Arivaca’s image slipped: it became known as the place where Frank Oury was killed.
References: Pima County public records; The Arizona Daily Star; Tucson Daily Citizen; William Sanders Oury: History-maker of the Southwest by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr. In regards to the Padilla murder, thanks also to the excellent memories of several former Arivacans who were there at the time of the shooting, but who have since passed on.
by Mary Kasulaitis
This is a tale of two murders that happened near Old Oro Blanco, down near the border south of Ruby. In those days there was local law enforcement: Justice of the Peace McClenahan presided. There were Arizona Rangers, Deputy Sheriffs and line riders. But in neither crime was the perpetrator caught. Here’s what happened:
Jasper Scrivner was a miner of the old school who had lived in The Lower Country for a number of years. He was best known for his unusual methods of gold extraction. In a certain spot on his mine the gold was bound up in some hard clay deposits. Scrivner would break up the clay by beating it till it became a fine powder, then pan it. A.H. Noon reported that this was the first time he’d ever seen gold thrashed out with a stick.
A.C. (Alf) Lamb was also a miner who had come to Tombstone in 1888 and worked there for a time before moving to Tucson. He was employed by Wells Fargo as a driver, but maintained his interests in mining. In 1905 he was prospecting in the Old Oro Blanco and Tres Amigos area and had interests in several mines there. Apparently he also had enemies. On the night of April 2 he was blown up as he slept in his bed. The Arizona Daily Star reported: “Some persons having a grudge against Lamb, as is conjectured, on the night of April 2, placed a stick of giant powder, connected by a fuse far removed. The explosion that followed blew out the side of the cabin where Lamb slept. Lamb’s body was found to be terribly disfigured with part of his head being torn away.”
A.C. Lamb was known to have had some disagreements with Jasper Scrivner. In a memoir published in 1959, Jack Ganzhorn, nephew of Lamb, told of a story in which Lamb and Scrivner both claimed the same mine. In 1896 Lamb had allegedly inherited a mine called the Beehive from an old man named Silvernail. Scrivner claimed Silvernail owed him money and thought the mine should belong to him. In Tucson, one night in 1896, as Ganzhorn related, “three strange men were heard to say they were leaving on the morning Oro Blanco stage to run Alf Lamb off the property and take possession.” Only 15 at the time, Ganzhorn was enlisted to ride out ahead of the stage and warn Uncle Alf. He started out on horseback, early in the morning, carrying with him a quantity of extra ammunition for his uncle. Alf and Jack barricaded themselves in the mine tunnel with their dutch oven, supplies, blankets and a barrel of water. The men arrived the next day, carrying plenty of fire power. Not realizing that Alf had been warned, they were surprised when they found themselves facing a couple of rifle muzzles pointing out of the mine tunnel. They backed down quickly, but not before they had mentioned Scrivner’s interest in the mine. Jack always felt Scrivner had some connection with the murder. In addition, just before Lamb’s murder, he and Scrivner had allegedly quarreled, so when Lamb was found dead, the first person accused was Jasper Scrivner.
A couple of weeks after the murder, Scrivner was in Montana Camp (Ruby) when he was arrested by two Arizona Rangers, who shackled him and set a guard. Justice McClenahan, who was living in Old Oro Blanco and was acquainted with Scrivner, held a preliminary hearing and charged him with the crime. Other than the known bad blood, there was really no evidence to charge him with the crime, as the Star reported. “There are those who say that there is undeveloped evidence which points to other parties.” This did not surface, but neither did any evidence against Scrivner that was conclusive. Everything presented was circumstantial.
After a few months in jail in Nogales, Scrivner was cleared. But as the Oasis reported: “Scrivner did not enjoy his freedom long enough to take a stroll around town, however as Deputy Sheriff Cook was on hand with a warrant sworn out of the Justice Court of Oro Blanco, charging him with a misdemeanor. The charge was based on the accusation made by a woman of Oro Blanco that Scrivner had threatened her. This was in regard to other evidence provided in the former hearing. In a second indictment, he was charged with rape, the victim being her 14 year old daughter. Apparently he had argued with Lamb over the girl too. This information had come out in the hearing, complicating the whole affair. Scrivner’s attorney asked for a change of venue, but Justice McClenahan declined to grant the change, stating that “he was running his own court.”
After some more time in the Nogales jail and several lawyers later, Scrivner was again exonerated of any crime, a physician asserting that there was a physical condition rendering guilt impossible on such a charge. No other evidence had come to light.
Scrivner went back to mining and later ran a store in Old Oro Blanco. Years went by. Then, on the night of March 5, 1914, Scrivner was seated in his room, by an open window. He had closed his store for the night. The Citizen reported: “Benito Carrizoza heard shots at the store and ran to the Warsaw for help. On reaching the store, all was quiet. They went around the house to see what had happened and they saw Mr. Scrivner through the back window. He was lying on the floor and apparently had been murdered…Mr Scrivner had been sitting at a table reading a mining journal. They shot him twice through the window, the bullets entering the back of his head and neck. He just fell over sideways, but remained in the chair, his glasses and book falling on the floor. The house was ransacked for money and gold. They found some, but missed a pint beer bottle almost full of gold which he had hidden among some quilts…the robbers did not find it but after searching for it they tried to set fire to the house by pouring oil around and laid the lamp down and covered it over with quilts, but in their rush, they smothered the flame. Mr Scrivner always showed his gold to everyone that came in and no doubt that was the only motive for the crime as nothing else was disturbed. Mr. Scrivner was over and had Mr. Dillon melt some gold for him into a bar on the third of the month. That was gone. Mr. Dillon thinks about $400 was gone according to what Mr. Scrivner told him on Tuesday that had been there.” (Tucson Daily Citizen, March 10, 1914.)
The criminals were never found, but Scrivner’s wife believed that Mexican bandits were to blame, the border only being two miles away and similar murders having subsequently happened at Ruby. Scrivner left behind a wife and sons. A.C. Lamb left a wife and four children. Neither murder was solved.
Nowadays, topographic maps show a canyon named in Jasper Scrivner’s honor. At least, I feel certain that his must be the name on the canyon that lies near Warsaw Canyon in the area where he used to mine. The only trouble is, they spelled it Scribner.
References: Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, Nogales Oasis newspapers. I’ve Killed Men: an epic of early Arizona by Jack Ganzhorn. Thanks to Al Ring for his help.
Note: these murders happened near Old Oro Blanco, which is about two miles from the border, not the Oro Blanco on the Arivaca-Ruby road.
By Mary Kasulaitis
No account of the history of Arivaca’s artists would be complete without the story of the Arivaca Arts Council, an organization whose impact on the community’s life cannot be overemphasized. It started back in the mid 1980’s, when the educationally minded mothers of the town’s preschoolers got together to provide enrichment and learning opportunities. Those mothers included Kathy Sheldon, Wendy Dresang, and Glo Williams, all of whom later taught at Sopori Elementary School. At one of the Arivaca Days Celebrations the mothers had an arts and crafts booth for the kids. Along came Leonard Starkey, who was looking for groups to be potential recipients of Rural Arts grants, then newly available through the Tucson-Pima Arts Council. The preschoolers caught his eye, and from then it was all uphill. Kathy and the other interested parents, including Patti Lopez and Stacy Hoff, went to meetings in Tucson and decided to incorporate. They formed the Arivaca Arts Council, a non-profit whose first organizational meeting was held in 1985. Kathy was the first president, along with Stacy, Christina Swift and Sally Massey (Rucker). Their intent was to bring the arts to the community of Arivaca. Two of the first programs they sponsored were Carlos Nakai and the Arco Iris Flamenco Dancers. `
About this time the Arivaca Community Center was being formed, and it was natural that the two organizations would work together with the former as the location for theater and arts productions, which the Arts Council would fund through grants. The Arts Council provided entertainment for the grand opening of the Community Center, July 4, 1985. At that time, Rural Grant monies provided half the cost of programs with Arivaca providing the other half.
In the beginning, the Arts Council focused on pottery and the visual arts. In 1986 an opportunity arose to rent a building in town from Ike and Mike Turnpaugh. With a grant, they bought a kiln and equipment and Kathy began teaching pottery and ceramics, using hand techniques, the wheel and ceramic molds. This expanded to include visual arts classes taught by C Hues and stained glass by Maggie Milinovitch and quilting by Lorraine Armour. The building was used as the Red Feather Gallery with showings by local artists. Finally the Arts Council gave up this building and began going in other directions. (Mike and Ike ran the ceramics shop for awhile and it was later sold to Pat and Andy Anderson.)
Over the years, many artists were involved with the Arts Council, either as board members or contributing artists. Susie Kromenacher was another of the local artists who helped in the beginning efforts of the Arts Council. (For years Susie’s gypsy could be seen on the wall of La Gitana). Sabrina Sweetwater, Libby Brandt, Patty Hanson, Melissa Cowen, Deborah and Steve Steinberg, Hal Buckingham, Rexanne Tucker, Meg Keoppen, Lorraine Armour, Ellen Dursema, Mark Dresang, Maggie Milinovitch and many more were also involved. Other projects followed. Many grants were written and received. In 1986 the face mask project made Sunset Magazine! For some time masks of many local faces hung on the wall of the Arivaca Community Center.
As time went on in the 80s, the focus changed. Nina Baldridge began teaching theater arts at the Community Center, which included acting and dance as well as stagecraft. A professional drama teacher and producer, Nina’s direction provided the children and adults of Arivaca with a rare opportunity to be involved with an exceptional theater experience. C Hues taught art classes for stage backdrops. A generation of children grew up with theater and learned how to act and do stagecraft. Scrooge, The Wizard of Oz and numerous other programs were developed and performed. It was an amazing endeavor of all the artists in the community. The Community Center received a Pima County Community Development Block Grant to expand the stage area. When Glo Williams started Blue Sky Learning Center the Charlie Brown Christmas program was a part of the children’s activities. The Arivaca Children’s Theater and Arivaca Performing Artists performed until 1996 when Nina left Arivaca.
Patti Lopez picked up the tempo with dance classes and performances for children and adults, along with assistance from the Annie Bunker Dance Troupe. Tom Shook was involved as a sponsor of the arts and assisting with getting grants for sound and light equipment, along with Brad Knaub (who had also portrayed Scrooge and the Wizard of Oz). Allen Wallen and (later) Peter Ragan were involved with the sound and light. Everything required effort on the part of someone who took the time to make things happen. A large percentage of the community members were involved.
After that, the Arts Council wrote grants and sponsored programs of various kinds, such as Barbea Williams Dance Performers and OperaTunity, but the effort became less intense. Individuals who had been involved went off to do other things. Sabrina and Patti passed on. Some moved away. Kathy began teaching first grade (a high intensity profession). But the generation who benefited from the most artistic immersion has begun to take charge. Second-generation Arivacans Nathalie Dresang and Aja Knaub, along with Jenni Stern, put together a dance workshop featuring trapeze work and an enthusiastic group of young girls took part. These are the now-grown-up children (and their children) who have inherited the love of the arts that came out of the years of dedication and professionalism of the Arts Council. More recently, Winterfest, a variety show held at the Arivaca Community Center (last on January 12) follows in the footsteps of past performers. The decades of focus on the arts has encouraged and attracted artists to come live in Arivaca. Many showcase their work in the Arivaca Artists’ Coop on Main street. Beginning in late 1994, Lorraine Armour, Nancy and Robert Fricchione, C Hues, Ellen Dursema and Peggy Kane organized a cooperative which is still operating today, in the same location. Others joined them, producing paintings, photographs, drawing, pottery, sculpture, leatherwork, glass blowing, jewelry, tie dye, fabric, metalwork, and local writers. Besides this, Bart Santello has initiated Arivaca Film Festival, held each March, featuring local filmmakers or those whose subject is Southern Arizona. The Caviglia-Arivaca Library also has a collection of artwork by local artists. 0000000000
by Mary Kasulaitis
There once was a time of great change. During the 1960s and 70s America underwent a drastic overhaul of politics, social norms, religious affiliations and cultural practices. Most of the followers of this movement were young people who traveled the country, hitchhiking or whatever, going from place to place, searching for answers. Some of them came to Arivaca.
There are people who live here now who were in Greenwich Village, at Woodstock, hung out at Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, gave out flowers on street corners, knew Weathermen in Wisconsin, went to the Gathering of the Tribes, followed the Rainbow people, traveled the craft fairs, or in other ways were in the absolute middle of the counter-culture movement. They represent many of the values that grew out of the rebellion in those years. There are any number of different definitions of the term hippie. Many people just think negatively of drugs and student riots, but we need to remember the reasons behind the rejection of the culture that had developed after World War II. Rejected were: racism, segregation, Joseph McCarthy style fear and control, unthinking exploitation of nature and animals, discrimination against hiring or educating women, gays, Jews, Catholics and other groups. Hippies denounced the consumerism which, spurred on by advertising, had taken over people’s interests and drove their competitive lifestyles. Questions were raised as to who our enemies were and why we were at war in Vietnam. There was women’s liberation. Like primitive Christianity, Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism promoted peace and love; but churches had buildings and rigid exclusionary doctrines that had to be supported with money. Most importantly, for hippies, individual freedom was the ultimate goal. For many people, freedom lay in owning very little. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” People began to demand the right to be free–there was no one right way or wrong way to live, eat, dress, sing or practice religion or politics. Some had no goals: “You went with the flow–you didn’t have expectations.” Being instead of doing. “Living in the present moment,” Sunny said. Spurred on by music, which became a driving and unifying force behind the revolutionary changes, our country became a different place. Looking around us now, we can see the results of the generation that changed everything, both the benefits and detriments, and we watch as our culture’s pendulum swings.
Frequently rejecting their parents’ lifestyle, and traveling (often hitchhiking) across the country from one place to another, young people searched for their perfect haven. Some of them found it here. Bobbie’s first sight of cows walking down a totally deserted Main Street gave her a vision of the peaceful life. One might say that Arivaca was the perfect place for hippies. One could tune in, turn on and drop out and no one’s the wiser. There were old vacant mining camps and shacks in the hills, recently inhabited by old prospectors like Walt Edwards, Tomás Torres and George Goehring who had died or moved away, leaving their places unoccupied. Why not move in? And what is more perfect than a patented mining claim (privately owned land) totally surrounded by National Forest on which you could camp?
The late sixties-early seventies were a different world. Arivaca was at one of its lowest points of population in those days, but the community of hippies, most of whom were from somewhere else like snow birds, grew together. Many of them came to Ruby, a deserted mining camp with habitable buildings, and California Gulch, where Tom & Eileen Shook and John Godsil & Debra Rosegrove had bought a mining claim. The Lower Lakes was a good camping spot. Quite a few people set up tents or teepees and moved in. Some people lived in buses.
The women raised their children with help from each other, learning midwifery, gardening, herbalism, goat-raising, how to find and prepare good natural foods, living a life similar in many ways to homesteaders. They practiced kind, peaceful living and opened their homes to strangers. Although not really a commune with no group philosophy, it was communal living by choice and freely made. There were couples and families, not just free love. People learned that being loving means setting limits, because there is karma. Was this a life of ease? Not hardly. The days were filled with chopping wood, keeping fires going, hauling water, grinding grain, making fry bread, cooking, gardening, milking goats, dipping candles, yoga and caring for children. In the early days these were mostly young city kids, unprepared for what amounted to an extended camping trip in dry rugged canyons. Living in the hills like the prospectors. The ones who couldn’t take it moved on. The ones who stayed spent time hiking, discussing spirituality, philosophy, politics, practicing old time crafts like leatherwork, carving, dyeing cloth, beadwork and other Native American crafts, carving gourds, weaving and making music. As Jerry Garcia said, “What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet. We’re not thinking about anything else. We’re not thinking about any kind of power. We’re not thinking about any kind of struggles. We’re not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. That’s not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life. A simple life, a good life. And think about moving the whole human race ahead a step, or a few steps or half a step.”
Terry was the caretaker at Ruby from about 1968-72. He first learned about the place from some hitchhikers. He thought, “Here’s an adventure!” Then he came back several times to visit before he finally came here for good, feeling a strong draw from the place. Most people who stayed have a strong attraction for place. They just know this is the place for them. One weekend Terry showed up and the caretakers were gone. Just like that. He asked Marge at the Mercantile and she said they had gone to South America! So Terry became the caretaker. At that time he had given away his truck, so he had to depend on others to get a ride to town. It sure was fun, those times, he said. For a long time he didn’t even have a bedroll, just a big long leather coat with a sheepskin lining. And a big white dog. It was primitive living–getting by on very little. Jeannie remembered: “We’d go to the Warehouse in Tucson and get a big load of food. 50 pounds of rice, flour, beans, oatmeal, carrots–staples. A big block of wax, and we’d make candles– and that would hold us for the month. People would come out from Tucson on the weekends and bring food and share it.” At the swap meet in Tucson you could trade for things and meet like-minded people. A guy came up in a big truck and asked Rex for directions. It was Terry. She said, “I don’t know you.” He said, “Sure you do, I’m just one of the brothers.’
Obe, Hal, Mike, Brad, and Tom always had their guitars along. Singing and playing music came together. Brought people together. Rock, bluegrass and folk music, playing and writing songs. Any number of bands have emerged from the musicians who moved here.
Obe liked what he saw in the Gulch and asked Tom if he could set up a teepee. He agreed, so Obe went off to get the materials, then spread the cloth out in a field and sewed it himself, eventually (in the 17 years he lived there) making four teepees. To earn money for this, Obe and Sabrina made and sold candles at the Coop in Tucson where they did yard work and house cleaning to buy food and gas, then would come back and stay here until they needed to earn more. People would go to the Tucson swap meet to sell things they made. Eventually, the gulch people moved to Arivaca where life was a little less rough. A not-uneducated group of souls, they joined their neighbors and helped Arivaca grow, and so we got the Gadsden Coffee and Cafe Aribac, Arivaca Community Center, Arivaca Arts Council, C Hues’ murals, Alan’s internet–Arivaca.com, Blue Sky Learning Center, Sarah’s Bakery, the Clinic and the Library, the Main Street Artists’ Coop, Hal’s Woodworking, Obe’s Solar power, Kevin’s Recycling, yoga, the cooperative buying club, Ellen’s tie dye, Robert and Nancy’s mesquite furniture, Marian’s Farmers Market and the Arivaca Action Center, thanks to these folks called hippies.
What has remained in Arivaca with the people who came here in the 60s and 70s is an evolved sense of lifestyle: living as best you can within the constraints of the economy but maintaining the ideals of freedom, acceptance and the quiet life in the country. Where else can you find signs that remind you of PEACE, LOVE and COMMUNITY!
Please join us on January 26, 2019 at the Old Schoolhouse from 10 am to 4 pm to celebrate the world of hippies at the Arivaca Memories and Music Festival, which this year features the 1960s and 70s. Gertie N the Boyz will again perform at 12 noon, following the Mariachi Estrella. Not hippie music, but it’ll wake us up! Then Banjo Bob will lead Arivaca musicians in playing for the rest of the afternoon. We’ll have historic displays at the Schoolhouse, with photos of the Gulch and that other world. A meditation corner. Food of all kinds, crafts, games, something for everyone!
By Darlene Arvizu
I knew that they had introduced the Mexican wolf back into the wild. I knew that there was a coyote problem near my property, particularly because of the chickens I raise. I raise me some beautiful buff orpingtons and marans, they lay some big eggs and they’re sweet. I get them their favorite snack: corn on the cob. They come right up to me like I’m Moses or something. Follow me around the yard. I got me about forty – the boy, “Tex” – he keeps to himself but he gives me some fine ladies that lay plenty.
Since it was the fall season the girls were beginning to molt, you know, their feathers come off for a new plumage. Anyway, the girls weren’t laying much so I had to rake the coop up once a week to get rid of the feathers. Now this situation actually occurred over two nights: As I went to the coop I noticed a long trail of dried blood that moved from the coop out into the grassland and mesquite trees that surrounded my yard. From the coop there was a side panel that had been ripped in half FROM THE TOP down. Something that happen to reach about eight feet had taken the panel and pulled it down. On the siding were deep heavy claw marks, like a bear’s claw. The chickens were nowhere to be seen. I had gotten worried since they are my primary source of income after retirement.
I followed the blood trail. The only thing I had with me was my rake. I held it like a spear, ready to encounter anything that came about. The first thing I picked up from the grass was a chicken foot, torn at the thigh and stuck with grass shards and blood. I put it in my apron and went further into the grass. Keep in mind this was early morning so I knew there were still coyotes hunting and I didn’t want them to have any taste of my girls to keep them returning for more. Besides the side panel being torn open, I had made the assumption it was just a coyote that had somehow crawled in from the top and broke the panel.
But then I turned around a tree and there it was! A big, hairy thing, looking at me from the grass. I can see it’s large shoulders slunk in, keeping a low profile. It’s pointy ears had black tips, like a lynx and it had deep dark eyes that glinted in the sunlight. It just stared at me. I held up the rake and spun it in my hand toward the beast. It didn’t flinch. As I bent down to pick up a rock it began to move. By the time I grabbed a heavy stone the beast had disappeared into the thick grass toward a creek.
As I came to the kill site I had found three of my girls mauled up and eaten. Feathers were everywhere. I wasn’t really afraid of the whole situation, more shocked really.
I returned to find that my girls had hidden in a pile of wood near the house. I picked one up and held it – the feathers were cold, telling me she and the others had been there all night. I managed to fix the panel and put in some reinforcement screws to keep back the animals.
Since I am a lonely girl I decided to spend the night outside under the stars near the coop. I had me a trusty six-shooter filled with snake shot. I didn’t want to hurt anything or anybody but I figure a few pellets in the butt would shy away any hungry predator. That night I had made a fire by the coop to keep warm. As I was dozing off I smelt a musky odor and as soon as it reached my nostrils the girls began to make noise – as if something was spooking them.
I slouched up from the ground and looked across the flames of the fire – in the distance, at the grassline, I can see two black eyes staring at me. Before I could grab hold of my shooter, it disappeared, convert like. The girls settled down and I stayed awake all night before calling the sheriff.
-Darlene Arvizu (Arivaca resident, artist and chicken farmer)
“Baboquivari Monster” encounter interview, recorded December 2016
by Mary Kasulaitis
As the 1930s wore on, most people in Arivaca continued as before. The federal government began establishing programs to put people back to work. One of those locally useful programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps, the idea being that infrastructure would be created or improved while providing assistance to young men who otherwise had no prospect of jobs. In this program, roads, water development, fire trails and recreation areas were built, all across the country, but mostly in the West in the National Forests. A camp was started in 1935 at Peña Blanca, southeast of Arivaca. Something like 150 young men at a time populated the camp. The first group was from Texas and Oklahoma. Locals weren’t hired, except for a few specialized jobs such as bookkeeping and trainers, who were experienced men recruited from the local construction industries. The young men built the Nogales Ranger Station and made significant improvements to the Ruby Road over the mountain to Nogales. Specifically they created drainage ditches and culverts and shored up the edges, so that it was finally a relatively safe road. This was particularly important during the period that the Ruby Mine was active. At that time the Peña Blanca Lake did not exist. Groups came and went over the years until the camp closed in the early 40s. The WPA was another program that made infrastructure improvements, but in Tucson, not in the Arivaca area.
Another program created by the federal government in 1936 was the Rural Electrification Administration, which brought power to the far reaches of the country through loans to cooperatives. However, Arivaca did not receive this power until the mid-1950s when Trico Electric Cooperative started running lines into the area, but it has made all the difference in the world to life in Arivaca.
When the Ruby Mine reopened in 1934, life changed for the better in Arivaca. There were jobs to be had and the income was often spent at Caviglia’s Café and the Mercantile. Sadly, there was a constant stream of job seekers even after the mine had full employment and they had to be turned away. For those who were working, a family-style culture developed in Ruby that is remembered fondly to this day. Dr Woodard’s medical services extended to Arivaca. A competition grew up between the softball teams of the two towns: the Ruby Tigers and the Montana Miners, aka Ruby Miners, and the Arivaca Cowboys. They played teams from Nogales and Tucson. The girls too had teams: the Arivaca Rancheritas played “the girls of Ruby,” since apparently the reporter didn’t know their team name. At Ruby they played on the tailings, but Fred Noon also constructed an extra field at Oro Blanco. Sometimes there are lots of games going on at once. Reporting on these and other events were students from Sopori School who belonged to the 4-H Club. Thelma Kinsley, Erlinda Badilla, Norma Angulo, Antonia Encinas, Josephine Jackson and Felicidad Rodriguez were the reporters. Many local events like rodeos, roundups and parties were part of the articles they published in the Arizona Daily Star in a column called “What people of neighboring communities are doing,” as often as twice a month. (Thelma is Danny Stewart’s mother)
The community events promoted a spirit of good cheer. A Cinco de Mayo fiesta was celebrated in 1935 in which a number of baseball games were played, as well as a horse race promoted by Angelo Caviglia. Angelo’s horse won but in other competitions he was not as lucky. The races were held at the Alamo Park field a mile east of Arivaca on Noon’s ranch. All these activities inspired the locals to request a Deputy Sheriff for when the festivities were over and no one had gone home yet. Having a sheriff around sometimes got in the way of the fun, as when 12 slot machines were found in Continental and Arivaca and gathered up by Sheriff Ed Echols. No arrests were made, as the officials were waiting for the owners to claim them. The 50th wedding anniversary the G.W. Barnes’ was celebrated with a grand march and an orchestra from Tucson at a dance in Arivaca, attended by 300 people. Reports in the Tucson newspaper from the “Bystanders Club” reveals some typical Arivaca activities, such as partying frequently thanks to Angelo and his bar. Who penned the reports is anonymous.
Now that Prohibition was over, drinking too much was part of life in Arivaca and perhaps in the country as a whole. Sometimes it got out of hand. Clinton Northrup was reportedly found by a couple in Tucson lying on their couch in a state of dead drunk. He thought he was still in Arivaca. Apparently he had been looking for a friend and walked into the wrong house, where the front door was unlocked. Many years later Clinton was not so lucky, because he died in fire in his house in Arivaca in the mid-1950s and is buried in Arivaca cemetery. It makes you wonder: one Ross Cartier, a druggist from Washington state, was found in Arivaca after being mysteriously missing from Tacoma for 3 months. His absence was unexplained. Who knows?
There were other mines working in the Oro Blanco and Arivaca Mining Districts. In fact, the 100 biggest mine producers in Arizona in 1937 include Ajax, Las Guijas, Ruby Mine-Eagle Picher, and the Oro Blanco mines. (Arizona Republic, Nov 21, 1936.) At the Ajax in October 1936 a miner named Alberto Soto was killed in a cave-in when the ceiling dropped on him. Apparently the roof of the tunnel was not shored up sufficiently and it was later claimed that one timber could have saved him. He left a wife and three small children. Regulations to prevent this kind of accident were still in the future.
The Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture was another government program that has had lasting impact on the topography of Arivaca cienaga. It was created in the wake of the Dust Bowl, when tons of topsoil was lifted by winds off the prairie of the Midwest, due to unwise farming practices combined with a drought and terrible dust storms. There had been so much overproduction in the 1920s when the agricultural economy was down. What could be done to prevent this in the future? First, government aid in the form of education, loans and grants to support better conservation practices was taken advantage of by local ranchers. In the mid 30s, Charlie Boice built dikes across Arivaca Creek to hold back the water and direct it to the south side of the valley where he built a small pond. Moving the Creek was not popular with the town residents who had used the waters for washing and drinking. Eventually that meant a well had to be provided (courtesy of Charlie Boice) and piping provided. Another rancher built a spreader dam across a large wash that feeds into the Creek to direct its flow. Due to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, fencing was promoted in the interest of controlling grazing. Fencing pastures within a property allowed fields to be rested. Active education programs informed farmers and ranchers about the choices they could make. Later renamed the Natural Resource Conservation Service, this agency is still in the business of assisting farmers and ranchers in conserving the land they own.
Arivaca Ranch owner Charlie Boice got in the news in another way: in 1935 he fenced off the Arivaca-Sasabe Road, making a detour necessary for Arivaca residents. You had to use a trail along the foothills. Exactly why he did it is not known, but it had to do with the State land pasture that he leased for cattle in that area. Obviously, there was an outcry and officially protested and Pima County eventually made him take it down. In that same area, he and Eva Wilbur Cruce continued their feud on the land and in the courts. But she was not the only person in that family: her uncle Charles Wilbur had been pressuring the County for years to make improvements in the road between Arivaca and Highway 286 in the Altar Valley, partly in the interest of mining activity and the needs of large trucks. The road had been officially dedicated in 1928 but it wasn’t in good shape and was often impassible in bad weather. In 1937, after a petition signed by more than 100 local people, the County finally ordered the Engineer to do the road work as soon as possible and then maintain it afterwards. It was not paved until the 1970s.
Continued next time.
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.