History of Grazing on Tonto
Presented by Senior Forest Ranger Fred W. Croxen, at the Tonto Grazing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, November 4-5, 1926
The history of grazing on the Tonto Forest from the time of early settlement to the present is the subject that has been assigned to me. This covers so much that a book could be written on it and makes me wish that I had the ability to do so.
The few oldtimers from whom I have secured my data are among the first settlers on the Tonto, and while their dates may not always be correct and they may not agree in some regards among themselves, I feel that all are reliable men and the information secured from them as to conditions in the past is reliable. They are men who have seen this range at its best, have seen the stock industry rise to the peak and descend to its present condition. Stories told by these old men while I have been with them, sound like fairy tales, for everything differed so much in those days from what we see of the ragged end of it all at the present time.
Arizona had been traversed in the northern and southern parts for several decades before white men ventured to any extent into the part now covered by the Tonto Forest, for the early California gold rush was on and the greater part of the people had eyes only for that. There was little trading to be done with the Indians of these parts, as they were treacherous and warlike, and the travelers were only too glad to stay to the main routes of travel and let this, then, little known, country alone.
Shortly after the Civil War, the government began to renew interest in this remote and arid country and established a few army posts throughout the territory, most of which were poorly manned. The troops made scouting trips throughout the country in the late '60's and '70's. A few prospectors, traders, packers and other venturous characters accompanied the troops, found indications of the precious metals in the mountains and took out stories of the fine grasses and ideal climate to others of their kind who were interested. The cattlemen, always anxious to spread out and find newer and better ranges for their cattle soon brought small herds to these mountains, growing these herds into larger ones, while larger herds were driven in at later dates.
Florance A. Packard, probably the oldest living man to settle in Tonto Basin, came from California to the Salt River Valley in 1874, where he was told of the Greenback Valley by an army officer. He came to Greenback, liked it and settled there in 1875. He came as a professional lion hunter, for the territory paid a bounty of $20.00 at that time, and was a keen observer. He told of Blackfoot and Crowfoot Grama grass that touched ones stirrups when riding through it, where no grama grass grows at present. The Pine Bunch grass grew all over the Sierra Anchas in the pine type and lower down than the pine timber on the north slopes. There were perennial grasses on the mesas along Tonto Creek where only brush grows at the present time. Mr. Packard says that Tonto Creek was timbered with the local creek bottom type of timber from bluff to bluff, the water seeped rather than flowed down through a series of sloughs and fish over a foot in length could be caught with little trouble. Today, this same creek bottom is little more than a gravel bar from bluff to bluff. Most of the old trees are gone, some have been cut for fuel, many others cut down for the cattle during drouths and winters when the feed was scarce on the range, and many have been washed away during the floods that have rushed down this stream nearly every year since the range started to deplete. The same condition applies to practically every stream of any size on the Tonto. The first real flood to come down the Tonto Creek was in 1891 after it had rained steadily for twelve days and nights. At this time the country was fully stocked, the ground had been trampled hard, much of the grass was short, or gone, gullies had started and the water came rushing down. This flood took a good deal of the agricultural land from the ranches along the creek and was so high that it filled the gorge where it entered Salt River at the present site of the Roosevelt Dam and backed a house up Salt River about a mile.
E.M. (Chub) Watkins, whose father, Captain W. C. Watkins, settled on Tonto Creek in 1882 at what is now known as the H4 Ranch, tells about the same story of early conditions as Mr. Packard. He says Curley Mesquite grass covered the foothills but did not extend to so low an elevation as at present, these lower elevations having been covered by grama and other grasses now gone. His people came from Indian Territory and brought the finest horses that ever came to this part of the state, if not the entire state, owned a bunch of greyhounds as well, and used to run jack rabbits all over the mesas along Tonto Creek from the box to the mouth. There were no washes at all in those days, where at present arroyos many feet deep are found and at places cannot be crossed.
Cliff C. Griffin, the present owner of the 76 Quarter Circle Ranch on Tonto at the mouth of the Wild Rye Creek, came to Salt River and settled in 1884 on some of the part now covered by the Roosevelt Reservoir. He says the principal grass was Black Grama and a species of Sage. The Black Grama used to cover the slopes on each side of the river. In those days this came up in bunches, approximately five inches at the base, grew to a height of two to two and one-half feet with a sheaf-like spread of two to two and one-half feet. This was very nutritious, making the finest kind of feed for cattle. He says in early days the settlers used to chop this grass for hay, using heavy hoes for chopping and with a hoe, rake and fork he could fill a wagon in two hours with this grass.
Mr. Griffin told of a George Allen who had a ranch and bunch of cattle opposite the mouth of Tonto Creek, who milked Devon cows and sold butter in Globe for $0.75 per pound. He put up Alfilaris hay for these cows, by pushing a kind of rake or sweep across the mesas and collecting it in windrows, it grew so rank. This was in 1886 and alfilaris was not in Arizona until after the advent of the sheep from California. Florance Packard says he first saw a little of it in Sunflower Valley about 1880. While mentioning the Allen Ranch, Mr. Griffin said that Mr. Allen told him he was going to get $5,000 for it some day, as he had a reservoir site, meaning the present site of the Roosevelt Dam. This was in 1886 and Mr. McCormick, former state historian, claims to have been one of the party who discovered it in 1889.
William Craig, at present a resident of Payson, later settling on Weber Creek, on the Pine District with his pardner, Paul Vogel, a Frenchman, came to old Marysville, a small mining camp three miles west of the present site of Payson February 10, 1881. He says Black and Crowfoot Grama covered the ridges and foothills at that time and Curley Mesquite was mostly along the draws. This speaks well for the Mesquite grass and bears out the statement of lots of stockmen that, "if it wasn't for the Curley Mesquite, there wouldn't be any grass."
Mr. Craig says Big Valley which is now the Chas. E. Chilson Ranch; Long Valley, where the present town of Payson is located, and Little Green Valley, fourteen miles northeast of Payson, were waist high in grass and certainly pretty to look at. He says the Pine Bunch grass in the pine timber under the Rim was three feet high and stood in great bunches. The cattle and horses that grazed on it ate only the heads. Sheepmen first set fire to the Pine Bunch grass under the Rim when passing through, so they would have young tender feed for their sheep the next trip. Those sheepmen were from New Mexico and Daggs Brothers and others from the Little Colorado slope. The influx of Texans, Colonel Jess M. Ellison, on Ellison Creek, Walter Moore on Moore Creek a little west of Ellison Creek; Sam Haught, Sr., who settled on the head of the East Verde with his sons, Sam, Jr., and Fred, and others killed lots of Pine grass by following their former methods of the plains by burning the old mature grass. The roots of the Pine grass are very close to the top of the ground, so it was soon killed out in this way. There is little of this grass to be found under the Rim at present.
Revilo Fuller, a resident of the Pine Settlement, first came to Tonto Basin in 1877. He says, "on Hardscrabble Mesa there was a Red Topped grass that had a good head and grew to a height of about sixteen inches. This was not a bunch grass but grew on stems, similar to Blue Stem." There is none of this grass to be found now.
All the men interviewed state that there was little brush in the country at the time stock was first brought in, and it was possible to drive a wagon nearly anywhere one desired. The little that there was, was only on some of the mountains and some of the slopes. Chub Watkins stated that nearly all the north slope of Mt. Ord was a Pine Bunch grass country. At present this is one of the brushiest pieces of range on the Tonto, as anyone will agree who has been unfortunate enough to have come in contact with it.
Such was the condition of the country, the streams and the grasses at the advent of white men with their herds of cattle, horses and sheep. It is little wonder they flocked to this stockman's paradise with its fine grasses, well watered ranges and ideal climate.
One thing that was of assistance to new settlers coming into the Tonto Basin country was the roads that were built by the army under the regime of General Stoneman. It was he who first built the road from Camp McDowell on the Verde River to Fort Reno in Tonto Basin, and from Fort Reno up through the Basin and connected with the military road he built from Camp Verde to Fort Apache. Both of these roads were used by the incoming early settlers. Stoneman Lake on the Coconino Forest is named after General Stoneman.
As I have mentioned, the stockmen soon came in after the Apaches were somewhat overcome by the soldiers, they having heard such glowing accounts of the Tonto Basin from these soldiers, scouts, prospectors and packers. To show how rapidly it was settled, I shall name some of the outfits, the dates they came in and the herds they had or acquired and how they increased or decreased as fortune favored them in their efforts.
The early influx was from California and Oregon, while some came from the Mormon settlements in Utah, later settlers came from Texas and New Mexico.
According to Florance Packard, the first cattle to be brought to Tonto Creek were by John Meadows, in 1876. There were fifty head of these, mixed Red Durham cows and they were brought from California.
Christopher Cline and his five sons drove a herd in the same year and settled on Lower Tonto. There were four hundred head in this herd, so far as I can learn. These were also driven from California, coming from the vicinity of San Diego. Christopher Cline was the grandfather of all the Cline boys now grazing permittees on the Tonto.
A. A. Ward stocked the Sunflower Ranch on the west side of the Mazatzals about 1880, but I do not know how many cattle he had.
Along the Verde River were the Ashurs, the Sears, and the Menards, all bringing cattle in from California in the early '80's. Charley Mullen, now a resident of Tempe, once told me that he and his brother had cattle at the Club Ranch high up on the west side of the Mazatzals in 1882. He said this was the finest grass country he had ever seen, and it must have been for it is still one of the best ranges on the Tonto although, it has been heavily stocked for as long as any on the Tonto.
The first cattle to be driven to the Payson country was in 1877, by William Burch and William McDonald, two old bachelors, who drove their cattle, about 50 head, from the Walapai Mts. in Mojave County to Tonto Basin, coming through the Verde Valley then up over the Camp Verde-Ft. Apache Military Road to what is now known locally as Calf Pen Draw and down Nash Point to Strawberry Valley and on to where they settled in Big Green Valley. They had a mule team and light wagon, a saddle horse and pack mule. This outfit allowed them to travel where their fancy suited. These men later married two of the Hazelton sisters, relatives of the Hazelton family now living in the Buckeye country on the Gila. Wm. Burch was the father of Haza Burch, the Phoenix policeman killed by two outlaws while trying to arrest them in February 1925. They also had the first sawmill in Payson and hired Vi Fuller of Pine to haul it from Maricopa for them in 1879 or '80. Many of the old stumps are still standing on the area logged by this mill. When Wm. Craig came to Payson in 1881, the herd of Burch and McDonald had increased to about 100 head.
Houston Brothers were located at Star Valley, six miles northeast of the present town of Payson, at the time he came in. They had about 300 head of cattle and had driven them from Tulare County, California. They branded the U Bar, which is still in existence and run by the Clear Creek Cattle Co., above the Rim.
O. C. Felton, father of George A. Felton who resides on Tonto Creek, and his son-in-law, Brody, a half-breed Cherokee, came from Oregon and California in the late '70's, spent one winter on Lower Oak Creek in the Verde Valley and then came to Tonto Basin, bringing cattle and horses with them and settled on Tonto at the mouth of Rye Creek.
Marion Derrick settled at what is now the Indian Garden Ranger Station in 1882. His brother-in-law, Levi Berger, settled Little Green Valley in 1883. Derrick had 180 head of improved Mexican cows and Durham and Devon bulls. The bulls were purchased on the Verde River and one of them was an improved Devon bull from England.
Derrick hired Paul Vogel, now living in Payson, to build the log fences still to be seen at Indian Garden. In 1883, he and other settlers built the old log house still standing as a protection against the Indians. Derrick is said to have been a good man for the country but unfortunately went broke through his expenditures for improvements, etc.
Wm. Craig built the adobe at Little Green Valley in 1884, which is the main room in the present house.
John H. Hise, from Chicago, formerly a merchant of Globe, purchased Little Green Valley from Berger and later sold it to the Allen Brothers.
Wm. Craig and Paul Vogel, the first mule skinner and wagon-master for government contractors in the southwest and the latter a Civil War Veteran and bull whacker for contractors across the Great Plains, settled the Spade Ranch on Weber Creek on the Pine District in 1883. The mines on Weber Creek were discovered the same spring and were considerable of an aid to them. They set out an orchard in the spring of 1884, getting the trees from Hirtsville, Alabama. [Editor's note: no town of this name can be found. Perhaps the author meant "Huntsville."] This grew to be one of the very best orchards in the country and at one time had 1,200 bearing trees all well cared for. They started in the cattle business with one cow and calf, later buying five more. Their increase the first few years was 80 to 90% and one year was 100%. It never was below 70% all the time they were in the cattle business. Mr. Craig always kept his cattle broke to salt and to come at the call. They first secured salt from the mine at Camp Verde of very poor quality, but after a few years were able to purchase salt from the Mormons who freighted it from Salt Lake, New Mexico.
Mr. Crag says the salting of the salt was a great handicap and many did not do it, losing many cattle as a result. He says while at the Zulu mine on Wild Rye Creek, in the early days, he has ridden the length of it and not been out of the odor of dead cattle and they were dying in the grass knee high-for the want of salt.
Wm. O. St. John, one of the original locators of the Oxbow mine, came to Tonto Basin in 1878. He located on what is known as the St. John's Place four miles south of Payson and maintained his headquarters camp there for himself and others, mostly army men. Al Sieber, Crook's Chief of Indian Scouts, who was accidentally killed on the Roosevelt Road in 1907, and Sam Hill, an army packer, still residing south of Payson, were two of St. John's compadres and hung out at this ranch. Mr. St. John started with a few milk cows and grew a small herd, later disposing of them and acquiring Pyeatt herd of goats about 1885, building them up to about 5,000 head. He disposed of these to Max Bonne, at one time owner of the H Bar outfit, who wanted the brush range for winter range for his cattle.
Colonel Jess W. Ellison, an old time Texas cowman and trail driver, shipped a herd of something like 200 head of cattle, and a large remuda of fine horses from Texas to Bowie, Arizona, unloaded at that point and trailed to Tonto Basin, settling with his family on what is now known as Ellison Creek directly under the Big Rim in 1886. Owing to these cattle not being used to this climate and not knowing where to drift to a warmer range, about one-third were lost the first winter, snows being heavy and the grass covered up. Like most of the early settlers, Mr. Ellison planted fruit trees, setting out an orchard of 3,000 trees at this place. A great many of these trees are still standing and bearing fruit.
Walter Moore brought in 700 head of cattle in 1886 and settled on what is now called Moore Creek, about two and one-half or three miles west of Ellison Creek. From all accounts, these cattle met with about the same hardships as the Ellison herd and due to other negligence in handling them, did not pay, so his brother who had staked him had the remnant gathered and taken out.
Sam Haught, Sr., and his sons, Sam, Jr., and Fred, the former son now living on Walnut Creek on the Pleasant Valley District and the latter on his mining claims on Spring Creek, trailed 700 head of cattle from Texas and settled on the upper East Verde in 1886 or '87. At least a part of these cattle were driven to the mountain in the summer and held in the vicinity of General Springs Canyon. The ruins of the Old Fred Haught cabin is still to be seen about a mile below the General Springs Fireman Camp.
According to Mr. Craig, a Mr. Stinson was the first man to put cattle in the Pleasant Valley Country. These were bought from the Mormons in the late '70's in the colonies around Snowflake and St. Johns.
The Tewksbury's came into Pleasant Valley from northern California in the early '80's. He was a Scotchman and his wife a California Indian. They brought their stock with them.
The Grahams' came from Iowa, brought stock, but I do not know from where or how many.
These two families were the leaders in the famous Graham-Tewksbury War, sometimes called the Pleasant Valley War.
Tom Hazelwood, trailed 5,000 head of cattle from Texas and settled on Pleasant Valley in 1885 or '86. He was warned by the warring factions not to come in, so wintered in Luna Valley, New Mexico, and came on in the next spring.
W. T. McFadden, father of Pecos McFadden, trailed the MO brand of cattle from Texas in the early '80's, settling in Spring Creek at the place now resided on by Jim-Sam Haught. I did not learn how many cattle were in this herd, but there were several hundred head.
Mr. Griffin said that in 1884, he and J. J. Baker, who was a resident of Salt River, went up on Aztec Mt. This country was not known to settlers of that date but they found a log cabin and a white man's grave at what is now the Peterson Ranch. Baker raised 22 tons of potatoes at this place that year and packed them across the Pinal Mts. to Silver King, building his own trail to get them across and sold them for one-half cent per pound.
He also mentioned that Glen Reynolds, at one time Sheriff of Gila County, who was killed by the Apache Kid while taking him and other Indians to the state prison, first located the present site of the Reynolds Creek Ranger Station and built the old log house now on the place.
At first, the mining camp of Globe and a few small surrounding camps were the market those cattlemen had to depend on, but there was nothing regular about it.
The average price was $25.00 for yearling steers.
The early settlers on Salt River raised what was known as Egyptian Corn, which was similar to Milo Maize but had a larger head that hung down from its own weight. They had to discontinue raising this product on account of the damage done to it by the birds.
My information as to the Mormon Settlements of Pine on Pine Creek, Mazatzal City on the East Verde and Gisela on Tonto Creek, was secured from Vi Fuller, one of the original locators on the East Verde. His story is that in 1877 a party of six men with pack animals started out from the Mormon Settlement of St. George, Utah, consisting of his oldest brother, Wid Fuller, Woodward Freeman, Thomas Clark, John Willis, Alfred Randall and himself. They crossed the Colorado River at Pierce's Ferry, below the Grand Canyon. After looking around they decided to locate on the East Verde River, in the Tonto Basin.
The party gave a man by the name of Jim Samuels $75.00 for his claim and divided it among the six of them. They returned to Utah next year and started with their families and stock to their new home. Vi Fuller and Alfred Randall, the father of the Randall boys at Pine, each had some cattle and then took what they called a cooperative herd from Wid Fuller for three years on shares. Their stock was too footsore to make the trip across the Mogollons so they spent the winter of 1878-79 at Black Falls on the Little Colorado River and came to the new settlement next spring. They arrived with about 80 head of regular Utah cattle and had three Durham bulls, all sired by an $800.00 Durham bull.
The first year the cattle did not do very well. Due to the trip and the poor condition of the cows, they got only a crop of 10 or 12 calves. The next year they got salt from the salt mine at Camp Verde and the cattle did better. Those cattle gradually increased and they brought a Durham Bull in occasionally to breed up the herd.
After the Indian scare of 1883, at which time the band of Indians broke out from San Carlos and were later about all killed on Battle Ground Ridge on the Coconino Forest, Mr. Fuller and the other settlers on the East Verde moved up to Pine where they could secure better protection in case of any more outbreaks.
Mr. Fuller says their principal market was Phoenix and Camp McDowell. One drive was made to San Carlos Agency in the early '80's. Only aged steers and some old cows were sold. One drive to Phoenix was sold for $45.00 per head as they came and the butcher buying them estimated the bunch would dress 500 pounds per animal.
Another of the early market for cattle was the thriving mining camp of Silver King, near what is now called the Superior. At that time Superior was called Queen Creek. Frank Mayer was the butcher at Silver King and came up to the settlements, bought the cattle himself and stayed with them until they were delivered. Mr. Fuller says he certainly took to any one that he saw crowd or hit one of these beef cattle. Mayer later bought the NB Ranch on the East Verde at the mouth of Pine Creek and it was run for him by George Cole, who married the oldest sister of Wash Gibson, a resident of Payson at the present time.
The old Mormon Settlement of Gisela was settled in 1881. Davy Gowan, who is credited with discovering the Natural Bridge, had a claim at Gisela and Mart and John Sanders bought this claim from him, giving him a span of mules, harness and wagon and a buckskin horse in trade. Vi Fuller later sold these mules for $500.00 in gold. This settlement thrived for a number of years, but was later given up by the Mormons and none live there at present.
Mr. Fuller says that a man by the name of Ike Lothian, a Missourian, was settled in Strawberry Valley when his party came through there in 1887. He had no cattle but had two mules and a saddle horse. He farmed about 20 acres of land at the lower end of the valley, raised corn, fed it to the hogs he raised, butchered them, cured the meat and packed it to the army post at Camp Verde and elsewhere. Mr. Lothian was the first settler in Strawberry Valley.
Mr. Fuller says drouths came at different periods but there was sufficient grass and browse to carry them over until the range became overstocked and overgrazed.
He says there were beaver in the streams in Tonto Basin in the early days but they were not trapped by white men. The floods caused by the denuding of the ranges finally washed them out. There was an occasional wolf in the late '70's and the early '80's and quite a few lions, but the lions did not bother the stock as the deer were very plentiful, deer being the natural animal for them to prey on. He says one could ride from Pine to the East Verde settlement and see deer on every point.
It is interesting to hear Mr. Fuller recite his early experiences, he being one of the very few real oldtimers left in the country. He came to Utah with the first Mormon settlers in 1846, was a freighter along the line of the old Pony express through Nevada and Utah in the early '60's, was with his father in Los Angeles in '61, at which time he saw his father pay $2.50 for a fat two-year old steer, $0.60 per hundred for barley and $0.40 per sack for corn. When they retuned in '62 everything had gone up and they paid $60.00 per ton for the poorest kind of hay and everything else was in proportion. He made one trip from Salt Lake City to Platte City, Nebraska, the farthest western point of the Union Pacific at that time with a mule team for freight and returned with a load of reapers, at the rate of $16.00 per hundred. This trip in the early '60's took about three months.
Horses -- The Tonto Basin was never much of a horse country. The stockmen and settlers usually raised their own horses but not in large numbers. The country taken as a whole is too rough and not the type adapted to the successful raising of horses. Lions have always been a handicap to the industry, getting many of the colts as well as aged animals.
Mr. Art Sanders, who lives in Globe, told me that he and his brother John bought 1,089 head on Wild Rye Creek and the vicinity of Payson in 1905, paying $3.00 to $5.00 per head for them. These were an accumulation of the range horses owned by everybody. They were sold to Senator Mayfield and Nail and shipped to South Carolina and Alabama.
There were a good many horses in the Pleasant Valley country in the early days. The big cow outfits used to drive their remudas lower down in the winter and hold them on the grassy ridges and foothills along Tonto.
Sheep -- The first sheep were brought into Tonto Basin by Fred Powers, in 1876 and were held on Tonto Creek. These were brought from California to Mojave County in 1875 and on to Tonto in 1876.
Davy Gowan was the herder of this band. Powers ran sheep until the varmints got so bad he had to go out of the business.
Old settlers say there were no coyotes in this part of the country until stock were brought in, and that there were no skunks in Tonto Basin until after the old Fort Reno was established, after which they followed the soldiers across the Mazatzals from Camp McDowell and the Verde country.
The sheepmen from the higher country and from New Mexico got to driving their herds into the Tonto country and on the west slope of the Mazatzals to winter on the grass and to lamb in the spring. This country had already been fully stocked by the cattlemen and it only worked a hardship n them to have these sheep wintered on their range. Considerable hard feeling was the result, the cattlemen oftentimes drove the sheep out of the country and one man, Gene Packard, a brother of Florance Packard. A range war was about to open when the Tonto Forest was created, which put a stop to the sheep wintering on the Forest. I was told by Cliff Griffin that he once heard Al DeSpain remark that had he known the Forest Service was coming in and control the sheep and goats, he would not have sold his holdings on Wild Rye Creek in the finest of grama grass country, but would willingly have paid $2.00 per head for the protection alone.
One fall George Scott, one of the present users of the Heber-Reno Driveway, came on Hardscrabble Mesa west of Pine with four bands of sheep and heavily armed herders and tenders. Seventeen cattlemen took them unawares and disarmed the outfit, threw the bands together, shoved them off into Fossil Creek and told them not to come back. Scott camped away from the bands to save his own hide and could not be found by the cattlemen.
Another incident happened to George Wilbur, another present user of the Heber-Reno Driveway, when he drove into the Sombrero County and started to lamb. The cattlemen, on whose ranges he was, dropped so many bullets around the outfit that they were glad to leave and promised never to come back, which they didn't.
Charley Edwards, a cattleman on Tonto Creek, stood them off for a number of years to save his range with most of the time little support from his neighbors. He finally had to shoot a camp to pieces and the next morning this band was clear on the west side of the Mazatzals and came back no more.
The above incidents are mentioned to show the condition of affairs at the time the Forest Service took over the area within the Tonto Basin. All this occurred on ranges that were already overstocked with cattle.
Goats -- The first goats were brought in by Andrew Pyeatt, father of Benton and Walter who are residents of Payson (in 1882) and was only a small band used for meat. These were later sold to William O. St. Johns as has already been mentioned.
John Holder is the first man who brought goats to Tonto Basin in any quantity, bringing about 3,000 head in from New Mexico in about 1896. He brought several thousand more in later. He ranged his goats principally on the East Verde, but also had some of them at Gisela for a time.
J. H. Fuller at one time had goats and ran them in the vicinity of the Diamond Gap Rim and had a camp at the present ranch owned by Arthur L. Neal, on Lion Creek. He also ran these goats on top of the Rim at what is locally known as "The Goat Corral," on the head of Cracker Box Canyon west of General Springs.
The Neals and Booths had goats at Gisela and Ira Hickcox had a bunch on Wild Rye Creek at his ranch just above the present Boss Chilson Ranch.
The Crabtrees and Hughes Ward had goats in the Ram Valley and Sunflower country for a number of years, and John Guilliland had goats at Sugar Loaf Butte on Sycamore Creek, four miles northeast of the present Rio Verde Range Station. Some of these outfits went out of business of their own accord but the Forest Service required all who had goats on the range at the time the Forest was created to remove them.
Hogs -- The first hogs in the Tonto Basin country that I could learn of, and I believe they were the first, were a bunch that Jim Samuels, a Scotsman, and Sam Hill, an Englishman, both from Prescott, turned loose along the foot of the Mazatzals in 1876. These hogs did little good on account of the varmints getting them. I presume these were intended to produce meat for the miners, who were coming in at that time, the mining boom being at its best from 1875 to 1881. The Dougherty was then in existence on Rock Creek at the east foot of the Mazatzals, now owned by Bert Cullum, and a two stamp mill was installed there in 1878.
A good many of the ranchers had a few hogs but mainly for their own consumption. These hogs were turned out to live and fatten on the mast usually and there has always been a heavy loss from varmints.
Early in the '70's, a fence law was passed against turning stock loose where it would damage other settlers. This was passed because there were very few settlers in the Salt River Valley that had their farming ranches under fence and the crops had to be protected. This law, of course, covered the entire state and it was not very profitable to turn hogs loose on the range, the ranchers and stockmen shooting hogs where they would not shoot other classes of stock. This fence law is still in existence.
All the oldtimers consulted agree that the range was fully stocked about 1890, as many herds had been brought in by that time and cattle increased faster in those days than they do now. All agree that the peak was reached about 1900 and say there were from 15 to 20 head of cattle on the range at that time where there is only one at present. Florance Packard and Chub Watkins say that along Tonto Creek where now 150 head of cattle is considered a good roundup for one day, that they used to roundup at least 2,000 head and it took two days to work the bunch. This was the case all over the country. There was little sale for cattle and those sold went for a low price. Nobody wanted them. As a result the stockmen kept on branding their calves and letting their herds increase.
The range was not only grazed out but was trampled out as well. Moisture did not go down to the remaining grass roots and the cow trails were fast becoming gullies which drained the country like a tin roof. Sheet erosion started in many places, especially on the steep slopes and the thin soil was soon washed away and only rocks were left.
Cliff Griffin says that from 1894 to 1904, after the great herds of cattle had grazed over the Salt River country, there was no rooted grass, only browse and annuals remaining. And this was only 30 years after the first cattle had been placed on the range. Then from 1904 to 1910, the seasons were good, cattle not so plentiful and the grasses started to come back and he says there is more grass on the slopes of Salt River now than there was from 1894 to 1904.
About 1890, a man named Ramer contracted 10,000 steers to be delivered in Holbrook at $15, $18 and $21. For the next ten or twelve years the cattle business boomed. The drouth of 1904, the worst since the coming of white men to these parts, at which time it failed to rain for eighteen months, hit the range country, and cattle on the overstocked and depleted ranges died in bunches. Since that time there has never been nearly as many cattle as there was prior to that time -- and there never will be. To quote the last words of Florance Packard when he finished telling me of old time conditions -- "The range is not overstocked at present, it is just worn out and gone." And such is the case. White man, the most destructive of animals, brought his herds to a virgin range only fifty short years ago, and abused it in every way he could. We see the result today. Much of it is worthless, ruined beyond recovery, some will come back. It is up to us, the Forest Service employees, to whom this great area, this cattle range, a part of the watershed of the greatest irrigation system in the world, has been entrusted, to take and to do what we can as Forest employees, as servants of this great commonwealth. Can we do it? This remains to be seen. This grazing conference has been called by the Supervisor of the Tonto for the purpose of conferring on this subject and deciding on better and surer methods of furthering our ends.
It is true that some of the grazing permittees on this area are not in favor of Forest supervision, but would rather continue to exploit the country as was done when all of it was open to him who could hold it, but this is not the case with the majority. All the oldtimers I talked with are very glad government supervision came at last, but it came too late -- let us do our part to save and improve what is left.