Cowboys and Campfires, Winslow Historical Society’s Second Saturday in June program, featured the history of many of the area’s ranches.
Frances McCauley shared the fascinating history of her family by introducing herself through the generations of her family going back to her great-great-grandfather, Christopher Columbus McCauley.
His son, Charles McCauley, arrived in Winslow in 1884 from Indiana as a fireman on the ATSF and part of the crew that brought the first train into Winslow. In 1901, Charles was the fireman on the train that went off Canyon Diablo Bridge, which caused a hospital stay for a year due to two broken legs. Oops, sounds like railroad history!
How did he become a rancher? Charles joined a partnership with the Dagg family, sheep ranchers, as well as acquiring land for himself throughout northern Arizona. With the Daggs, he purchased large tracks of land, which now include the Petrified Forest National Park. By 1930, McCauley bought out his partners and did a series of land swaps with the government near and south of Winslow and Holbrook, close to the ranch of John Hood McCamant, Frances’ great-granddad.
Dewey McCauley, born in 1898, a gentle giant, was a prominent rancher with a thriving law practice, as well as an active participant in county and state politics. Many payments for his law services were in land, mineral and livestock. Dewey married Nina McCamant in 1927. Together they formed a partnership with John McCamant, Nina’s father, and ranched both sides of Chevelon Canyon in what is now known as the Baird Rock Art Ranch.
John Hood McCamant was born in 1875, came south of Winslow along Chevelon about 1888 with a prospector and trapper, and learned to be an excellent cowboy during a stint in Texas, as well as a Texas Ranger. After many ups and downs in the cattle business and a health problem, diabetes, he returned to Chevelon in 1925 to homestead there. This is called the Westside Ranch. McCamant worked for Babbitts, Wyricks and Hennesseys, often taking pay in mules and cattle. He caught and broke mustangs, often trading them to the Navajos and Hopis for sheep. He then employed Basque herders to help tend to them.
Lack of water due to sparse rainfall, too much rock and few dirt tanks caused the cattle to walk eight or nine miles into Chevelon each day and back to their calves by morning. Later two pumps were added in Chevelon to get water to the top. This first well was drilled in 1948. Until then, water was hauled in barrels in a wagon to the headquarters at Pinesprings Ranch.
John Hood, Nina and Dewey McCauley added to the ranch holdings by buying out homesteaders and trading land. They were also into raising 200 thoroughbred mares, 35 of which came from Kentucky. They had a contract with the U.S. Government to raise remounts for the U.S. Cavalry.
Cattle, horses and sheep were driven to the Winslow and Holbrook railroad stockyards. Often they were kept at the Tubs Ranch south of Winslow for a few days. This ranch was large enough that herds could be held separately. It also had a railroad car so that cowboys could sleep while overseeing their herds and the car is still there today. The Winslow stockyard was used in 1913 when the Elks brought elk from Wyoming to add to the existing herd south of town.
Nina and Dewey had two children, Molly and John, who were very active ranchers. John’s friend Jot Stiles set him up with Charolaise cattle in the 1960s. They involved all of their children in the operations of the ranch, as well as family friends. John would saddle all their horses, tie Clorox bottles of water onto the saddles and send them out to gather cattle. He taught his family to work hard, the difference between right and wrong, and to always thank God for all we had and have. Today Frances and her husband, Chuck Perkins, run cattle on the east side of Chevelon at Pinesprings Ranch, while cousin Dewey McLean maintains the Westside Ranch.
Memories of other area ranchers follow, as told by Frances McCauley, who interviewed them.
Five generations of the Kaufman family have ranched in Winslow, beginning with their coming from Illinois to work on the railroad. Land was bought along Jacks Canyon. R.C. “Jack” had the first cattle scale where ranchers could weigh their cattle to be sold. He also had a bean farm, The Kaufman ranch today is on Clear Creek.
Tommy and Steve Gonzales came here as young, strong and skilled cowboys. They were great horsemen who also built tanks, dams and trails into Chevelon, Black and Rock canyons. Tom’s son, Eddie Joe, was also a skilled cowboy who, with John McCauley, built fence along Highway 99.
Georgia Nagel has many memories of her mother, Mabel, and the Rincon Ranch. Mabel once asked Nina McCauley, who was taking care of the Rincon, how she kept her beautiful complexion. Nina scooped up a handful of water from the cattle pond, patted it on her face and replied, “By using this wonderful water.”
Rincon Ranch had several springs, the ponds created by them created a home for many water dogs, which people came to gather for fishing bait.
The Little Painted Desert was on the upper part of the ranch, while the lower part was down by the Little Colorado River. A dirt road ran north and south through it allowing access to Bird Springs. Now Homolovi State Park is part of the ranch. Mabel worked hard to have that happen in order to preserve the ruins and history of the area.
Olive Dove Van Zoast, “Cecil Creswell,” came to Winslow in 1918 as a Harvey Girl. She married George Creswell, a Bureau of Indian Affairs livestock inspector. After his death, she moved to their 160-acre homestead just east of the present Clear Creek Dam. She built her own ranch, home and corrals by herself. Times were hard. Sheriff Ben Pearson would take food to her, knowing she was close to starving. Most people knew she was rustling. John Thompson, a neighboring rancher, complained repeatedly about her. Her tragic suicide is the end of an unbelievable tale.
Barney Stiles, Jot’s uncle, came as a Hashknife cowboy. In 1902 he partnered up with the Babbitts in purchasing the Hashknife brand and cattle from the Aztec Cattle Co. No land was involved. In 1903, Barney and Charles Babbitt purchased the Esperanze Ranch from Will Barnes, which was located on Chevelon Canyon. Included in this purchase was a pasture and corral 15 miles south of Winslow between Rock and Black canyons. In 1910, Barney sold his interest to the Babbitts. Then he and his brother established the Johns Draw Ranch 25 miles north of Winslow. Jot Stiles, son of Seth, came with his family to Winslow in 1903. He was a cattleman all of his life with a 30,000-acre ranch south of Winslow. He raised Charolaise cattle and feeder lambs.
Because of a drop in cattle prices, he operated trading posts on the reservation. Having as many as five and a well known, respected trader, he was still a rancher at heart. The Stiles sold Sunshine Ranch in 1945, and in 1953 bought land owned by Dewey and Nina McCauley. This ranch was sold to Senator Jake Flake, who ran cattle for a few years, but then subdivided the land.
The Aja family came to the U.S. around 1907, herding their sheep around Seligman, Mormon Lake and Winslow. In 1941 or ’42, the Hashknife Ranch holdings southeast of Winslow were sold by Babbitts to Fred Aja. This transaction involved 110,000 acres in Navajo and Coconino counties (eight miles wide and 28 miles long). The Aja family raised sheep as well as quality Hereford cattle. In 1996, the ranch was sold to the Hopi Tribe.
Around 1902, the Krentz family moved to Winslow, operating a butcher shop and a ranch. The ranch was on Chevelon Canyon. The family recorded one of the earliest Arizona brands, the 111 now owned by the Babbitts. In 1907 the family sought new ventures in Douglas, purchasing the Tovrea Meat Market and the Spear E Ranch. On March 10, 2010, Bob Krentz was shot and killed while he and his dog were out checking his stock’s water. The suspect has not been caught.
Deedee Wyrick Rogers shared her family’s ranching history. Charles Wyrick came to Winslow in the late 1890s from Tennessee to work for the railroad. However, he decided the ranching industry was his true love, as was Mamie Jervis, whose dad had been stationed at Ft. Apache during the Apache Wars. She was also a divorcee and mother of three–quite uncommon!
Charlie bought out Barney Stiles’ interest in the Hashknife and partnered with the Babbitts in 1909, becoming general manager of the Aztec Land and Cattle Co. This was known as the Hashknife, which had been in Northern Arizona since the 1880s with its two million acres stretching from New Mexico to Flagstaff and from the Navajo Reservation to the Mogollon Rim. The original headquarters was south of the Little Colorado across from Joseph City.
In 1923, Bill Jim, Charles’ son, married Helen Dady, registered his own brand and began his own ranch north of the Little Colorado. At that time most of the land was actually state land leased to the Hashknife. In 1930, Charles sold out to the Babbitts and Bill Jim then acquired Forest Service leases near Heber to run sheep. Later he used these leases for his cattle’s summer range.
Bill Jim and Ella had two sons who worked the ranch north of Winslow. Both boys went into the service, returning every chance they had to work on the ranch. At that time, the ranch consisted of 30 sections north of the Little Colorado to the Navajo Reservation along with the Heber leases. The cattle had to be driven from Winslow winter range to the Heber summer ranch….a four-day drive complete with chuck wagon.
Ranching was a financial challenge since there was only one payday a year–when calves were sold in the fall. Bill Jim became a brand inspector of the state. Young Bill and Charlie ran the ranch until Charlie’s death in 1966. Bill decided to try Montana ranching and sold his operation to Bill Heartz.
Raymond Branch shared the story of Juan Ramon Lujan, the first sheep rancher in the Winslow area.
In 1878 at age 16, Juan Ramon Lujan came across northern Arizona as a herder following the Otero and Luns trail on the way to market in California. Family Story tells there was nothing in Winslow until the railroad came through, causing a tent city to spring up about where city hall now is. In 1884, he settled in the area with his own band of sheep to begin his ranching enterprise. His headquarters was about 15 miles south of Winslow and five miles east of Sunset Mt. on the west rim of Clear Creek. He named the ranch Rancho El Nogal. Nogal meant walnut tree. It was named this because on the wagon trail from Winslow, there is a large nogal where the wagons would cross Jack’s Canyon. The tree is still there today!
In the early 1870s, the Daggs of California brought sheep to Flagstaff and Snowflake. Juan Ramon ran three bands of sheep, partnering with the Daggs. It is unknown how long this partnership existed, but in 1902, Juan partnered with the Babbitts. Back then both sheep and cattle were run together on the same ranges with water the controlling factor. Since Lujan had the water on Clear Creek and Canyon Diablo, his bands and herders were constantly harassed by the cowmen. In the early 1920s, Juan and Lucita sold Rancho El Nogal to a Mr. Quale. This is probably the same Quale Hill, 30 miles south of Winslow on 87. He then began freighting for Lorenzo Hubbell.
There’s more–so much more. This group plans to continue to tell tales in the future. As you noticed, many of these ranchers served in the military. On the second Saturday in July at the Hubbell, you can learn about Winslow’s service men and women.