Contributed by Arizona Heritage Research Foundation
Oral Histories of Gila County Ranchers
The Oral Histories of Gila County Ranchers captures 5-7 generations of stories from pioneers and early settlers in Arizona, some arriving shortly after the Civil War. Not only did these families come early, but they also remain in place, or nearby, to this very day. Their stories provide a unique and fluid account of how this segment of Arizona’s culture has adapted to pressures and influences brought about by environmental and political events. Some of the natural challenges in carving out ranches in the remote wilderness under the Mogollon Rim, in the Tonto Basin or between the Salt and Gila Rivers might have been the presence of hostile Indians off the reservations, wild animals, droughts, floods and accidents. Other pressures spanned from settling in the midst of reservation-forming Indian wars, mining town booms and busts, lawless range wars, cattle rustlers, fugitive outlaws, and family feuds to national and international disruptions such as the Great Depression, two world wars, the Roosevelt Dam engulfing their land and ever-increasing Forest Service and/or Bureau of Indian Affairs restrictions from distant Washington D.C. These accounts tell how such conditions carved out the unique rancher of Gila County, who is still recognized by his/her characteristic independence, love of ranching, round-ups, rodeos and all things horses. They define their social traditions and family values that linger to this day.