Verde Heritage By Glenda Farley, Cottonwood, AZ Local historian Glenda Farley guides us on a journey back in time to discover fascinating moments that make up our Verde heritage and history.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Wales Arnold was "the first settler on what would become the Back Ranch." Wales Arnold "was the first to re-use the waters of Beaver Creek and Montezuma Well, and began clearing the fields once used by the Sinagua. ... With the opening of the road, which passed Montezuma Well," by the military in 1870, "Wales and Jennie Arnold staked a homestead claim and water right to Montezuma Well, built and operated Arnold's Station, a way stop and mail transfer point." By 1873, the Arnold's ranch was described as "one of the best and prettiest in Arizona." Arnold's adobe home, located west of the Back Ranch Historic District, melted into the landscape long ago.
"The Arnold Ranch (Back Ranch) went through a series of new owners in the 1880s. ... In 1881, barely a year after buying Arnold's ranch, young Robert Hornbeck and Charlotte Bristow Hornbeck sold Arnold's Place to William Gilmore Wingfield and his brother-in-law Robert Pleasant. Late in 1882, less than two years later, Wingfield and the heirs of his deceased partner, Robert Pleasant (who accidentally shot himself at a dance), were tempted by banker Moses H. Sherman of Phoenix and his partner, stock raiser Henry Mehrens, to sell the Arnold Place. Mehrens & Sherman paid $2,000 for the Arnold homestead, its 160 acres finally patented November 20, 1882. They also paid $8,000 for Wingfield's 400 cattle and One Horseshoe brand. Mehrens & Sherman would operate the ranch during the boom years."
Moses Sherman "settled into the Arnold's home, raised alfalfa, cattle and horses, and married neighbor Amanda Hutchinson, from one of the first families in the valley." Mehrens & Sherman "used the Arnold home for their base, while grazing herds of 1,000 to 2,000 in the grasslands of the valley in the winter and in the spring a round-up would move the herd up to the pine-covered flats of the Mogollon Rim country."
Tensions arose over the use of public domain lands. Acts of violence caused by resource competitions were what became known as the Rim Country War. Amanda Mehrens brothers murdered a "settler above Montezuma Well and were sent to the territorial penitentiary at Yuma." Samuel Shull, a stock raiser, squatted on 160 acres adjacent to Mehrens & Sherman. "He moved his small herd between there and the rim until his death in May 1887, murdered by parties unknown."
"According to oral tradition, a few months before his murder, Shull sold his squatters rights to the Montezuma Well and surrounding homestead to young cowboy Abraham Lincoln "Link" Smith, a half-brother of Robert Hornbeck, and one time resident of the Arnold Place when his half-brother and family resided there. In 1887, Link Smith traded a blue roan horse for Shull's squatter's rights and then within a year sold the Montezuma land claim to William B. and Marjorie Back for a team of horses, doubling his investment, as Smith recalled. Possibly because Marjorie Back and Amanda Hutchinson had traveled from Missouri to Arizona together as children on the  Dickinson-Hutchinson-Bristow train and were raised as neighbors on Oak Creek, their reunion, as mothers with children in tow, helped bring harmony to the creek."
"Amanda Mehrens' extended family lived along Beaver Creek and in 1882, Amanda became postmistress of short-lived Montezuma Post Office. The school house along the creek was also on the Mehrens & Sherman One Horseshoe ranch. As a result of a fall from his horse, Henry Mehrens died in November 1891. Amanda Mehrens continued to operate the ranch, but the cattle boom of the 1880s was over."
"By 1889, Moses Sherman had moved to Los Angeles, where he made a fortune in real estate and electric railways, but could not sell the Mehrens & Sherman ranch, an economic liability. By 1893, widow Amanda Mehrens had moved with daughter Ida to Prescott, later remarried and was living in California by the 1930s. The Sherman & Mehrens ranch operation limped along until the mid-1890s. In 1897, neighbor William B. Back bought their much distressed 160 acre ranch, reconsolidating Wales Arnold's damaged domain."
"In March, 1899, according to his homestead application, William Beriman Back moved with his family as permanent settlers on what has ever since been known as the Back Ranch."
(Condensed from: NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES REGISTRATION FORM; United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service; "Back Ranch Historic District;" pages 11-16; Additional Documentation Accepted 1-29-2013.) The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation.
MARCH 16 & 23, 2013; (9:30 a.m.) Hike: "History of the Back Ranch at Montezuma Well" Sponsored by Montezuma Well National Monument. Join historian Bill Cowan as you visit this historic farming and settlement location before it became a National Park. It is a 2-mile walk. Bring water, hat, sunscreen, hiking shoes, folding chair, and a snack. Meet at Montezuma Well Picnic area; Montezuma Well, 5525 Beaver Creek Road, Rimrock. Contact Bill Cowan (928) 300-7466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.