Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Faraway Ranch

Before leaving the Chiricahua National Monument (in the southeast corner of Arizona), we wanted to take the afternoon tour of the Faraway Ranch.

We had packed our lunch, since there were no restaurant facilities at the Park. We found a table in a grove of trees near the Ranch and were joined for lunch by this Mexican Jay that patiently posed for pictures before leaving--still as hungry as when it arrived.

Then it was on to the tour, telling ourselves that the Jay was better off not learning to depend on bread, ham, and cheese for meals.

It was curiosity that led us to take the tour. I was wondering who would choose to live in Bonita Canyon so isolated from others. However, as we walked around the Ranch and viewed the canyon from different angles, I realized what a beautiful setting this is. (I have also come to realize that the early settlers were far more self-reliant, multi-talented, and resourceful than I am.)

And I also wondered how this salmon-colored building became a Guest Ranch from about 1917 into the 1960s.

In the 1880s, Emma Peterson worked at Fort Bowie as help to officers' wives. On outings from the fort, she had enjoyed picnics at Camp Bonita and loved the beautiful canyon.

Shortly before her marriage in 1887 to Neil Erickson, also a Swedish immigrant who joined the U.S. Army in 1881, she purchased the log cabin on the site of the present ranch house. In 1887, Neil filed a homestead claim on the cabin site and 160 adjacent acres.

The Ericksons cultivated a vegetable garden, planted an orchard, started a small herd of cattle, and raised a few horses. The first improvement Neil built on his site was a large stone cellar (about 15 feet by 16 feet) constructed between 1888 and 1890. The red apparatus in the photo (left) is a cream separator.

Their original log cabin was demolished to make room for the new ranch house, which was built in two phases: a two-story board and batten house in the late 1890s and a two-story adobe "el" on the south and west sides about 1915.

In 1917, Neil and Emma moved to Flagstaff where they remained until 1927, when they returned to the ranch. From 1917 to 1920 Lillian and Hildegarde, the two daughters of the family, managed the ranch and began taking in weekend boarders, gradually expanding it into a guest ranch. Guest ranches in southern Arizona flourished in the 1920s and were a means of saving, at least temporarily, many family ranches hit hard by drought and rising costs.

The success of any guest ranch depended on the availability of public lands for trail rides, pack trips, hunting expeditions and outdoor recreation and Faraway Ranch had an abundance of these things.

Under the administration of Lillian and her husband Ed Riggs, the Faraway Ranch operation eventually included a central lodge, cowboy house, guest cottages, dining room, swimming pool, saddle horses, pack trips into the Chiricahua mountains and hunting expeditions into the higher mountains.

Shown here are portions of the kitchen (above and left), the dining room (below), and a bedroom (second photo below) much as they appeared in the last years of the guest ranch.

The most interesting feature of the Ranch is the "Garfield Fireplace," shown in the last photo. The story goes that members of the 10th Cavalry, the "Buffalo Soldiers," built a monument to President Garfield, possibly because he supported equal pay for African-American soldiers during the Civil War.

About 1924, Ed Riggs salvaged the stones of the Garfield monument, which was deteriorating, and with approval from the Garfield heirs, fashioned these stones into a massive fireplace for the guest dining room.

Additional Notes: the name "Buffalo Soldiers" is believed to have started on the Western Frontier with the Cheyenne, who thought the hair of the Black soldiers resembled the fur of the buffalo. Buffalo were revered by tribal leaders, so any comparison between men and buffalo was considered high praise.

Among the many names carved on the "Garfield Fireplace," is Henry O. Flipper, the first African-American graduate of West Point.

In April, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed a proclamation establishing Chiricahua National Monument.

Lillian Riggs continued to manage the Ranch and homestead area, which she held until her death in 1977. The heirs sold the homestead land and buildings to the National Park Service in 1978.

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