Verde Heritage 1877: Letter from J. H. Lee; Verde River Frozen

"American Ranch, December 14, 1877."

"Editor Miner: --- Pursuant to the promise, I will now attempt to give to the readers of the MINER an account of our trip to the Little Colorado."

"I left home on the 13th of last month, accompanied by my nephew, Jas. Michael, to look out a situation for my sheep, for the winter, which I had started 14 days previously. We went by way of Chino Valley, and took, what is called the new road, crossing Hell Canyon."

"Part of the way up Bill Williams Mountain, our neighbors Freel and Freeman, were encamped, being on a hunting expedition. They went out on a hill and in less than an hour, brought in two deer. One was a doe, with a horn 8 inches long growing out of the center of her forehead. This, I consider something new for naturalists to consider."

"From there we went out to the ranch of Philip Hull, Esq., and found the old gentleman very nicely situated, about 5 miles from Bear Springs, and 1 mile east of the old road, in one of the finest stock ranges that I ever saw in Arizona. He has the finest band of horses in central Arizona. After winning a plug of tobacco off of him in shooting at a mark, we took the old road for what they now call Flag Staff. I think, Charley, when we came through there 14 years ago, that was called Antelope Springs."

"After passing that point, we came to Volunteer Springs, and what was then Cosnino Caves, now called the Tanks."

"The following day we overtook the sheep. The road, as you remember, strikes the river at San Francisco Wash, 25 miles below Sunset Crossing. There I found Sheldon Smith, with his sheep. The feed at that point is not good, by any means. From there I went up to the Mormon Camp of J. O. Ballenger."

"I had often heard of Mormons, from my boyhood days, but I never before had any insight into Mormonism. They appeared to be well contented, and very industrious, all at work, and will compare favorably with the average American farmer in intelligence. They all live together in a fort, built in the form of a hollow square with houses built around on the inside of the fort. The walls of the fort serving for the outside walls of the houses. They were somewhat crowded, owing to Mr. Lake's camp, which was situated about 20 miles above, moving down on account of sickness. I was very kindly entertained by Presidents Ballenger and Lake, and Mrs. Lake, an estimable lady, President Ballenger's wife having gone to Utah on a visit." ...

"They have about 200 acres in cultivation, have a splendid dam across the river, and are building a fine flouring mill. They have a saw mill 5 miles north of Pine Springs, in the Mogollon range of mountains, about 50 miles from their camp, and 10 stacks of wheat awaiting the arrival of their threshing machine, which is on the way from Utah. On the whole, they appear to be a happy and contented people."

"I went from there, above, a few miles, and found a suitable place for my sheep, returned, and brought them up to the crossing, and after working with them about 2 hours, got them started. When I got them all across but about 100, they refused to take water. After talking to them in a very persuasive manner for about an hour, I saw the only way to get them over was to carry them. So I gathered 2 small ones and started across. I put them down on the opposite bank. One ran up the bank, the other, just like a cussed sheep will, ran back. I forgot to say that the weather was very cold, and the river, a this point, considerably frozen, the water being about 2 feet deep."

"While engaged in this pleasant recreation, Col Anderson, commanding officer at Camp Apache, drove up with his family and escort, on his way to Apache, from Prescott. It appeared to be considerable sport for the juveniles in the ambulance."

"The following day I went up the river 28 miles, to Randalville, to get some supplies. There I met Senor Barrardo Freyes, who keeps a store at that place. He is, I think, a gentleman, and I would cordially recommend him to all who have occasion to go to that part of the country, to give him a call. I learned from him that one of Sheriff Bowers Tax Collectors had been engaged in a little game of draw, and that he held 3 Jacks against a Queen Full."

"I found a suitable place for my sheep about 4 miles from Sunset Crossing. While here, Lot Smith visited our camps, whom, I forgot to say, has a camp on the north side of the river from Ballenger's. I afterwards called on him at his house, but did not get much acquainted with him, as he was busily engaged in a trade with a lot of Moqui Indians. I should judge by his outward appearance, that he is a great joker, and full of fun. When I go over again, I shall endeavor to call on him, and get acquainted."

"In conversation with Senior Frayes, I learned that it will be to the interest of every wool grower in this part of the country to sheer on the Little Colorado, and send their wool East, instead of via San Francisco. I am satisfied that to-day, wool is worth just as much on the river as it is in San Francisco. Parties in Albuquerque are willing to take all the wool in the country, and pay cash for it. If they prefer to ship, they can get advances at 1%, while here we pay 2. Shearing can be done there for about one-half what it costs here. Sacks, twine and grub are cheaper."

"I have been engaged in wool growing for 4 years, and am $1,600 out of pocket, and I believe that it is about the experience of all engaged in it, on this side."

"That side of the mountains is the only suitable place that I have seen in Arizona, to raise sheep; almost all are getting over there. Foster, Frank Hart and Smith Bros. are there; Joe Marlow is on his way over, also Charley Stevens with his band from Hackberry. There are several parties in now, trying to buy, so I think the day is not far distant when a sheep owner may become a respectable man, and say truthfully, that he has rights, that other men are bound to respect, and not be held out at arms length, surveyed, and smelled of, when he asks a favor as I heard a sheep owner remark to-day."

"As my letter is getting rather lengthy, I will bring it to a focus, by saying that we left our musical camp, --- yes, musical, on the 6th of this month, re-crossed the river, and came home by way of Camp Verde, where we re-crossed the river which had been locked up for 4 days. I think the ice was 3 inches thick; the coldest weather I ever saw in the country. When we got up on the range, it commenced snowing, and kept it up until the snow was 4 inches deep."

"Passed several emigrants coming in; also passed Sol Barth's teams loaded with salt, at Copper Canyon."

"So here we are at home again. ... But just as soon as I get the wool out of my teeth, I am going back to see my 'pets,' the sheep. ... J. H. Lee."

(The Weekly Arizona Miner; Prescott; December 21, 1877; page 1.)

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