Monday, May 25, 2015

Exploring Hohokam Ruins on Indian Mountain, New River

Indian Mountain, New River
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
On the north side of New River Road as it snakes west toward I-17 a distinctive, small mesa overlooks historic Wrangler's Roost and Larkin Arena. The small peak, like so many of the area's formations, has been snubbed by maps. Known locally as Indian Mesa, it was well used by the Hohokam.

A quick climb from the senior center parking lot, the trail to the summit is short but slippery as you near the top, with plenty of loose rock to challenge your ankles. Don't try it on horseback, although excellent riding trails approach the base from all directions. The summit is surprisingly flat and level; it's no wonder indigenous people established dwellings here.

Ruins of Hohokam Dwellings
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Ruins are abundant here. The Hohokam were temporary residents who farmed the lower valley but came to the New River area to hunt the more abundant wildlife. At the time, bighorn sheep ranged throughout the foothills and mountains; like the Hohokam, they are long gone. Many area petroglyphs depict the bighorn, doubtless popular game for the native people.

Remnants of Past Inhabitants
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Visit enough ancient ruins and seemingly random scattered rocks quickly take shape into the ruins of dry-stone walls. Indian Mountain had numerous rooms atop the peak, with identifiable rooms on the southern base as well. If the summit once had the typical pot sherds in abundance, they've long since been picked clean; however, samples remain behind on one of the areas near the bottom.  The sherds are sample of the Wingfield Plain variety from unadorned reddish or tan clay pots and ollas.

Sample of Unique Rock Variety atop Indian Mountain
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
If petroglyphs mark parts of Indian Mountain, I couldn't find them. I suspect the unusual rock comprising the mountain made etching too challenging; unlike the typical volcanic stone in the area, Indian Mountain has a harder, slicker prevalent rock. No geologist, I couldn't identify the stone; if you recognize it, let me know and I'll confirm and update this entry.

Pepsi Cap Mountain
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Surrounding views from Indian Mountain are stunning. Pepsi Cap Mountain, also offering ruins, was once called Table Top Mesa until homesteader Rowena Essary named it Pepsi Cap for its cap-like top. Table Top Mesa is near Table Mesa, shown below. Since mesa means "table" in Spanish, it is of course redundant to have "table table" or "table top table" as a name - but descriptive, nonetheless.

Table Mesa as Seen from Indian Mountain
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Looking south, the views of Apache Peak, Pyramid Peak and Daisy Mountain are nearly as gorgeous as the peaks to the north. Pyramid Peak is often erroneously called "Circle Mountain" because Circle Mountain Road arcs around it.

Gavilan Peak
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
One of New River's most prominent landmarks is Gavilan Peak, formerly known as "Twin Buttes" or "Twin Peaks" to residents. From the south, Gavilan's profile is surprisingly similar to the profile of a prone Apache face. From Indian Mountain, the twin buttes are clear, with nothing to suggest facial features.

(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Just over a stone's throw from Indian Mountain to the east is a rocky ridge that looks to offer more ruins. Much more difficult to ascend thanks to the lack of a trail and even more slippery loose rock, I was nearly disappointed when I reached the top only to find no apparent trace of dwellings. Disappointed, that is, until seeing the gorgeous dendrite above - a large sandstone rock covered with a delicate fern-like pattern, surrounded by the more typical lichen-covered volcanic rock.

(c) 2015 MJ MILLER
Seeing lichens themselves is common enough in New River; they cover rocks throughout the desert, surprisingly enough for such an arid climate. I never tire of their tenacious presence.

Interesting Rocks on Indian Mountain
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
The peaks throughout New River, like those in Cave Creek, have abundant cracks and tiny grottos that were likely used to store foodstuffs or personal effects. Today, pack rats and the ever-present bees    make use of them. As usual, we passed an active beehive on the climb.

(c) 2015 MJ Miller

The Hohokam vanished completely from the Salt River Valley in the 1400's. It is likely they are the ancestors of the Papago and Pima. They burned, rather than buried, their dead in most cases; there are no burial grounds that we might clumsily stumble across. New River is filled with amazing traces of these ancient people, though - from the manos and metates they used to grind mesquite beans into flour to the rock art and stone dwellings. Each time I have the privilege of sitting among the ruins, I wonder if they found the desert mountains as soul-tinglingly beautiful as I do.

New River Mesa
(c) 2015 MJ Miller
Copyright (c) 2015 by MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links to this page, however, may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for liking, linking, +1'ing, sharing, emailing and otherwise helping grow my readership - and most of all, thank you for stopping by!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Trail Leads Me to a Visit with Jerry and Lois Essary Jacka

The Arizona of my youth was a grand old lady:  gracious, aging but capable, much like the ranch wives who still peopled it. The people surrounding me then were mostly from elsewhere:  refugees from the snow of Illinois, the noise of New York, the traffic and anonymity of cities. They found something precious and charming in this beautiful state and although they planted the trees of home in their front yards, and missed their grassy lawns, they also cherished the unique nature of the desert.

Arizona then had its own distinctive sense of style. Many rebelled against it; I recall my Arizona-loving father's disdain for the then-popular song, "Arizona," as it mocked our clinging to our lovely past. But the true Zonie loved the innocence of the brushy Ted DeGrazia paintings of children that adorned everything from refrigerator magnets to Christmas ornaments.  We loved the kitschy scorpions-in-resin paperweights; the beautiful, Indian-made bola ties; the steakhouses decorated with old ranching implements and sawdust floors.  It wasn't an act for the bounty of tourists -- snowbirds, we called them, as they flocked to the streets during the winter and fled at the sight of that harsh glare of summer. It was our place, our culture, and we loved it.

I miss it. I miss the architecture that prevailed; the joy we took in discovering new and gorgeous rural roads; the cowboy hats that could be found on many the head in the single old terminal at Sky Harbor airport. The pride we had then in our state was evident in that airport:  the mural honoring Arizona's roots and culture on the terminal wall; the replica of the U.S.S. Arizona in the hallway; the gift shop selling small potted cactus, Kachina dolls and Indian-made pots, baskets, and jewelry.  Invariably, first-time visitors coming to stay with us -- because who wouldn't want to come to Arizona? -- brought us one of those pots of cactus, and we'd thank them profusely as we gazed out over our yard filled with native spiny things of vast variety.

Symbolic of our state pride was the glossy magazine, Arizona Highways. Produced by the Arizona  Department of Transportation, it was our favorite gift for out-of-state friends and business associates. Filled with utterly magnificent photos of our beautiful canyons, our native people, remnants of our history, modern day cowboys and ranchers -- it was exquisite.

It was in the pages of Arizona Highways I first saw the name Jerry Jacka. I grew up feasting on his photographs and seeing the state through his talented eyes. My mother, an artist, was no doubt inspired by his photographs in some of her still-life arrangements of Navajo and Hopi pottery and basketry.  Now, some 40 years later, I was surprised to learn Jerry and Lois Essary Jacka were among the original homesteader families here in New River -- and here I am, writing a book of New River history.

I can't do justice to describing the feeling of finally meeting someone I so admired for decades. My husband, Russ, and I drove up to the Jacka ranch near Heber, Arizona, last Sunday. The immediate warmth with which Jerry and Lois welcomed us transported me to that Arizona of my child-memory: the kinship and hospitality which was often shared with us when my father took us on jaunts around the state. Ranch houses with warm fires. Old, priceless saddles from the 1800's perched on loft railings. Mining  and ranching implements, long rusty and scarred with use, festooning the walls. Precious pottery and artifacts. I'm as enchanted by it all now as much as I was as that wide-eyed kid who wanted to grow up to be a distaff Louis L'Amour or Wyatt Earp.

And so I found myself spending several hours of sheer joy in conversation with Jerry Jacka and Lois Essary Jacka. We discussed the native tribes that left their mark on local mountaintops; names of local pioneers; the naming of landmarks; the importance of getting history right. Jerry, once a Maricopa County Sheriff's Deputy who'd moved into doing forensic photography, told me of getting his start in photography thanks to the encouragement of his high-school mentor and the big break in working for Arizona Highways.  As a retired police officer now pursuing my own other, more creative dreams, I appreciated that law enforcement kinship.  Lois, a long-time author who wrote five of the 15 Jacka books, showed me her writer's nest overlooking the ranch grounds.

We talked until Russ caught my eye and tapped his watch. I had no idea we'd talked for so long and I inwardly chided myself with "Bad guest!" for overstaying -- but so thankful to have done so. We pried ourselves away from that beautiful place with two so accomplished, fascinating and warm people.  In a few weeks, we'll meet again at their historic Sun-Up Ranch in New River, homesteaded by Jerry's father and mother.  Jerry recently published an outstanding history of the Sun-Up Ranch.  If you share my love of Arizona or western history, you can obtain a copy here:  Sun-Up Ranch  I also have a couple of extra copies of Jerry's book on hand.  Visit Jerry's website at: Jerry Jacka Photography.  Jerry's other books -- including his gorgeous editions of table-top books highlighting Arizona's landscapes and native crafts -- are available on his site.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Historic T-Ranch Homesite: New River, Arizona

Storm Clouds at the Site of the T-Ranch Homesite
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
The T-Ranch -- at various times and through various owners known as the Triangle-Bar Ranch, the T-Ranch, the T-Cattle Company, the T-Evans Ranch and the T-T Ranch -- sprawls a gorgeous expanse of desert on the northern edge of New River, Arizona.  I had crossed it before on a rugged four-wheel-drive trip on Table Mesa Road from I-17 to Seven Springs. In researching my book-in-progress on New River history, I visited it anew.

The Remaining Foundation of the Old Adobe House
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
When I write, be it non-fiction or fiction, it's important to me to visit the location in depth -- best on foot or horseback. Perhaps it's because I'm a visual learner; perhaps it's because my childhood hero, Louis L'Amour, stressed how he'd ridden every place he wrote about in his novels of the American west.  A site visit can often confirm -- or invalidate -- jealously-guarded myths or legends; it corrects misinformation that is perpetuated by writers who have never traveled to a place. It offers a perspective of distance and -- perhaps best of all -- it allows me to breathe in the same air and marvel at the same scenery early visitors and occupants experienced.  Too, if I don't visit these locations, how can I share these photos with you?

The Water Trough at the T-Ranch
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
The T-Ranch is significant in our regional history. Home initially to the Hohokam, then to the Tonto Apache and -- in likelihood -- the Yavapai, it later hosted a cavalry road, a stagecoach stop, a cattle ranch, and a nature preserve. I had the good fortune recently to have Mr. John Deegan escort me on a tour of the lower T-Ranch, where the original stagecoach stop and homesite were located. The following week, I returned on foot for a lengthier visit and a five-mile hike along the stagecoach route.
Barbed Wire at the Stock Tank
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
Charles Morton Mullen founded the Triangle-Bar Ranch. His brands -- the Triangle-Bar and the Triangle -- were among the earliest brands recorded in Maricopa County. In the 1879 Maricopa County tax rolls, "Mullen's Station" is listed as a stagecoach stop.  It served the Desert Station Stage Line that traveled from Phoenix to Prescott along the Black Canyon Stagecoach Road. The concrete trough above remains from the old stage stop.

Some texts cite Charles Pleasant Mullen as being the original owner of the T-Ranch. However, Charles Pleasant Mullen is the nephew of Charles Morton Mullen. The latter man joined his two brothers in moving to Arizona. Charles M. Mullen went on to prominence in the valley, including a term as mayor of the city of Mesa.

In the 1880's, Franklin Tomlin Alkire bought the ranch. Frank, a prominent individual in Arizona history, was born in Missouri in 1860. After his move to Arizona, he suffered an accident. In the aftermath, he returned to his home state of Missouri briefly -- and when he returned to Arizona, he brought his new bride, Asenath, with him. 

An irrigation valve long hidden by the earth
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
Frank and Asenath lived on the ranch from 1889 to 1895, when they moved to downtown Phoenix. During their years on the ranch, they added onto the existing adobe house that had been built in the 1870's.  Despite the remote location, their life was full: they ranched cattle, contended with tramps along the Black Canyon Stage Road, hosted Indians being escorted through by the cavalry, served as a way station for travelers and cattlemen, met Mormon pioneers traveling through to Mesa, and became familiar with the regular stagecoach drivers and freighters along the route. By necessity as self-sufficient as possible, they raised chickens, gardened, and planted non-native trees near the house.  The palm trees that soar over the river today are descendants of the original two trees Frank planted near the front gate. As the waters carried seeds downstream, you can find a trail of trees along the shallow riverbed.

The river in 2015, showing the palm trees and eucalyptus along the banks
Copyright (c) 2015 MJ Miller

Frank used available water to irrigate a five-acre patch of alfalfa just northeast of the house. In 2014, the devastating floods that struck New River exposed the irrigation valve shown above. John Deegan said that the valve was buried under about four or five feet of soil until the flood hit. So the land changes here: what man doesn't alter, nature will. Floods have always been a daunting fact of life in the area; in the late 1880's or early 1890's, much of the state suffered a vast flood. Huge swaths of the Black Canyon Stage Road were completely washed out. The waters receded to leave new gullies and rifts in the land. In his memoirs, Frank Alkire described the challenges the flood brought. Today, residents along the banks of New River have yet to recover from the 2014 flood. Power poles remain snapped, the lines lying across the ground; flood debris -- man-made and natural -- remain piled several feet high where the waters left it.

Mr. John Deegan
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller

Frank and Asenath Alkire sold the ranch to Hosea Cline, who also owned the Flying Y Ranch along the stage road not far south of the T-Ranch. In 1924, Hosea sold it to the Evans brothers -- Gus, Earl and Claud -- and their partner, C.B. Laird. The ranch became known as the T-Evans Ranch. It appears that Laird brought the T-Up T-Down brand with him -- an upright T positioned directly above an upside down T -- as that brand was registered to Laird and to rancher Billy Cook in 1916. Laird and the Evans brothers also bought the Flying Y and other ranch properties and leaseholds in the area.

In 1942, Earl, Claud and C. B. Laird bought out Gus's share of the T-Ranch and divided it among them. In early 1943, the ranch house burned to the ground, never to be rebuilt. The foundation, the second photo shown above, remains. 

A view from the ranch
Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller
In 1946, Claud Evans and C. B. Laird sold their part of the ranch to Levi Reid, Ray Cowden, and Frank Armer. A cowboy from Punkin Center, John Henry Cline, moved to New River and began cowboying on the T-Ranch. The current owners allowed John to use his wages to begin buying into the T-Ranch a little bit at a time. Persistence pays off:  eventually John owned 51% of the ranch, an impressive 125,000 acres (including government leaseholds). John remained in New River until his death in 1988.

Now, at the southern entrance to the original homesite (from New River, rather than from Table Mesa Road), a nature preserve offers a way-station for migratory birds. John Deegan tells of his surprise at seeing a toucan in the preserve. A more recent owner of the ranch, a Ms. Silva, is credited with having the foresight to put aside the acreage for the preserve. In the photograph below, you can see more of the recent flood debris tangled around the base of the sign.

Entrance to the nature preserve
Copyright (c) 2015 MJ Miller

Today, the T-Ranch remains an active and productive ranch. As I snapped photographs of the ranch house foundation, a band of good-looking ranch horses wandered through, one still bearing dried sweat marks from a saddle pad.

Wandering ranch horses
Copyright (c) 2015 MJ Miller
In future posts, I'll share more information on John Cline, the Alkires, and the New River area as I continue blogging my journey as I write a book of New River history for Arcadia Publishing.

Copyright 2015 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links to this page, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated! * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, forwarding, pinning, +1'ing and otherwise helping grow my readership. * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing New River: On the Path to a Local History

Pepsi Cap Mountain, New River, Arizona
Copyright 2015 MJ Miller

In recent months I've neglected my western history blog. It hasn't been lack of interest on my part; rather, quite the opposite. In the fall, I had the good fortune of being approached by Arcadia Publishing about writing the New River (Arizona) edition of their ongoing Images of America book. As you can guess, I happily agreed -- and thus began my newest journey into the past. It has occupied my time, energy and imagination.

It's often said writing is a solitary occupation. That has indeed been my experience with novels and the majority of my work. Writing a local history, though, is far from lonely. This book has been an adventure in local spirit, a wonderful journey in forging new friendships and the involvement of many others. New River, though not a town, is most definitely a community peopled by proud residents who appreciate the terrain, the history, and each other. Meeting and spending time with my New River neighbors has been sheer pleasure. I've been stunned by their enthusiasm and kindness.

Promptly after I distributed fliers asking for people with information and photographs to contact me, I received a call from Ann Hutchinson. Ann is amazing. In short order, she'd provided me with valuable documents via email, contact information for key players, and an abundance of information. We met shortly thereafter at the Roadrunner, where she introduced me to Rene Faires.  Rene, thanks to his generous and gregarious nature and astonishing memory, has proven critical to this project.  You'll see these names again -- and many others who've been helping me tremendously -- in future installments.

The completed book will be comprised largely of historical photos (nothing contemporary) with supporting text. However, along the way I'll share the "now" photos I've been taking -- and the intriguing tales of our area in more depth.

This, then, is an introduction -- an introduction to the past, in a sense. From the Hohokam who once farmed this rugged terrain to the Mormon, Apache, sheep-herders and cowboys who passed through along the way -- and up to the more recent history of the area -- I'll cover New River for the next few months. I'll share the photographs I take along the way and introduce you to people, sites and events you might not otherwise meet. Check in or sign up for email updates to join me along the way.  And, should you have any historical photos of New River or its early residents, please contact me -- I'm still compiling pictures!

Copyright © 2015 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links to this page, however, may be freely shared * Thank you for linking, liking, pinning, emailing, +1'ing and otherwise helping grow my readership! Most of all, thank you for reading my blogs.