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!


  1. Hello,

    The ranches present here provide you unique scenario about the history behind it.

  2. Hello, Loved the article! I am a "Mullen" Great Grand daughter of Charles Pleasant Mullen, we ranch in Young Az. Thanks for posting this.
    Sheri Bentley, Tilting H Ranch

    1. Sheri, I'm so glad to see your comment! I've dedicated an entire chapter to the T-Ranch history in my new book on New River (one of the "Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing). I'd love to talk with you sometime about your family's amazing history. Thanks so much!
      ~ Marcy

    2. Hello, I loved the article too! I am the Great, Great Grand Daughter of Joseph Burr Mullen, the brother of Charles Morton Mullen and the father of Charles Pleasant Mullen and my Great Grandmother, Maud Mullen Carr. I love stumbling across this history.

  3. I lived on this ranch most of my life. My dad worked it for years! Love this area.