Thursday, January 16, 2014

Empire Ranch & Bisbee

We had a road trip planned to go to Bisbee, AZ and check out the town.  Dick & Sue drove over here and we hit the road about 11:15am.  I took the long route there and stopped by the Empire Ranch to show them what an old working cattle ranch looked like in the late 1800s in Arizona.

I took the following from Wikipedia since it covers the history of the ranch very well.

Empire Ranch was established by homesteader Edward Nye Fish in the 1860s. It was originally 160 acres (0.65 km2) with a four room adobe building and an adjoining corral. Fish was a wealthy businessman in Tucson and in 1870 he constructed the Empire Ranch House, a twenty-two room adobe and wood framed structure. However, in 1876, the businessman Walter L. Vail, a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Herbert Hislop, an Englishman, acquired the ranch and established the Empire Land & Cattle Company. Throughout the Old West period, Empire Ranch expanded to over a million acres (4,000 km²) of land. New buildings were also constructed and concrete floors added just after the turn of the century. The ranch remained in the Vail family until 1928 when the Boyce, Gates and Johnston company, the successor to the Chiricahua Cattle Company, purchased the land in order to move cattle there from the San Carlos Indian Reservation.



By 1951, Frank Boyce and his family assumed full control of the property. Around the same time, the ranch was featured in several Western films starring many actors such as John Wayne, Gregory Peck and Steve McQueen. In 1969, Empire was sold to the Gulf American Corporation for a proposed real estate development and later resold to the Anamax Mining Company for mining and water potential. None of these developments materialized though and the ranch continues to work with cattle. In the 1980s, the owners began to restore the buildings to their original state and, in 1988, the ranch became public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The Empire Ranch Foundation was established as a private non-profit organization in 1997 to work with the Bureau of Land Management to develop private support to preserve the buildings and enhance the educational and recreational opportunities it offers to the public. In 2000, Congress officially designated Empire Ranch as being part of the 42,000-acre (170 km2) Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.      

The ranch is located a few miles off of AZ 83, down a gravel road.  When we turned onto the road I noticed three ladies who were geocaching near the information sign.  I stopped and told them they were arresting geocachers and they had a startled look on their faces.  Then they figured out that I was just joking and we chatted for a while.

The ranch was just down the road, but it was a little rough going in places and I heard some groans from the back seat.  I hope it didn't bother Sue that much.  We drove up to the ranch headquarters and looked it over and took a number of pictures.

Empire Ranch

Empire Ranch water supply

Courtyard of original building

Antelope Herd

Empire Ranch

We saw a number of herds of antelope in the area and I guess they are protected from hunters on the land, or they just multiply quickly.  They are beautiful animals and were well aware of us being close to them.

We stopped at Sonoita to exercise our legs and check out the mercantile building there.  Nobody saw anything they wanted and we headed on down the road toward Bisbee.

Dick, Sue & Larry


It is difficult to find any .22 Long rifle shells anywhere now. We saw a gun shop near Sierra Vista so we checked to see if they had any.  We lucked out and bought a good supply of the shells.  The dealer said he had sold 7,000 .22 LR shells in the last 24 hours and would be out of them very shortly.  Then, it's wait for the next shipment to arrive.

Next stop was Naco, AZ on the border with Mexico.  Dick and Sue wanted to see the border fence and look into Mexico.  We got there just as the public school in Naco let out and were surprised to see 50-60 students walk through US Customs and into Mexico.  I assume they were Mexican citizens and were attending a public school in the U.S.   I wonder who paid for them to do this.  U.S. taxpayers most likely.  Strange.

We finally arrived at Bisbee and checked it pretty good and saw most of the sights.  I took them on some side roads that were at least a 17% grade and down a road barely wide enough for our car.  Thankfully, we didn't meet anyone coming up the hill.  We also saw a number of old vehicles, signs and buildings along Erie St in the Lowell area.








Well known BBC - still open



54 Ford Pickup

54 Ford Police car  "Barney Fife"


We stopped by the ore pit and picked up a geocache and then checked out the mine nearby.  I ran across this there and wondered if anyone knows what it is.  I know, so send me an email if you know what it is. 


We stopped at Santiago's, our favorite restaurant in Bisbee.   It was after seeing the sights and since it was dinner time,  we decided to eat there.  We got in ahead of most of the dinner rush and were served quickly.  The food was great and we all managed to fill up on the great food. 

Dick & Sue


Then it was time to head back to Tucson, with a quick run through Tombstone on the way back. It was around 6pm and the town had shut down already except for a couple bars and restaurants.  Deader than a tombstone.  We arrived back at the motorhome around 7:30 pm and parted company.  Everyone was tired after the 200+ mile drive and a lot of walking.  I think we all will sleep soundly tonight.

Good night all.


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