Monday, March 23, 2009

A Fire on the Mountain

March 23, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

My life is filled with many memorable experiences, and my first visit to the old Reavis Ranch in the 1950s I can easily reminisce. Alice and Floyd Stone operated the Reavis at that time, and Floyd Stone was John A. Bacon’s son-inlaw.

Floyd “Stoney” Stone was ramrod on the Tortilla and Reavis allotments. Stoney’s handshake and smile were genuine and made you feel welcome after a long drive over a terrorizing road up the mountain from the Apache Trail. Stoney had given me permission to drive up to the Reavis Ranch.

I wanted to visit Circlestone and hear more stories about this unusual archaeological site above the Reavis Ranch. Circlestone had captured my imagination since old “Red” Cowan had taken me there several years prior.

While at the Reavis Ranch, I was able to observe and study the Western beauty and decor of the ranch house. The kitchen had a long wooden table with benches on both sides. All meals were served on this table. The copper-paneled ceiling of the kitchen appeared out of place for such an isolated ranch house.

Alice Stone kept the copper polished and clean. There were three windows in the kitchen and a large wood burning stove for cooking. The front room or living room dominated the decor of the ranch house setting. At the west end of the room was a large fireplace. The hearth  was framed with peeled pine logs that had several cattle brands burned into them for decor. Western style wooden furniture filled the room. The floor was covered with large Navajo rugs, while the ceiling displayed open round timbers. Scenes of cowboys and cattle adorned the walls on framed canvases. The light filtered through the paintings adding life to them. Here and there a Native American artifact was displayed. I will never forget the subtle beauty of the ranch house’s interior. It was such it made you feel at home immediately. The interior had the aura of a rustic old museum.

The exterior of the house exhibited carefully laid sandstone rocks. On the west end of the building was a room separated from the remainder of the house by a large breezeway running north and south. The east side of the ranch house displayed a large screened porch with flagstone columns. There were two bedrooms on the south side of the house. On the other side of the breezeway there was a bathroom and a storage area.

Using a ladder, you could climb into the attic where numerous things were stored and where occasionally a tired cowboy would throw his bed down.

The Stones sold the Reavis Ranch to the Department of Agriculture in 1967 for $80,000 and 20 acres of patented land at the old IV Ranch near the Apache Trail.

Native Americans were the first humans to occupy the Reavis Valley. They may have settled here some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. These early residents settled here for the same reason Elisha Marcus Reavis did in 1874, and that was water. This high mountain valley has the only permanent stream flowing year around in this entire region. Native Americans, farmers and cattlemen all cherished and coveted this beautiful valley and its abundance of water in a desert environment. Numerous archaeological sites, including Circlestone, dot the towering knolls that surround Reavis Valley.

Elisha Reavis died in April of 1896, some four miles south of the Reavis Valley. Shortly after his death, John J. Fraser, better known as Jack Fraser, a local cattleman, took over the Reavis Valley and its water rights. Fraser, like Reavis, was just a squatter on this land. Fraser never acquired title because at the time he was not a citizen of the United States. Fraser operated the ranch from 1896-1909.

Fraser sold his interest in the ranch to William J. Clemans in January of 1909. Clemans patented 140 acres of the Reavis Valley on January 16, 1919. He and his sons operated the ranch until 1946, when it was sold to Bacon and Upton. John A. Bacon ran the ranch from 1946 until 1953. Bacon’s son-in-law Floyd “Stoney” Stone took over operation in 1954.

During the period 1909-1954 many improvements were made at the Reavis Ranch. A road was put in from the Apache Trail to the ranch in 1946. Almost two miles of irrigation canals were dug for irrigating the 600 apple tree orchard and 60 acres of hay. A large pond was created near the ranch house to irrigate the ranch lands. There was even a small sawmill constructed to make lumber.

A Mormon company known as Pineair Summer Resort Company tried to market small lots in the valley 1909-1919. The construction of a railroad to Prescott from Phoenix ended the dream of this ill-fated company. They were able to start a road to the Reavis Valley, but never finished the project.

The valley became part of the Tonto Forest Reserve in 1909, and served as the site of the first Camp Geronimo for the Roosevelt Boy Scout Council in June of 1922. Swimming merit badges were awarded because of the small lake in the valley. Governor Campbell rode into valley as a guest of the Roosevelt Boy Scout Council.

Finally, in 1946, the long promised road was completed into the valley, but was closed in 1968, surviving only twenty- two years. The old ranch survived another twenty-three years through famine, fire and vandalism, however the old homestead could not survive the pressures of the Nineties.

It was around Thanksgiving of 1991, a fire erupted in the old ranch house and it was burned to the ground. The fire on the mountain crushed the dreams of many who had envisioned the old ranch being a way station for those who needed a protected rest stop in the wilderness. All that remains today is the concrete slab where the ranch house once stood.

The old ranch will no longer be a haven for wayward campers, hikers, or horseman. It will no longer protect the weary traveler from a thundering rainstorm, a raging blizzard or the freezing cold.

Goodbye to an old friend.