The History of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
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A thorough and detailed description of the Casa Grande and its group of ruins was written by Cosmos Mindeleff in the 13th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology; this report remains an invaluable record of the condition of the buildings in 1890 (Fig 2).

Fig. 2. The Great House and other Compound A walls before the 1891 repairs. (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology photograph).

Specifications, based on the above inspection, were prepared for the authorized repair work. Mindeleff wrote (1897: 327 et. seq.) " ... the amount appropriated was so well known to be inadequate that great difficulty was experienced in obtaining bids ..." The Reverend I. T. Whitemore of Florence was helpful in recruiting bidders. The work deemed necessary was whittled down to the 4 most pressing items; clearing the Great House of rubbish and debris; underpinning wall with brick wherever needed; replacing doorway lintels and filling cavities; tying in the south wall with braces. T. L. Stouffer and F. E. White, of Florence, were the successful bidders, at a contract price of $1,985. The contractors actually performed more work than the appropriation allowed, putting in about $600 of their own money to finish the job. Some deviations from specifications had to be made as the work progressed; one brace was extended through the entire building for greater stability; not finding a well defined floor in the west and south rooms, excavations were carried on down through original fill; artifacts found during the job were saved and packed, for shipment to the National Museum, by the contractors.

Mr. Whittemore is referred to by H. C. Rizer, Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Ethnology, in his contract inspection report of November 24, 1891 (Mindeleff 1897:343), as the man "designated by the honorable Secretary of the Interior as the custodian of the ruin." Mr. Whittemore had offered to "look after the work", and the $15 difference between money appropriated and contract price was awarded Mr. Whittemore for his interest. The sundry civil appropriation act for the year ending June 30, 1893 made provision for a salaried custodian; Mr. Whittemore was appointed to this position. As a non-resident caretaker, his chief concerns were obtaining a roof over the Casa Grande (one of the items which had originally been included in the 1891 repair list, but deleted because of insufficient funds) and the fencing of the Reservation, with further excavations in mounds adjoining the Great House (National Archives, Tray 166C; letters from Whittemore dated September 20, 1893 and July 25, 1895. Also Phoenix Herald, 12/10/96).

The ruins were now protected by law, but there was no resident custodian to explain or enforce that law. After Mr. Whittemore's retirement in 1899, H. B. Mayo submitted a report as Custodian of Casa Grande, dated August 1900 (National Archives, Tray 166C, Item 2885); Mayo's commission began October 2, 1899 (Schroeder 1957:2). There was still an urgent need for someone who was willing to protect the Casa Grande by living on the Reservation.

In 1901 this responsibility was given to Frank Pinkley (Fig. 3), a young man of 20 who had recently come to Phoenix, Arizona, where his uncle was U. S. Land Commissioner, from Chillicothe, Missouri. His first report is dated February 6, 1902, addressed to the "Honorable Commissioner, General Land Office, Washington, D. C. [6] Sir: Carrying our the instructions issued to me on Dec. 12, 1901. I have the honor to make the following report in regard to the ruins of the Casa Grande ..." The report contains a paragraph on "Repairs Needed" and refers the ommissioner to the 13th and 15th Annual Reports of the Bureau of Ethnology (NPS, Administration Casa Grande National Monument).

Fig. 3. Frank Pinkley taken about 1925. (National Park Service Photograph).

In 1902, on February 6 and again on March 16, Frank Pinkley recommended that a fine for defacing the Casa Grande be extended to excavations and the carrying away of materials (the federal "Antiquities Act" prohibiting these activities was not to become law until 1906). On May 26 of 1902 the Commissioner of the General Land Office recommended to the Secretary of Interior that Congress act on the above recommendation, and that meanwhile offenders be prosecuted under the provision of Section 5456, U.S.R.S. and the Act of March 3, 1875, 18 Stat., 479 (National Archives, Tray 166C, Item 2175). Later in the same year a request for an excavation permit by one Walter C. Young was approved by Mr. Pinkley and the General Land Office, but disallowed by the Bureau of American Ethnology (their letter of November 7, National Archives, Tray 166C).

The first custodian's residence was a tent pitched several hundred yards north of the Casa Grande; a well was dug in 1902 (the caving of this well was reported in September of 1918); by 1906, when Frank Pinkley and Edna Townsley were married, the residence was a frame-sided tent in a grove of mesquite trees just east of Compound A.

There were few neighbors, with the towns of Florence and Casa Grande 10 and 20 miles away; the closest were the Pima Indians at Blackwater, where Pinkley's parents now operated the Four Mile Trading Post. In 1910 Frank Pinkley built, with his own funds, a two-room adobe house in the southeast corner of Compound A; he did the carpentry work, and Pimas made and laid the adobes. This house, with the later additions described in a December 7, 1921 letter to Mr. Mather, served as the only residence at Casa Grande National Monument until 1929.

Mr. Pinkley's annual reports through 1915 (National Archives, Box 566) recommend (in 1907) the withdrawal of adjacent mounds for their protection (this was done in 1909); that reprints of Mindeleff's description of the Casa Grande be supplied for distribution to visitors (requested first in 1906, repeated in later reports, pamphlets reported as received in 1913); suggested that artifacts excavated be retained at the area rather than going to museums in other cities (1907); recommends a museum building for Casa Grande (1908—this became a reality in 1922); in 1912 asks for funds to repair the well he dug at his own expense in 1901, and points out the need for an engine or windmill to lift the water; in 1914 reports the installation of a visitor register and the visitor increase due to the number of automobiles in use.

With three exceptions, Casa Grande seems to have gotten little national attention between 1892 and 1918. However, the exceptions were notable.

On June 28, 1902 Congress appropriated money for construction of a roof over the Casa Grande; the roof, a corrugated iron structure supported on redwood timbers, was finished by 1903 (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. The Casa Grande under the 1903 roof and early visitors. (National Park Service photograph).

Congress made two subsequent appropriations, of $3,000 each, to be administered by the Smithsonian Institution in the excavation of the Casa Grande group of ruins. Dr. J. W. Fewkes supervised the work, in Compound A during the winter of 1906-1907, and on Compounds B, C, and D, and Clan-house I during the winter of 1907-1908. Fewkes also did some drainage and stabilization work, diverting run-off from Compound A to the prehistoric borrow-pit to the east, and putting cement at the bases of some walls, and adding some bracings of adobe bricks. The excavations and repairs, with list of artifacts recovered, are reported in the 28th Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology. Frank Pinkley made some field notes on the work; the manuscript notes are at Casa Grande National Monument library.

On December 10, 1909 a change was made in the Reservation boundaries, "eliminating 120 acres on which there were no prehistoric ruins and including a tract of 120 acres adjoining the reservation on the east, on which are located important mounds of historic interest" (see Glimpses of our National Monuments, 1930, GPO); a map of the original boundaries, Plate CXXV, 15th An. Rpt., B.A.E., shows that the released land was on the northern boundary.

By 1914 the two-year-old State of Arizona was beginning to show some of its future promise as a goal for tourists; there were regular stage trips, daily except Sunday, to the Casa Grande. The stage left the railway town of Casa Grande at 8:00 in the morning, visited Sacaton (the Pima Indian Reservation headquarters), stopped off at the Blackwater Trading Post, and arrived at the ruins about noon. After three hours at the Casa Grande the return trip was made; the round trip covered 50 miles, and the fare was $5 per person (From the records of the Casa Grande Board of Trade).

During 1916 and 1917 (annual reports in National Archives) James P. Bates was Custodian of Casa Grande Ruins, Mr. Pinkley having resigned in 1915 to serve in the Legislature of the State of Arizona, as representative from Pinal County.

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Last Updated: 02-Nov-2009