Division of Internal Archeological Studies
From May 31 to July 1, 1983, an archeological survey (CHIR 83A) was conducted by the Western Archeological and Conservation Center (WACC) in the Faraway Ranch area of lower Bonita Canyon in Chiricahua National Monument. The survey crew was comprised of three archeologists: Field Supervisor Mark Baumler, Rick Ahlstrom, and Lisa Eppley. Don Morris, WACC, served as project director.
In conjunction with the Historic American Building Survey and related historical document research, this archeological survey was initiated to provide a foundation for the interpretation and management of cultural resources in the Faraway Ranch Historic District. Specifically, the survey sought to define the extent and nature of archeological resources in the area, inasmuch as this could be determined from surface indications. Archeological resources are understood to include both prehistoric and historic, the latter encompassing the period from the initial occupation of the canyon by Anglos in the late 19th century to the National Park Service acquisition of the area in 1978. Archeological resources are further defined to include all loci external to buildings and exclusive of the 24 "primary structures" identified in the National Register of Historic Places nomination form (Chappell 1979).
Examples of identified archeological resources range from modern rock-ringed "campers' hearths" to prehistoric sherd and lithic scatters (about A.D. 700-1400). They include remains that can be associated with the military camp at Bonita Canyon in 1885-1886, the turn-of-the-century Stafford and Erickson homesteads, as well as the operation of the Faraway Ranch throughout the 20th century.
This section provides summary data on the results of the survey. A forthcoming, complete survey report will document both the prehistoric and the historic remains in more detail.
B. Environmental Setting
Bonita Canyon is located on the west slope of the Chiricahua Mountains in Cochise County, Arizona. Originating in Bonita Park at an altitude of 6,300 feet, the upper reaches of this rhyolitic box canyon are narrow and steep-sided. In contrast, the floor of lower Bonita Canyon, beginning downstream at the monument campground, is relatively broad (about 1/4 miles across), with a well-developed floodplain (Fig. 1 at the end of this section). This part of the canyon is oriented due east/west for a distance of two miles. The altitude of the lower Bonita Canyon floor varies from 5,400 feet, in the east, to 5,160 feet at the mouth of the canyon where it opens into the north/south trending Sulphur Spring Valley. The walls of the canyon rise rather steeply on the north and more gradually on the south to heights between 5,700 and 5,900 feet. For most of its course, Bonita Creek lies near the northern edge of the valley, becoming more centrally located east of the Stafford Cabin.
The natural vegetation of the lower Bonita Canyon floodplain is difficult to reconstruct owing to the history of use of the area, including a long period of cultivation and grazing around the Stafford cabin and Faraway Ranch. An extant, riverine forest gallery of oaks, sycamores, and cypresses was probably more extensive at one time, but always interrupted by patches of open grassland meadow. The lower north-facing slopes of the canyon support an open scrub oak, juniper, and manzanita chaparral/forest. The southerly exposed slopes are less vegetated and contain a community of desert yuccas, century plants, and cacti, in addition to manzanita and isolated junipers.
A variety of animal life is native to the area, including white-tailed deer, coatis, rabbits, skunks, and a host of reptiles, small rodents, and birds.
C. Cultural Setting
Little is known about the prehistoric groups that inhabited lower Bonita Canyon. Archeological investigations in the Sulphur Spring Valley west of Chiricahua National Monument have documented an early prehistoric occupation in the area dating back to about 8000 B.C. Small bands of these Archaic period nomadic hunters and gatherers roamed across the valley and into the canyons for thousands of years, with only minor changes until the advent of pottery-bearing cultures sometime after A.D. 1. These ceramic-based cultures continued to hunt and gather but also were agriculturalists who lived in semipermanent pit-house villages. They are generally linked with other ceramic cultures to the north and east as the "San Simon Branch" of the Mogollon, but also show influence from groups to the south and west. Populations grew, and by about A.D. 1200, a number of medium- to large-sized puebloan villages dotted the valley. Around A.D. 1450, these villages, and the area in general, were abandoned as part of a larger demise of puebloan culture.
When southeast Arizona was opened to American homesteaders after the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico in 1853, they encountered stiff resistence from the Chiricahua Apaches, who had, by this time, made the area their homeland and stronghold. Military troops were dispatched to subdue the Apaches, and several forts were established. Included among these was Fort Bowie in Apache Pass, founded in 1862. As part of the final campaign against the Chiricahua Apaches in 1885, an ancillary military tent camp was set up in lower Bonita Canyon and maintained until Geronimo's surrender in 1886. Prior to the survey, the only known remains of this camp were the engraved stones of a field stone monument built by the soldiers as a memorial to assassinated President Garfield. This monument was later dismantled and the stones incorporated into a fireplace at Faraway Ranch.
Some years before the establishment of the military camp at Bonita Canyon, the valley had been homesteaded by J. Hughes Stafford and his child bride, Pauline. They had several children and supported themselves through the proceeds of a fruit orchard and vegetable garden. Shortly after the Apache war, Neil Erickson, an ex-cavalry sergeant, his wife, Emma, and daughter, Lillian, also settled in Bonita Canyon, west of the Stafford homestead, in the area of the former military camp.
The Erickson homestead and family grew throughout the turn of the century. When Erickson, who was a forest ranger, began to accept posts away from the homestead after 1917, the management of the family property was left to his eldest daughter, Lillian. She bought out the property of the Stafford family in 1918, making the entire lower Bonita Canyon the property of the Ericksons. In 1923, Lillian married Ed Riggs, and together they expanded the old Erickson homestead into a prosperous cattle and guest ranch, dubbed the "Faraway Ranch." They were instrumental in the establishment of the Chiricahua National Monument in 1924.
The Faraway Ranch operated successfully against a background of changes for over 50 years, until the mid-1970s, when Lillian retired to a rest home in Willcox, where she died in April 1977. After the death of Lillian Erickson Riggs, her property and belongings were purchased by the National Park Service, with the understanding that they would be preserved and maintained for the inherent historic significance. A major portion of the property was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as the Faraway Ranch Historic District in 1979, and officially placed on the Register on August 27, 1980 (Chappell 1979).
D. Survey Method
The area surveyed includes most of lower Bonita Canyon, below 5,400 feet elevation, between the Stafford cabin and the new monument western boundary fence (see Fig. 1). This area (approximately 300 acres) encompasses all of the land included in the Faraway Ranch Historic District, except for the parcel between 5,400 and 5,600 feet on the northern boundary of the district. This parcel is excessively steep (more than 30° grade) and rocky and is considered to have low archeological potential, in addition to being inaccessible for controlled survey. Roughly half of the surveyed area is outside of the district boundary, to the west and south. This area contains several highly significant historic and prehistoric archeological resources that can be related to those within the district and should be reconsidered for inclusion (see below).
The survey was conducted in linear transects, with the spacing between surveyors from 10 to 15 m, as terrain permitted. All identified 19th and 20th century remains/loci were numbered consecutively as either features (F#) or isolated artifacts (IA#) within "site" CHIR 83A-1. Prehistoric sites were numbered consecutively, beginning with CHIR 83A-2, while prehistoric isolated artifacts were given individual IA numbers (CHIR 83A-IA#). Recording consisted of a written description (emphasis on quantity, size, condition, and date, if possible), a location plot on aerial photographs and 7-1/2 minute USGS map, and, in most cases, photographs (black-and-white prints and color slides). Some large feature areas and all foundations were mapped with compass and tape. The exact locations of collected artifacts were plotted prior to removal.
Within the Faraway Ranch and Stafford cabin areas, historic photographs were used to aid in the location and identification of structures no longer apparent. This approach enabled us to locate, with minimal subsurface testing, the foundation of the original Garfield monument (1886), despite the absence of clear surface indications. It is expected that these photographs will continue to be of assistance in future archeological research, particularly subsurface investigations.
E. Prehistoric Archeological Resources
Fifteen prehistoric sites and 29 prehistoric isolated artifacts were recorded in the survey area. These are described in tables 1 and 2 (all figures and tables are located at the end of this section). Figures 2 and 3 give the locations of the prehistoric loci.
Most of the recorded prehistoric isolated artifacts are single igneous flakes or small clusters of flakes and cores that probably represent tool making or tool maintenance stations occupied only briefly They cannot be dated to any particular time period. A few sherds are associated with IA-9, 22, and 26, but these are also nondiagnostic. IA-8 is a medium-sized, obsidian, corner-notched projectile point that was collected. There are no obsidian outcrops within Bonita Canyon; this material must have been imported or brought in from elsewhere, probably in the form of finished bifaces. Four of the six bifacially retouched pieces observed during the survey were made of obsidian, yet no obsidian flakes or cores were found.
The remainder of the isolated artifacts recorded are ground stone objects. Two of these are boulder mortars (IA-5 and IA-23) in situ, while the other three (IA-19, 20, and 29) have been moved in the recent past to the Faraway Ranch area. IA-19 is a boulder mortar sitting on the front porch of the ranch house. IA-20 is a basin metate included with natural boulders as part of the path stones leading to Neil Erickson's office. IA-29 is a trough metate that has been incorporated into the stone wall surrounding the ranch house yard.
The prehistoric sites discovered in lower Bonita Canyon are mostly small, dispersed surface sherd and lithic scatters. Typically, they are located along the lower slopes on both sides of the canyon floor; only three sites were located on the floor itself. Inventories of these sites (see Table 2) generally totaled less than 200 (and often less than 100) artifacts, although an intensive surface collection might reveal more. Exceptions to this pattern are CHIR 83A-3, 8, and 13.
CHIR 83A-3 is a large linear artifact scatter located along the slope and top of the terrace bench north of Bonita Creek near the mouth of the canyon. An inventoried sample of 448 pieces of chipped stone probably represents less than 25 percent of all the flaked materials at the site. In addition to chipped stone, a total of six manos, four metates, and one bedrock mortar and pestle were also observed on the site. Only 12 sherds were discovered. This association of large quantities of ground and chipped stone at CHIR 83A-3 may indicate that this is an Archaic site with a small, and more recent, ceramic component.
CHIR 83A-8 is also located on the bench above and north of Bonita Creek. It is a small site in area but contains a relatively larger number and variety of artifacts than most of the other sites. Forty-two cores and tested cobbles were counted on the site, in addition to four hammerstones, suggesting that flint-knapping was a major activity.
CHIR 83A-13 is unlike any of the other sites. It is a lithic quarry situated along the north-facing slope of the saddle between two rocky outcrops south of the Stafford orchard. A drainage has exposed deposits of fine- to medium-grained igneous rock that has been worked intensively. Numerous cores, primary flakes, and secondary flakes were observed. Similar raw material makes up more than 90 percent of the chipped stone at all the sites in the area. It is likely that this quarry and igneous cobbles in the Bonita Creek bed were the major sources of lithic raw material in prehistoric times.
The very limited quantity of decorated sherds observed on the sites makes precise dating difficult, if not impossible. Brownware and redware ceramics first appear in this area sometime after A.D. 200, but continue to be manufactured throughout the occupation of the area by pottery making cultures. Decorated ceramics do not become popular until around A.D. 700 or 800. In general terms, the decorated ceramics from the lower Bonita Canyon sites fall into two time blocks. The earlier period is characterized by red-on-brown pottery types (CHIR 83A-6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) and probably dates between A.D. 700 and A.D. 1100. A single Mimbres Black-on-white sherd found at CHIR 83A-3 would also fit into this time period. The second time block is characterized by polychrome types (CHIR 83A-9 and 15) that become popular in the area between A.D. 1200 and A.D. 1450. A late incised ware sherd from CHIR 83A-10 probably belongs to this time period.
No archeological loci attributable to Chiricahua Apache use of lower Bonita Canyon were encountered in the survey. It is probable that the presence of the Apache was either too ephemeral to be recorded in the archeological record or was restricted to elevations and terrain outside the survey area.
F. Historic and 20th Century Archeological Resources
A total of 101 historic and 20th century features and 67 isolated artifacts were recorded within the survey area. These loci are described in summary fashion in tables 3 and 4. Their location is given in figures 4, 5, and 6.
The isolated historic and 20th century artifacts recorded by the survey consist of farm/ranch equipment, glass bottles, tin cans, cartridge cases, and other items of variable age and significance. Features include rock alignments, stone foundations, borrow pits, trash dumps and scatters, ash pits, hearths, glass and metal scatters, work areas, and rock piles.
Within the Faraway Ranch area proper, 34 isolated artifacts and 33 features were identified and recorded (Fig. 6, Inset A). Particularly noteworthy from a structural standpoint, is F53, a single-course, roughtly square (9 feet by 7-1/2 feet) alignment of small rhyolite boulders, probably representing the outline of a former building foundation. Also, likely remains of an outbuilding are burned boards with nails at F62. Historic photographs appear to show probable privies near F98 and F60. While there are no definitive surface indications of these, subsurface testing might reveal their location.
The immediate Stafford cabin area contains 10 recorded isolated artifacts and 12 features (Fig. 6, Inset B). Surface indications, coupled with historic photographs, indicate that F76, F82, and F84 may represent the location of former outbuildings. Within F84, a .45-70 Government center-fire cartridge case, with a March 1878 headstamp, was collected. Feature 81, a large rock alignment with at least one corner, is interpreted as a foundation of a former animal enclosure fence. Feature 80 is a possible grave site, although this is not certain.
Also of particular interest are a series of features located to the south and west of Faraway Ranch. These features (F25, F28, F31, F90, F95, and possibly components of F91 and F92) are thought to reflect, in whole or in part, the presence of the 1885-1886 military camp at Bonita Canyon. Feature 25 (actually a "feature area") is perhaps the most significant of these, in that it encompasses an area containing not only late 19th century bottle glass and hole-in-top can fragments, but also the remains of several stone constructions. Included are a rock wall, two rock alignments, a hearth, a possible forge or oven platform, and the remnant foundation of the Garfield monument.
In addition to F25, a single-course, stone wall foundation, with associated late 19th century artifacts, was recorded at F91, but this may relate to the early Erickson homestead Feature 90 is a well constructed lookout post, situated at the top of the rocky outcrop south of the Faraway Ranch house. While not datable on its own, its location and construction is entirely consistent with the military camp.
The reason for attributing the above features to the 1885-1886 military camp at Bonita Canyon is based both on the age and on the type of the associated artifacts. Collected artifacts include an early style (1854-1884) general service, military coat button (F25), a .56-52 Spencer rimfire cartridge case (F25), a military trouser buckle (F25), a complete brown glass beer bottle manufactured by Wisconsin Glass Co., Milwaukee, 1881-1885 (F28), an embossed tin beer bottle cap (F28), and a brass tent rope slip size No. 1 (F92). This assemblage, in conjunction with other observed glass, metal, and hole-in-top tin can fragments, can be compared most closely to the Fort Bowie military material culture collection (Herskovitz 1978). The absence of household domestic items (for example, ceramics, tools, other glassware, etc.) is noteworthy.
Finally, special attention should be brought to the Faraway Ranch trash dumps recorded in the survey area. While two major trash dumps occur (F20 and F89), many smaller trash dumps, piles, burns, pits, and scatters were also noted (see Table 2). On the surface, most of these appear to date to the mid- or late-20th century. Nonetheless, earlier trash is likely to be buried beneath at least some of these recorded features, and a small amount of early 20th century material was noted in F20. The absence of late 19th century trash dumps that can be attributed to the early Stafford or Erickson homesteads may be partly due to the common practice of disposal in privy holes, now buried.
A wealth of potential information regarding 20th century ranch life at Faraway is available in the form of these dumps. Preliminary observations suggest that inter- and intradump variation exists, both chronologically and functionally.
The CHIR 83A archeological survey succeeded in identifying and recording a total of 212 archeological loci in the lower Bonita Canyon. While of variable size and significance, many of these loci will require careful management planning.
Recommendations for the treatment of archeological resources in the lower Bonita Canyon are as follows:
1. Development of an Archeological Resource Management Plan for Lower Bonita Canyon. A concerted effort is needed to develop a resource management program specifically designed for archeological resources in the lower Bonita Canyon. As this area does, and will continue to, experience the most intensive use in the monument and also contains a unique set of archeological resources, it warrants special and specific attention. All concerned parties, including archeologists, historians, and the Chiricahua National Monument staff should be involved in the management plan for these resources. It can be developed as a separate document or as a major part of a revised version of the existing Cultural Resource Management Plan (NPS 1974).
The development of this framework for interpreting and managing both the prehistoric and historic/20th century archeological resources in lower Bonita Canyon, should precede any further collection and/or excavation of these remains. The course of future archeological research in the area can only be determined within the guidelines of such a management plan. In this regard, the remaining recommendations are subject to revision upon determination of the principle objectives and procedures outlined in an Archeological Resource Management Plan for lower Bonita Canyon.
2. Continued Archeological Survey in Lower Bonita Canyon. It is recommended that the archeological survey of lower Bonita Canyon be completed to include all territory between the monument entrance (mouth of Bonita Canyon) and the monument headquarters/campground area (beginning of lower Bonita Canyon) below 5,400 feet or 5,600 feet as terrain permits. The CHIR 83A survey covered approximately the western half of this area, creating an arbitrary eastern survey boundary. It is doubtful that either prehistoric or historic/20th century occupants of the lower Bonita Canyon observed such an artificial boundary. Historic documents, in fact, suggest otherwise. The Silver Spur Meadow area, for example, is known to have been intimately tied to activities of both the Stafford and Erickson/Riggs homesteads.
Complete survey of the canyon's naturally bounded area will facilitate better understanding of all periods of occupation, in addition to providing more complete data for management purposes.
3. Nomination of Prehistoric Archeological Resources to the National Register of Historic Places. The prehistoric archeological sites of lower Bonita Canyon constitute a valuable cultural resource. Prehistoric archeological research in this part of southeast Arizona has lagged behind other regions, and, consequently, little is known about the area. The research that has been done is restricted to a few sites in the major valley systems bordering the Chiricahua Mountains, particularly the Sulphur Spring Valley and San Simon Valley. Side canyons, such as Bonita Canyon, are virtually unexplored.
Prehistoric sites recorded in the present survey are small, but probably typical of use of such areas. Several different periods of occupation are represented in addition to several kinds of sites. This chronological range and functional variability impart a significance to the sites which exceeds the value of the individual site. The sites, therefore, should be nominated (along with other sites potentially located in the eastern half of lower Bonita Canyon) as a district. This nomination could be included as part of the current Faraway Ranch Historic District or overlap this district as a separate prehistoric district.
4. Expansion of the Faraway Ranch Historic District Boundaries. Of immediate concern is the inclusion of identified components of the 1885-1886 military camp at Bonita Canyon into the area of the Faraway Ranch Historic District. At present, the existing southern boundary of the district excludes major loci of this camp, including features 25, 28, and 95. It is recommended that the southern boundary be extended upslope on Erickson Ridge to an elevation of 5,400 feet or 5,600 feet to correspond with the northern boundary, and to provide a more natural enclosure for the archeological resources.
The current arbitrary western boundary of the Faraway Ranch Historic District also excludes major archeological loci in the Faraway Meadow area and the mouth of Bonita Canyon. In particular, the western boundary appears to exclude a major portion of F20, an early to late 20th century large trash dump attributable to Faraway Ranch activities. Several other trash scatters and dumps along Bonita Creek are also excluded. Several prehistoric sites are also located outside of the present western boundary, including the largest and possibly the earliest known site in the canyon, CHIR 83A-3.
Ultimately, the determination of the appropriate boundaries for the Faraway Ranch Historic District will rely upon the manner in which prehistoric resources are nominated to the National Register of Historic Places (see Recommendation 3). Continued survey in the remainder of lower Bonita Canyon will also affect the determination of a meaningful eastern boundary.
5. In Situ Preservation of Archeological Resources. The most satisfactory manner in which to comply with National Park Service policy and preservation laws for the management of archeological resources is protection by means of avoidance of impact. In situ preservation, therefore, is the priority recommendation for management of the identified archeological resources. In many cases, much information can be gleaned from the archeological record through nondestructive recording procedures and archival research. These techniques are consistent with a policy of in situ preservation and are recommended if more data are required from the archeological resources in the lower Bonita Canyon.
6. Mitigation of Direct Adverse Impacts to Archeological Resources. Although avoidance of impact is the best policy, it is anticipated that some development will take place in areas containing archeological resources. It is also expected that interpretive themes may lead to the desire to investigate archeological resources in a "destructive" manner, such as subsurface testing and excavation. In either case, a plan for mitigation of adverse impacts will be required.
A mitigation plan should be framed within the guidelines of the overall Archeological Management Plan for the lower Bonita Canyon (see Recommendation 1). The particular procedures necessitated will also depend, in part, upon the nature of the adverse impact and the specific archeological resources affected. Some resources, such as the modern hearths identified near the mouth of Bonita Canyon, will, undoubtedly, require little or no mitigation of impact because they have already been adequately recorded. Other resources, such as some isolated artifacts, can be collected, with appropriate documentation and curation, if it is necessary in order to avert unavoidable impacts. However, many of the historic/20th century features, and all of the prehistoric sites, will require a much more extensive mitigation plan, frequently involving subsurface investigations, inventorying, and subsequent data analysis.
The determination of the appropriate procedures for dealing with adverse impacts to archeological resources should be made during the development planning stages. Mitigation plans may be subject to comment and/or approval by the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
7. Mitigation of Indirect Adverse Impacts to Archeological Resources. More subtle and difficult to document are indirect adverse impacts that will undoubtedly occur as development and visitor use intensify in the Faraway Ranch area. Many of the archeological resources are highly visible and subject to destruction or loss. Other resources are very fragile and will suffer significantly by increased activity in surrounding areas.
An example of indirect impact is the disappearance of an anvil that is known to have been associated with the work area identified as F37 in the Faraway Ranch. Similar disturbances and disappearances at this and other stockpile/work area features can be expected if this area is opened to self-guided tours.
A more dramatic possibility is the destruction through unauthorized collection of the limited remains of the 1885-1886 military camp. Late 19th century material culture in the Southwest is particularly coveted by amateur collectors and, therefore, inherently endangered by proximity to development areas. It is recommended that major feature areas of the military camp be excavated, analyzed, and curated for their interpretive value and protection. Otherwise, steps will have to be taken to ensure that these resources are fully protected in situ from indirect, as well as direct, adverse impacts.
Careful consideration of indirect adverse impacts to all archeological loci will be needed in the planning of development projects and visitor use patterns.
8. Stabilization of Historic/20th Century Archeological Resources. A number of historic and 20th century isolated artifacts and features are rapidly deteriorating through the rusting of metal parts and rotting of wood. While these natural processes cannot be avoided in most cases (that is, in trash dumps), an assessment of the need to reconstruct, stabilize, and/or maintain other archeological resources is required. Examples range from a dilapidated farm wagon (IA-22) and rusting disc harrow (IA-20) to stockpiles of pipes and equipment/hardware (for example, F36).
In general, "cleanup" activities are not recommended. However, a systematic program addressing stabilization is recommended within the overall framework of an Archeological Resource Management Plan for Lower Bonita Canyon.
9. Monitoring of Ground Disturbance Projects. Although no surface indications of archeological resources were visible in some areas, all future subsurface excavating should be monitored by a professional archeologist. This is particularly true in areas around the Faraway Ranch and Stafford cabin. Repeated use of these areas has obscured the surface record and, undoubtedly, led to the formation of buried deposits.
Last Updated: 27-May-2008