Historic Resource Study
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Chapter 8
The Bottom of the Bottle: From Speculators to Showcase Ranchers on the Santa Cruz

Now that the speculators had won, they had to figure out what to do with the 99,289.39-acre rectangle federal courts had dumped in their laps. They spent the first decade swatting down the last of the suits against them and trying to sell off their windfall. No single architect with any grand design emerged from the legal and financial maneuvering.

Then time and the Depression caught up with the victors. There was no bonanza in the foothills of the Santa Ritas, no commercial entrepôt to be conjured up now that Ambos Nogales straddled the international border. The geography of capitalism in southern Arizona had not yet evolved to a point where there was another way to make a profit off land except for the extractive industries of mining, ranching, or agriculture. Neither the Bouldins nor Watts and Davis wanted to go into the cattle business. The Float remained a speculator's fantasy, not a cash cow.

But even fantasies require capital to sustain them. Beginning in 1929, wealthy "dudes" from back east began to turn the Float into a playground of the rich. Their leader was Talbot T. "Tol" Pendleton, a former All-American football player from Princeton. Like Eastern scions before and since, Pendleton went into the Texas oil business after graduation and World War I. As he absorbed Texas culture, however, Pendleton must have realized that the ultimate symbol of Western aristocracy was a showcase ranch, not an oil derrick. Taking advantage of plunging land prices, Pendleton and his partner, F.M. Dougherty, bought out both the Bouldins and Watts and Davis. By 1932, they were ready to form Baca Float Ranch, Inc.

For the next three decades, Pendleton lived the life of the gentleman rancher. He imported Santa Gertrudis cattle from the King Ranch in Texas. He raised racehorses. Whenever he got strapped for cash, he sold off portions of the Float to wealthy friends. This was the era when the Santa Cruz Valley boasted some of the greatest showcase ranches in the West. Baca Float Ranch, Inc. was one. The Manning family's Canoa Ranch north of Tubac was another. Retired executives from General Motors donned cowboy boots and drained martinis with Hollywood stars like Stewart Granger and John Wayne. From his ranch headquarters on Santa Gertrudis Lane, Pendleton became the center of a social whirl that reeled from La Caverna bar in Nogales, Sonora, to the Arizona Inn and Mountain Oyster Club in Tucson.

One of his guests was George Simenon, the famous Belgian crime novelist. While living in Pendleton's reconverted stud barn with his secretary-mistress, Simenon wrote a novelette about wealthy socialites trapped on the east side of the Santa Cruz River during flood. He called it The Bottom of the Bottle. It was not a flattering portrait. Drinking was the primary form of recreation, the cattle business a backdrop to the endless parties. Baca Float No. 3 had become a stage where wealthy heiresses and remittance men starred in their own bourbon-fueled fantasies of Western life.

A Handful of Homesteaders Return

Before Pendleton strode onto the scene, however, the Bouldin family and Watts and Davis spent more than a decade trying to make the Float pay. Watts and Davis refused to sell back any homesteads on the south half of the Float. [1] The Bouldins, on the other hand, informed John Henry Campbell, his chief attorney in Tucson, that they were willing to sell any land except the Burruel and Black homesteads. The price they asked was $50 an acre for first-class land and $15.00 an acre for second-class land. Settlers on the north half of the Float held several meetings in Tubac with their attorneys, Duffy and Purdum of Nogales, to consider the Bouldins' offer. After their final meeting, Duffy informed Campbell's firm "that nearly all the Mexicans have decided that they will not go any further in regard to a settlement. They seem to have come to the conclusion that their 'best bet' is to leave the land by ejectment and then appeal to the United States Government for assistance." [2]

Nonetheless, twenty homesteaders did offer to pay $50 per acre for cultivated land, $25 per acre for lands that could be cleared and cultivated, and $10 per acre for grazing lands. The Bouldins and Wendell Bailey, the Washington, D.C. lawyer who represented them in return for one-fourth of the North half, accepted the offers of only five: Thomas Casanega, Manuel King, Charles Karns, Ramón Burruel, and Rómulo Alegría. They rejected others like Louis Lim and William Rosenberg, offering to lease them the land instead for $50 per year. Two elderly settlers—Guadalupe de Vásquez and Evaristo Gómez—made special pleas through Sarah Black to remain on their land because their sons were serving in the military during World War I. Campbell replied that they would be allowed do so if they agreed to "sign a memorandum lease acknowledging that they are holding under our clients and pay a trifling rental." [3]

Henry Ohm was one of the homesteaders dispossessed by the court's decision. According to his final proof, Ohm, a Louisiana native, settled along the Santa Cruz in 1893. He filed his entry six years later. He and his wife and three children cleared the floodplain of mesquite and expanded their fields from fifty to 100 acres. They also built a home, threw up a hay shed, installed a steam pumping plant, hammered together chicken houses and other outbuildings, and strung a barbed wire fence around their property. Ohm was fifty-two years old when he proved up his claim in 1908.

Ten years later, he was hiring the Nogales Engineering Company to survey his homestead and corresponding with Campbell to buy back his land. The Bouldins turned him down. On July 15, 1918, Ohm sent them $250 in rent. That payment allowed him to remain on his land no later than November 1 in order to harvest his crops. [4] Two and a half decades of hard work evaporated like light rain under the Arizona sun.

Tumacácori Mission National Monument

Another of the dispossessed was Carmen Mendez. Mendez moved his young family to Mission Tumacácori in 1884 when he was thirty-six years old. Fashioning bricks from local mud, or scavenging them from the mission's convento, he built a small adobe home for his eighteen-year-old wife Catarina and their baby, Ramón. A stone's throw to the north, the ruins of the mission church slowly crumbled into desert soil.

Mendez was a citizen of Mexico when he arrived, but the international border meant little to anyone in the region except lawyers and politicians then. While Catarina gave birth to a baby every two years, Mendez cleared thirty acres of land, sunk a well, dug irrigation ditches, and planted crops except for two or three years of "drouth." [5] In 1896, he filed a Declaration of Intention to become a citizen of the United States. In 1899, he applied for a homestead of 160 acres after the U.S. Supreme Court wiped the Tumacácori land grant off the map. Nine years later, Mendez submitted his final proof. He and four witnesses testified to the improvements he had made and to his continuous occupation of the land. [6]

That same year, Mendez deeded ten acres of his homestead to the United States. Those ten acres embraced the heart of Mission Tumacácori, which was being gutted by treasure hunters and defaced by vandals who scrawled their names on its walls and knocked off pieces of interior frescos for souvenirs. The Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society appealed to the newly created Forest Service to save the site. The Forest Service conducted a survey and Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson attested to its historical importance. On September 15, 1908, under the provisions of the fledgling American Antiquities Act, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Mission Tumacácori a National Monument (National Park Service 1977).

Then the ratification of Baca Float No. 3 erased both Mendez's homestead and the monument. Mendez lost his land and had to move on like most of the other homesteaders, but James Bouldin and his wife deeded ten acres of Mission Tumacácori back to the United States in 1917. After control passed from the Forest Service to the newly created National Park Service, Frank Pinkley, the superintendent of Casa Grande National Monument, wrested $400 from the government to begin stabilizing the church. That stabilization proceeded in fits and starts, cement patchwork here, adobe patchwork there. Tumacácori National Monument was a slowly emerging vision, not-a-master plan.

The Silo Land & Cattle Company and the Ghost of John S. Robinson

The biggest challenge the Bouldins faced was the Silo Land & Cattle Company, a paper corporation assembled in El Paso, Texas, in 1918. The company appeared to be the brainchild of Selim Franklin, the Tucson attorney who always seemed to come out on the losing end of the fight over the Float. Franklin had represented the Wises in their quixotic quest to promote a lost Baca heir. In the early 1890s, however, he had briefly worked for James S. Bouldin, trying to peddle the Greaterville placers to investors in England and New York. [7] Franklin also served as attorney for John S. Robinson, who swapped paper transactions with the Bouldins around the same time. [8]

The notice of incorporation for the Silo Land & Cattle Company appeared in the El Paso papers on March 1, 1918. It listed El Paso residents C.L. Galloway, Robert L. Holliday, and A.H. Culwell as president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer. According to the Articles of Incorporation, Silo's purpose was to "buy, own, sell and convey real estate and minerals in the State of Arizona, and to engage in mining, agriculture, and stock raising in said State of Arizona." The company planned to issue five thousand shares of capital stock at one dollar a share. [9]

Several days before that, however, Silo held the first meeting of its board of directors. The three-man board appointed Franklin as resident agent of the corporation in Pima County and Otto Herold of Nogales as resident agent in Santa Cruz County. Then Galloway, Culwell, and Holliday tendered their resignations and were replaced by A.M. Franklin as president, Henrietta Franklin as vice-president, and H.E. Heighton as secretary-treasurer.

At its second meeting on March 22, the new board reported that all 5,000 shares had been subscribed. It also noted that "heirs and persons interested in the estate of John C. Robinson, deceased, who claimed ownership" in Baca Float No. 3 were willing to convey one-half of the North half of the Float for $2,500. The money was to be paid to Franklin, Silo's attorney. A condition of the sale was that Silo, at its own expense, would bring suit to quiet title to the entire North half of the Float. Silo's board voted to do so. [10] That same day, four heirs of Robinson—Mary Whitney Robinson, Julia Robinson Collier, Caroline P. Hall, and Anne Gertrude Robinson—signed the agreement. [11]

Silo filed suit against Bailey and the Bouldins in April. Another corporation—the Robinson Land & Cattle Company—did the same against Watts and Davis. Bailey and the Bouldins immediately sued back. They also launched a counter-suit against Robinson's heirs. The two cases were transferred from Santa Cruz County to Pima County in December. On January 8, 1919, Judge G.W. Shute of Pima County Superior Court set fire to Franklin's paper company by decreeing that Silo did not have "any right, title, interest or claim whatsoever" in the North half of the Float. He also found in favor of Bailey and the Bouldins regarding their cross-complaint. They were "the owners in fee simple of the whole of the said North half of said tract of land known as Baca Float No 3 and are entitled to the possession thereof," Shute declared. [12]

Judge W.H. Sawtelle of the U.S. District Court of Arizona in Tucson rendered a similar judgment in the counter-suit against Robinson's heirs. [13] The Robinson Land & Cattle Company met the same fate in their suit against Watts and Davis. [14] The ghost of General John S. Robinson—and all the other speculators who had gambled on the Float for half a century—haunted Arizona courtrooms no longer.

The Baca Float Mining & Cattle Company and the Mineral Segregation

The Bouldins never intended to develop the Float themselves. Ever since patriarch David W. Bouldin purchased the north half of the Float from Judge Watts' widow and children in 1884, he and his sons James and Powhattan had swapped shares and titles with a string of other speculators. Meanwhile the Float—original or amended—hovered in legal limbo above the dry southern Arizona landscape. "I can easily testify that the major part of my Father's time was given directly to the interests of Baca matters," Powhattan recalled, "also that he put many thousands of dollars into this." Powhattan accompanied his father on trips to "Arizona, New Mexico, California and other places hunting up records and papers pertaining to the Baca business." Of his father's "supposed friends," he remembered Charles Pushaw as a "sharp crook," James Eldredge as "a sharp shrewd schemer," and A.M. Syme as "about the same thing. Syme all through pretended he was working for my Father's interests or rather ours." [15]

After their title was confirmed, the Bouldins unpacked the Float's resources like a box of Christmas toys and tried to rent or sell them off one by one. They leased their grazing lands to Russell Durrell of Van Horn, Texas, from 1917 to 1919 during a Texas drought. The price was $7,500 for nine months a year. [16] During the summer of 1919, they negotiated with Henry Boice of the Boice-Gates-Johnson Cattle Company of Los Angeles, California, to do the same. The price had risen to $8,000 a year, and Bouldin indicated that he would be willing to offer a five-year lease at "$9,500 per annum, with the privilege of cancellation after one year in case of sale of the property." [17]

The Bouldins also trafficked in mining claims. They collected royalties from Leonard Tobin, who was operating the Eureka or Virginia Lee group of mines, John Reid, who was working the Trudie group, and the Santa Cruz Sindicate, which was extracting ore from the Royal Blue Mine. On January 14, 1918, however, James E. Bouldin took a $750,000 option on the World's Fair Mine in the Harshaw Mining District of the Patagonia Mountains. [18] When royalties from the Float could not cover Bouldin's option on the World's Fair, he and Bailey sold an option on 8,000 acres in the northeastern corner of the Float to Walter G. Clark of New York City for $1,000,000 in July 1918. Clark also purchased an option on 2,000 contiguous acres for a townsite to service his mines.

This was the origin of the so-called Mineral Segregation, the only part of the Float the Bouldins eventually retained. It very quickly took on a life of its own, and led to a series of court battles as well. In a handwritten letter from Salero Camp, Leonard Tobin complained bitterly to Judge Campbell that Clark and his associates had taken possession of all the mines on the North half of the Float. "It was my work of showing them over the property and my report that had largely to do in selling their Baca Float. For your own information [I] will say that I have never been so disappointed in my life at the way I have been treated by Mr. Bouldin," Tobin groused as he prepared to enlist in the American Mining Engineers during World War I. [19]

Clark must have dropped his option because he disappears from Campbell's correspondence. On February 5, 1919, the Bouldins granted another option "to purchase the greater part of the north half of that certain tract of land known as Baca Float No. 3" to A.R. Grund of St. Louis, Missouri. Three days later, Grund agreed to transfer his option to the Baca Floats Mine Company, which had just been organized by Tucson mining entrepreneur John Mets with a capital stock of $3,000,000. [20]

A.R. Conner and S.L. Kingan, the law partners of Judge Campbell, filed the Articles of Incorporation of the Baca Float Mines Company on March 4. Campbell was appointed legal agent. On March 10, the first meeting of the new company's board of directors elected its officers, with Conner as president and Mets as treasurer. The officers of the company resigned immediately after voting to accept Grund's transfer of his option to the North half of the Float. The board then elected Grund president in one of those legal shuffles so common in the Float's speculative history. [21]

That particular shuffle lasted less than two months. The purchase price of the option was $1,500,000, with all royalty payments from mining leases to be credited towards the sum. On May 3, Grund notified the Bouldins that the Baca Float Mines Company could not meet its first payment and surrendered the option. The Bouldins' first major chance to cash in on the Float fell through in the legal blink of an eye. [22]

The Bailey Interlude

The Bouldins then turned to someone closer at hand. During the summer of 1919, Wendell Bailey threatened to file a partition suit to divide up the North half of the Float. Bailey, who controlled 25 percent of the North half, wanted to buy enough additional land from the Bouldins "to make a large enough ranch to justify the hope that I could make something out of it." "You declined to consider that proposition, giving as your reason that I would not be willing to pay you what the land was worth," he wrote James E. Bouldin. Bailey therefore proposed to buy out the Bouldins or have the Bouldins buy out him. [23]

Two days later, James Bouldin scrawled a handwritten note to Judge Campbell from the Colonial Hotel in Springfield, Missouri. "Weldon is always looking for the best of it," Bouldin complained. "Life is too short to worry along and hold joint interest with him. He would always keep me tied up. I have been more than fair with him, but he is cold as a clam." He authorized Campbell to file the partition suit. [24]

The squabbling partners evidently changed their minds, because on January 6, 1920, the Bouldins sold their three-fourths share of the North half to Bailey. The only exceptions were the ten acres for Mission Tumacácori, four parcels of farmland homesteaders Manuel King (110 acres), William Lowe (105 acres), Charkes Karns (95 acres), and Thomas Casanega (100 acres) had purchased, and eighty-five acres that had been sold to the law firm of Duffy and Purdum of Nogales. The Bouldins did retain the mineral rights, however, as well as the right to occupy the Shultz House near the old Salero Mine. [25] Dreams of a big strike in the Santa Ritas still lingered.

Not everyone shared that dream. G.H. Brevillier, a New York attorney representing the Alto Mines Company in a suit against Bailey and the Bouldins in 1917, was one such skeptic. "Since I looked over the Baca Float from the rear platform of a train to and from Nogales in February 1916, I have had very little confidence in it as a commercial proposition," he sneered. "The grant never appealed to me as a mineral proposition. It has been thoroughly prospected for over half a century without any real mine being found on it." [26]

Nonetheless, speculators continued to dive into the Float's murky waters. In March 1920, Judge Campbell unsuccessfully negotiated with Bailey and the Bouldins to buy the mineral rights to the entire North half. Two years later, A.R. Grund returned with a new corporation, the Baca Float Mining & Cattle Company, to resurrect the proposition once again.

This time, he had Bailey as a partner. On February 7, 1922, Bailey and the Bouldins came to a detailed agreement about the Float. Bailey gave the Bouldins a number of small properties, including the "Ohm place," "the Arballo place," and "the Alegria place." He also transferred the rest of the North half of the grant—45,000 acres of grazing land east of the Santa Cruz, the "Townsite of Tubac," the "Gomez place," the "Mabis Place," and others—to the Baca Float Mining & Cattle Company. [27] Names that evoked a generation of family toil—calloused hands shelling corn, cutting firewood, shoeing horses—bobbed through the legal documents like dead fish while paper companies incorporated in Delaware or Dallas darted about trying to feed.

The partners formalized the convoluted swap on May 5, 1922. The Bouldins transferred their portion of the Float and its mineral rights to the new company. That same day, Weldon Bailey and the company signed a promissory note for $640,000 due in six months and payable to James E. Bouldin and Joseph W. Bailey at the American Exchange National Bank in Dallas. [28] Bouldin apparently kept an interest in the company and was elected treasurer. Despite the postwar depression gripping the United States, the Bouldins and Baileys kept trying to make their legal crapshoot pay off.

But the Baca Float Mining & Cattle Company turned belly up as well. When it failed to pay off its note, Joseph Bailey and his bank took legal action. On November 8, 1924, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court issued a writ of execution ordering the county sheriff to sell off the North half of the Float at public auction. American Exchange National Bank was the highest bidder at $250,000. After Bailey and the bank paid off delinquent taxes, Harold Brown, the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, issued them a sheriff's deed. [29] The press identified Joseph Bailey as owner of the Float.

A former U.S. Senator from Texas, Bailey first waded into the speculative free-for-all as a lawyer for S.A.M. Syme and Alexander Mathews (see Chapter 7). After he figured out that their claims to the Float were weak, he deftly hopped over to the Bouldins. [30] Now he owned most of the North half of the Float.

But it was his son Weldon who decided to play rancher. Earlier in 1924, Weldon had applied for a loan of $25,000 from the Federal Land Bank in Berkeley, California. He sought to mortgage 478 acres of farmland along the Santa Cruz. Because he listed Judge Campbell as one of his debtors, the bank contacted Campbell to ask if Bailey was "a real farmer" and was not applying for the loan just to sell the property. [31] "Weldon Bailey apparently has no very great liking for the practice of law and his father gave or sold to him his share of the fee in this case," Campbell replied. "He has taken a great interest in this land and seems to like to live upon it rather than to practice law." [32] A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia Law School, Bailey defaulted on his mortgage two years later. [33] Nonetheless, he spent the rest of his life in Tubac, dying in southern Arizona in 1948.

The Bouldins, on the other hand, retained onky a few parcels of farmland along the Santa Cruz. One of those parcels was on the South half of the Float and belonged to Jennie Bouldin, the widow of the patriarch. Her son James spent the summer of 1924 sparring with Watts and Davis over a small piece of adjacent grazing land. In a letter to Campbell, he grumbled about their penny-pinching and said that Davis "acts like a pawn broker instead of a man wanting to give any one a square deal." [34]

Watts and Davis, the Sorrells, and the Drought of the Early 1920s

Cornelius Watts and Dabney C.T. Davis, meanwhile, were trying to sell off their share of the Float as well. On February 18, 1920, they conveyed most of the south half to J.R. and Roy Sorrells of Santa Cruz County. The sale involved three large tracts totaling 45,916 acres. The transaction excluded much of the floodplain of the Santa Cruz River along with water and ditch rights necessary for irrigation (see Map 8.1). Watts and Davis also retained one-half interest in the mineral rights, including oil and gas. [35]

The Sorrells, unlike Wendell Bailey, were pioneer ranchers in Santa Cruz County. They had fought Apaches and cattle baron Colin Cameron in the San Rafael Valley, and they knew the cattle business as homestead ranchers, not speculators. [36] During World War I, the price of beef rose as rail rates dropped and the importation of frozen beef from Argentina ceased. Moreover, drought in west Texas forced many Texas cattlemen like Russell Durrell to ship their animals to Arizona. Such competition made Arizona stockmen eager to expand their ranges at a time when many had the capital to do so.

But the early 1920s were not kind to the cattle business. Once the war ended, demand plummeted as international trade resumed. The result was a national agricultural depression that hit Arizona farmers and ranchers hard (Sheridan 1995). Drought withered Arizona as well, decreasing fodder production by forty to fifty-five percent. Lack of feed led to a dramatic increase in cattle mortality, from an average of 61 per 1,000 during the preceding decade to 100 per 1,000 in 1920. Some ranchers survived by driving their cattle onto Sonoran ranges (Wagoner 1952). Others lost their herds as banks foreclosed on them.

One of those ranchers in the Santa Cruz Valley was David John Cumming, who ran cattle in the foothills of the Atascosa Mountains. [37] The valley was open range, like most of the rest of Arizona. The U.S. Forest Service was just beginning to carve national forests into grazing allotments assigned to individual ranchers. The Taylor Grazing Act, which did the same on the rest of the public domain, was more than a decade away. Cattle not only foraged freely but shared the range with bands of wild horses and thousands of wild burros as well. [38]

That meant that the range was overgrazed during the best of seasons. Dry seasons meant disaster, especially when they followed one another as they did in the early twenties. The drought started in the summer of 1922. Clouds floated across the summer sky but rarely piled into the great black thunderheads that produced the monsoon rains. "Instead of lush grass nearly two feet high, as was usually the case," John Cumming's son Douglas recalled, "the ranges had only acquired a scrawny growth of grass that was seldom over six inches high." [39]

That winter, many older cows and cows nursing calves died. The ranchers waited for the early spring rains to save them. The rains never arrived. "During May, cattle began dying by the hundreds," Douglas Cummings wrote in his unpublished autobiography. "Near springs that had not yet gone dry, the stench of dead cattle was almost unbearable. Occasionally we would come upon a cow, down and too weak to ever get up again. Dad would dismount and mercifully shoot her. Orphaned calves wandered about bawling for their dead mothers." [40]

Like many other small ranchers, John Cummings had borrowed money from a local bank in Nogales. When their notes came due in the fall of 1923, the bank sent roundup crews to gather up the surviving cattle of those who could not pay. Those crews scoured the Atascosas and drove what remained of Cumming's herd carrying his 9L brand to stockyards along the railroad. Only Cumming's superior knowledge of the mountains kept him in the ranching business. He hid his four best horses in a remote canyon called Pine Gulch. His wife also owned about 20 heifers under her Rocking K brand that had been too young to calve when the drought hit. "When the year of 1923 was over, the Cumming Ranch consisted of four illegitimate horses and twenty of Mother's cows," Douglas Cumming noted. [41]

The Sorrells must have gotten caught in the same trap, dreams of expansion shriveling as cattle prices dropped and ranges dried up. When the Sorrells could not pay their mortgage, Watts and Davis took them to court. On January 15, 1922, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court issued a writ of execution foreclosing on Roy and Hazel Sorrells and Ozella Sorrells, widow and administratrix of the estate of John R. Sorrells. The Sorrells owed Watts & Davis $148,401 plus $8,095 interest at seven percent annum and attorney fees of $34. Watts & Davis purchased the three tracts at public auction from the sheriff of Santa Cruz County a year later, on January 22, 1923. They paid $171,839. [42]

Baca Float Ranch, Inc.

These setbacks left the Bouldins and Watts and Davis searching for other buyers at a time when the cattle business was reeling. Not much happened for the rest of the decade. Then, in 1929, two Texas oilmen—Talbot T. Pendleton and Francis M. Dougherty—brought the first era of Baca Float speculation to a close.

Not much information is available about Dougherty, who sold out to his partner in the 1930s. Pendleton, on the other hand, must have cut quite a dashing figure in the Santa Cruz Valley. His father was Nathaniel S. Pendleton of Virginia, a graduate of West Point and former member of the U.S. War Department. Tol Pendleton himself sounded like Frank Merryweather, all-American boy. While attending Princeton, he starred in football, baseball, and track. He was a member of Princeton's national champion football team in 1911 and captain of the team the following year, winning Walter Camp All-America honors at halfback.

But what Pendleton really wanted to do was play major league baseball. Despite several major league offers, however, Pendleton had to turn them down. Professional baseball was a blue-collar sport then, full of tobacco-chewing country boys and tough kids from the slums. Ivy leaguers like Pendleton were not supposed to associate with ruffians like George Herman Ruth, the delinquent son of a Baltimore saloonkeeper, or Tyrus Raymond Cobb, so foul-tempered he once jumped into the stands to beat up a heckler. "The ball players of that era were not regarded by everybody as socially acceptable," notes baseball historian Shirley Povich. "The stuffier hotels scorned their patronage. Baseball athletes rated only one cut above the plug-uglies of the professional prize ring; the chaw of tobacco was their badge and the corner saloon the hangout of so many" (Povich 1988:60). "Family persuasion" steered Pendleton away from his childhood dream.

Instead, he followed a more respectable path to adventure, serving as a fighter pilot in France in the 17th Night Pursuit Squadron of the Army Air Corps during World War I. After the war, Pendleton joined Roeser & Pendleton, an independent oil company in booming Fort Worth, Texas. As one obituary noted, he "toughened his giant physique working in Texas oil fields." [43]

By the end of the 1920s, however, Pendleton decided to sink part of his fortune into the Baca Float. The reason why he decided to invest in land, according to Tucson newspaper reporter Bernice Cosulich, was "due to the uncertainties of the future" (Cosulich 1942:41). The location he chose, on the other hand, depended upon an old school chum, Wendell Bailey. "Tol came to the area because he and my father went to high school together in West Virginia and when times got tough with the Depression, Tol bought up a lot of land," Sarah Bailey, Wendell's daughter, recalled. "Tol, my father, and Dougherty remained great friends all those years." [44]

Pendleton and Dougherty began buying up pieces of Baca Float No. 3. in the spring of 1929, just months before the Great Crash. They purchased the north half from the American Exchange National Bank for $125,000 on June 1. The mortgage was payable in ten promissory notes of $12,500 each over a ten-year period. A month later, Dougherty and Pendleton acquired the south half of the Float from Watts and Davis for $140,000, also payable in ten promissory notes over the same period. For the first time since Judge Watts, Baca Float No. 3—most of it anyway—belonged to a single interest.

Watts and Davis sold their entire interests in the south half of the Float. The sale included all water and water rights, the only exceptions being railroad and highway right-of-ways and about 2,000 acres claimed by the San José de Sonoita Grant. [45] The north half, in contrast, was more complicated. Transportation right-of-ways and Tumacácori National Monument remained outside the deal. But the biggest exception was the Mineral Segregation, which the American Exchange National Bank reserved for itself. Located in the northeast corner of the Float, the Mineral Segregation consisted of "all mines and minerals of whatsoever nature lying in or under" about 8,656 acres. For the next decade, the Mineral Segregation bounced back and forth between The First National Bank of Dallas, the new name of the American Exchange National Bank, and the Bouldins. In 1946, Jennie N. Bouldin, James' widow, leased the Mineral Segregation to J.W. Grotty, who later assigned it to the Salero Metals Corporation (Glannon 1949).

Once they had secured the surface rights to most of the Float, Dougherty and Pendleton spent the next two years putting the remaining pieces together, mostly tracts of farmland along the Santa Cruz. They bought several parcels from Bailey and the Bouldins. They also grabbed some sheriff's sales during the early days of the Depression, including Manuel King's homestead. These were hard times for the returned homesteaders. In a desperate effort to wring more water from the Santa Cruz, farmers near Tubac and Tumacácori mounted a blitzkrieg against cottonwoods, "ringing", i.e. cutting the bark around the giant trees' circumferences, to strangle the flow of nutrients and kill them. After they died and dried out, the giant skeletons, as large as thirty-five feet around, were set aflame. Meanwhile, increased groundwater pumping lowered water tables and sucked the life from other riparian vegetation. By the eve of World War II, the floodplain had been largely denuded, and only fifteen farming families survived in the Tubac-Tumacácori area (Logan 2003).

To prove they were good citizens, Dougherty and Pendleton conveyed a small parcel to the Calabasas school district. Otherwise, they used their capital in a cash-starved time to assemble the largest ranch in Santa Cruz County. [46] By 1932, Pendleton, Dougherty and their wives were ready to create Baca Float Ranch, Inc. to protect their other assets. According to Assessor's Records, the new corporation controlled 95,025 acres by 1934. The Float was nearly whole, at least for a time. [47]

More Wealthy Easterners Arrive

Pendleton plunged into the cattle business, stocking Baca Float Ranch, Inc. with Santa Gertrudis cattle from the King Ranch in Texas. He also bred racehorses and built a stud barn for his stallions. When someone asked how much the racehorses cost, he replied, "Well, I guess it was about $2.00 an oat." [48]

To pay the mortgage on the ranch and maintain his extravagant lifestyle, Pendleton sold off pieces of the Float to rich friends. The first to buy was E.T. Strong, the retired president of General Motors. He and his wife Grace purchased the King homestead and adjoining parcels on the north half of the Float in the spring of 1935. [49] Hal Prince, who had moved from La Osa Ranch in the Altar Valley to operate a dude ranch for Pendleton in 1933, [50] designed the Strong's home (Brownell 1986). The Strongs ran a dude ranch and then a working cattle ranch—the Upper S Bar S—until Strong died in 1948 (Glannon 1949).

A year later, Pendleton and Baca Float Ranch, Inc. sold three tracts just south of Mission Tumacácori to another retired GM executive, Harry J Mallery. Mallery had been comptroller and then vice-president of the Buick Division of GM. He and his wife Virginia paid $25,000 for the land and stocked it with registered Herefords (Cosulich 1942). [51] They named it Rancho de Pavón (Peacock Ranch) (Brownell 1986). Mallery died in the Pioneer Hotel fire in Tucson in 1970 (Accomazzo 1985).

In late December of the same year, Joanna Fay Shankle purchased another parcel on the north half of the Float. [52] Shankle also bought land north of Tubac from Thomas D. Casanega, who moved there after being booted off the float. An accomplished aviatrix, Shankle regularly commuted in her own plane between Boston and the Santa Cruz Valley after building an airstrip north of Chavez Siding. She therefore named her ranch Pajaritos Migradores (Migratory Birds) (Brownell 1986). During the late 1930s, Shankle established a profitable cotton farm on her land and even served as vice-president of Baca Float Ranch, Inc. (Cosulich 1942).

The newcomer Pendleton was most intimately associated with was Hubert Merryweather. Merryweather was a tall, handsome man from Ohio who moved to Arizona in 1935. After attending the University of Arizona, he bought into Baca Float Ranch, Inc. itself, serving as vice-president before he enlisted in the army and served for four years in the South Pacific during World War II. "Everybody in the valley used to know Hubert Merryweather because he was an absolute screwball," Charles Day, who eventually bought Merryweather's San Cayetano Ranch, recalled. "He was a hell of an attractive guy. Old Tol Pendleton was not very smart and he let Hubert get something like 49 percent of the Baca Float Ranch. He and Tol fought over this thing for many, many years." [53]

Some of these Easterners did not need to make money off their land and used their ranches as winter homes. Others started dude ranches, which flourished in Arizona during the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike most other businesses, dude ranches were Depression-proof and often quite luxurious. They catered to a wealthy Eastern clientele who, in the words of Progressive Arizona in September 1925, escaped to Arizona to "meet nature in her ruggedness and still live a 'white-man's life.'" (Sheridan 1995:242).

One of the first to do so on the Baca Float was Doris Oesting (later Doris Oesting Hannah). Pendleton sold her 100 acres and his first ranch headquarters. Sarah Bailey, who played with Pendleton's daughter Anne when she was a young girl, remembered the rambling structure. "Tol had built the house with a big kitchen including a summer dining room and a winter dining room. His daughter had her own area and there was a grand living room, a pool and the entire compound was enclosed by adobe walls." [54] In 1936, Mrs. Rockwell Kent rented the compound and remodeled the dining room. To build a new fireplace, she used bricks from Colonel C.P. Sykes' hotel in Calabasas, which had been bulldozed down so cotton could be planted on the old Calabasas townsite. [55] Oesting turned the compound and surrounding property into the famous Rancho Santa Cruz (Brownell 1986).

A good example of the noblesse oblige that existed among these Easterners was a permit granted by Pendleton to Oesting "permitting the said Doris Oesting, her employees, friends, and guests to ride upon and over the lands of said Baca Float Ranch, Inc., and to hold picnics, camp thereon." [56] Pendleton granted a similar permit to William Allen's Kenyon Ranch, a dude outfit west of Tubac that was not even on the Baca Float. E.T. and Grace Strong received even greater access—"the perpetual right to enter upon all uncultivated and unimproved range lands and all roads and trails with all portions of Baca Float No. 3, owned by grantor, and of walking, riding, driving and camping theron..." [57] Pendleton and his friends never allowed the cattle business or dude ranching to interfere with their socializing.

William Otto Fraesdorf, Jr., who sold ranches in the Santa Cruz Valley after World War II, knew many of these wealthy Easterners. During an interview in 1987, Betty Lane of the Tubac Historical Society asked him why they moved out here. "Well, they would start vacationing, and then guest ranching was quite popular and quite the 'in' thing to do," Fraesdorf replied. "So they would become involved in a guest ranch like the Rex Ranch, or the Kenyon, or the Circle Z or any one of them, and it sort of puffed them up. Made them feel good. Made them feel bigger in some way, (chuckles) and then they would consider buying. Some of them didn't live here year round, but they would always winter here and then summer back east someplace." [58]

The only exception to this trend was the sale of the Salero Ranch in the northeast corner of the Float. On November 22, 1938, Baca Float Ranch, Inc. sold its biggest parcel yet—26,602 acres centered around Salero Mountain—to Roy and Helen Adams. [59] According to Charles Day, "Old Roy Adams was another character they say in those days. He was a cowboy from way back. He was married to the same gal three times, I think." [60]

Adams' hold on the Salero Ranch was apparently even looser than his hold on his wife. Less than a year after he bought it, he sold the ranch to W.D. Parker and F. Lee Fisher. They assumed Adams' mortgage from the Valley National Bank with an unpaid balance of $43,000. [61] On February 15, 1940, Fisher and his wife sold their share of the ranch to Parker, who became sole owner. [62]

"Dink" Parker was one of four brothers who moved with their parents from Ozona, Texas, to Hachita, New Mexico in 1910. The Parker family brought a herd of 500 horses with them, including both Morgan and Quarterhorse brood mares and stallions. Opie "Oak" Parker bought a ranch along the San Pedro River. Claude "Bud" Parker became one of the most famous cattle buyers in southern Arizona. "Bud Parker was dealing in cattle by the millions," Charles Day recalled. "He was very much respected. He would go down to Mexico and buy a thousand head of cattle and never put down a dime, and bring them back, and they'd take his word for it." [63] Unlike the Easterners who lived on "Millionaires' Row" along Santa Gertrudis Lane, the Parkers were cattlemen born and bred.

Showcase Ranching on the Santa Cruz

But cattlemen born and bred were rare along the Santa Cruz in those days. "Today coon hunts, station wagons, thoroughbreds, lovely homes, and private airplanes are part of the valley's life," Cosulich rhapsodized in 1942. "Retired captains of industry, eastern socialites, and young play boys and girls of inherited wealth dominate a region in which still live the descendants of Spanish conquistadores and American pioneers" (Cosulich 1942:14). Guest ranches such as Rancho Santa Cruz, Kenyon Ranch, and Rex Hammaker's Rex Ranch near Amado Siding attracted many wealthy patrons, some of whom, as William Fraesdorf pointed out, got a taste of the West and bought their own places.

Even more impressive were the showcase cattle ranches up and down the valley. The largest was Canoa Ranch, headquartered on a Spanish land grant north of Tubac called San Ignacio de Canoa. Canoa had been a watering spot in the Santa Cruz Valley for millennia. Even though the Santa Cruz did not flow above ground there, the water table was so shallow that travelers could slake their thirsts by digging shallow wells in the riverbed. On October 23, 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza's expedition to San Francisco stopped there its first night out of Tubac. The name of the grant itself—canoa—came from the hollowed-out log some enterprising pilgrim had placed there to water horses (Willey 1979, Sheridan 2000, Hadley 2000).

The man who developed Canoa into the largest ranch in southern Arizona was Levi Manning, the former mayor of Tucson who closed the town's gambling dens and all-night saloons in the early 1900s (Sonnichsen 1982). Manning purchased the entire grant of 17,203 acres in 1912. Four years later, during World War I, he sold the north half to the Intercontinental Rubber Company, which tried to raise guayule, a rubber substitute. That land became the nucleus of Green Valley, southern Arizona's premier retirement community, in the 1960s (Hadley 2000).

Manning expanded Canoa to 100,000 acres by picking up ranch land adjacent to the south half of the grant. But it was his son, Howell Manning, Sr., who-transformed Canoa into the crown jewel of the Santa Cruz Valley. He was one of the first Arizonans to raise Arabian horses with his famous stallions El Jafil and Saraband. He also crossed Arab stallions with Standardbred mares to supply his ranch with working cow horses. At its height in the 1940s, Canoa sprawled across about 500,000 acres of private, federal, and state trust lands from the Santa Cruz to the Altar Valley west of Arivaca. Manning employed forty to forty-five ranch hands at various camps, including ten to twelve families who lived at his ranch headquarters (Willey 1979, Hadley 2000).

That headquarters was a small town, with blacksmith and welding shops, small adobe houses for the married cowboys and their families, a school for their children, and a Sonoran row-style bunkhouse for unmarried ranch hands. There were also corrals, barns, concrete pit silos to store ensilage, and the longest feeding trough in the United States. It stretched for a third of a mile and could feed 1,500 head at a time (Hadley 2000).

Manning's most flamboyant creation, however, was his own artificial oasis. In addition to 1,200 acres of irrigated pasture, he dug a five-acre lake filled by a canal fed by pump-powered wells. Stocked with catfish and shaded by cottonwoods, it attracted frogs and migratory waterfowl, etching itself with dappled hues into the memories of Santa Cruz Valley residents. Manning commuted back and forth between Canoa and the Manning House in Tucson in his own private rail car along the Tucson and Nogales Railroad line. Canoa Ranch headquarters was so impressive that Samuel Goldwyn filmed The Westerner there, starring Gary Cooper, in 1939 (Hadley 2000).

The Bottom of the Bottle

Manning was a legendary host, entertaining guests at Canoa as well as at his mansion in Snob Hollow in Tucson. He and Tol Pendleton were close friends who used to go to baseball games together, perhaps to commiserate about their wives, one of whom was alcoholic, the other an adulteress. [64] But while Pendleton's Baca Float Ranch may not have been as large as Canoa, the social scene was even more intense. "He had a great many friends and a lot of them visited from back East, including his Princeton cronies," Sarah Bailey recalled. "There was a stream of them visiting all the time." [65] When Tubac historian Elizabeth Brownell asked long-time Pendleton employee Lena Salcido Gómez whether the stories about the parties were true, Gómez replied, "Oh yes. Today in one house, next day in another house, next day another party, all through the week. And they would start all over again. Lots of drinking." [66]

The drinking was the reason why many people referred to the Santa Cruz Valley as Santa Booze Valley. Santa Gertrudis Lane, where Pendleton had his ranch headquarters, was known as Santa Booze Lane. One of Pendleton's guests even immortalized the parties with their constant flow of liquor in a novelette whose English translation is The Bottom of the Bottle. That guest was George Simenon, the famous Belgian crime novelist who lived in southern Arizona from August 1947 until October 1950 (Keller 2002).

Simenon was as colorful as his hosts. A compulsive philanderer who once told director Federico Fellini that he had slept with 10,000 women, Simenon was just as prodigious when it came to words. He published 196 novels and twenty-one volumes of memoirs under his own name, including his celebrated Inspector Maigret series, along with hundreds of novels and stories under various pseudonyms. When he moved from Tucson to Tumacácori in 1948, he rented two dwellings from Hubert Merryweather. One was a former schoolhouse, where Simenon's wife Régine, their son Marc, and Simenon's longtime cook and mistress, Henriette Liberge, settled. The other was Pendleton's reconverted stud barn, about a mile away across Josephine Canyon. There Simenon and his secretary and current mistress, Denyse Ouimet, set up house (Keller 2002).

Tigy, as Simenon's wife was called, put up with her husband's affairs, and the odd little domestic group apparently met with bemused tolerance among Simenon's hosts. Most of them were not exactly prudes themselves. Pendleton's second wife Gertrude, a Canadian known as Dicky, carried on an open affair with Hal Austin. [67] Merryweather was even more of a rake, so charming he could beguile "his bankers into finding ways to open his trust accounts," according to Jack Greenway, the owner of the Arizona Inn. "Simenon and Hubert were fellow philanderers," Greenway added wryly (Keller 2002).

Tall, handsome, and wildly impractical, Merryweather epitomized Santa Gertrudis society. "He was a very bright and personable person, had a delightful wife—a darling he divorced," William Fraesdorf remembered, "but he couldn't make any money on that vast ranch. Why, I don't know, but he couldn't, and Tol kind of kept it together." [68] One of his money-losing propositions was the Tumacácori general store, which he stocked with S.S. Pierce gourmet delicacies. To his surprise and delight, Simenon encountered "more than 20 kinds of cognac, 30 brands of whiskey, never mind French, Italian, and California wines, liqueurs, spices, who knows what all" within its rustic walls. Merryweather ventured into politics around the same time Simenon was observing the antics of him and his friends. He served as state senator from Nogales from 1948 until 1954, capping his career as president of the Arizona senate. "He could have been governor, if the guy hadn't been so crazy," Charles Day said. "He was really an attractive guy." [69]

Merryweather himself did not become a character in Simenon's novelette. But his wife Ann—small, petite, and dark-haired, the "darling he divorced"—may have served as a model for two of the women in the book. Simenon also incorporated Meryweather's house and butler into the story. The butler's name was Watkins Jackson, which Simenon barely transmuted to "Jenkins." "He was a big, old, dark boy," Charles Day stated. "He was a character." [70]

The butler Jenkins is a steady, smiling, almost demonic force in The Bottom of the Bottle. The main character, Patrick Martin Ashbridge, a lawyer from a lower-middle-class background married to an heiress, prides himself on being able to leave the bar before he passes out or gets too drunk to drive home. But when his brother, a convicted murderer who escapes from prison, arrives unexpectedly, P.M., as everyone calls him, feels himself slipping out of control. The atmosphere becomes even more claustrophobic when the Santa Cruz floods, stranding the socialites and the convict on the east bank of the river. Losing track of his drinks, P.M. worries, "Manhattans and martinis, that was traditional. And that Jenkins, in his starched white uniform, leave [sic] you no respite, loving to play barman" (Simenon 1954:178).

Simenon relentlessly chronicled the drinking, which Ann Keller points out is as much a character in The Bottom of the Bottle as the Santa Cruz River (Keller 2002). People float from one home to another, drinking day and night, as the floodwaters roar past their doors. "It's awfully well organized," P.M. remarks at the beginning of the novelette. "Everything seems accidental, your gestures are the most casual in the world, and, in the long run, it allows you to drink without seeming to. It's like a secret order, with signs understood by the initiated throughout the country and probably in every country in the world" (Simenon 1954: 135).

And so from the 1930s through the 1950s, Pendleton, Merryweather, and the others along Santa Gertrudis Lane played poker and raised purebred cattle, alcohol lubricating their strange little society. Guests came and went, people died and ranches changed hands, but the new owners were usually wealthy as well. Working ranchers like John Cumming had to supplement their incomes with other jobs. Cumming became a lion hunter and hunting guide. On one deer-hunting trip into his beloved Atascosas, he slipped from a ledge and fell forty-five feet, breaking his hip and both legs and suffering serious internal injuries. It took a rescue party twenty hours to haul him out, and the fall crippled him.

Pendleton and Merryweather, on the other hand, glided through life, the Santa Cruz Valley their playground. They could afford to lose money, at least for a while. Rich wives brought their own fortunes.

Near the end of The Bottom of the Bottle, P.M. searches for his brother, who is trying to cross the border into Mexico. He runs into Cady, another member of the Santa Gertrudis crowd. But Cady is different. Unlike old Pemberton, who "maintained that a gentleman must only breed cattle and horses," Cady raised cotton and potatoes and employed two to three hundred workers during harvest season. "He had Mexicans and Negroes brought over in trucks. He brought whole families, for the women were as useful as the men. He parked them in shacks he'd built on the edge of the fields," P.M. observed. Cady "didn't give a damn about being a gentleman" (Simenon 1954:229).

The migrant camps were "a little like the leprous part, the shameful part of the valley" (Simenon 1954:229). Pendleton, who probably served as the model for "old Pemberton," may have drilled for oil in Texas. E.T. Strong may have battled unions in Detroit. But the Santa Cruz Valley was their refuge, an aristocracy of wealth insulated from the forces reshaping the West during the mid-twentieth century. The space they produced was a leisurely façade—a private, monied version of an Old West movie set or tourist attraction—that masked where the money came from. Pendleton and his friends could afford to play with or drink away their fictitious capital while the land itself waited for the transformations of Arizona's postwar boom.

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Last Updated: 12-Mar-2007