Series: The Story of Faraway Ranch

Faraway During the Depression

The late 1920s were some of the most successful years for the Faraway Ranch. The dude ranch industry in general was prospering, particularly in Arizona.

Portrait of Ed Riggs in a shirt and tie, and a brimmed hat
Ed Riggs

NPS

In fact, the industry was so successful that it not only weathered the Great Depression but also grew during the 1930s. Despite the strength of the tourism industry, profits at Faraway Ranch fell. Some of the problems may have been due to improper management. Lillian’s parents criticized her and Ed’s management of the ranch and even suggested that they move out, but the disagreement was resolved, and Ed and Lillian remained. The construction of the Bonita Canyon Road, the first good road into Chiricahua National Monument, helped to boost guest numbers at the ranch. Seven thousand people attended the dedication of the road in 1934. Still, when a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was located at the monument that same year, Ed took a job as a trail foreman for the CCC, a position that earned him $1800 a year—a figure greater than the revenues from the guest ranch in 1936 and 1937.

The CCC camp structures, which included barracks for 200 men and a mess hall, were located on the Riggses’ property from 1934 to 1940. The majority of CCC recruits were young, single men, but a provision for the hiring of “Local Experienced Men” allowed for the employment of men such as Ed Riggs. The CCC boys undertook a number of projects at Chiricahua National Monument. Ed was convinced that his crew could build a trail into the steep Echo Canyon, despite the fact that professional engineers said it couldn’t be done. Frank Pinkley, the Superintendent of Southwestern National Monuments, told Ed: “All right, you may have the job, but if you fail to put a trail through that area, just hand in your resignation. Don’t wait for me to fire you!” Undaunted, Ed and his crew persevered and in 1936 finished the trail. Ed’s gravestone bears the inscription: “He engineered the construction of Echo Trail. He wishes this to be his monument.”