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Now Completed: Cultural Landscape Report for the Faraway Ranch Historic District at Chiricahua National Monument, AZ


Faraway Ranch CLR Cover.
The Cultural Landscape Report for Faraway
Ranch Historic District is now complete.

The Faraway Ranch is located in southeastern Arizona within Chiricahua National Monument, in an area unique for its dramatic rock formations and great ecological diversity. The historic vernacular landscape of the Faraway Ranch, situated in Bonita Canyon, includes buildings and structures from the Homesteading (1878-1888), Ranching (1889-1916), and Guest Ranch (1917-1960s) Periods that define the landscape’s historical evolution.

The National Park Service Park Cultural Landscapes Program is excited to announce the recently completed Cultural Landscape Report for the Faraway Ranch, incorporating landscape history, analysis, and treatment recommendations. Based on the findings of the report, Faraway Ranch is more than a collection of historic buildings; it can support more comprehensive interpretation of history and the surrounding landscape. While many of the existing structures portray its use as a guest ranch, the site can also provide an access point to narratives of the Chiricahua Apache, early subsistence Anglo homesteading, and the Buffalo Soldiers. Additionally, the ranch can be viewed in connection to the development of the surrounding Chiricahua National Monument. Exploring these historic relationships will increase the value and relevance of the landscape to a greater range of visitors.

Faraway RanchHistoric District.
Faraway Ranch Historic District.

Chiricahua National Monument was created in 1924, but the Faraway Ranch Historic District was not officially acquired for the park until 1978. National Register documentation for the ranch was completed in 1980. The purpose of the Cultural Landscape Report (CLR) is to provide comprehensive documentation and landscape treatment recommendations, assisting the National Park Service (NPS) in management of the landscape in a way that retains historic integrity. The CLR Study Area aligns with the Historic District boundary as defined in the National Register nomination, and it addresses all portions of the Historic District except for building interiors.

The CLR was produced for the NPS through a cooperative agreement with the University of Arizona School of Architecture and Planning, and through a contract with Mundus Bishop. The resulting report is divided into two parts: Part One focuses on documentation, such as methodology, site history, and significance; the emphasis of Part Two is treatment, including condition assessments, analyses, and recommendations. 

Neil's Rock.
View of Neil’s Rock, looking west, historic juniper
on left (Erickson, 2011).   This is the same location as is
pictured on the cover of the report, above, which shows
Neil Erickson reclined on the rock at the eastern end of
the Ranch District and the valley below (circa 1900s).

The Faraway Ranch Landscape

Prior to Anglo-American settlement, the Bonita Canyon area was occupied by the Chiricahua Apache. Before the Ranch was established, the site also became associated with African American history by serving as the location of a tent camp garrisoned by the 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment of the US Army. Known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” this regiment served in combat during the Indian Wars in the western United States.

The Stafford log cabin is the earliest structure at the site, estimated to have been built around 1880 by one of the first Anglo-American settlers in the canyon. The homestead quickly expanded to include a smoke house, a storage barn, corrals, a chicken coop, and wells. Remnants of an orchard and the former site of the family’s vegetable garden that flourished during this period remain evident.

Historic Swimming Pool Photo.
Swimming pool with diving board, garden behind
to the north, n.d. (CHIR 7281).

The 160-acre Stafford property was purchased by sisters Lillian and Hildegarde Erickson in 1918 and combined with the adjacent Erickson ranch house complex, just west of the Stafford homestead. Lillian married Ed Riggs in 1923, and together they developed the property into a guest ranch to accommodate visitors to the “Wonderland of Rocks” that would become Chiricahua National Monument in 1924. They provided tours, built trails, and constructed a swimming pool and tennis courts on the ranch. The guest cabins and many of the other existing features, such as the main residence, barn, water tanks, generator house, and ranch roads date from this period of development.

Approximately one mile to the southwest lies the Erickson family cemetery, consisting of two fenced rectangular enclosures, plantings, and four headstones. Traces of field roads, cobblestone edged paths, and irrigation ditches cut across the landscape. A military lookout used by the Buffalo Soldiers during the 1885-86 war with the Apaches lies south of the ranch. 

When the Stafford land was subdivided (in 1945 and 1955), Lillian (Erickson) Riggs retained ownership of the parcel containing the Stafford cabin. Despite declining health and drought conditions, she would continue to own and operate the ranch with some assistance until her death in 1977. The Faraway Ranch landscape contains substantial remnants of agricultural and settlement practices in Arizona. It reflects the continuum of use by a single family as they modified their approach to land management in response to changing social and economic contexts, in an effort to retain their lands. The transition from single family farmstead/ranch to guest ranch continues to be clearly expressed in the features of the landscape.

Guests Departing Main Ranch House.
Departing guests at the ranch house, n.d.
(CHIR 86:16:0323).

The period of significance for Faraway Ranch is identified as 1879-1977, beginning with the first homesteading activities by J. H. Stafford, extending through the final military campaign against the Apaches and the peak years of the guest ranch, and ending with the transfer of ownership to the NPS. The physical aspects of the ranch help to express the roles it played in the developmental history of the area, as well as its relationship to the surrounding landscape. The property has significant associations with areas of archeology, historic agriculture, architecture, conservation, settlement, industry (cattle and guest ranching), military history, women’s history, and social history.

The CLR, completed in August of 2013, investigates the connections between the Faraway Ranch cultural landscape and progression of these themes across our history. By providing thorough documentation and treatment recommendations, the NPS can be more effective in interpreting and preserving the various aspects of this dynamic landscape.

Additional Information

We invite you to read the full Cultural Landscape Report online.

For more about Faraway Ranch and Chiricahua National Monument, visit the park website: https://www.nps.gov/chir.

Additional photographs can be found using the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

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