Lillian Erickson Riggs

Chiricahua National Monument

Lillian Erickson Riggs standing between a dog and a horse at Faraway Ranch
Lillian Erickson Riggs

NPS

Quick Facts

Significance:
Faraway Ranch, in what is now Chiricahua National Monument, would not have existed without the actions of the women in the Erickson family. Lillian Erickson Riggs managed the ranch for much of the twentieth century, both by herself and with the help of her husband Ed Riggs.
Place of Birth:
Cochise County, Arizona
Date of Birth:
February 9, 1888
Place of Death:
Willcox, Arizona
Date of Death:
April 26, 1977
Place of Burial:
Cochise County, Arizona
Cemetery Name:
Riggs Family Cemetery

Lillian’s parents, Emma and Neil Erickson, started the Faraway Ranch in the late nineteenth century. Lillian, born in 1888, grew up at the ranch. Lillian taught school for several years and attended Knox College in Illinois. In 1917 her sister, Hildegard, began boarding guests at the ranch on weekends, and Lillian soon gave up teaching to help with the business.

In 1923, Lillian married Ed Riggs, a childhood neighbor. Together, Lillian and Ed Riggs managed the Faraway Ranch, now part of Chiricahua National Monument, during its heyday as a guest ranch in the 1920s and 1930s.

They also were instrumental in the effort to create Chiricahua National Monument and helped open the area to visitors by constructing riding and hiking trails. Lillian and Ed worked to construct some trails into the rugged area of spectacular rock formations, which Lillian called the “Wonderland of Rocks,” in time for a planned visit by the governor of Arizona in 1923. President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation creating Chiricahua National Monument a year later.

The Riggses also ran cattle on the ranch, but as bad economic conditions persisted in the 1920s and 1930s, their profits from tourism became increasingly important. Even during the Depression, many people continued to visit the national monument and stay at Faraway Ranch. Because Faraway Ranch provided the only lodging close to the national monument, the Riggses had a “virtual monopoly” on profits derived from tourism.

Lillian suffered from hearing problems and in 1942 became blind. Ed died in 1950, and Lillian kept the ranch open to guests on an intermittent basis, persevering despite her handicaps. Lillian died in 1977, and the National Park Service acquired Faraway Ranch in 1979. The Story of Faraway Ranch has more about Lillian and the compelling history of Faraway Ranch.

References

Wegman-French, Lysa. 2006. Faraway Ranch Special History Study. National Park Service, Intermountain Cultural Resources Management Professional Paper No. 72. 

 

Prepared by Cori Knudten, 2011.

Last updated: December 9, 2018