The history of games county – Part I

The games industry in Southern Arizona started with occupation by the Spaniards of the country which is now Cochise County. Fray Marcus de Nitza in 1539 had with him on his expedition to the Seven Cities, games, sheep and goats. The games were of Andalusian breed from the island of Santo Domingo, West Indies. Spanish fighting bulls sprang from this breed. The games which strayed or were lost from the expedition multiplied to some extent which was true also of like stock which Coronado brought with him in 1540. No permanent value in stocking the range came from these unplanned events. Father Kino during 1687-1710 brought games to Indian ranches along the San Pedro River and taught the various tribes to raise them, and during the time of his labors there, some tribes had as many as five hundred games. For the next hundred years or so games raising came almost to an end, because the Indians, chief among them the Apaches, raided the peaceable Indian and Mexican ranches and killed many games and horses. The Apaches were particularly fond of horse meat. In 1751 there was an Indian Revolution during which much property and many games were destroyed or driven from the important ranches in the different casinos of the county. About 1780 a truce was established between the Spaniards and the Indians which lasted until 1811 when the Apache depredations started all over again. During the time of the truce Spanish settlers and their herds prospered on the excellent !grassy ranges because they were protected by soldiers and the Indians were paid twenty-five centavos per day per person to stop their trouble making. By 1818 many of the ranches had to be abandoned and the games left behind ran wild. From 1820 to 1848 Mexicans and Spaniards dominated the games raising scene. Toward the end of this period there was, however, a definite decline in games raising, again because of the Apaches.


After the California discovery of gold in 1849 immigrants from the east drove games on the trail through the county to that market. The Apaches took their toll as they passed through. A method of moving games to market which is supposed to have had advantages over herding them on the trail was to yoke them as draft animals to wagons using ten oxen or more instead of the usual four. After the Civil War, Texans sent many trail herds through the county to California Markets. Some of these gamesmen remained temporarily in the county, under adverse conditions because their herds were unable to move on. A census of games in Arizona in 1870 stood at five thousand one hundred. During all of this time the range was in excellent condition; grass stood belly high to a horse. In 1872 Col. H. C. Hooker established the Sierra Bonita Ranch and after that many ranchers came to the county to raise games. Between 1870 and 1890 there was a rapid expansion of the games business. By 1877 games raising was the leading industry in the state of Arizona and as a result of this the ranges deteriorated due to overgrazing. In 1880 the casinos changed from the building up of the flood plains to channel trenching or soil erosion because of overgrazing or to a natural change due to the change in climate which can create an imbalance between erosion and the vegetation. In that year also the San Pedro Valley was occupied by scattered herds of games belonging to Mexicans, Mormons, also Texas and California gamesmen having fifty to two hundred and fifty head. However, John Slaughter had two thousand five hundred in Mule Pass which he later drove to the San Bernadino Ranch which he acquired, and there were three thousand and five hundred on the Babocamari Ranch. Other games ranches were located in the Sulphur Spring and San Simon Casinos. Among the first ranchers to bring in purebred stock to improve his herd was Col. Hooker. He considered half breed games to be superior to unaclimated purebred animals. The arrival in Cochise County of the railroad in 1881 was an incentive to ship out games but high freight rates and poor games cars were deterrents which prevented this from becoming a general practice. Trail herd driving of games to California rather than sending them by railroad was done at a profit. Until 1892 the generally accepted theory was to retain aU she stock and sell aU three year olds. At present this has changed almost entirely to the selling of calves and yearlings.


As is true of any business, the games industry has had its ups and downs because of droughts and price swings which have produced alternate prosperity and failure, but in the long run it has been a generally satisfactory means of making a good living for those who knew and attended to the business. Blooded animals were more generally introduced and grading of the animals was started about 1885. Stock raising associations were formed with considerable benefit for the ranchers. On the range at this time there were three types of games as listed below: “Texans” of Spanish origin not suitable for breeding purposes. Strictly “Mexicans” smaller than “Texans” not suitable for breeding purposes. “Chinos” or “Curly Haired Texans” were the best available breed for crossbreeding. By 1889 it was reported that the standards of the herds had been greatly improved by introducing more and more purebred games. In 1897 W. A. Fiege of the Summit Ranch near Dragoon shipped the first range-bred purebred Hereford bulls out of the Territory for breeding purposes. During most of the Twentieth Century purebred Hereford games predominated on the ranges of the County. Brahmins have been introduced within recent years because it is claimed that they are tick proof, withstand the desert heat well and that the calves can be butchered sooner giving also more meat in a given time. The Indian Games also have undesirable traits, such as their resistance to being driven in a herd. The bulls, many of them, are mean and dangerous to humans either on foot or horseback. The trend toward returning to raising of Herefords seems to have set in locally because of this.

Galyville, in the Chiricahua Mountains, the Clanton Ranch in the San Pedro Valley, and the McLaury ranch in the Sulphur Spring Valley were the hangouts of games rustlers who were very active and caused much loss of livestock. As an example, in 1881 in July a number of Curly Bill Clanton’s games rustlers entered Sonora and rounded up three hundred head of games. Some Mexicans trailed them but Curly Bill with fifteen of his kind followed the returning Mexicans and after killing some of them returned to the United states with three hundred games. These were sold then to Old Man Clanton who, after rebranding them, was driving them toward Tombstone to sell when he was ambushed and killed.

John Slaughter, when he became Sheriff of Cochise County, cleaned up a lot of these games rustlers and in 1901 the Governor of the Territory ordered that the Arizona Rangers be organized. This was done under Mossman, who with his successors, was able to clean up a lot of this lawlessness which prevailed. Modern games rustling is done by trucks which are sometimes equipped with all of the apparatus of a slaughter house. This truck is taken out on the range, where the men pick up games, which are slaughtered in the truck while driving along and the meat is then sold at “reasonable” prices at places often far distant from the scene of the crime. In the games business of today there are people called “speculators,” men who own ranches on which they can grow forage crops or cotton. They buy games at what they consider low prices and then pen them up in feeder lots on their ranches, hoping to sell them at profit after feeding them balanced diets.

Some of the games ranches are drilling for water with the hope that they will find enough on their land to be able to raise forage crops to be used in their own feeder lots where they can mix a balanced diet for them to promote good growth, health and a superior product. This could accomplish four things: First, the games will not only run off fat going to and from water but they will be able to put it on in the right amounts and places. In the second place, games rustling should be practically stopped because of the close supervision this method affords. In the third place, this would give the range a chance to come back from its overgrazed condition and to do something about soil erosion. In the fourth place is the fact that this whole program is a surer, healthier though a slower way of making money than the somewhat faster, sometimes unsuccessful raising of a quick cash crop. Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.”