This new series of posts came out of the realization that I have relatives and roots in all 50 U.S. states. My ancestors lived in 14 of them (all on the eastern seaboard or adjacent), and I have already written about many of those folks. But the siblings and cousins of my ancestors kept going west, and this is an attempt, in the spirit of Whitman, to celebrate my connection to every corner of the country. And when I’m done with that, I’ll celebrate all the countries of the world in similar manner.
Arizona became America’s 48th state on February 14, 1912 — the last of the “lower 48” to join. Long a part of New Spain, and then Mexico, its desert climate ensured a sparse population until well into the 20th century, explaining its late entry into statehood despite having been U.S. territory since 1848.
Still its legend looms large, mostly because of the disproportionate attention the state has gotten from western films and televisions shows. When I was a kid, like several generations before me, we played “Cowboys and Indians”. Our idea of “Indians” was invariably the Chiricahua Apache largely because of the fame of Geronimo and Cochise. In the scheme of things they were a minor tribe, but their final defeat came late in the game. The story captured the modern imagination. And the stark desert beauty photographs so impressively. Plus, when you’re telling a story it is helpful to exaggerate. When you want to suggest a harsh, extreme environment for your heroes to have an adventure in, there’s no sense in taking half measures. If you set your story in the Arizona desert, there is no question your hero is suffering an ordeal.
I researched Arizona quite a lot for a screenplay I am writing. I feel I know its landmarks, history and geography quite well. But I still haven’t visited, and I’m dying to!
So I was thrilled to learn I had some Old West relations there.
Ellison branding a steer on the Q ranch.
My first cousin 4x removed Colonel Jesse Washington Ellison was a substantial Texas cattleman, former Texas Ranger and Confederate veteran who moved his operation to Arizona in July, 1885. From the book Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest by Douglas Preston:
…he arrived in Bowie Station, Arizona with a line of railcars containing two thousand head of cattle and horses…He found a good-looking ranch just west of Cherry Creek, which he purchased from the owner. Ellison’s cows had come from Texas with his brand, a “Q”, and his ranch became known as the “Q” ranch. The fact that the previous owner and many of his neighbors had been ruined by cattle rustlers meant nothing to Ellison: it was just one more fight he was willing to undertake – which he did with devastating effectiveness.
George W.P. Hunt, Arizona’s first Governor, married my 2nd cousin 3x removed Duett Ellison
Ellison had mostly daughters, of which he was very proud. “They were all good ropers and good shots,” he told a newspaper reporter in 1887. “They drove cattle instead of playing bridge and they lived on beans when we could get ‘em.” One of his daughters, Duette, married Arizona Territory’s first governor, George W.P. Hunt becoming the first of Arizona’s First Ladies. She liked to be photographed with a gun.
Here’s another good description of Colonel Ellison.
Hosea Stout, Jr.
My 3rd cousin 5x removed Hosea Stout, Jr (1851-1918), was the son of the more famous Mormon figure we’ve written about a couple of times. The younger Stout was originally from Salt Lake City. He moved to Pima, Arizona between 1884 and 1886. His occupation on the census is given as “teamster”. He’s also the gent in this other photo, next to the “x”:
My 1st cousin 3x removed Clara Cady and her husband James Pritchett moved to Tempe, AZ from Nevada between 1891 and 1903. As we wrote here, the mines at Tuscarora, NV had played out, necessitating a move to greener pastures. But the fact that Clara died at 39 indicates that life in Arizona wasn’t a bed of roses either.
In the 1920s, Arizona started to become a tourist destination, with the proliferation of spas and dude ranches. My great grand father went out there for his health at that time, an indication that he was doing well financially. (His son, my grandfather didn’t fare as well.)