Franciscan Friar Marcos de Niza was the first European to set foot in what is now Arizona. He is credited as the first to take possession of the land now known as the Babacomari Ranch for the King of Spain in 1539, 80 years before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
One hundred and fifty years later, the Jesuits arrived, led by Father Francisco Eusebio Kino, bringing missionaries, crops and cattle to the Babacomari. By 1706, the area was flourishing, but the Jesuits were ordered by the Catholic Church in Rome to give up their posts and leave the area in 1773. The Apache and Jacomes tribes broke up the few remaining settlements, forcing European families to withdraw to safer territory.
Eventually the Spanish military managed to establish presidios in nearby towns and the Crown encouraged settlement and development in the form of land grants offered to officers and soldiers. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1822, the practice continued and the acquisition of land grants grew at an accelerated pace.
In 1829, Francisco Elias Gonzales de Zaya, a captain in the Spanish Army purchased about 130,000 acres from the Mexican government in what was known as the Grant of San Ignacio del Babacomari. During the next 18 years, the Elias family built the original fortified headquarters and grazed thousands of cattle and horses on the lush grasslands. Within two decades, however, two Elias brothers were murdered by raiding Apaches and the family was forced to abandon their hacienda.
Dr. E.B. Perrin, a former confederate civil war surgeon turned land baron, and his brother Robert of San Francisco acquired the rights to the original Babacomari land grant from the Elias family in 1877. Those rights had been nullified by various U.S. authorities, however, and the brothers spent the next 25 years in a legal battle to establish the validity of the title under U.S. laws. The patent for the property, which legally established ownership of 33,000 acres, was issued in 1902.
In 1935, Frank Cullen Brophy acquired the Babacomari Ranch, becoming the third owner of the historic property since the King of Spain 400 years earlier. Frank’s father, William Henry Brophy had emigrated from Ireland to Arizona in the 1880s, and was one of several Brophy forbears who served as frontiersmen and soldiers in Arizona dating back to the late 1840s.
When the Brophys took control of the Babacomari Ranch in 1935, most dangers faced by previous owners had disappeared, but new threats from overgrazing, drought and flooding had arisen. Frank C. Brophy initiated ambitious range management conservation practices, which are now continued by his third and fourth generation descendants.
The family partnership, comprised solely of direct descendants of Frank C. Brophy now numbering over 60, has committed to preserve the 18,000-acre central portion of the ranch, which includes spectacular native grasslands, rare cienega wetlands and several miles of cottonwood-lined riparian ecosystems along Babacomari Creek. Working with the Arizona Land and Water Trust, the Nature Conservancy, government agencies and other nonprofit conservation groups, the Brophy family partnership has already placed 3,300 acres under conservation easement in perpetuity and is actively pursuing easements on the remaining acreage. This commitment will keep the magnificent historical property in the Brophy family for generations to come and protect these beautiful southern Arizona ranchlands from development.
In 1966, Frank C. Brophy who purchased the Babacomari Ranch in 1935 wrote this detailed history of the ranch and the Brophy family, which was published in Arizona Highways Magazine.
The first European to set foot in what is now Arizona was Fray Marcos de Niza. He had been ordered to find the fabulous, but non-existent, Seven Cities of Cibola with their reputed abundance of golden treasure. That was in 1539 — less than fifty years after Columbus had discovered the New World. It was also some seventy years before the English settlement was established at Jamestown in Virginia and the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock on the New England coast.
After marching across a weird and desert landscape, Fray Marcos reached the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River, where the topography and climate suddenly changed. Here it was that the Franciscan friar wrote in his diary on April 12, 1539: "The country round about here looked better than any I had passed through so far. I decided to erect two crosses and to take possession of the land, following the instructions I had received." Then he may have marched over the Canelo hills, which lie northwest of the Huachuca Mountains, and walked down the valley of the Babacomari for the next few days until he reached the Rio San Pedro. He described his obviously unexpected welcome: "I then followed this program (taking formal possession) for five days, during which I continually came into settlements where I was welcomed heartily and entertained." This was the first formal taking possession of the land in the name of the King of Spain in what was later to be known as the Pimeria Alta in Nueva Vizcaya, and it happened in the beautiful well-watered grasslands that still unexpectedly gladden the eyes of visitors as they emerge from the Arizona-Sonora desert. The following year, Coronado and his army came this way on their famed but unsuccessful search for the Seven Cities of Cibola and the ever-elusive El Dorado.
Now, some 400 years later, the records of these early dwellers who welcomed Fray Marcos have been uncovered and studied. An aboriginal life is revealed that goes back to the year 1000 A.D. at least. At the Babacomari Village site, where the Upper Pimas dwelled, it has descended from prehistoric ancestors; and they made handsome ceramics, built houses of local materials and cremated their dead, placing the remains in burial urns or ollas.
Then this ancient land fell back into the prehistoric silence which had been so unexpectedly shattered by the coming of the white man and his restless search for souls and treasure. A hundred and fifty years elapsed before the black robes of the Jesuit priests were seen in the Babacomari Valley, with the redoubtable Father Francisco Eusebio Kino leading the way. This was the year 1692, when Father Kino first made the acquaintance of Chief Coro at his extensive village of Quiburi where the Rio Babacomari empties into the San Pedro, and caused Kino to remark: "it is true that I found them somewhat less docile than the foregoing people of the West." The next day he proceeded up the Babacomari to the Cienaga and village at Basosucan (modernized Huachuca) where he met Chief El Taravilla, which means "the Prattler."
By 1696 the trail from Quiburi on the San Pedro, up the Babacomari Valley and over the Canelo pass to Santa Maria, was a familiar one. On December 5th of that year Chief Coro and his Indians met him as an old friend with "handshakes and embraces," and Kino notes in his diary that this Rancheria (Quiburi) "has more than 400 souls assembled together and a fortification or earthen enclosure." From his headquarters mission and ranch at Dolores to the south, Kino brought "a few cattle and a small drove of mares for the beginnings of a little ranch" on his next visit. This was the beginning of livestock raising on the Babacomari.
Professor H. E. Bolton, who rediscovered the long-forgotten Kino in the historical archives in Mexico City, astounded the modern world with the exploits of this remarkable priest. Today the statue of Father Kino represents the State of Arizona in the Hall of Statuary in Washington, D.C. Bolton describes the Babacomari of Kino's time in this way: "Now crossing the Canelo Hills, much as the road runs today, they swing northeastward, and at the end of fourteen leagues from Santa Maria (about ten miles south of the present international border at Lochiel) they halted for the night at Huachuca (present-day headquarters of the Babacomari Ranch) the village where lived Chief Taravilla. Here the travelers were welcomed by eighty persons and lodged in an adobe house with beams and an earthen roof. Huachuca was situated in a fertile valley, with carrizales or reed marshes, where plentiful crops were raised. The spot was manifestly La Cienaga — now the site (headquarters) of Babacomari Ranch. The name of the village is still preserved in Huachuca Mountains and Fort Huachuca nearby. Huachuca was the last village of the people whom the Spaniards called Pimas Proper, those beyond were Sobaipuris."
After that visit, the Babacomari began to prepare for a missionary, and thereafter it was known as the visita of San Joaquin de Basosucan (Huachuca). Another mission house was also being built some twenty miles away where the Babacomari joins the San Pedro at Santa Cruz (now Fairbank).
By 1706 the Pimeria was flourishing, and this included the last outpost of the Upper Pimas on the Babacomari. Under these happy circumstances, Kino writes in his justly famous Memoir of Pimeria Alta: "In all those posts or pueblos there are very good beginnings of Christianity, houses in which to live, churches in which to say Mass, fields and crops of wheat and maize, and the cattle, sheep, goats and horses which the natives for years have been tending with all fidelity." And all this some seventy years before the leaders of a new nation met to sign the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
In 1773 the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was suppressed throughout the world, due to the attacks of emerging world-revolutionary forces and a combination of church and dynastic politics. Eventually word came from Rome. Soon the magnificent missionaries, who had opened up and mapped the Terra Incognita, and preached the message and promises of Christianity to a world that received it gratefully, obeyed like soldiers and marched sorrowfully out of the Pimeria. The little flocks of the faithful remained, with the new faith they had received; and still remain among Arizona's earliest Christians. However, marauding Apaches and the warlike Jacomes recognized the change, and soon began to make existence so precarious on the outskirts of the Pimeria that the settlements on the San Pedro and Babacomari broke up and the families moved towards the interior.
Meanwhile the Spanish military forces had established presidios in Tubac, Tucson, Fronteras and other settled communities. Eventually orders of the Crown were issued to encourage the settlement and development of these distant lands in this still very New World. Grants of land suitable for stock raising and agricultural pursuits were made to officers and soldiers by the Crown, who had the ambition to acquire and organize them. This was a challenge which appealed to the self-reliant and far-sighted ones. Later, when Mexico won its independence from the Spanish Crown, in 1822, the new government continued to follow the same policy, and the acquisition of land grants went on for some years at an accelerated pace. As subsequent events have proved, these are the oldest and most consistent patents of ownership of land that exist in the American Southwest today.
Captain Francisco Elias Gonzalez de Zaya arrived in Mexico from La Rioja, near Bilboa in Northern Spain, in 1729, at the age of twelve. Thirty years later, as a captain in the Spanish Army, he escorted a large band of Sobaipuri Indians from the lower end of the Babacomari and relocated them near the strategic pueblo and old Jesuit visita of San Augustin del Tucson. This was in 1762. He gave the settlement the name of San Jose del Tucson. Here the actual site of a presidio was located and laid out by General Hugo O'Connor, on August 20, 1775. The latter was an Irish soldier serving in the Royal Spanish Army, like many other Irish refugees of that day, who were gaining distinction in the armies of France, Austria, Spain and in the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.
From Captain Francisco Elias Gonzalez de Zaya descends the Elias family in Sonora and Arizona. For six generations, the Elias have produced important figures in the military, religious, governmental and economic life of the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Sonora, and the American State of Arizona. These have included a President of the Mexican Republic, two Governors of Sonora, a Governor of Chihuahua, and soldiers who fought with distinction against the Apaches, against the French under Emperor Maximilian, and the notorious American filibusters under Crabbe. Several of the Elias were distinguished priests of the church of Mexico. As landowners and livestock raisers, their achievements were extraordinary. From 1766 to 1855, various members of the Elias family acquired and operated no less than thirty large land grants and ranches in Sonora and that part of Arizona which was acquired by the United States after the Mexican War of 1848.
In the year 1829 Don Ignacio Elias and Dona Eulalia Elias purchased from the Mexican Government, under provisions of the 1824 Law of Colonization, eight leagues (sitios) more or less, "for raising large herds of cattle and horses." This allotment was located in what was then known as the parish (paraje) of San Ignacio del Babacomari in the |jurisdiction of the Presidio of Santa Cruz. Its boundaries were somewhat indefinite, but it is assumed that its usable area was approximately 130,000 acres. The actual title to this land grant was issued by the Treasurer General of the State of Sonora on December 25, 1832.
During the next eighteen years the Elias built the original fortified headquarters, and grazed thousands of cattle and horses on the lush well-watered grasslands which extended from the Santa Rita Mountains to the San Pedro River. But, as soon as an organized purposeful operation was evidently successfully on its way, the forces of destruction and pillage appeared with the increasingly frequent raids of the Apache. Within two decades, two Elias brothers had been murdered by these Indian raiders, and by 1849 the family was forced to abandon their flourishing hacienda and return to Arizpe in Sonora.
A few years later the U. S. Boundary Commission, under the leadership of J. R. Bartlett, set out, in 1851, to establish what was to become the international boundary line between the United States and Mexico. When they stopped at the Babacomari Ranch, Commissioner Bartlett wrote the following:
"The valley of the Babacomari, is here from a quarter to half a mile in breadth, and covered with a luxuriant growth of grass. The stream which is about twenty feet wide winds through this valley, with willows and large cottonwood trees growing along its margin . . . This hacienda, as I afterwards learned, was one of the largest cattle establishments in the State of Sonora. The cattle roamed the entire length of the valley, and at the time it was abandoned there were no less than forty thousand head, besides a large number of horses. The same cause which led to the abandonment of so many other ranches and villages, had been the ruin of this. The Apaches encroached, drove off the animals and murdered their herdsmen. The owners, to save the rest, drove them further into the interior and left the place. Many cattle and horses remained, however, and ranged over the hills and valleys nearby. From these, numerous wild herds have sprung which now cover the entire length of the San Pedro and its tributary, the acomari."
Soon after Bartlett had explored the ancient route of the Babacomari, one of the first authentic Arizona pioneers, Captain James H. Tevis, camped at the old ranch headquarters and describes it in his reminiscences, Arizona in the Fifties: "The old Mexican fort on the Babacomari, which is now used as a ranch, stood on the tableland about two hundred yards from the west side of the Babacomari Creek. . . . The fort which consisted of adobe buildings covered about an acre of ground. A wall about fifteen feet high encircled it, with one entrance at the east side large enough to drive a wagon through; and the rooms for quarters were built on the east, south and west sides of the enclosure with lookout posts on top of the walls."
The mid-nineteenth century in the Pimeria Alta was not an era of romance. On the contrary, most tales of fact or fiction of that period deal with murder, massacres, pillage, torture and treachery. But there is one outstanding incident of romance during this bleak interval which had its surprising and happy ending on the Babacomari Ranch in 1852, and is therefore a part of the varied and unexpected story of this ancient land grant. Bartlett, in his Personal Narrative reviewing the work and travels of the International Boundary Commission, relates: "Her name is Inez Gonzalez, daughter of Jesus Gonzalez of Santa Cruz, near the San Pedro River in Sonora. She was then in her fifteenth year. In the preceding September she had left her home, in company with her aunt and uncle, another female and a boy, to visit Magdalena, where the Feast of St. Francis was celebrated each year. They were escorted by a guard of ten soldiers. When one day's journey out they were attacked by a band of Pinal Indians, who lay in ambush in a narrow canyon. Her uncle was killed, and all the guard, save three people who made their escape. Inez with her two female companions and the boy, Francisco Pacheco, were carried away in captivity. She had been with the Indians since. The other captives, she understands, were purchased and taken to the north by a party of New Mexicans. Inez lived on with the Indians and no improper freedom was taken with her person, but she was robbed of her clothing save her skirt and under linens, and was made to work very hard. She spent the whole period of her captivity at two of the regular planting grounds of the Pinals."
These Pinal Indians were a small band of the Apache tribe, and they ranged in the rugged area between the Upper San Francisco River, near the modern town of Clifton and the Sierra Pinal and the Sierra Blanca. Being cut off from the mainstreams of Apache life by mountain ranges or deserts, their ways and customs were often different. One notable exception was that they held prisoners rather than kill them. They used the men for hunting and they made the women (who were in the majority of the prisoners) work with their own squaws doing the drudgery and less interesting work. When occasion arose they sold these women prisoners. That was what eventually happened to Inez. Through sheer good luck, her purchasers, one Peter Blacklaws, a trader from Santa Fe, and Pedro Archeveque and Jose Valdez, two New Mexican natives out to make some easy money, ran afoul of the International Boundary Commissioner, who was a man of honor as well as courage and intelligence. When he saw Inez and recognized her as a person of good breeding who had been gently reared, he rescued her from the traveling group and determined to try to find her family, whom he assumed were somewhere in Northern Sonora where he was headed. This was indeed the long arm of coincidence reaching far out into a relatively unknown land.
Let Commissioner Bartlett continue the narrative. "The fair captive was of course taken care of by the Commission. She was well clad with such materials as the Commissary of the Commission could furnish . . . But with all the attentions extended to her, her situation was far from enviable in a camp of over a hundred men, without a single other female. She found employment in making her own garments, being expert at the needle and occasionally spent time reading the few Spanish books in our possession."
After several months of reconnaissance and hard travel, the expedition arrived at the San Pedro River in Arizona and then proceeded up Babacomari Creek on the old missionary route to Santa Cruz, where the Mexican Commissioner, General Conde, told them the family of Inez was living. While camped at the old fortress ranch headquarters on the Babacomari, Commissioner Bartlett sent a party out to reconnoiter. He then describes what happened: "They (the scouting party) followed the San Pedro to the mouth of the Babacomari, thinking we should move our camp that way, and had fallen in with a large party of Mexicans who were engaged in hunting wild cattle. They told the Mexicans who we were and of our desire to get to Santa Cruz. They also told them about the captive girl Inez Gonzalez, whom we hoped to restore to her family. This Mexican party turned out to be from Santa Cruz, and singularly enough it included her father, uncle and many friends. This was the first intimation they had that the poor girl was living and had been rescued from her savage captors. To a man, they left their hunting ground and accompanied Carroll to our camp.
"The joy of the father and friends in again beholding the face of her, whom they supposed was forever lost, was unbounded. Each in turn embraced her after the Spanish custom; and it was long ere one could utter a word. Tears of joy burst from all; and the sunburnt and brawny men, in whom the finer feelings of nature are usually supposed not to exist, wept like children, as they looked with astonishment on the rescued girl. The members of the Commission could not but participate in the feelings of the poor child and her friends. Big tears rolled down their weather-beaten and bearded faces, which showed how fully they sympathized with the feelings of our Mexican friends."
And thus the tragedy of Inez ended at the old hacienda of the Babacomari in a burst of joyful reunion. This happened only a few years after the two Elias brothers were killed while defending the herds and people of the Babacomari Ranch. From the day when Marcos de Niza took possession in the name of the King of Spain, tragedy, romance and coincidence are intricately woven into the curious pattern that has been the history of San Ignacio del Babacomari Grant.
Dr. E. B. Perrin
When the American Civil War ended, the government of the United States found that it had an Apache war on its hands in the new Territory of Arizona, which President Lincoln had established in 1863. Troop G of the 1st U. S. Cavalry was sent into what had become the heart of Apache land. On December 11, 1866, Camp Wallen was established on the banks of the Babacomari, using the old walled hacienda of San Ignacio del Babacomari for its quarters. During the next two years these troops fought three successful engagements with the fast-moving Apaches under Cochise in the rich grass country which lies between the Huachuca Mountains on the south to the Chiricahua Mountains some eighty miles to the north and east. Camp Wallen was abandoned on October 31, 1869, and it was not until 1877 that a new military post some eight miles south of the Babacomari Ranch was established. That was the present Fort Huachuca. It was also the year that Dr. E. B. Perrin and his brother Robert, of San Francisco, California, started the long protracted effort to establish the validity of the title of the Babacomari grant under the laws of the government of the United States.
An article in the Arizona Sentinel, published at Yuma on January 25, 1879, succinctly stated the problem that confronted the Perrins: "In violation of the treaties with Mexico and the Act of Congress of July 22, 1854, the pueblos and private land grants in Arizona have been surveyed and certified for sale as public domain. "The Mexicans have no juster grievance against the Americans than the violation of their rights to land in California, New Mexico and Arizona. "The grants are, some of them, from the Spanish Government and over 100 years old. Those from the Mexican government date since 1825, and whatever may be the result, it is certain that the rights of the claimants would never have been questioned by the Mexican government. "That the titles should remain unsettled for a generation is an injustice to the claimants as well as the settler, and will retard the settlement and prosperity of the Territory."
Dr. Perrin and his brother came from Green County, Alabama, where their father was an eminent physician and wealthy southern planter. Dr. E. B. Perrin was educated for his profession in New Orleans and Philadelphia. When the War between the States broke out, he volunteered as a private soldier in the Army of the Confederacy, but he was soon assigned to duty on the staff of the medical director of Beauregard's Army. During the war he served on the staff of General Pendelton, General Robert E. Lee's chief of artillery, and at war's end was chief surgeon of a division of cavalry commanded by General Forrest. After the war he moved west to San Francisco and engaged in a spectacular career of land acquisition which brought him into the twentieth century as one of the great landowners of the country. His extraordinary insight and energy led him into the magnificent valleys of California, where he acquired the famed Chowchilla Ranch of 115,000 acres, and later developed numerous successful colonies in the rich inland agricultural valleys. Along the right-of-way of the new railroad in Northern Arizona, the Atlantic and Pacific, he acquired some 265,000 acres, and in the newly annexed land of Southern Arizona he purchased the rights and title to San Ignacio del Babacomari from the heirs of the Elias family, who had originally established the grant in 1829.
This was the beginning of a legal battle the result of which hung in the balance for a quarter century. But Dr. Perrin was not a man to quit. In spite of discouragements, reverses, and unanticipated difficulties, he and his brother Robert persisted. Finally, on February 10, 1900, the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the title to "Ignacio and Eulalia Elias, their heirs, successors in interest and assigns."
Yet this was not the end. The boundaries had to be established and the acreage determined. Using the time-honored method of surveying Spanish land grants from a central point within the property, a rectangular plot, with stone markers set at every half mile, covering a distance of forty-six miles, was established and recognized by the office of the U. S. Surveyor General and filed at Phoenix, Arizona, on September 10, 1902. The area thus determined consisted of 33,792.20 acres.
Finally Dr. Perrin received his Letter of Patent which brought the long court action to an end: "To Have and to Hold the said tract of land with the appurtenances thereunto belonging unto the said Ignacio and Eulalia Elias and to their heirs, successors in interest and assigns forever with the stipulations aforesaid. "In testimony whereof I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, have caused these letters to be made Patent, and the Seal of the General Land Office to be hereunto affixed. "Given unto my hand at the City of Washington this sixteenth day of May in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four and of the Independence of the United States, the One hundred and twenty-eighth. "By the President, T. Roosevelt."
The Brophys are an old Irish family long settled in the County Leix in their ancient patrimony of Magh Sedna, which some centuries later was anglicized Ballybrophy. This is a fertile part of Ireland which the Danes invaded in the ninth century, and where the Normans came after they had conquered Britain in the eleventh century. Over the years the Norse, Norman and Gaelic bloods have mingled in the families of later centuries. It is the paradoxical story of Ireland that the conquered frequently absorbed their conquerors through intermarriage, language and customs. Hence the oppressors of one generation often produced the rebels of a later one.
The story of the Brophys in the American Southwest, and particularly in what is now Arizona, properly begins with Michael Brophy, who resided near Kilkenny, Ireland, in the mid-eighteenth century. He had participated in the abortive rebellion of 1783, and was one of the leaders in the tragic rebellion of 1798. Having been captured by the British regulars under General Lake in the Battle of Vinegar Hill, he was promptly executed by his captors as a dangerous man. But he left a legacy to Ireland and the frontier world of the nineteenth century in his eleven sons. It was from these sons and their descendants that some of the qualities of this Irish patriot and rebel leader can still be traced in Australia, India, South Africa, Canada, Latin-America and Arizona.
The story of the first Brophy in Arizona would never have been known had it not been for a letter written in 1852 by an aged Irish-French priest, Father George Brophy, who had been at the bedside of Lafayette when he died in France, in 1834. It was written to a nephew whom he had never seen, then residing in Canada; and it told of the death of Francis Brophy in Cebolleta, New Mexico (New Mexico and Arizona were one in those days). He wrote: "One of your cousins, Mr. Francis Brophy, who was educated in Trinity College Dublin, died last year in the United States Army in Mexico at the age of twenty." Records of the U. S. War Department reveal that Francis Brophy enlisted March 26, 1849, in the 3rd U. S. Infantry, and that he died at Cebolleta, New Mexico, near the present boundary line between Arizona and New Mexico on January 5, 1851 of disease. He was twenty-two years of age.
About the same time another grandson of Michael Brophy came into this virtually unknown Southwest via the U. S. Army. He, too, was a soldier and fought with the American army in Mexico. According to his biographer: "As a non-commissioned officer he led the attack at Cherubusco, there received eleven wounds, was left on the field for dead, and was so reported." However, this was not yet to be. He recovered, returned to the States, settled in California, where he served as an officer in the California Militia. True to the inexplicable affinity of this family for Arizona, this Michael Brophy's grandson, Brother Bernardino Brophy, O.F.M., is today a missionary among the Indians of Arizona, and is currently helping the St. John's Indian School spread the Arizona story around the world with successful tours of its famed St. John's Indian Dancers under his leadership.
A generation later, in 1867, came James Brophy from near Kilkenny, Ireland. According to the War Department records he enlisted in the 8th U. S. Cavalry, commanded by Colonel John I. Gregg, and served through five Apache campaigns in Arizona. On June 11, 1869, "Private James Brophy of Troop B, 8th U. S. Cavalry, was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in scouts and actions with Indians in Arizona in the year 1868."
The next generation produced James E. Brophy, who arrived in Arizona in 1881. Soon after he reached the new boom town of Tombstone, he established a ranch holding at Soldier's Hole and went to work for the Chiricahua Cattle Co. There he became a member of the Chiricahua Rangers, a voluntary military organization under the command of J. C. Pursley, and fought when called upon through the last years of the devastating Geronimo period of Apache warfare in Arizona and Mexico. William Henry Brophy, a younger brother who had just come out from Ireland, helped dig what is still known as the Brophy Well near Soldier's Hole in the Sulphur Spring Valley. Many years later the same William Henry Brophy served with the rank of Major, U. S. Army, as Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Stores for the American Red Cross in France, 1917-18. F. C. Brophy, his son, was a Lieutenant of Field Artillery with the A.E.F. in France in World War I. And his son, William Henry Brophy II, enlisted and served as a fighter pilot with the U. S. Air Force in Europe during World War II, where his unit was cited and decorated by the United States and Belgian governments.
When the Brophy family acquired the Babacomari Ranch, in 1935, it became the third owner of this historic ranch since the King of Spain, four hundred years earlier. The Upper Pimas and their ancestors had lived there from prehistoric days until the marauding Apaches drove them into the interior during the eighteenth century. Then the Elias family took possession and built the old fort-like hacienda in 1833. They, too, had to contend with the dread Apaches, and in time were forced to withdraw into safer territory.
After the Americans were legally established in Arizona, Dr. Perrin and his brother arrived on the scene. The future of the Babacomari Ranch was then obscured by the outcome of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, and the subsequent Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848. The court record of the proceedings involved in establishing the status of the Babacomari grant contain the names of dozens of prominent pioneer citizens of early Sonora and Arizona. Had it not been for the knowledge and experience of Dr. E. B. Perrin, to say nothing of the fortitude and determination required for decades of legal controversy and expense, the status of the Babacomari might still be in question today. Just as the Elias had made it the first and foremost livestock venture in Southern Arizona, in the face of great physical danger, so Dr. Perrin preserved the integrity of its title and the continuity of its productivity with a legal battle that lasted for more than a quarter century.
In 1935, when the Brophys took control, most of the old dangers and uncertainties had disappeared; but there was a new, and in some ways a no less menacing situation -to face. Some fifty years of uncontrolled open range operation in this area led to serious overgrazing. During this period there were several dry cycles where drought diminished the grass cover and caused deep trails and gullies to be worn into the parched earth. As the grass disappeared and the water holes dried up, cattle died in the severe drought of the early go's in such numbers that one account describes the skeletons and carcasses extending over miles of country, and never being more than a stone's throw distant from one another. Then, when the drought broke, years of torrential rains followed. The cow paths and gullies deepened into arroyos and sometimes canyons. The topsoil began to disappear as the summer floods boiled down the newly made watercourses. What had once been a rich, undulating valley of grassland that had supported vast herds of cattle and horses was now fast becoming the point of origin for thousands of tons of priceless soil waiting to be borne down the Babacomari into the San Pedro river and finally on to the Colorado, where it would be dumped into the ever-changing estuary of the Gulf of Lower California. For the past three decades, a fight has been waged to stop this erosion by controlling the floodwaters.
Men of the land have always had to match their strength and imagination against the capriciousness of Nature. But when man abuses Nature's choicest gift — the good earth itself — then he faces disaster itself, though he seldom recognizes it until too late. The penalty for abusing the land is the life penalty. When the rich topsoil is squandered, the lean, hard years begin. Nature not only rebels, it reacts. The long valleys of wind-rippled grass, where matronly cows and calves like yearlings once grazed, now change with the abruptness of a stage set. In their stead, one faces the sunbaked swales filled with stunted yellow weeds and scraggly white thistles. The dwindling cows look smaller and longer legged, and the calf that lags behind is lean and lacks luster. The nearest water hole is always a little too far when the dry years set in. The sky and faraway mountains retain their subtle charm, but the once-beautiful land grows gaunt and ugly. Outraged Nature dons her meanest garb.
This almost happened at San Ignacio del Babacomari. For decades, a quiet war has been fought, where dikes and furrows were placed like companies of soldiers to stop or divert the attacking waters after the summer downpour sets in. New, as well as old grass varieties, were seeded year after year. Gullies were plugged and arroyos dammed. Seeps were turned into water holes. New wells were dug and drainage basins changed from millraces into ponds large enough to attract stragglers from the mysterious bird migrations.
After thirty years of conservation warfare, peace has come again to San Ignacio del Babacomari. The horses win their share on the race course, the cattle prove up at the weighing scales when the shipping days arrive. The land is full of hope and awaits the summer rain with the anticipation of the bride for her beloved.