• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



The region [where the Hatch family settled in Arizona] had been held precariously by U.S. soldiers during the intermittent warfare (1861–86) with the Apaches, who were led by Cochise and later Geronimo. General George Crook waged a successful campaign against the Apaches in 1882–85, and in 1886 Geronimo finally surrendered to federal troops. When Confederate troops were routed and Union soldiers went east to fight in the Civil War, settlement was abandoned. It was resumed after the war and encouraged by the Homestead Act (1862), the Desert Land Act (1877), and the Carey Land Act (1894)—all of which turned land over to settlers and required them to develop it.

Woodruff, Navajo, Arizona, USA elevation 5144 '
In 1878, 2 years after Mormons first colonized the area, Lorenzo Hill Hatch moved Catherine and her family from Savoia, New Mexico by trading his property there to Ammon, Nathan and Samuel Tenney for their property at 'Tenney's Settlement, Arizona'.  The small village was renamed 'Woodruff' in honor of apostle Wilford Woodruff.

"Although not founded by Mormons, this town was sold to them in the 1880s. Like other towns on the Little Colorado River, Woodruff suffered from regular floods. Its post office was established in 1880..."

In 1884, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company of Boston began operations in Arizona with its headquarters situated across the Little Colorado River from the site of Saint Joseph (now Joseph City.) The third largest cattle company in North America, the organization was better known as the Hashknife Outfit, because their brand resembled the old hash knives used by chuck wagon cooks.

The next year, the Aztec Company transferred its headquarters to HolbrookArizona and in 1886, they purchased one million acres of former railroad land from the Atlantic and Pacific for 50 cents an acre. The ranch claimed a range that stretched some  650 miles, from the New Mexico border to just south of Flagstaff.

In an effort to reduce the growing debt it had incurred in constructing its western line, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company attempted to sell 5,424,800 acres of land granted to it by Congress in 1866. Over one million of these acres was acquired at a cost of 50 cents per acre by the Aztec Land and Cattle Company, a consortium of eastern businessmen and Texas ranching interests. The land claimed by the Aztec Company included every other section extending from 12 miles east to 50 miles west of Snowflake for a depth of 50 miles south of the railroad line. By owning every other section and by controlling all critical water sources throughout its vast domain, the Aztec Company monopolized over 2,000,000 acres of range land and, in effect, removed a substantial resource from local utilization.

… The Aztec Company imported between 33,000 and 40,000 head of cattle into Arizona by the close of 1887, which quickly grew to a herd of 60,000. Successive droughts, repeated economic crises, and declining cattle prices during the 1890s produced dangerously overstocked ranges within the basin, just as they had in western Texas the previous decade.

In the end, the cumulative effect of drought, range deterioration, falling prices and heavy losses of cattle from starvation and rustling forced the Aztec Company to declare bankruptcy in 1900. After only 16 years of operation, the company had to liquidate its extensive holdings in the basin, thus ending the speculative cattle ranching era in this region. However, despite its brief reign, the Aztec Company had a devastating impact on local ranges and, therefore, a decidedly negative effect on the peoples and communities that depended on these ranges for their survival.

The arrival of the Aztec Company had an immediate and severe impact on local farmers and ranchers in the region. By excluding all competitors from over two million acres of rangeland, the Aztec Company imposed a considerable hardship on the numerous local cattle ranchers and sheep herders who had previously exploited this formerly open range and who now had to compete with one another for the substantially reduced grazing lands that remained.

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