Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Little Bit of History

My plans to share more pictures and stories about my visit to the cattle ranch with Mikey's family got thwarted by my illnesses, my horse's hoof abscess and the holidays, so now I will return to my regularly scheduled programming.

The Fourr Ranch is located in the northwest corner of the Dragoon Mountains at the entrance to Fourr Canyon just outside of Benson, Arizona. It was established by William Fourr in 1878.  Just two years earlier the Apache Reservation in the Dragoon Mountains had been closed.  William Fourr continually lost horses and cattle to Apache Indian raids, and built a stone lookout on the hill behind his house complete with windows to peer through and poke shotguns through.  Here is Mikey demonstrating what a child might have done to hide from the Indians inside what is left of the lookout building.

William Fourr had a wife and five children.  When William was not home and the wife sensed trouble, she'd take the kids up the canyon to hide, as well, and it is reported that she was handy with a pistol.  During the winter months, she and the kids lived in Tombstone so that the kids could attend school.  The main house on the property was built in 1898, after the Fourr family spent the previous years living in tents. The main house had a couple of balconies that allows one to see for miles.

A door to one of these balconies displays the cattle brands used by various owners of the ranch.

In the 1990’s until about 2004, J.R. Wilbur, an heir of the Coca-Cola bottling company, owned the ranch and expanded on the property by building such modern amenities as a gorgeous indoor swimming pool.

The Fourr Ranch consists of 1,280 acres of private land and grazing rights on 11,600 acres of State Trust land and 4,000 acres of National Forest land. It offers a vast mix of landscapes -- everything from cactus-laden desert to grasslands to mountains.  Buildings on the ranch include a 3 bedroom, 3600 square foot residence, a guest house, pool house, bunk house, cowboy house, labor house, horse barn, shop and an equipment storage barn.  There are several fenced pastures, corrals, and a cattle chute.  Many of the rooms within the houses are beautifully furnished with comfort in mind.

Just down the dirt road, one can find the remnants of an old stagecoach stop with stone corrals.

There is also a well-maintained graveyard for confederate soldiers.

The current owners have heard rumors that the great war chief Cochise, after which Cochise County was named, may be secretly buried somewhere on the property.  He belonged to the Chiracahua Apache Indian tribe and died of dyspepsia.  During his six weeks of illness before his death, Cochise believed that the spirits of all the white men he killed were haunting him.

He was buried with blankets with his name woven in, his rifle cradled in his arms, as well as other personal items.  His favorite horse was shot and buried 200 yards away.  Another horse was shot and buried a mile away from his grave, and a third horse was shot and buried two miles away.  All of this was done with the belief that Cochise would find the horses and be able to ride them in the spirit world.

While being given a tour in the mountains behind the ranch, I was keeping my eye out for a location where Cochise might have been buried.  Halfway up the hill, we came across the scattered bones of a horse.  I asked if they had wild Mustang on their land, and they said no.  Derik pointed out that one of the leg bones contained marks from modern day medical instruments.  It appeared as if the horse had surgery to re-attach the bone to the joint.

It was great visiting a ranch that was built by a pioneer who traveled around Arizona via stagecoach before the city of Phoenix was much of anything beyond a speck of dirt.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Fascinating history! But I am very curious why they would shoot and bury the horses 1 and 2 miles away from his body. Why not bury them closer, so his spirit won't have to walk so far? lol!

Hope one day to visit the 4 Fourr Ranch in person :)


K.K. said...

Great post!

Reddunappy said...

Great post!
Such wonderful history down your way!

fernvalley01 said...

Wow ! what a wonderful place

Laura said...

Neat post! The history of the ranch and that area is pretty cool. Such different landscape than I'm used to seeing as well. I'd love to visit AZ some day...

Mikey said...

Very cool post! I miss it so much down there. I just want to go back. I wish I could live there full time.
Glad you're on the mend and posting again. LaTonne (BEC) was here and we were talking about going riding in a few weeks with you and CNJ. She'll be back and we have plans that include you, so get ready :)

achieve1dream said...

Very cool!

Nathan woodruff said...

Wow! This brings back so many great memories. J.R. Wilbur was my grandfather. I was lucky enough to grow up spending time there every summer riding and exploring. Our family sold the ranch in 2003 and I haven't been back since. If you have any more information about the ranch in its current state, please let me know. -Nathan (

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Hi Nathan - I only visited the ranch this one time back in 2012. I'm not sure what is going on with it now. At the time I was there, a family was using it for cattle ranching. As far as I know, they hadn't changed anything.

Soni Cido said...

I have been researching William Fourr for over four years and am presently writing an article about him for a History Journal. I plan to publish a book about him in 2017.
As far as the ranch goes, my fiance was in escrow several times but could never close the sale, finally moving on in 2012.
It has been sold to a rancher out of Texas who has removed some of the buildings and the pool (so we have been told but have not seen it) for the sake of cutting down on tax obligations.
You can find Billy's page on facebook: William "Billy" Fourr.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Soni - Thanks for the information. Mikey and I were talking about writing a book about the history of the ranch at one time.

Soni Cido said...

Hi Nuzzling Muzzles...
That would be a good project, as I am not going into the history of the ranch, nor of the extended Fourr family. Maybe some day.. I highly recommend the book, "Mines, Camps, Ranches and Characters of, The Dragoon Mountains" by, Lynn R. Bailey.
Bailey is a friend of a dear historian friend of mine and is and excellent writer & researcher.
You can find his book here: