Last week we followed the lives of the pioneer family John and Sarah Holder, and John's brother Sydney and his family, as they settled the East Verde River between today's Beaver Valley and the East Verde Estates. It was there that John, along with his brother and several of his older sons raised a herd of more than 5,000 Angora goats. They established a store and a post office called Angora at the place we call Flowing Springs. By 1900 life along the East Verde took on an air of permanence as the herds prospered. However, that same year they suffered the deaths of Sydney Holder's wife, Carrie and several of the Holder children. In the winter of 1901-1902 an unusually heavy snow fall killed many of the goats. The herd was so reduced that John decided they needed to establish a winter pasture. He purchased the rights to property in Gisela, at the lower elevation along Tonto Creek.
At the same time he sold the rights to his East Verde ranch to his brother, Sydney, who then took over the post office and the store. Sydney operated the post office at Angora from June 18, 1902 until June 18,1905. On that date George A. Randall, the father of later-to-be Payson teacher Julia Randall, became the postmaster until the Angora post office was discontinued in February of 1908.
Where the widower Sydney and his children went after that is unclear. Sometime in 1905 the East Verde School had been closed, and Sydney's children disappear from all Gila County school records.Tom Watt Holder and his younger sister, Mae, who had become old enough to retain a memory of their experiences, told about life among the Holders on Tonto Creek. In oral interviews, retained by the research library at the Rim Country Museum, they record their move to Gisela in the fall of 1902, and how their father John Holder immediately established a store and a post office.
Actually he resurrected the Gisela post office, which had been discontinued in favor of Payson. He would be postmaster from December 22, 1902 until July 31, 1906, when the Gisela post office was again discontinued and the mail picked up in Payson. At the time the Holders were settling into Gisela, a number of Tonto Apaches were continuing their return to the Rim country from the San Carlos Reservation.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs had relaxed its policies around the turn of the century, and a military presence was no longer there to keep the Apaches on the reservation. The Tontos that settled in Gisela quickly took up employment with John Holder as goat herders and ranch hands.
Mae Holder, who later married Walter Haught, remembered playing with the Apache children while she was growing up. Because they often had lice, her own long curly hair would become infected. Mae's mother would delouse her along with the Indian children.
Mae treasured a little basket given to her by the wife of one Tonto man called Chop wood Jim. She marveled at how those Apache baskets were works of art. One was a perfect cup and saucer woven together. The Holders collected the priceless baskets during those years, as did other Rim country merchants, because the Apaches would use them in trade at the store. As he had done at Angora, John Holder would in turn trade the baskets for supplies in Globe.Holder paid the Apache goat herders 50 cents a day. The Indians,whom he hired to do washing, field work, and other chores about the ranch, were paid a dollar a day. That was the going rate for White cowboys as well.
Goats were returned home to their corrals every evening, unlike sheep that remained on the range day and night. The goat hair was selling for 30 cents a pound in Globe and John Holder invented a machine, something like a hay baler, with which he packed the cuttings.
He was a patriarch who also felt concern for the education of the Indian children, and often helped to dress them with material from his store. However, the Apache children do not show up on the Gisela school records during this time. It is not clear from the oral interviews whether the Indians were unwilling to attend school because they lacked the proper clothing, or the White settlers felt the need to Europeanize them.
The school census of 1905 does show two Holder families enrolled at Gisela. John and Sarah's children were Eugene 17, Ogden 14, Allen 11, and Watson 10. John's older son. George and his family had preceded them to Gisela, and had enrolled their children in the school as well. They also sponsored William and Viola Holder's daughter, Ethel who had come to Gisela from East Verde since that school had closed. Children in the Rim country often went to live with relatives during the school year in order to get their education, when there was no school near their home. One day an Indian brought a chunk of gold to John Holder in trade for goods. The rock contained more gold than quartz, and Holder tried to find out where the man had found it. The Tonto Apache refused to tell. The native people had long since learned that "yellow iron" made White people go crazy, and they would tear into Mother Earth to obtain it. Desecrating the Earth by mining was a sacrilege to the Indians, and they usually kept the location of gold veins a secret.(To be continued. Next week, the newly formed Forest Service ejects the Holder herds from their range.)