The Pioneers Who Settled Along Ellison Creek

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A news article in the Roundup, reporting a land exchange on Ellison Creek, and the closing of a couple of local mines brought to mind some rich history in the Payson area.

It seems the Forest Service has plans to plug some dangerous shafts at local historic mines. These include the Royal Flush, Maggie, Callahan and Golden Wonder. These are all mines clustered around Marysville Hill three miles southwest Payson. They figured heavily in the development of that old gold camp in the early 1880s.

The Golden Wonder was located by L.P. Nash and his partner Moore about 1877, and later sold to Emer Chilson and his brother-in-law, Joe Birchett in exchange for Chilson's merchandising business in Marysville and Globe.

According to the late Bob Lincoln, in correspondence in July 2002, when the Chilsons and Birchetts bought the Golden Wonder from Lafaette Nash, they were unable to come up with the final payment. Lincoln's grandfather, John Robbins, a distant relative of the Chilsons, who was ranching in Gisela, made the payment for them and thus acquired a one-third interest in the mine.

"John rode horseback to Globe and got the $2,000 in gold and got back to Payson in two days." He retained his interest until his death in 1936. Bob Lincoln said his grandmother had showed him receipts from the San Francisco mint for $60,000 in gold..

A 1904 mining report stated, "The development work has all been confined to the rich ore bodies ... The work has been done in a miserable manner, as they naturally confined it to the high grade ore bodies ... and all the work as small as possible to save the labor ... The timbering is insufficient and poorly done for the same reason ..."

The mine had a series of owners before the Forest Service determined the claim was no longer viable. In 1980 the mine became the center of a scandal. It seems an Arizona mining company, along with a corporation in Canada, sold about $40,000 worth of unregistered securities, claiming the "mine was on the brink of paying off," and investors could double or triple their money. In fact, the investors' money was used to pay off debts incurred by the company.

The other item in the news story referred to a cluster of summer homes along Ellison Creek, immediately south of the Control Road (Forest Road 64) and midway between Tonto Village and Whispering Pines. The 143 acres will become private land in an exchange between the Ellison Creek Homeowners and the Tonto National Forest. The homeowners have acquired some 520 acres of coveted forest lands elsewhere to offer the government.

The 60 Ellison Creek cabin lots were leased from the Forest Service beginning in 1954, and for some years the homeowners have been negotiating with the government to privatize the property. This summer, public discussion on the exchange was concluded and final action could be taken this fall or next spring.

Ellison Creek is a short stream of nine miles, flowing from under the Mogollon Rim and then heads west to enter the East Verde River, just beyond the famous Cold Springs swimming hole.

The first settlers on Ellison Creek established homesteads along the springs and upper waters in 1885. A Texas cattleman named Jesse Ellison with his friends and family herded more than 3,000 longhorns and Hereford cattle to the Rim country, responding to reports about the fabulous grazing and water this country afforded.

They passed through Globe on Aug. 8, according to the Arizona Silver Belt. Many cattle had been lost during the trail drive and railroad passage, and they came in several bunches.

Ellison was accompanied by longtime Texas friends, including Bob McMurray, Bob Samuels, Bill Vorhees, Walter Moore, Walter Haught, Frank Chamberlain, Ollie Cresswell, Sam Connors, Glenn Reynolds (who would later become a Gila County Sheriff and was killed by the Apache Kid), J.W. Ezell and his two sons, and others, including some wives and children. Many of them left their names etched into Rim country places.

Settling on the upper waters of the creek that would bear his name, Jesse Ellison established wells, living space and orchards. There were so many fruit trees the place soon came to be called the Apple Farm. That first year the snow was heavy and one-third of his cattle died. However, he was too wise a cattleman to be put down, and over the next 10 years, he became successful and his family grew, married, and some died there.

In 1895, the Ellison family sold their squatters' rights to Fred Haught and moved to Cherry Creek near Young. There he established his "Q" brand on what became the famous "Q" Ranch.

Pioneer Lewis Pyle is quoted as saying, "The old man told me that the ranch was overstocked and overgrazed, that's why he moved."

Fred Haught and other Haught family members developed a hog farm on the property. Fred's nephew, Thomas "Pink" Haught, brother of Anderson "Babe" Lee Haught, would later settle the homestead, and after he died in 1902, his widow patented the land in 1911.

A second homestead just downstream from the Apple Farm, was patented by Fletcher Beard in 1909. He was a cowboy who had married Nellie Pyle, one of the Elwood Pyle girls, who lived on Bonita Creek, the next creek west of Ellison. Fletcher and Nellie had moved to Ellison Creek, and he became the first forest ranger on the Payson District in the newly formed Tonto National Forest. He worked out of the office that today is known as the Rim Country Museum in Green Valley Park.

Fletcher Beard died young, in 1913, and his family moved to Star Valley while his father-in-law, Elwood Pyle and family took over the Ellison Creek property. The Pyles also had both the Apple Farm homesteads owned by the Haughts. These ranches remained in the Pyle family until more modern times.

Today, Valley Realtor Russ Lyon owns the old Jesse Ellison Apple Farm. The Pyle family retained the lower homestead, and subdivided it, retaining 2 1/2 acres for the family.

Traveling on down Ellison Creek to its terminus one comes to the Cold Springs Ranch, patented by John Fuller in 1912. Like all those old homesteads, it had an interesting succession of owners over the years.

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