Five Generations Of Hales In Gisela

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Duke Hale -- Part Two

In last week's column, I started the story of my maternal grandfather, Robert Duke Hale, known as "Duke" Hale. His father, John J. Hale, and his mother, Rebecca Ann Thomas, moved their family from Grayson County, Va. to San Angelo, Texas, in 1870.

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The descendants of Duke Hale still enjoy the ranching life, including, from left great-grandson Taylor Hale, grandson Ralph Duke Hale, and great-grandson, Shawn Haught.

Duke's mother died in 1884 when he was three years old; he and his siblings were raised by their older sister, Eunice Hale, and her husband, James Pleasant "Jim" Lovelady.

In 1898, Duke and Forest Hale, with the Jim Lovelady family, arrived "down on the Blue." This beautiful spot on Blue River along Arizona's eastern border would become Blue, Arizona. In 1902, John J. Hale and his new wife, Minta Fuston, and their oldest children moved to the Blue.

Duke was 18 when he arrived on the Blue. He had grown up working for Jim Lovelady who had been a cattle drover on the Chisholm Trail, and a wagon boss for the famous Matador Ranch of San Angelo, Texas. In 1886, Jim and his crew of cowboys had delivered 800 head of cattle to Pleasant Valley, Ariz. while the Pleasant Valley War was at its peak. Jim went back to Texas and told of the beautiful country in Arizona.

Duke was only six at the time and did not make the trip to Pleasant Valley, but the next year (1887) when his sister, Eunice, married Jim Lovelady, he began to hear Jim's stories of the cattle drives up the Chisholm Trail, the major route out of Texas for livestock. Although it was used only from 1867 to 1884, the longhorn cattle driven north along it provided a steady source of income that helped Texas recover from the Civil War. The Chisholm Trail was finally closed in 1884 by barbed wire. In its brief existence it had been followed by more than five million cattle and a million mustangs, the greatest migration of livestock in world history.

Like many of the pioneer families who settled in the Tonto Basin area, the Hale and Lovelady families left Texas because open range was abolished; ranchers had to confine their cattle to their own land. New Mexico and Arizona, neither fenced in, looked inviting.

The Hale and Lovelady families reached Alpine, Arizona Territory, located at the eastern end of the White Mountains, in 1898. Duke often recalled the time he first saw Hannigan Meadow, elevation 9,100 feet. A remuda of horses grazed in the open meadow surrounded by fir and ponderosa pine forests. Even though they arrived in the late spring, the weather was cold. As soon as the family was settled "down on the Blue," Duke got a job taking care of the horses at Hannigan Meadow. He said it was the prettiest place he had ever seen. I know it held a special place in his heart because when he was 80 years old, and not able to remember many things due to health problems, he often spoke of his days and the horses at Hannigan Meadow.

The wagons were carefully lowered down onto the Blue and the family lived in them until they built a home. The John J. Hale home still stands along Blue River today. It is built of hand-hewn logs, chinked with mud.

Duke was hired on to work as a cowboy for various ranchers in the area. One of them was Toles Cosper of the Y Bar Y Ranch, commonly called the Y Bar. The Y Bar cattle that were to be sold had to be driven down Blue River, and then on to Clifton, Ariz., which was some 50 miles from the Toles Cosper Y Bar Ranch. This was rocky country with many river crossings. Often the big bulls had to be shod or their feet would be too sore to make the trip. The same was true of the new bulls that were bought in Clifton and driven back to the Y Bar. Later, the cattle were driven to the railroad at Magdalena. The drives took 11 days. These days of long hours in the saddle were among Duke's fondest memories.

In 1904, Duke went to work as a packer for the U.S. Geological Surveyors and was soon in the Tonto Basin of Arizona Territory. He saw some of the beautiful country that Jim Lovelady had spoken of. The surveyors first camped at Gisela, then they moved on to Roosevelt. While at Roosevelt, Duke met a young man about his age, George Cline, and the two remained friends for the rest of their lives.

With the Geological Surveyors, Duke was back and forth between Arizona and New Mexico. He attended dances in Gisela, Punkin Center, and Roosevelt. At a Gisela dance, he met Mary Bertha "Birdie" Neal, daughter of William and Ellen Neal. The two courted then married on July 12, 1908, at the Neal Ranch in Gisela. Duke's brother, Forest, had married Birdie's sister, Dollie Neal.

In 1909, Duke and Forest, with their wives and Forest's baby daughter, Myrtle, went to Luna, N.M. to look for work. Their father, John J. Hale, still had a ranch on the Blue and had been the Justice of the Peace at Luna. The only job they found was hauling freight between Magdalena and Luna. The winters were cold -- many times below zero. The Hales later said they about "froze to death" hauling goods over the Plains of San Agustin in an old freight wagon pulled by four mules. Before a year passed, they were back enjoying the warmth of Gisela.

Duke bought a place in Gisela in 1910 from E.C. Conway (grandfather to the E.C. Conway who lives at Greenback today). He bought a few head of cattle, then let his herd build up, branding XZ Bar, and DUK. Duke and Birdie's three children, Robert "Bob" Hale, Ralph "Cuc" Hale, and Anna Mae Hale (Peace), grew up on the Hale Ranch and learned their cowboy skills from Duke.

Not only did the family raise cattle, they raised almost everything they needed. They planted big gardens and fruit orchards. In the summer and fall, they picked fruit and hauled it to Payson to sell: apricots, peaches, plums, pears, pomegranates, apples, and blackberries; tomatoes, potatoes, onions, squash, pumpkins, carrots, turnips, Swiss chard, and collard greens.

They also sold almonds, pecans, and walnuts. The only thing they couldn't grow was citrus, and at Christmas, descendants of the early Mormon settlers of Gisela brought oranges and lemons to the Hales.

Duke grew fields of alfalfa for his cattle, and he planted Texas Seeded Ribbon Cane (seeds were red). After grinding the cane, he boiled it in a long, shallow pan. It made a golden sorghum which was tasty on pancakes and good in cakes. While Birdie raised turkeys and chickens for her family and for sale, Duke raised hogs and smoked his own hams. With beef, ham, turkey, and venison, the family had a good variety of meats which were smoked, dried, or canned for later use.

The Hales also took advantage of the foods that grew wild in the Gisela area. They made jelly and syrup from elderberries and prickly pear apples. Wild asparagus also grew in abundance.

Birdie raised guinea hens and peacocks as "watchdogs." Descendants of the peacocks Birdie raised are still on the Hale and Peace Ranches in Gisela today.

Ralph Hale later inherited the Hale Ranch and continued to raise cattle, branding XZ Bar, Lazy RZ, and R Triangle. Ambrose Booth owned the hashknife brand -- not the same hashknife brand owned by Mac and Stella Hughes -- but a brand that the Booths brought with them from Texas. After Ambrose died, his niece, Nellie Booth Black, signed the brand over to Ralph Hale.

When Ralph Duke Hale inherited his father ranch in 1979, he also inherited the brands. Ralph Duke and Shelly Hale's ranch today in Gisela is known as the Hashknife Ranch, and they own the Hashknife Arena.

Ralph Duke's son, Taylor Hale, and his wife, Trisha, have bought a part of the Hale Ranch, and they own the R Triangle brand. Taylor's sons, Trey and Denton, make five generation of Hales to live on the Hale Ranch.

Ralph Duke's sister and brother-in-law, Barbara and Jeff Ashby, have also bought a part of the original Hale Ranch.

The piece of land that Duke Hale bought for $500 back in 1910 has been very productive and has supported five generations. As a child, I spent a lot of time on the Hale Ranch with my grandparents. I have many fond memories of growing up in Gisela with my Hale and Barkley cousins.

Anytime I hear of Hannigan Meadow, I think of Grandad Duke.

NOTE: Look for books by Jayne Peace and Jinx Pyle, owners of Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc., "Looking Through the Smoke," "A Cultural History of the Women of Gila County," "Blue Fox," "History of Gisela," "Mountain Cowboys," and the newly released "Rodeo 101, the history of the Payson Rodeo," at Jackalope Books and Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral. If you want a numbered "Rodeo 101" collector's edition book, call Git A Rope! Publishing at (928) 474-0380, Sue Malinski at (928) 472-4677, or Lorraine Cline at (928) 479- 2347. It sells for $100. The soft cover sells for $25. "Rodeo 101" includes the early history of Payson, as well as the history of the Payson Rodeo, which is older than any rodeo in the world. It has 375 photos of pioneers, rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and rodeo queens.

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