The Q Ranch Produced Arizona's First First Lady

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While we are writing about the early ranches and brands in the Rim country, we wanted to include the Q. Col. Jesse W. Ellison brought the Q brand with him to Arizona Territory from Texas. It had been in his family for years, having been founded in Alabama by the colonel's father before Jesse took it to Texas, according to Slim Ellison (grandson of the colonel). Other sources say it belonged to the colonel's wife before they married.

Col. Jessie W. Ellison was one of the early cowmen who came to this part of the country to raise cattle, and not to mine. In 1884, barbed wire fences were going up in Texas as the farmers and small ranchers sought to fence their outfits from the big spreads. This caused hard feelings and land squabbles among the ranchers and was sure to result in fighting and range wars. Col. Ellison was caught up in this situation and was more interested in ranching than in shooting at his neighbors. He had heard of the wonderful cattle country in Arizona so decided to sell out his Texas holdings and move west.

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Col. Jesse Ellison's sons, Perle and young Jess, coming in from a bear hunt. For more on the Ellisons see "History of Gisela, Arizona," by Jayne Peace.

Ellison family records say they loaded up their family, 1,800 head of cattle with the Q brand, saddle horses and equipment on a train which hauled them to Bowie, Ariz.

From the notes of Slim Ellison, we learn that it was no easy chore trailing cattle into the Tonto Basin of Arizona in 1885, but the colonel had a tough crew which included Glenn Reynolds and Henry (Rim Rock) Thompson. Both of these men would later serve as sheriff of Gila County and some will remember that Sheriff Reynolds was murdered by the Apache Kid while on the way to the Florence prison. Tough as they were, Ellison and his crew had about as much trouble as they could handle getting into the Tonto Basin with their 1,800 head of cattle.

The herd was stampeded on San Simon Creek by rustlers hoping to pick up strays missed in the subsequent gather. Later they lost 50 more head as they moved the herd down the Gila River. Near Safford, the Indian agent at the San Carlos Reservation met the herd with two soldiers and told Ellison he could not cross the Apache Reservation without a permit and it would take 90 days to obtain one. The Indian agent stated that the herd would be stampeded if they tried to cross without the permit.

Col. Ellison had served as an officer in the Confederate Army and had been a Texas Ranger. He was not about to take any flak from an unreasonable reservation bureaucrat. According to Slim Ellison, the colonel took Glenn Reynolds aside and they had a confab. They decided to invite the Indian agent to spend the night. He first refused, saying he had to get back, but the invitation was firm and phrased in such a way that the agent decided to accept the offer.

The colonel told Glenn Reynolds to sleep near the agent and if the cattle run (stampede), "You kill that S. O. B." The next morning the agent woke up with an attitude adjustment and decided that the herd could proceed. The colonel told the agent that there would be "hell to pay" if his herd was stampeded and by then the agent understood the message. He provided an escort as they crossed the reservation and the Q herd arrived at Globe in fine shape. The drovers trailed 1,800 head of cattle right through town and down Pinal Creek to where Roosevelt Lake is now.

Here they were met by Salt River cowmen who didn't want an extra 1,800 cattle on their grass. After a big medicine talk, the cowmen decided to let the Q herd through, since they were going on to country 18 miles northeast of Payson.

The Ellison family -- Jesse, his wife Susan, and eight children -- settled in what they called Apple Valley on what was soon to be known as Ellison Creek. They built a big log house there and the first winter at Apple Valley was so hard that about a third of their cattle died from the cold weather. The Ellisons stayed at Apple Valley with their Q cattle until 1894 and then moved into the country about 20 miles east of Pleasant Valley where they founded and operated the famous Q Ranch.

When Jinx was a child, about 1950, the foundation of the old Ellison house in Apple Valley was still very evident. Back in the 1920s, his granddad, Floyd Pyle, used the old house to keep mountain lions in after he roped them. He would keep them there while he gentled them down before he sold them to zoos, and parks.

Back to the Ellisons. After arriving at his new headquarters near Pleasant Valley, the colonel had several thousand cattle trailed there. The Q, as the ranch was called, leased a lot of grazing land from the Apaches and required a lot of cowboys. The Colonel had two sons: Perle and Travis. The Ellison daughters, Duett, Lena, Rose, Minnie, Mattie, and Denia, could ride, shoot, and rope and do any job at the branding fire, so the colonel had a built-in ranch crew.

By 1914, homesteaders were filing on land that the Q had used to run cattle and Col. Ellison could see his range shrinking daily. Also the federal government was about to put the White Mountain Apaches in the cattle business and he would loose the land that he had leased from the tribe. The colonel said that he didn't want to live on the Q Ranch and watch anyone else run it because they wouldn't do it to suit him. Not wanting to see all this happen and with no way to stop it, in 1915 when the colonel was 73, he sold the Q (ranch and brand) to Pecos McFadden. McFadden had owned the Flying H at one time.

As the colonel had predicted, McFadden lost the Apache lease land and the ranch continued to shrink in both terms of cattle and range land. Raymond Cline said when his family arrived in Pleasant Valley in 1925, Pecos McFadden had just bought the Q. Raymond recalls that Pecos farmed too, just like Ellison had. "He worked lots of Apaches because he had cattle on the reservation." Raymond will never forget that while his family was camped in Pleasant Valley, Pecos sent a hind quarter of beef to them. "Dick Robinson was the man who delivered the beef to us," said Cline.

Pecos McFadden sold the Q to George Wilson. Then George died and left the ranch to his son, Roy Wilson. R.M. Grantham ran it for him. Cy Garlinghouse and Len Sanders were hired as cowboys by R.M. and worked there for several years.

Jayne's dad, Calvin Peace, recalled when he worked for R.M. Grantham on the Q. "I helped the OWs with a roundup and had just got back from driving the cattle to the railroad in Holbrook. I was pretty done in. That night R.M. Grantham came to my house and told me to get ready to ride the next morning. We had to finish the roundup at the Q and then drive the cattle to the railroad in Globe. That was in the late 1930s. Frank Haught and Hubert Haught were on this drive, too."

Raymond laughed. "Yep. Calvin and I are so old that we punched cows with one-eyed Jesse Ellison (son of the Colonel)."

The Q passed through the hands of several more owners. Rue Marshall owned it after World War II. Jack Rogers had it for years. Today, his son, Jonathon Rogers, owns the house, barn, and corrals, but no cattle permit. Johnny Johnson owns the Q permit (not the brand) and 80 acres just north of the Q and he brands the Flying H. The Q brand was owned by Gertrude Hill (granddaughter of Colonel Ellison) on lower Cherry Creek. Mrs. Hill died and her grandchildren now own the Q brand as far as we can find out.

The Q and many other of Arizona's fine ranches are no more, but many of the families that founded these ranches went on to prosper in other enterprises. The Ellisons made their mark in history. Duett, who could fairly handle a rope, gun, or horse, married the first governor of Arizona, George W. P. Hunt. Col. Ellison's grandson, Slim Ellison, became a cowboy of renown and in his later years authored several books without which a good many details of Arizona history would have been lost to the ages. Lena Ellison's photographs preserved a lot of Arizona history.

Town Historians Jayne Peace and Jinx Pyle, owners of Git A Rope! Publishing, Inc. have the following books available: "Looking Through the Smoke," "Blue Fox," "History of Gisela," "Mountain Cowboys," "Rodeo 101 History of the Payson Rodeo," and "Calf Fries and Cow Pies". Look for them at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral, the Payson Chamber of Commerce, the Rim Country Museum, and Mountain Air Gifts in Payson. Lorraine Cline has the books in Tonto Basin.

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