Looking Back At Rim Country Gardening


Our second "spring" is here, as the monsoon rains have spurred on gardens throughout Rim Country. So I thought that this week might be an ideal time to look back on what people long ago were growing, with a few clips from the past.

Obviously planting had begun earlier than July, so let's start with back in March and go to the Payson correspondent column from the Arizona Silver Belt in Globe, where in the March 22, 1900 edition the Payson correspondent column reported, "fruit trees are now in bloom." It also stated that "Payson enjoyed a shower Tuesday last." Ah, the arrival of spring. A week later the March 29 column stated that "Payson had several heavy showers during the past week." It also stated that "farmers have commenced plowing." By mid-April progress was continuing, "the farmers and cattlemen of this section are now happy. The rain and snow of the past week will insure good crops, good grass and plenty of water."


The old apple trees on the property that was once the Boles Homestead are a living testament to the fertile soil of the Rim Country and the hard-working men and women who tilled it into productive farms.

Old ledgers also tell a story. They often times tell not only what people bought, but what crops people traded to help pay off their account. For example, Bill Craig and Paul Vogel are shown as having traded a number of boxes of apples, and even some peaches, in 1913. Andrew Ogilvie, father of the recently passed Anna Mae Deming, is shown as having traded corn and potatoes.

Now though, I come to "my guy," Sampson Elam Boles. This is where an old ledger starts to provide further insight into the way someone lived. Boles traded a fair amount of items, which shows that farming really was his livelihood. He traded cabbage, turnips, salt pork, bacon, ham and lumber. And yes, I've tried growing cabbage where I live on part of the Boles Homestead. I had some bug issues and never really got a good grasp for the crop with the small amount I tried.

The Tonto Natural Bridge has also been a hot spot through the years of gardening and growing. The Aug. 9, 1900 Payson correspondent column reflects as much. "Messrs. Pranty and Gowan were over from the Natural Bridge Friday. They state that the bridge is now at its best, they having plenty of fruits, grapes, vegetables of all kinds and will have a good quantity of English walnuts."

As we all know, the month of August will start to really show the fruits of our labor. And in August 1900, it was no different east of Payson, as the Upper Tonto correspondent states in this Aug. 30, 1900 clip. "The water in the creek has continued to furnish an ample supply for irrigating purposes. Good crops have been raised and fruit is plentiful." If the fruit hasn't been gotten by a late winter snap, like we got in some places this year, come October there'll be plenty of apples. And in 1900 that was the case.

Bonacker was under the Rim a few days this week and secured the apple crop of McClacklin and also that of Jon Merritt, which he will probably forward to Globe."

By late October it's often time to start thinking about the next set of crops and in 1900 it was no different as farmers set up getting grain in the ground. "The farmers have commenced plowing and putting in grain, trusting that the ‘Wise One' above will yet remember them and grant one year of plenty." I love the spirit of that quote.

Side Notes

I want to thank everyone who has given me feedback on my book "Zane Grey's Forgotten Ranch: Tales from the Boles Homestead." Included amongst the feedback have been numerous notes, including some by descendants of Boles in Kansas. I really treasure it all. The words that people say to me give me strength for future research and the notes will be kept and reviewed occasionally for years to come. If you still have not picked up a copy, I believe that Western Village still has some. You can also shoot me an e-mail at timothy@zanegrey.net to make arrangements to get one from me personally.

This topic of this column is fitting given the family event that occurred this week. As I've written about in the past, my parents both grew up on dairy farms in Wisconsin. Sadly, my mother's brother, Howard Hayes, passed away this week. Howard kept up the family tradition of farming, continuing to milk cows and grow corn until cancer finally started to take its toll on him in recent years. Howard visited Arizona occasionally and always enjoyed coming up to our place under the Rim. I'm sure that he would have loved to have visited more, but the life of a farmer centers around making sure that the cows get milked in the morning and at night, making it difficult to get away. Howard was a kind man whose spirit embodied that of the American farmer.

If you haven't done much with your family history, I really encourage you to do some research. We are blessed to have a terrific genealogy society here in Payson. The Northern Gila County Genealogical Society at 302 E. Bonita St. in Payson is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Regardless of where you are from, they can help you find out more about your family's roots. And if you have some good family files, don't forget to get it to the historical and genealogical societies where your family is from. I know that I still have some stuff that I need to get back to Wisconsin, so that researchers have access to it. Sharing information is vital and you never know when you might come across a long lost relative who has become famous.

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