The Story Of Payson, Arizona

Chapter 41: Payson’s last cattle drive



Stan Brown photo

Entrance to the large Doll Baby Ranch. This is where early roundups were held before driving the cattle down Payson’s Main Street on the way to market.

During the first half of the 20th century there were as yet few fences to restrain range cattle.  Every rancher’s brand ran together with the herds of neighbors from the Tonto Basin to the Mogollon Rim.

At roundup time each rancher sent “reps” to join in a community roundup. Honesty was in the code of the west, and when a cowboy would find a cow with her new offspring he would rope the calf and brand it with whatever brand the mother cow carried. This way the ranch hands could spread out and corral whatever calves they found on the open range.

Depending on where the roundup was taking place, after the calves had been branded and the bullocks castrated, the cattle to be sold were headed for market by way of the easiest route. Down in Tonto Basin the community herd was driven to Globe for shipping. Those rounded up in Gisela, Round Valley, Rye Creek and the Doll Baby Ranch on the East Verde were brought through Payson by ranchers such as the Taylors, Chilsons, Colcords, Randalls, Browns and Coles.

As the cattle were herded out of the mountains, foothills and basins, the small herds were grouped together west of town to make one large herd. There they camped all night, and the next day drove the herd east along the Doll Baby Road into Payson. It made quite a spectacle to see this cattle drive going down Payson’s Main Street, stirring up dust that filtered into every house and business along the way.

Depending on whether the goal was the shipping point at Holbrook or Winslow, the route from town would vary. Heading to Holbrook, the second night’s camp was in Starr (sic) Valley at the Ogilvie Ranch. By the third night they had reached Little Green Valley, the fourth night’s camp was on the Hunt Ranch in Gordon Canyon, and the fifth night was spent at the OW Ranch on Canyon Creek. From there they drove the herd up the Mogollon Rim and on to Holbrook for shipment.

At times a buyer wanted the cattle loaded at Winslow. In that case the herd was driven up the East Verde River on the old Devin Trail, or “the old Moqui Trail” as it was called because it had been an ancient Indian trading route leading to the Moqui, or Hopi, villages in the north.

During the first half of the 20th century there were as yet few fences to restrain range cattle. Every rancher’s brand ran together with the herds of neighbors from the Tonto Basin to the Mogollon Rim.


Stan Brown photo

Author Stan Brown, at the abandoned cinnabar furnace near Mt. Ord.

The largest ranch in the Payson area was Chilson’s Bar-T-Bar, and they would use the East Verde route to move their cattle back and forth to summer range near Hay Lake on the Rim. When herds were driven up the East Verde the cowboys would camp at Belluzzi’s Rim Trail Ranch. The animals were kept at night in “traps,” barbed wire enclosures large enough to hold 400 or 500 head. Hiking up the trail along the East Verde one can find yet today remnants of the old wire embedded in the trees along the river’s upper waters.

When World War II began, 69 young men from the Rim Country went to war, most of them cowboys. This made the big cattle drives no longer feasible, and, with improved roads, the cattle began to be shipped to market by truck. In 1945 the big Chilson spread sold out and moved its headquarters to Hay Lake, leaving a big hole in Payson’s ranching industry.

Forest Ranger Clyde Moose was stationed in Payson from March 1937 to April 1940, and recalled witnessing some of the last of the cattle drives through town. “They were preparing to make their last drive from the Bar-T-Bar,” he wrote in his memoirs. As the local ranger, he was required to keep count of the number of cattle coming and going on the public rangelands. He wrote, “I stood in the back of my pickup and used the cab for a desk, and counted over 1,000 head. I told the young trail boss, ‘This is the last herd of any size that will ever be driven through the town of Payson. You should have someone take a picture of them as they pass through town.’ He told me later he did not get a picture of them. He just hated to bother anyone that early in the morning.”

It was the passing of an era for Payson. About this same time another chapter in Payson’s pioneer times passed from the scene. The last of the old-time miners, Wes Goswick died in 1943. Mines and cattle were the bread and butter for Payson from its inception. The money earned by cowboys and miners kept Main Street hopping and businesses thriving.

Wesley Goswick was born in 1884, the same year Payson was named and the first rodeo was held. Like many early settlers in Arizona, he moved about, taking jobs in mines or as a day laborer. He and his wife Mary worked on the Pyle Ranch along Ellison Creek, hunting and fishing to supplement their diet. While on that job two of their little ones died of diphtheria, Willie 4 and Rosie 2. This prompted a move to Globe where Wes worked in the Radium Mine hauling ore to the smelter in Miami. During the construction of Roosevelt Dam he found employment and the family lived in Roosevelt. After the dam was completed Wes and Mary were divorced. This was a frequent happening among families who faced the hardships and sorrows of frontier life. Wes lived with his daughter Belle and her husband Alfred Packer in the Tonto Basin, hunting lion for the government bounty. It was during this time he did a lot of prospecting, and in 1920 he discovered cinnabar on the side of Mount Ord. When cinnabar ore is rendered it yields mercury, often called quicksilver.


Photo courtesy of the Rim Country Museum

Goswick Camp at the bottom of Slate Creek.

The mining camp Wes established was called Goswick Camp. It was at the bottom of Slate Creek Hill, and the old state highway 87, before it was a divided highway, passed right through the middle of it. Many old-timers remember seeing the rock fireplaces and green cabins where the miners’ families lived. During the cinnabar mine’s boom days at Goswick Camp, the ore was processed on the site and then shipped to Phoenix by way of the Apache Trail. At least 15 members of the Tonto Apache Tribe worked there, and tribal member Vinnie Ward recalled, “My father used to work over at the Ord mine and we lived down there. My mother used to carry me on foot over there when I was a baby in a cradleboard.” Paul Burdette said that Tontos came and worked there from San Carlos, Gisela and Payson. He worked the mine until he was drafted into the service in 1942.


Stan Brown photo

Cattle roundup at a ranch on the Rim.

In 1929 Mercury Mines of America bought the mine from Goswick, but the operation collapsed in 1932 with the Great Depression. When Wes Goswick died in 1943, one might say it was symbolic of the passing of another era in Payson history — those days when cattle ranching and mining formed the economic base of the town.


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