Charles Bouquet And His Incredible Tonto Basin Gardens

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Spring has sprung and it’s a good time to look back at one of the most notable early growers in the Tonto Basin: Charles Bouquet, who was noted for his fruit and yet met an early demise.

Charles Bouquet came to the United States from France and according to the 1882 Gila County Great Register, was 40 at that time. Bouquet, which is spelled a number of different ways in old papers, quickly became a noted person in the region and there are frequent mentions of him in Globe’s Arizona Silver Belt newspaper. Why all of the mentions? Well, when a shipment arrived from Bouquet’s ranch, folks wanted to get some of it, as these newspaper clips show.

“A large wagon-load of grapes and peaches was brought to town and sold on Thursday. The fruit was the most luscious we have eaten this year. It was grown on the Bouquet ranch, Tonto.” — Arizona Silver Belt, Aug. 16, 1884

“Little attention has been given to fruit culture until within the past two or three years. Several orchards are beginning to bear and fruit is of excellent quality. Peaches, apricots, pears, plums, nectarines, grapes and deciduous fruits do well. The oldest orchard and vineyard in the county is that of Chas. Bouquot, at Tonto. For several years Mr. Bouquot has supplied Globe with luscious peaches, apricots and grapes, which has been a source of profit to him.” — Arizona Silver Belt, Jan. 26, 1889

Bouquet really became known throughout the state for his place. It was practically an oasis in the Tonto Basin, which even Phoenix folks raved about, as this clip from the Feb. 2, 1891 Arizona Republican shows.

“A Tonto Basin Ranch

“Another instance of the Profit in Small Farms Well Tilled

“Charles Bouquet is in Phoenix from Tonto Basin to purchase a new wagon and a season’s supplies. He will also take back with him about 1000 grape vines and a large number of choice fruit trees.

“In point of products and profits Mr. Bouquet is undoubtedly the leading agriculturalist of Gila County. He has cleared a patch of land on a branch of Oak creek and with the aid of an everliving spring of water has within a few years established a mountain farm that would be a revelation to many a Salt River Valley agriculturist. He raises little or no hay or grain, considering his ground too valuable for such uses. He has several acres of vines and several hundred bearing fruit trees, the product of which he sells in Globe, sixty miles distant, at much profit, finding a ready market by reason of excellence. From his grape crop he also annually makes several barrels of quite fair wine. He also grows sweet potatoes, which have yielded at the rate of fully $300 an acre.

“Including a patch of alfalfa, his stonewalled farm is surely not over twelve acres in extent, and yet from that small piece of land it is admitted that his profits are larger than those of any other tiller of the soil in that section. His experience is but another instance in support of the theory of small farms well tilled.”

In addition to having a wonderful farm, Bouquet was partnered up with Phil Askins, who was mighty skilled at hunting, killing a variety of game including mountain lions. At the time, a bounty was regularly paid for mountain lion scalps by the county. Here’s a clip from the Oct. 6, 1888 Arizona Silver Belt that shows just how skilled Askins was.

“Charles Boquot, of Tonto, writes us that his partner, Phil Askins, who is a noted hunter, recently killed one of the largest brown bears ever seen in that vicinity, which if fat would weigh 1000 pounds. The bear’s hide stretched on the ground measured from the end of the nose to the tip of the tail, eight feet (tail two inches long), and eight feet from the end of one fore-arm to the other. Now that the County Supervisors have re-established the bounty on predatory animals, there is likely to be a great mortality among bears and lions in the neighborhood of the Boquot ranch.”

The Bouquet-Askins partnership would not end well though, with Askins gunning down Bouquet and spending time in the Yuma jail.

“Charlie Bouquet, one of the best known residents of Gila county, was shot and killed Thursday morning near Globe by Phil Askins, a former partner. The deed was done upon the road leading from upper Salt river to Globe, while Bouquet was on his way to the county seat with a wagon load of sweet potatoes. The quarrel and tragedy are supposed to have been due to a disagreement as to the settlement of a partnership in a band of hogs, in which the two had been equal partners for several years. Askins made no effort to escape, and was arrested by Sheriff Thompson and lodged in jail at Globe.” — Arizona Champion, April 19, 1894

The Bouquet ranch is located southeast of Punkin Center on the east side of Tonto Creek. It has had a variety of owners since the days of Charles Bouquet and was patented on March 6, 1911 by Daniel Webster Parker.

At this time it is still private property and has been somewhat divided up although a large portion of it remains together.

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