The Houstons

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Houston Mesa Road. Houston Loop Trail. Houston Pocket. Houston Brothers Trail.

This region is full of spots named for the Houston family. But who were they? Here’s a closer look at the Houston Family.

In the late 1870s Samuel Texas Houston and Andrew Jackson Houston came to the Payson area. They were the sixth and ninth children (out of 12) of James and Frances Houston. Other siblings who came to live in Arizona included William, Fannie, and Katherine. The Houstons settled in the area of today’s Star Valley at old man Starr’s place and first show up on Yavapai County Assessor Rolls in 1879 with the following entry for Samuel:

Possessory right to 160 acres of Land in Tonto Basin and known as the Samuel J Houston Ranch; 3 Saddle Horses; 10 Bronco Mares $200; 5 Colts $47; 3 Burros; 20 Cows; 10 Heifer 2 year olds; 10 Heifer 1 year olds; 13 Calves 52, 1 Bull 18

That same year the Houstons took some losses during and Indian raid, as this clip from the May 23, 1879 The Weekly Arizona Miner account of George Hance shows.

“On the 15th inst, the Indians attacked the ranch of Henry Sidler, on the East Fork of the Verde, drove off his stock and burnt the house, provisions, etc. and even took the harness which was hanging on a tree near by and threw them in the fire. After or before this attack, on the same day, they of the Houston Bro’s, killed eight head of also passed through the stock range horses, seven of his best mares and a fine stallion which cost him $500 gold coin in Tulare County, Cal. This statement I know to be just as I have represented to you, having been an eye witness.”

Steadily though, the Houstons built their cattle numbers and by 1885 the numbers substantially increased, with the assessor listing 670 head of stock cattle with a value of $8,710. During this time period the Houstons also raced horses. In 1886 they had a horse called Desert that had won in Phoenix and competed in match races in the Payson area. A September 2, 1886 Hoof and Horn article about a match race involving Desert said the following of the Houstons. “That the Houston boys are blooded in backing their opinion on horse-flesh, and that neither winning nor losing excites them.”

A third brother, William Washington, also came over and was part of their business. The 1889 Gila County Assessor Rolls list Andrew and William. Amongst their possessions were 37 sadle (sic) and stock horses, 1200 cattle, and 125 goats. Around this time the Houstons started to spend more time in the Mesa and Tempe areas. Samuel applied for and received title to 628.40 acres from the federal government. According to patent paperwork he paid $785.50 for the land and received title on November 8, 1890. The land is in the Dobson Ranch area of west Mesa.

Unfortunately just a few years after receiving the land, Samuel died in the Payson area under tragic circumstances. The June 21, 1894 Coconino Sun carried word of the tragedy.

“Sam Houston, of the firm of Houston Bros., of Tonto Basin, was accidentally shot and killed last week. He was roping a horse, and as he took a turn of the rope on the horn of his saddle the rope caught the hammer of his pistol, which he carried in front of him, and the gun was discharged, the ball entering Houston’s groin. The accident happened at 9 o’clock Friday morning. Houston was found on his back in the hot sun at 11 o’clock and died the following night.”

Sam is buried in Payson Pioneer Cemetery with his wife Mary (nee Fuller) who died in 1886.

Andrew received title from the federal government to 160 acres near Samuel’s land in 1901. He later died in Prescott in 1933 at the age of 76.

Sam, Andrew, and William had a couple sisters that came over from California. Fannie married Napoleon “Poley” Chilson, but sadly she died in 1892 too. Katherine Houston became the one to have a very lasting impact on Gila County. She met John W. Wentworth at a dance in Payson in the mid 1880s, and married him in 1890. Here’s a clip from the October 11, 1890 Arizona Silver Belt about the marriage.

“Cards announcing the marriage of John W. Wentworth and Miss Kittie Houston Oct. 1st, at Payson, have been received here by the friends of the contracting parties. The interesting ceremony was witnessed by a large number of guests from the surrounding County. Mr. Wentworth and bride expect to make their home in Globe.”

John and Katherine lived to be in their 90s. He died in 1954 and she died in 1964. They were involved in a variety of local and state causes and were very well respected.

William Houston passed away in 1909 in Visalia, Calif. He had been a teacher and principal in Arizona in addition to ranching with his brothers. His obituary in the Weekly Journal-Miner stated that “he was of genial disposition and held in the highest esteem by all who knew him.”

Overall the book Rim Country History by the Northern Gila County Historical Society probably describes the Houstons best. “The Houstons were always highly respected people and were always spoken of by the old-timers who said they were good people for the country, keeping up and improving the breeding of their cattle and horses to a very high standard.”

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