Monday, October 26, 2009

Spade Ranch dedication attracts former resident

Photos by Mitzi Brabb

Frieda Reisch and Lee Davis talk about the history of the Spade Ranch House during the dedication. Frieda's parents, Herman and Evelana Dietlaff, lived in the ranch house 55 years ago.

Lee Davis and his wife Dora celebrate the dedication of the Spade Ranch House model, which was built by Davis and later donated to the Rim Country Museum. The model is now under a Plexiglas display case for museum patrons to view and learn about the history of the homestead.

Unraveling mystery of area proves a challenge

By Mitzi Brabb
Gazette Correspondent

Although the original cabin is rapidly deteriorating, a very precise reminder of the Spade Ranch House will always be well preserved at the Rim Country Museum.

A special dedication in honor of the ranch house replica built and donated by part-time Star Valley resident Lee Davis was held on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at the museum, which is located at Green Valley Park.

Last Spring Davis spent two and a half months, working a consistent eight hours a day, creating the detailed model by aid of a single photograph and a magnifying glass.

By the time he finished his “labor of love,” he had created an exact replica of the original ranch house, which was built more than a century ago. Davis even used natural stone and sticks taken from the homestead to help authenticate his historical contribution.

The wooden model structure is now professionally showcased under a Plexiglas encasement for public viewing at the museum. A plaque revealing the history of the ranch house and the surrounding area is included with this display.

“This was quite an event,” Davis commented, pleased with the outcome of the dedication and the work that was contributed to digging up the history on the area.

Historical writer and museum member Gail Hearne devoted several months researching the Spade Ranch area so that she could present as much historical accuracy as possible about the area during the dedication. However, little documentation was found to support facts dating back to that time and Hearne ran into several difficulties in unraveling the mystery of the area.

According to Hearne, this area under the Mogollon Rim (known as Spade Ranch) was part of Yavapai County until 1889 when the Fifteenth Territorial Legislature passed a law granting a fifteen hundred square mile parcel to Gila County that included Payson, Pine, Pleasant Valley and Strawberry Valley.

Hearne says that the information found in a book entitled Sheriff Thompson’s Day, written by Jess G. Hayes of Globe, suggests John Henry Thompson may have built the cabin between 1880 and 1887.

“Soon thereafter, Thompson, a resident of Yavapai County prior to 1889, gathered enough support to be appointed Gila County Sheriff on June 9, 1890 and subsequently moved to Globe,” states Hearne.

While continuing with her research, Hearne found a publication featuring first-hand recollections of James C. Herron (1865-1945), which places the Frank Herron family on the Webber Creek ranch under the Mogollon Rim by 1893. Official documents confirm that George Francis “Frank” Herron homesteaded the land where Spade Ranch cabin still stands today.

“In accordance with the 1862 U. S. Homestead Act, Frank Herron received a land patent for 157.72 acres on Webber Creek in 1914. This property, known as the Herron Ranch beginning in the 1890s, is essentially the same land that currently comprises Camp Geronimo, owned by the Boy Scouts of America since 1955,” Hearne states in her dedication article.

However, Hearne also claims that the 1900 U. S. Census records for Gila County show that William Craig and Paul Vogel also lived on Webber Creek, approximately two to three miles downstream from the Herron Ranch.

“In the spring of 1884, these business partners planted a fruit orchard. They also constructed a log cabin and fruit processing building and received patents for their land totaling 250 acres in 1912. Today, these privately owned lands are collectively known as Geronimo Estates and Elusive Acres.”

In 1887 Vogel and Craig trademarked the Spade cattle brand, which brought about the name “Spade Ranch.”

“Through the years,” Hearn indicates, “the Herron Ranch and the Spade Ranch lands were combined by property ownership and/or by livestock grazing permits. Cattle bearing the Spade brand roamed in the area from the 1880s to the 1950s; a span of seven decades.”

Among the 20 individuals who attended the Spade Ranch House dedication, were some living icons who had once inhabited the old log cabin residence. One of these women, Frieda Reisch, talked about the history of the Spade Ranch House and her experience while living at the house with her parents, Herman and Evelana Dietlaff, about 55 years ago.

Reisch recalls fond memories of her mother cooking and serving lunch to the work crew while Camp Geronimo was being constructed in the mid-1950s.

“I remember sleeping on bunks in that little cabin and my mother cooking meals in the kitchen,” said Reisch.

Although Davis had only visited the Spade house on a couple of occasions, he felt a strong connection to the land and the cabin, which is why he felt compelled to build a replica of the house while it still stood firm in ground.

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