On August 22, 1884, Colonel A. Deland of the California Cavalry, two brothers, Fred and Jack Russell and George Baily, their black cook, were prospecting in the Gailuro Mountains when their camp was hit by a massive bolt of lightning. Fred Russell was killed outright, the other three seriously burned. After burying Fred, the three slowly made their way 65 miles overland to the "curative" hot springs now known as Hooker's.
They staggered in on August 29, but the restful little resort they so badly needed was the scene of another tragedy. Dr. King, the owner of the springs and much of the surrounding countryside, had been gunned down the day before their arrival by two neighbors, Melvin Jones and Ed Drew, during a dispute over property rights.
Jones and Drew held the position that they were the legitimate title holders to a certain piece of land. King felt that they simply annexed a portion of his already established ranch.
The piece of land in question on that summer day in 1884 brought about the death of the first man to own what was later to be come known as the Muleshoe Ranch. We refer to that particular disputed tract as the Bass Canyon Addition, and the outline of its 100 year journey from acquisition in a dusty gunfight to Conservancy preserve has some interesting highlights.
Ed Drew moved to Arizona from Montana in 1873 with his parents, his three brothers, and his sister, Cora. Seven years later Ed's father died in Tombstone and the Drew brothers went to work in the mines. It was while working as a miner in Russellville that Ed Drew struck up a friendship with Melvin Jones. Together, in Bass Canyon, just north of the hot springs, they established the "homestead" that so enraged Glendy King.
Ed put up a small one room house and sent for his family. they began adding rooms, acquiring cattle, and building up their operation. Ed left soon after on a three month horse buying trip to Mexico and, discovering upon his return that Melvin Jones has made no improvements in his absence, dissolved the partnership.
These first Bass Canyon settlers, the Drews, appear to have been a talented and respected family. the oldest brother, Harrison, and Charles, the youngest, ran the ranch with Ed. The fourth brother, David, established a meat market in Willcox, supplied by the family ranch.
Ed Drew was the champion rodeo cowboy of Arizona for many years. His sister in 1888, at the age of 16, won an Arizona-New Mexico riding contest and was urged by Buffalo Bill Cody to join his Wild West show. Cora's mother overruled the glamorous possibilities, but four years later she did get to see the show in Chicago.
In her memoirs, "My Life in the Early West," Cora writes of the family watching while maurading Apaches butchered yearling cows within sight of the house and of an Apache band attacking, in 1886, the ranch of Melvin Jones, her brother's ex-partner, just over the hills from the Drew place in Bass Canyon. The Drews were living through these incidents in real life, at the same time that Cody was caricaturing them in his Wild West Show. It must have been an interesting experience for Cora.
After its murderous acquisition by Ed Drew and Melvin Jones, Glendy King's property (minus the Drew Ranch) was purchased at an auction in 1885 by Colonel Hooker and added to his legendary Sierra Bonita holdings. By the late 1800's the remote West, no doubt due in part to its popularization by events like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, was attracting a number of distinguished visitors from Eastern cities. Many of them made Hooker's Sierra Bonita Ranch a stopover on their journeys.
In 1888 Augustus Thomas, then the dean of American playwrights, spent the night in Willcox with Colonel Hooker and Forrestine, his daughter-in-law, and subsequently made them models for the leading characters of a play he wrote soon after returning to the East. It appeared on Broadway in 1889 as the stage play Arizona. A smash hit, the play was later rewritten into a novel and in 1934 was made into the motion picture "Neath Arizona Skies" starring John Wayne.
The Drews followed the publicity surrounding the play's opening with great interest. A minor role in Arizona had been won by a cousin of Ed and Cora Drew and from their remote homestead in the Galiuros they watched the cousin forge a brilliant career. his name was Lionel Barrymore.
In 1898 the Drew Ranch was sold to Sam and Johnny Boyett, brothers who had been working for Hooker on the Sierra Bonita for the previous eight years. Ed Drew became the foreman of the Sierra Bonita and later was elected Sheriff of Graham County. He was shot to death in 1911 during a saloon holdup.
In 1899, a year after purchasing the Drew Ranch, Johnny Boyett took over as foreman of Hooker's operations at the Hot Springs. While at Sierra Bonita, Johnny Boyett had worked with Warren Earp, another of Hooker's cowboys and the youngest of the Earp brothers of Tombstone fame. Their relationship was a poor one. Boyett has a quiet and reserved reputation and was respected by most of those who knew him. Earp has been described as "quarrelsome, especially when drunk, and sobriety was not one of his virtues."
In 1900, on the 4th of July, all the cowboys from the Sierra Bonita Ranch and the Hooker's Hot Springs ranches came into Willcox for the celebration. The following evening, in the Headquarters Saloon, Johnny Boyett killed Warren Earp in a gunfight, ending the infamous history of the Earp brothers in Arizona. Charges were filed, almost immediately dismissed, and Warren Earp was buried the next day in the Willcox cemetary. Boyett returned to Bass Canyon and held the ranch for another decade.
By 1930 the Drew/Boyett Ranch and several adjacent properties had been annexed to Colonel Hooker's original holdings from Glendy King and renamed the Muleshoe. In 1935 the Muleshoe was purchased by Mrs. Jessica MacMurray, recently separated from her husband and looking for seclusion.
Several years later, while Mrs. MacMurray was touring Italy one summer, she received a request from her friend, Mrs. Patterson, to build a small cottage on the property. When she returned she was horrified to find the massive, multi-level stone lodge of 10 rooms now dominating the hillside adjacent to the headquarters. Private hot tubs on the lower level opened out onto an enormous concrete swimming pool, complete with diving board.
Obviously appalled at what she must have considered a serious breach of their friendship, Mrs. MacMurray ordered Mrs. Patterson off the ranch. She compensated her long-time companion for this "unwanted" building by deeding her the adjacent property originally owned by the Drew family. Ironically, as in the King incident, the piece of land inclusive of and surrounding Bass Canyon was again removed from the "home" ranch in another dispute over property rights.
Mrs. Patterson never lived on the property in Bass Canyon, but she held onto it and in 1984 The Nature Conservancy purchased 3,340 acres of it from her son in Chicago.
It was an important purchase for us. The Bass Canyon waters are perennial and run beneath a beautiful cottonwood-sycamore gallery forest. The canyon bottomland is a lush world of native fish and rare plants; an oasis of steep canyon walls draped with yellow columbine and red monkey flower, a concentration of zone-tailed hawks.
Not unlike the other holdings that were consolidated into the Muleshoe, this relatively small tract of land has an ecological value and an historic interest far out of proportion to its size. It is a property worthy, in every way, of the preservation we have given it.
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