Fall treck

Members of the Graham County Historical Society headed out to see history in November.

A beautiful November fall trek unfolded Nov. 6. We packed lunch, camera and chairs and begin the trek in our pickups.

First stop was the Lorenzo and Seth Wright brothers memorial on Highway 70 where Hal Herbert/Historian related the history of these two brothers meeting their untimely death while pursuing a band of Indians who stole 45 horses from the Thatcher/Safford settlers.

They were ambushed and killed Dec. 1, 1885, one mile north of this highway marker monument. A portion of the inscription on the memorial plaque reads: In memory of two of the many pioneers who brought law, order and safety to the Gila Valley.

We turned south on a dirt road to the Hackberry Ranch. Pete Brawley, owner, was unable to meet with us do to a family illness; he planned to share the history of this ranch and its beginnings. Hopefully soon, we can learn and obtain insights from Mr. Brawley.

We caravaned five miles to the Whitlock Cienega named after Capt. James H. Whitlock, fifth Infantry, California Volunteers, who fought the Apache Indians trying to subdue them at this very site called the Cienega Fight.

Researcher/Board member, Charles “Chuck” Smith enlightened all in great detail regarding military encounters. Also, how the large three-room adobe ranch house came to be with a cellar and large upstairs room serving as a fortress built by O.R. Smythe of New Mexico, raising and shipping Mexican cattle.

The Cienega Ranch was a place of refuge, a place for cattle roundups, and place for travelers to catch their breath.

Chuck Smith displayed a length of cement water pipe that was used to move water a distance of two-miles for livestock. A short distance above us there were numerous Indian metates carved in large rocks on the hillside.

A highlight of our trek unfolded when Chuck revealed a deadly shooting took place Dec. 1, 1880, where we were having lunch. A young cowpuncher, Kirk Epsey, was shot and killed by James Parks early Saturday morning following a cattle roundup encampment the night before which included a dispute over a card game.

Epsey started the row, firing at Parks.

The fire was returned with fatal results. Parks was acquitted by a grand jury. Years later, this same James Parks was elected Graham County sheriff.

He was well-liked, respected and accomplished much in his years of service. Parks always said no one regrets the shooting affair more than he. Also noted, James Parks and his wife were owners of the Cienega Ranch, living and working there.

Everyone enjoyed visiting telling stories under the shade of a tall mesquite tree during lunchtime. This journey will be remembered forever because the love of Graham County history is dear and near to our heart.

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