Ranching

Ranching around the Q Ranch began about 130 years ago. In the early 1880s, Henry Middleton started a dairy farm just south of what is now the Q Ranch. The Middletons were one of the first settlers in the Pleasant Valley area.

In 1882, just north of the Middleton cabin, George Newton started building his own cabins and raising cattle. When Newton was killed crossing the Salt River in 1892, his wife Alice sold the ranch to a man named Ramer. In 1895, Ramer sold the ranch to Jesse Ellison, whose wife's cattle brand — the letter Q on the left hip — gives the ranch its name.

early ranching photos at Q Ranch

Claiming to be a Confederate Colonel, Jesse Ellison came to Arizona by rail from Shakelford, Texas, with his wife Susan, six daughters, two sons, 38 other settlers, and 3,000 head of cattle. He unloaded the cattle at Bowie, Arizona and drove them north to Globe, causing a stampede through the town. At first Ellison settled east of Payson, at what was called the Apple Farm. In 1895, at the urging of Ramer, Ellison bought the Ramer property and named it the Q Ranch. Buildings from that time still exist at the ranch.

Ellison was a controversial and ruthless character whose behind-the-scenes role in the Pleasant Valley War may never be fully understood but seems to get more unsavory over time. Ellison called his daughter Duett his "right-hand man." She could act the part of a lady when need be, but she could also ride, rope and shoot.

Duett planted a fruit orchard at the ranch, of which apple, persimmon and almond trees remain today, along with half a dozen towering elderberry shrubs whose fruit provides food for birds, and wine, pies and jelly for humans. In fact, the official beverage of Q Ranch is the Duetta, a cocktail of vodka, elderberry syrup and lime juice. Perfect at the end of a warm summer's day.

Q Ranch 1960s

In 1904, Duett married George W.P. Hunt, who became Arizona's first governor when the territory was granted statehood. Hunt, Duett and Col. and Susan Ellison are entombed in the white pyramid in Papago Park adjacent to the Phoenix Zoo.

In 1915, Jesse Ellison sold the Q Ranch to Pecos Mcfadden owner of the nearby Flying V Ranch. Pecos McFadden combined the two ranches into one unit encompassing 100 square miles. In 1929, Pecos McFadden sold the ranch to Q Land and Cattle Company under the direction of George Wilson. George Wilson was a young boy when the shootout between the Grahams and Tewksburys occurred at the Middleton Cabin. The ranch again changed hands in 1948, when Robert Wilson, George's son, sold the ranch to Otto and Rue Marshall, who in turn sold the ranch to Watson Fritz in 1950.

In 1956 the Q Ranch was purchased by Jefferson "Jack" Rogers and Samuel Wakeman. Jack Rogers ran the cattle operation and the Q Ranch property is still in the Rogers Family.

 

Postscript

Ranch life was tough, and because the Q was so remote, it had its own cemetery. For the last half of the 20th century, the location of the cemetery was generally known, but the ground was overrun with vegetation, especially a thick and prickly covering of wild native roses. An inquiry from descendants of folks allegedly buried at Q Ranch prompted some research into who might actually be buried there. The discovery of historical photos that actually showed the cemetery, surrounded by a stockade fence, created interest in restoring the cemetery.

Q Ranch Cemetery Restoration

The vegetation was cleared and ultrasound was used to locate the actual graves. One headstone was recovered, but it's believed that the original grave markers were probably made of wood, and thus not likely to survive.

The Arizona Archaeological Society conducted the restoration, and in the course of their work they learned that stones from the Q Ranch Pueblo were used to make a low wall around the graves. Surviving family members contributed a single granite headstone, identifying the occupants of the cemetery and their cause of death. It seems odd today to see such causes as "shot by the cook" and "killed in a horse wreck."

Q Ranch Historic Cemetery

One interesting story that emerged is this. The archaeologists discovered an empty grave. Research showed that it was dug for a man whose corpse was being dragged up from Globe on a litter. Being August, the intense heat accelerated the body's decomposition so much that the man had to be buried somewhere along the way, thus leaving the empty grave that was discovered a century later.

The cemetery had a hitchin' post for visitors paying their respects to tie their horses, so if you visit today on horseback, please feel free to use it.

Q Ranch Cemetery Headstone