San Bernardino Ranch
San Bernardino Ranch
Main ranch house, 1985
|Location||Cochise County, Arizona, USA|
|Nearest city||Douglas, Arizona|
|NRHP Reference #||66000170|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||July 19, 1964|
San Bernardino Ranch is a site in the southern San Bernardino Valley in the region of the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in extreme southeast Cochise County, Arizona that is significant for its association with the beginning of cattle ranching in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. The ranchland and valley are part of the headwater region of the Yaqui River.
The site is known as the Slaughter Ranch, for it once was the home of the Old West gunfighter John Horton Slaughter, the subject of a Walt Disney ABC television miniseries from 1958-1961, Texas John Slaughter, with Tom Tryon in the title role.
The compound includes the ranch house, wash house, icehouse, granary and commissary. The museum is also known as the Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest.
The San Bernardino Valley was originally home to the Southern Athabaskan native American tribes. The Spanish followed, including the Jesuit missionary, Father Eusebio Kino, in 1694. The Marquis de Rubí proposed the building of the San Bernardino Garrison, which was open for from 1775 to 1780. In 1846 the Mormon Battalion came through the property on their way to California. At the beginning of the road leading to the front gate is a historical marker, commemorating their passage. Prospectors and pioneers trekked through the valley in 1849 on their way to California. On June 8, 1854, the valley became part of the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico.
The original Mexican land grant of 73,240 acres, where the San Bernardino Ranch sits today, was purchased by Ignacio Perez in 1822 for 90 pesos (plus additional fees.) He was chased from his land grant by the Apache Indians, in the 1830s. In 1884, John Horton Slaughter purchased 65,000 acres from Perez's heirs for approximately $80,000. Two-thirds of his property lay in Mexico, with the remaining third in the Arizona Territory. An interesting note is that there are ruins on the property now owned by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service where a Mormon employee of Slaughter's build a home (called the Mormon House) straddling the US-Mexico border so he could keep a wife in the United States and a wife in Mexico. The home was two rooms, one on each side of the border, with a breezeway connecting them.
Slaughter and his second wife, Viola Slaughter, born Cora Viola Howell as well as her parents, Amazon and Mary Ann Howell, and Slaughter's children from his first marriage, Addie and Willie lived at the ranch for many years. An earthquake estimated to be 7.2 in magnitude and centered in Bavispe, Sonora, in 1887, destroyed the Howell residence on the property. The Howells managed the property until Slaughter finished his second term as Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona. He was Sheriff from 1886 to 1890, and brought lawfulness back to Tombstone, Arizona after the infamous 1881 Gunfight at the OK Corral. The Tombstone jail was once known as the "Hotel de Slaughter." He helped tame the Arizona Territory, and was known to return from searching for outlaws with only their horses and equipment. Slaughter had as many as 500 people living and working on the Ranch, including many foster children. The most noteworthy of these was an Apache toddler Apache May Slaughter who was adopted by Slaughter after she was abandoned by her parents while Slaughter was tracking her band who were responsible for killing white men in Arizona. Apache May and Slaughter adored each other. She called Slaughter "Don Juan." She died from burns as her dress caught fire at age 6. She is buried in the cemetery on what is now the wildlife refuge.
Children were a large part of the Ranch activities, and Slaughter loved children. There were enough children that the Slaughters built a schoolhouse, Slaughter School District No. 28. The children played in the natural artesian wells on the property and had picnics. Viola would bring the children ice cream from the ice house. The kids love swimming in the house pond which was dammed by Slaughter and was used for irrigation.
Slaughter loved technology. His was the first private home in Southeastern Arizona to have a telephone. He owned six cars, yet never learned to drive.
From 1911 to 1920 the Slaughter Ranch Outpost for Camp Harry J. Jones in Douglas, Arizona was established on the Ranch, on top of Mesa de la Avanzada overlooking the Ranch house. In 1919 John and Viola moved to Douglas, after the May 4th, 1919 murder of Jesse Fisher by Manuel Garcia and Jose Perez.
John Slaughter died peacefully in his sleep on February 16, 1922. Viola sold the property around 1936 to a friend, Marion Williams. In 1968 Paul and Helen Ramsower purchased the property. On August 7, 1964, the San Bernardino Ranch National Historic Landmark was entered on the National Register of Historic Places. The Ramsowers turned the ranch over to The Nature Conservancy in 1980. It was purchased in 1983 by the Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service purchased most of the property. Of that acreage, 131 acres belong to the museum and the rest is known as the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge. The refuge and ranch are home to the Yaqui Topminnow and Yaqui Chub, two endangered species of fish known to exist only in the valley.
Today, the existing buildings at the San Bernardino Ranch have been carefully restored to their 1900's appearance through personal recounts and photographic records. The buildings include:
- Ranch House: Adobe structure with a hipped roof and redwood shingles. It contains six bedroom rooms, plus a living room/dining room, bathroom, kitchen, pantry, cowboy dining room, and porch.
- Ice house: Made of natural stone.
- Wash house
- Cook's room and Commissary
- Car Shed: Contains a fully restored 1915 Model T Ford.
The Museum is open to the public and is frequented by birdwatchers, school children and people with interest in Southwest history. It was the brainchild of Mr. Floyd Johnson who established the Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest. "So that the youth of tomorrow may know what is was like yesterday."
- The San Bernardino Ranch is located at 6153 Geronimo Trail, Douglas, Arizona 85608
- Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 am till 3:00 pm
- Admission: $8.00 per adult; under 14 free
- Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
- Closed on Christmas and New Years Day
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "San Bernardino Ranch". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
- "San Bernardino Ranch / John H. Slaughter Ranch", February 1986, by Ann E. Huston "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination". National Park Service. 19.
- San Bernardino Ranch / John H. Slaughter Ranch--Accompanying 11 photos of main house compound, from 1984. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination". National Park Service. 1986.
- Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 116-117
- Slaughter Ranch - official site
- Discover Southeast Arizona: Slaughter Ranch Museum