Neil Erickson

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Neil Erickson
Neil Erickson (1859-1937) Circa 1900.jpg
OccupationForest ranger, soldier, rancher, farmer, carpenter
Known forPioneer of Cochise County, Arizona

Neil Erickson (1859–1937) was a Swedish-born American pioneer in Cochise County, Arizona.[1]


Neil Erickson was born in Skåne, Sweden, in 1859. In 1879, he emigrated to America, where he joined the United States Army. In the early 1880s, he traveled westward and served five years in the 4th Cavalry Regiment, battling Geronimo and his renegades. He met his future wife, Emma Sophia Peterson (1854–1950), in 1883 while he was stationed at Fort Bowie, where she was working as a maid for an army colonel. Shortly before her marriage to Erickson on January 24, 1887, Peterson purchased a log cabin from a local pioneer named Ja Hu Stafford and filed for a 160-acre homestead.[1]

The log cabin was located fourteen miles southeast of Fort Bowie in Bonita Canyon, a gorge in the Chiricahua Mountains. Erickson moved into the cabin first; his wife and newborn daughter, Lillian, joined him in the latter half of 1888. One of Erickson's first projects was to build a small fort to protect the homestead against Apache raids. The fort was a one-room building with thick stone walls, just a few yards from the cabin. It was never used; apart from a scare in 1890, when the Apache warrior Massai stole a horse from the Ericksons' neighbor, Stafford, there were no encounters with hostile Indians in Bonita Canyon. The fort was later incorporated into the main ranch house as a cellar.[1]

The Ericksons had trouble raising crops and needed money to improve the ranch, so Erickson went to Bisbee to find work as a carpenter, leaving his family alone for months at a time. It wasn't until July 1903, when Erickson became the first park ranger for the new Chiricahua National Forest, that he was able to move back to the ranch. He spent about half of each year working from home and the rest at various ranger stations or the district headquarters in Paradise, on the other side of the Chiricahua Mountains.[1][2]

Between 1899 and 1915, Erickson and his family built a two-and-a-half-story ranch house with adobe and board-and-batten walls to replace their original log cabin.[2] Two years after the house was completed, in 1917, the Forest Service transferred him to Flagstaff, in northern Arizona. Erickson and his wife moved out, leaving their daughter Lillian in charge of the ranch. Lillian turned the old homestead into a guest ranch business called the Faraway Ranch the same year. Erickson remained in Flagstaff with his wife until his retirement in 1927, at which point they moved back to the ranch. They lived there for the rest of their lives, helping to improve the property and manage their daughter's guest ranch business.[1]

Erickson died in 1937, followed by his wife in 1950. Both were buried in a small family cemetery not far from their home.[3][4] Their ranch house survives and is now the centerpiece of the Faraway Ranch Historic District in the Chiricahua National Monument.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Chiricahua National Monument: A History of the Building and Structures of Faraway Ranch". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  2. ^ a b c "Chiricahua National Monument: Faraway Ranch Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  3. ^ "Neil Erickson at Find A Grave". Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  4. ^ "Emma Sophia Erickson at Find A Grave". Retrieved 2014-12-07.

Other sources[edit]

  • Ascarza, William (2014) Chiricahua Mountains: History and Nature (The History Press) ISBN 9781609498009
  • Nilsson, Birgitta (1996) Long Ago and Far Away ( Prairie Publishing)
  • Steele, A. T. (1958) The Lady Boss of Faraway Ranch (Saturday Evening Post)