Mary Robbins Riggs  016.jpg




    A lot of materials have been collected about Brannick and Mary Elizabeth Robbins Riggs and their children that can be compiled into book form.  As I worked with the information collected, I began to feel that not everyone is going to be interested in the many details, like the financial information printed in the newspaper when the Riggs Cattle Company was organized or the yearly financial report printed in the newspaper of the Riggs Bank.  So, I am going to try to write a Readers Digest Condensed version for your enjoyment.  If you want the more in depth details, please contact me and I will happily share the long version of their story with you.

    I am including in this story original entries from Great grandmother Riggs’ diaries.  The entries will be spelled just the way she wrote them, indented, and will appear in a bold script font and quotes.        

This is an example

    Great Grandmother’s original diaries are in the Special Collections Library in the main library on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and are available for anyone to study at that facility.  The first diary was placed there by Mindy Moore Scott and the second diary by Chris Roll. 

    Mary Elizabeth’s diaries have also been combined with information taken from the Arizona Range News newspaper and other Arizona newspapers.  This information is compiled in another book and is available upon request.  Articles from a newspaper will appear with a publish date, newspaper name and the text will be centered.  The following is an example. 


Arizona Range News

Friday, 21 Nov 1913      

    H.L. McCoy estimates that Miss Rhoda Riggs who has several acres of apple orchard in the Chiricahua foot hills, will net about a thousand dollars an acre from her crop this year.  This is going some and should make the pessimist who says this isn’t apple country look like the hole in a doughnut.


    Great Grandmother Riggs faithfully wrote in her Diary/Journal every day but she only wrote one line entries.  She did not include stories, explanations or relationships of people mentioned.  Although the information she shared is interesting it isn’t always easy to understand connections between people, places and events.  I have taken license to write this work in story form trying to help make those connections.  The information has come from her diaries, local newspapers and family stories. This is the Riggs family story as I hope my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Robbins Riggs, would want it to be written.

ME Riggs 01.jpg



It is the 27th day of July, 1923, my 85th birthday.  I have been sitting here in my rocking chair writing in my journal.  Maybe someday some of my descendants may be interested in my life and the lives of my children.  As I have been reflecting, my thoughts have been flitting from one adventure of my life to another, like the butterflies do, going from one flower to the next on a lilac bush.  I have kept a daily journal since 1896 but today I have been thinking maybe I should put the things I have written into story form.  I will use some of my journal entries as reminders of things to be written about.  

There is a newspaper in Willcox that is very good about reporting the happenings of all the area around the town.  They are often better at telling of a happening than I am so I will include some of the newspaper stories that pertain to our family. 



    Let me tell you something about me.  I was born Mary Elizabeth Robbins on 27 July 1838 in Franklin County Tennessee.  I am the oldest of seven children.  Father was a schoolteacher and a farmer but had very poor health.  Because of his poor health, we lived for a time in Franklin County, Tennessee, with grand-father William Hudson, Sr., my mother’s father.  Sometime after 1850 my family moved to Bastrop, Bastrop County, Texas, where we lived on a farm.  My father wanted to live in a drier climate in hopes it would improve his health.  It helped for a time but on 22 Oct 1855 my father passed away at the age of 38.  I was 17 years old.  

    Brannick Riggs was born on 10 July 1828 in Marion County Alabama.  When he was about 7 years old, he moved with his family to Monroe County Mississippi then to Izard County Arkansas.  Brannick lived there until he was about 22 years old when he and Barney, his brother just younger, left and went to Texas to work.  We met while he was working in Bastrop County Texas.

    On 10 July 1856, Mr. Riggs’ 28th birthday, just a few days before I turned 18, my life changed forever when I married Brannick Riggs at my mother’s farm home in Bastrop County.                 

Brannick Riggs born the 10 of July 1828

in Marien Co Alabama

Mary Robbins born July 27 1838 in

Frankling Co Tenneysee

Married on the 10 of July 1856

Brannick Riggs to Mary

in Bastrop Co Texas 1856
ME Riggs My Story 2-4.jpg

    On 13 Nov 1856 my sister, Martha Jane, married John Baptist Burleson.  On 11 June 1857 my mother, then widowed, married Joseph Burleson, Martha Jane’s father-in-law. I was raised in a southern family and learned southern manners.  Since my marriage I have always referred to my husband as “Mr. Riggs”, not because I was afraid of him but as a term of respect.




    Following our marriage, Mr. Riggs and I moved to Travis County, Texas where he worked for Judge Parson.  On 14 May 1857 I became a mother when our son, Thomas Jefferson, was born.  This was to be my vocation in life and I love being a mother. 

mooved to Travice Co Thos J Riggs was born 14 of May     

1857 in Travis county texas

    Mr. Riggs and his brother, Barney Kemp, decided they wanted to develop their own farm so we moved to Peach Creek in Fayette County Texas. Barney had married Louisa Jane Higler in 1856. While we were living here our second child, Rhoda, was born on 18 Mar 1859. (Although we didn’t know it at the time, Rhoda was born two days after Mr. Riggs’ brother, John C., and his wife, Jane, were killed by the Indians in Coryell County Texas.) We worked hard but were not successful as farmers.  Mr. Riggs understood livestock better than he did farming. In the fall of 1859 we both sold out and the two families moved to Bell County Texas. Mr. Riggs’ brother, Thomas, had married Hanna Felton in 1855 and they were living in Bell County. 

Rhoda Riggs     was borned the 18th of March in Fayett Co     texas 1859

we mooved to Bell Co in the fall of 1859

    In late 1860 we moved to Milam County Texas where Mr. Riggs worked for Judge Flint, caring for a herd of horses.  Our second son, William Monroe Riggs was born 27 Dec 1861 while we were living in Milam County.  

then mooved to Milum Co in 1860

William Riggs was born the 27 of

December 1861 in Milum Co texas

     The Civil War began in April 1861 when the Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. Our families had always lived in the southern states and some were slave owners.  Mr. Riggs and all of his brothers, even his father for a short time, served in the Confederate army.  His brother, Barney Kemp Riggs, died of pneumonia in 1863 in Little Rock, Arkansas, while serving as a Lieutenant with the Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Mr. Riggs enlisted 1 October 1862, in Milam County, Texas, as a Private in Company D 4th Regt. Texas Cavalry under Captain Mesueur. He served 5 ½ months, until he was wounded during a skirmish at Franklin, Louisiana, on 14 April 1863. He was taken to a Confederate hospital and the following day was captured, along with many others, by the Union forces.  Having had his arm and shoulder shattered and the bullet almost against his back bone, he was the same as a dead man.  The Union doctors wanted to amputate his arm, but he protested.  Being a Mason, he gave the Masonic sign to a young Union doctor, also a Mason, and the young doctor helped him to avoid amputation.  He was taken care of in a private home where he stayed for a number of months.  Because Mr. Riggs was a sincere and good man, respected by his captors, he was paroled, provided a wagon, released and allowed to travel home. Our small family had remained in Milam County Texas while he was away at the war.  It took some time but Mr. Riggs’ arm did recover, but was stiff from then on. 

    In 1902 Mr. Riggs attended a reunion of Confederate Soldiers in Dallas Texas.  

18 April 1902   Mr Riggs went to Dallas to the confederate reunion

April 27 Mr Riggs got home from texas

Arizona Range News

Friday 25 April 1902        

Brannick Riggs left Sunday for Dallas, Texas, where he attended the reunion of Confederate soldiers which took place this week.

            Arizona Range News, Friday, 2 May 1902:  

            SCENE AT DALLAS 




    B. Riggs of Willcox, Arizona came in on the S. & P. train from Dallas where he went to attend the big reunion of Confederate Veterans, and at the S.P. Depot he told Link and Pin of some touching scenes which took place at the reunion.  Old comrades who had marched shoulder to shoulder and together endured the privation of army life, met again for the first time since the day they laid down their arms and marched back to their homes.  Mr. Riggs told of one of his comrades whom he had packed off the field at Cedar Creek more dead than alive.  Carrying him to the field hospital he deposited him upon a couch and left him to go back to the front and take up his musket.  In a day or two the army moved and he had never seen his old comrade again.  “I thought he had died,” said Mr. Riggs, “but during the reunion the other day I saw a man, old and gray and feeble too, dressed in the uniform of a Colonel.  The more I looked at him the more I thought I knew him.  Going up to him I asked his name, he told me but could not remember me.  When I spoke of the awful day at Cedar Creek a flash of recognition crossed his face and he clasped me in his arms.  His life he owed to me and for several minutes neither of us could say a word on account of the steady flow of scenes of other days before our minds and what we each owed to the other.”  

    He, Brannick, told of the meeting of two brothers at the reunion, who had not seen each other for forty years.  Both were in the Confederate army, but became separated during the war and neither had heard from the other.  The name of the brothers is Culberson and one of them is a doctor living at Portales, NM, the other is a Judge in Georgia.  By accident they met at the reunion and their meeting was so pathetic that everyone standing around them shed tears in sympathy.


    On 15 March 1865 our second daughter, Martha, was born in Milam County. 

Martha Riggs was born 15 of March 1865

Bandera County Texas

    The grandchildren of Thomas and Rhoda Casey Riggs, Elizabeth, Margaret, William C. and John Roland, were sent to live with their Grandparents in Arkansas after their parents, John and Jane Riggs, were killed in Texas. Because of terrible conditions in Arkansas toward the end of the Civil war, Father Riggs moved his wife, children and grandchildren from Izard County Arkansas to Bell County Texas where others of his family lived.

then we mooved to Bandary Co texas

    Mr. Riggs continued to try and better our living situation.  Father Riggs, Mr. Riggs and James Monroe decided to develop homes in Bandera County Texas.  Father Riggs left his wife and grandchildren in Bell County while he worked with his sons, Brannick and James, in Bandera County to develop homes for the families there.  

     In 1866, we moved our family and located on the Medina River in Bandera County Texas. Here Mr. Riggs, his father, and brother James, built a compound to protect our families from the Indians, naming it Fort Riggs. This fort consisted of two rows of posts set upright as close together as possible to form walls with dirt between the two sets of posts. On top of these walls was planted cactus to keep the Indians from climbing over. The living quarters were then built inside the walls. Father Riggs planned on bringing Mother Riggs and the grandchildren, who were still living in Bell County, to Bandera County when the living quarters in the fort were finished. While we were living here Mr. Riggs, his father and his brother, James, did some freighting in the Austin/San Antonio area.  They also ran a saw mill for a time and James made cedar shingles by hand.

    The Medina River occasionally has devastating floods.  The 16th of September 1867, there was a flood in the river that brought tragedy to our family.  We had stock pasturing on both sides of the river and the animals that were across the river needed to be checked on.  Since Father Riggs was a strong swimmer, he felt he could safely swim across the river even though it was in flood stage but he did not make it across.  He may have been taken with cramps for he was seen to go under and failed to come up.  The next day after the water had gone down, his body was found caught in a tree.  He was buried in a lone grave under some trees close by the Medina River near Pipe Springs, Bandera County, Texas.  The grave was marked with a flat stone upon which the name “Tom Riggs” was carved.

Thomas Riggs grave, Bandera County Texas

    At the time of Father Riggs’ death three of his children, John C., Barney Kemp and an infant girl, were already deceased.  There is a possibility that his youngest son, Charles, died during the Civil War. This still has to be proven.  Two of their sons, William Carroll, and Thomas were living in the Bell County area.  Since Father Riggs had been working on living quarters for them in Bandera County, it was decided that as soon as the living quarters were finished we would move Mother Riggs and our nieces and nephews to Fort Riggs. 

    Our third son, Brannick Benjamin, was born here 21 October 1867, a month after his Grandfathers death.

Brannick B Riggs was bornd 21 of october1867 in Bandary co texas

    While we lived in Bandera County Rhoda Elizabeth, Margaret Ann, William C., John Roland, T.J., Rhoda and William M. all attended the local school.

    About this time James married a local girl, Narcissus Benton.  On 31 Dec 1868 Margaret Ann Riggs, daughter of John and Jane Riggs, married John Turner Benton.  John and Narcissus were brother and sister.  On 27 Jan 1870 Rhoda Elizabeth Riggs, daughter of John and Jane Riggs, married Abraham C. Conover.  Father Riggs’ daughters, Susan and Rachel both married in Bandera County. Rachel married William James 12 Mar 1870. Susan married James G. Henry 27 Mar 1875.  This was a busy time for us because our fourth son, James Jay, was born 31 January 1870.

James J Riggs was born 31 of January 1870 in Bandary texas

    We had a nice place developing in Bandera County but Mr. Riggs and James felt they could do better if they could get to the gold fields in California.  So in the spring of 1870 we loaded up our possessions, gathered our livestock and joined a wagon train that was headed for California.  Mr. Riggs was 43 years old, I was 33 years old and our children ranged in age from 13 to just a few months old.  James and his wife, Narcissus, went with us.  Mr. Riggs’ mother, Rhoda Casey Riggs (age 69), and his nephews, William C. (age 14) and John R. (age 12) were also part of our wagon train.  Our son, William Monroe, drove the one yoke of oxen that drew the wagon carrying Grandmother Rhoda Riggs from Texas to Colorado when he was only nine years old.     

    As I sit here thinking about it since the invention of the automobile a lot of things have changed.  When my grandchildren or great grandchildren read this they may have never seen a team of oxen and know nothing about how to work them.  I would like to tell you a little about them.  Oxen are castrated male cattle used to haul loads or to plow fields. They are harnessed together with a wooden yoke laid across their necks and shoulders.  There is a neck bow that holds the yoke on the oxen and hangs below the neck.  A working relationship has to be developed between the teamster, the person driving the oxen, and the ox team.  Oxen are easier to work when they realize you will provide them with adequate feed, water, rest, shelter and freedom from danger or injury.  A teamster must be patient and help the oxen learn to trust that they will be fairly treatedBeyond proving himself to be in control, a teamster must also prove to his animals that he is worthy of being followed. There are no reins to guide the oxen so the teamster walks beside his team and guides them with voice commands and occasionally uses a long whip. Oxen respond to visual cues as well as voice commands.  Mostly the verbal commands are as follows:

    Get up – move forward            Whoa – stop

    Gee – turn right                        Haw – turn left

    Easy – slow down                    Back – move in reverse

    Step in – step toward pole or chain    

    Step out – step away from pole or chain

    Come Boss – come for feeding

    Use of their name to get their individual attention.

    A teamster must be firm, patient and consistent.  A whip or goad should be used primarily as a visual directive cue and only occasionally as a physical reminder of desired behavior. 

    We traveled northwest out of Texas, north through New Mexico and into southern Colorado stopping in Bonito Canyon near Trinidad, Colorado. Although we traveled through Indian lands we were not troubled by them. After living in this area for a while we abandoned our trip to California. 

    Two years after we left Texas, on 22 January 1872, Mr. Riggs’ brother, William Carroll, passed away.  He is buried in the Land cemetery near Cornhill, Williamson County, Texas. (Cornhill is now known as Jarrell, Texas.)



    Again we went to work and developed a home and business.  We had brought some cattle and horses with us.  With time they grew into a small herd that we could graze in the mountains around our home. The men planted alfalfa, Millet and corn for feeding their cattle.  After the yearly chore of branding the livestock, Mr. Riggs, James and the boys would drive the cattle for several days to Las Animas and sell them to a cattle buyer there. 



Area where sawmill was near Trinidad CO


    A sawmill was set up and Mr. Riggs, James and the boys cut lumber in the nearby mountains. The lumber was prepared and many thousands of shingles were sawn and sold in neighboring communities.  15,000, 20,000 or as many as 36,000 shingles or more may be sold at one time.  Some-times James, Mr. Riggs and the boys would cut as many as 20,000 shingles in one day. We also became involved with a coal mine. Bear, deer, turkeys, and fish were hunted in the mountains providing food for our use.

    While we were living in Colorado our family continued to grow.  Mary Francis was born 21 May 1872.  John Casey came on 21 Sep 1874 and Lucy Elizabeth arrived on 20 Oct 1876.

    Mr. Riggs and I could both read and write and felt it important that our children receive what education we could provide for them, so we started a school at home for all the children in the area. A school house was built, and in the summer and fall of 1871, Mr. Steven D. Stout taught the first school in that vicinity. One of Mr. Stout’s hobbies was vocal music so among other things he taught singing at our school.  People came from miles when a “singing“ was held.  It didn’t matter how old you were, you attended classes when-ever you could.  The older boys were needed to help at the saw mill, so they went to school when they could.  Our nephew, William C. remembered school like this: “The 4th day of January, 1875, our school commenced.  The 5th, 6th, and until noon the 7th, there was school.  Then the teacher, (for he was not very well), dismissed until the next morning.  The 8th, there was school again.  The 9th and 10th, (no school). . .  The 11th and 12th school, and on the latter there was snow.  13th and 14th, school, weather pleasant.  The 15th, school --, windy.  17th was very windy--no school that nor the day before.  The 18th, school--pleasant.  The 19th, Mr. J.W. Wolf, who was the teacher, worked on his ranch--no school--pleasant.  The 20th, school--windy.”  James W. Wolf was the teacher.  “The 1st of April, 1875, there was school--pleasant but disagreeable under foot.  The 2nd, our school was out--Utes left--pleasant.”

    The Ute Indians traveled though this area going to and coming from their hunting grounds on the plains.  We would give them an occasional beef to butcher so never had any problems with them.  We lived in this area for seven years.

    Shortly after we arrived in Colorado, James’ wife, Narcissus, passed away.  She was buried in the Wilcox Cemetery near Trinidad, Colorado.  On 11 Oct 1871 James married Elizabeth Drucella Hudson.  She already had a Mson, Richmond Lee Hudson.  In 1876 James moved his family to Arizona settling in Dos Cabezas. James did some prospecting and mining then ran a store in Dos Cabezas. This area had been the Chiricahua Indian Reservation until about 1877when it was closed and the Indians were moved to the San Carlos Reservation.  James wrote telling of the large Sulphur Springs valley and its wonderful grasslands untouched except by deer and antelope.  Very few white men were in the area at the time and plenty of good grass land was available.  

    We talked it over and decided to once again pack up and move where we could acquire good land easily.  So July 1877 found us leaving Colorado.  Mother Rhoda Riggs was 77 years old and it was decided the trip was going to be long and hard and would be too difficult for her to make.  She stayed in Colorado with our son T. J. and our nephews, William C. and John Roland.  John Roland had married Rosetta Darling earlier that year. There were many tears as we left for it was hard to leave family.  We didn’t know it then but we would never see John Roland or Mother Riggs again in this life.  Our son T.J. was age 20 and in business with his cousin William C. so chose to stay behind.  Rhoda was engaged to the young school teacher, James William Wolf, mentioned before.  He and his brother were planning on coming to Arizona as soon as they could, to take up land for a ranch in the Sulphur Springs valley as well.  Leaving family was hard but we were still searching for our “El Dorado”.



    As we began our trip to Arizona, I drove the spring wagon with my small children. The team of horses pulling the wagon was harnessed by placing a collar over their head that rested on their neck, a bridle was placed in their mouths and over their heads and the reins run to the driver.  Harness straps were attached to a single-tree that connected between the collar and the wagon. The team was guided by the set of reins from each horse much as you guide a horse you are riding with the reins. The big wagon, drawn by six yoke of good oxen, was driven by 16-year-old William who was already an expert teamster. The herd of milk cows and horses followed, herded by the older boys and girls.  Our trip took us to below Santa Fe, New Mexico, across to Gallup, New Mexico, St. Johns, Arizona, then to Fort Apache in the mountains of east central Arizona. Traveling by Ox team and wagon and with a herd of livestock is very slow and tedious. We were only able to make between 15 and 20 miles a day depending upon the roughness of the terrain. Winter had set in by the time we got to Fort Apache, so, with William’s help, a two room log cabin was built for us to spend the winter in.  We sold milk, butter and buttermilk to the soldiers at Fort Apache to bring in some cash while we were there and the men did some freighting. We had traveled through Indian Territory in New Mexico and Arizona but had no trouble from them.  There were many Indians around Fort Apache.  The cabin we built had no glass in the windows and the Indian women would come stand outside and watch us through the windows while we worked.  One day I had just finished washing dishes.  I had gotten used to the women being there and didn’t think about it and I just threw the dish water out the window and into the faces of the women watching.  I just about started an incident but we were able to pacify them.  Another time I gave a young Indian boy some pinto beans to eat.  They were apparently spoiled so they made him very ill.  He didn’t die but we had to give the Indians some meat to avoid problems.

    In the spring of 1878 we started again for Dos Cabezas.  The Indians followed us until we reached the edge of the Reservation where they turned back.  Our route south was across some very difficult land.  Traveling by ox team and keeping a herd of animals together and not pushing them is slow traveling. It took us most of the summer to travel as far as Fort Thomas in the Gila River valley where we stopped again, making camp at a place that came to be known as Buttermilk Point. It is located where the river makes a large bend around a point of land, across the river from some hot springs. There was feed and water for the cattle where we camped.    A two room cabin was again built and we spent another winter on the trail.  We lived off the land and sold milk, butter and buttermilk to the soldiers at Fort Thomas and to travelers passing by to earn a little cash. William did some freighting during the winter.

    In the spring of 1879 we made our final trip, a journey to southeastern Arizona.  We stopped first at the Nine Mile Water Hole located 9 miles northwest from Fort Bowie on the Bowie/San Simon side of the Chiricahua Mountains.  We set up camp with our wagons and tents and stayed here until the water gave out.  We moved our camp to the mouth of Big Immigrant Canyon, about 6 miles east of Fort Bowie. 

    We did a lot of traveling by team and wagon as we traveled across Texas, from Texas to Colorado and from Colorado to Arizona.  Maybe you would be interested in what it was like to travel with a team and wagon.    Wagons are not very large and there isn’t room for a lot of possessions.  We took only the necessities such as food, cooking pots and utensils, bedding, clothing and grain for the dairy cattle. Although we didn’t use it on the trip, we carried our wood burning cook stove with us from Texas to Colorado to Arizona.

    Our food consisted of a variation of the following things when we could get them.  The staples were flour, cornmeal, rice, oats, sugar, molasses or honey, coffee, tea, baking soda, baking powder, vinegar, Chocolate, hard cheese, lard, beans, jerky, smoked meats, hard sausage, dried fruit, potatoes, bacon, onions, and salt and pepper.  We needed things such as a large coffee pot, a large cast iron skillet and Dutch ovens for cooking. Tin plates, tin cups, knives, forks and spoons, pans, crocks, a churn, a flint box or matches, and buckets and a barrel for water.  We also took lanterns & Coal Oil, candles, soap and a sewing kit for repairing clothing.  Whiskey was included as a medicinal along with other medicines used at the time.

    Our bedding was blankets, needed for warmth while sleeping at night, which was done mostly on the ground. We had tents and a hooped cover over the wagon for protection from rain and cold.

    Only necessary clothing such as a change of pants and shirts, shoes or boots and socks, a coat and bonnet or hat was taken.  When we found water we would take a day to let the teams, cattle and family rest.  We would wash our clothing and ourselves. 

    The men brought rifles, pistols, powder, lead, shot and hunting knives. Shovels, axes and hatchets, saws, hammers and tools to repair harnesses were necessities.  They brought the tools that they could use in preparing the lumber for our home when we got settled.  Also ropes, branding irons and other tools necessary for working with our cattle.  And hobbles for the teams and riding horses.

    The men hunted along the trail.  They would kill rabbits, catch fish if we were near a stream with fish, and occasionally kill a deer.  As we prepared our food at night any game that had been killed on the trail that day was prepared.  As you can guess from the staples we took there was not a great deal of variety in our diet although it was ample.  We endured the lack of variety in our diet for we knew that when we reached the end of our journey and established our home we would plant a garden and fruit trees and have fresh fruits and vegetables to eat in the summertime and more to preserve by canning or putting in a root cellar. 

     We soon developed a routine to set up our camp each evening and to take it down each morning as we prepared to travel on that day.   In the evening when we made camp the tents were set up, a fire was built, coffee was made, biscuits or cornbread was put to bake in a Dutch oven. We ate food like biscuits and jerky gravy, beans and cornbread, or pancakes.  Some grain was taken for the cattle but we traveled slowly enough that they could graze along the way whenever feed was available. We had dairy cattle with us that had to be milked so we had milk and butter readily available. 

    William drove the team of oxen and I drove the spring wagon that had hoops and a canvas cover over it.  John C. and Lucy were only about 4 and 5 when we left Colorado so they rode with me most of the time in the wagon.  Rhoda, Martha, Brannick, Jim and Mary were old enough to help with the cows and horses we brought with us.  They would walk or ride as they helped with herding the animals. Milking the cows twice a day, hitching and unhitching the teams, feeding and watering the animals each day and caring for the harnesses, saddles, bridles, etc. kept everyone busy.  The girls helped with the cooking and the care of the younger children.

    Except for the time we stayed in cabins at Fort Apache and Buttermilk Point, we camped out in the wagons and tents.  While we were camped in Emigrant Canyon east of Fort Bowie Barney Kemp was born 23 Aug 1879.  As I think about it so many years later it is hard to imagine being camped in a covered wagon and some tents and having a baby without a doctor or midwife to help with the delivery.  But then, I wasn’t the only woman to have experienced that.  It was the life of a woman on the frontier of this great nation. 

    By October that year the water was again giving out, forcing our family to move.  Upon exploring the country a big spring had been found in the Sulphur Springs valley.  We went through Apache Pass and out into the Valley a few miles and made camp again. Even after we got to the Sulphur Springs valley we continued to live in the tents and wagons.  As time went by we could tell that the water was getting lower here also, so a search was made for a permanent water source.  About a mile east of where we were camped, in the mouth of Pinery canyon, at its juncture with Bonita canyon, water was found, a well was dug near some large sycamore trees and a permanent water source was developed.  A system called a “horse-power” was rigged up that used a mule and two 40 gallon barrels. The mule was connected by harness to a long pole.  He would walk around in a circle. As one barrel would come up full of water, which was dumped into the tank, the other would go down empty, then the process would be reversed.  This “Horse-power” acted as a pump to raise the water from the well to be emptied into stock tanks to water the cattle.



Family by tank with the horse power pump



    In the spring of 1880, a house was built near the well and the sycamore trees and our family’s “Home Ranch” was established. Our house was built of 18-inch adobe walls that were two adobes deep for security against Indian attack. Adobes are good building material for the desert because they insulate against the heat in the summer keeping the inside cool and keeps the heat in during the winter making it warmer inside.  In addition to its heavy walls, the timbers used in its construction were cut out of the nearby mountain forests.  The house consisted of two rooms on each side with a wide hallway between, extending the full width of the building. There was a fireplace in each room to provide heat. A porch ran along the length of the front of the house. This was known as a “Dog-run” style house. My kitchen and dining room were built at a 90 degree angle, separate from the rest of the house. Later the two buildings were joined. The thickness of the walls made the house cooler in the heat of the summer and retained the warmth in the winter.  The kitchen being separate helped control the heat in the rest of the house in the summer.


Home Ranch 1882






Home Ranch with the Cook House




Home Ranch house and out buildings






Neighborhood School



    In 1881, after our family home was built, a schoolhouse was built in our front yard and a teacher hired to teach the Riggs children, and any other children of the neighboring ranches. Until the school house was built William, Rhoda and Martha attended school in Dos Cabezas.  The school was a small wooden structure. This building has stood for many years as a monument to our family’s pursuit of Education. 



School House and Metate Monument at Home Ranch


    In 1887 the El Dorado School District No. 16 was formed by Cochise County. As our neighborhood grew, the school house at Home Ranch became too small to meet the needs of the neighborhood children. The District started building a new School house in January 1900 and it was finished in December 1900 and is known as the El Dorado School.

    The school became the social center for the neighboring ranchers and their families. There were programs, neighborhood Christmas trees, dances, Red Cross meetings, Literary Readings, even Church meetings at times, held at the school.  Each Arbor Day new trees would be planted by the children around the school.  Over the years we had many teachers for our school.  Ida Lilly Berry, T.B. Stark, Lillian Erickson and Eula Lee Murry were all teachers that later became members of our family.

    In 1879 when our family moved to the Sulphur Springs valley and started our Home Ranch, we were living in Pima County, Arizona Territory.  Later in 1880, Cochise County was formed from that part of Pima County where our family lived.

    In 1880 by the time we had reached our journey’s end and our “Home Ranch” was well under way Mr. Riggs was 52 years old and I was 42.  T.J., who stayed in Colorado when we left was 23 years old, Rhoda 21, William 19, Martha 15, B.B. 13, J.J. 10, Mary 8, J.C. 6, Lucy 4 and B.K. 1.  On 2 Aug 1884 our last child, Edith Bessie, was born at Home Ranch.  She was not to remain with us long.  On 9 Aug 1885 she died of summer complaint.  We buried her in a family cemetery we started on a hill not far from the spring where we first camped in the Sulphur Springs valley. Edith Bessie was the second person to be buried in the family cemetery, the first person being her nephew, Frank Thomas Riggs, son of T.J. and Eula Lee, who died 12 days before also of summer complaint.



    Indians were a part of our lives. Father and Mother Riggs moved their family on to Indian lands after the Indians in Arkansas were moved to Oklahoma. Mr. Riggs’ brother John and his wife Jane were killed by the Indians in Texas.  When we left Texas we traveled through Indian lands on our way to Colorado but they gave us no trouble. The Ute Indians traveled through the area where we settled in Colorado going to and coming from their hunting grounds on the plains of the mid-west. We learned that if we treated them with respect, were always honest with them and would give them an occasional beef to butcher, we never had any problems. On our way to Arizona we traveled through Apache Indian reservations and camped near the Forts connected with these reservations.

    We did have some concerns about Indians for a few years after we settled at Home Ranch. The area where we settled had been a Reservation for the Chiricahua Apache Indians from 1872 to 1877.  Cochise was their Chief.  After Cochise died the Reservation was closed and the Indians moved to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in east central Arizona.  Before the settlers came the Indian lands extended into New Mexico and northern Mexico.  Although they were supposed to stay on their Reservation there was lots of traveling back and forth between the Reservation and Mexico. The way into Mexico for the Indians crossed the Sulphur Springs valley and the Chiricahua Mountains not far from Home Ranch. When the Indians would leave the reservation at San Carlos, and an alert was sent out, our neighbors would gather at Home Ranch.  The walls of the house were well built from 18” thick adobe that provided protection for those inside against attacks. 

    When Brannick B. and James J. were about 11 and 9 years old they got to thinking they were old enough to take on a young man‘s responsibilities.  An alert had been sounded and the neighbors had come to Home Ranch for safety.  Many times B.B. and J.J. had talked about what they would do if the Indians did come.  They had picked out the perfect spot where they could “stand watch“.  It was an indentation in the ground among the Sacatone grass where the bulls would roll in the dust. An alert was sounded, the neighbors gathered and the boys begged the adults, and were finally given permission, to stand the first watch.  B.B. and J.J. settled into their previously chosen spot.  The moon was full, giving eerie shapes to things out away from them.


 Sacatone Grass out from Home Ranch



As they lay there, they were laughing and bragging about how they would shoot any Indian between the eyes if he tried to get near the house.  In fact, they thought they even saw an Indian out there in the grass, and they were getting a good aim on him, when someone spoke directly behind them.  They were being so noisy that their older brother, William, had quietly walked up on them.  William assured them that if he had been an Indian they would both be dead and would not have been able to raise an alarm.  The boys were sent to the house and their Indian hunting adventures were over.” The ‘Indian’ later turned out to be an old dried cow skull shining in the moonlight.



    It took some time for Mr. Riggs and the boys to give up their dream of going to California.  Our “Home Ranch” was developing nicely at the base of the Chiricahua Mountains, but Mr. Riggs was talking again about pulling up stakes and heading west.  Finally I just told him, “Mr. Riggs, you and the boys can go to California if you want but the girls and I are staying right here.” So, needless to say, we stayed and we have never regretted the decision.  We had moved so many times I felt that it was time to settle down and build our dream right where we were.  As Home Ranch was developed and more improvements made, it became the center place for our family and we came to realize we had found and were already living in the “El Dorado” we had been seeking.



    We did not live close to a town so Mr. Riggs applied to the government to establish a post office for home ranch and other ranches in the neighborhood.  The Post Office named “Brannock”, was started at Home Ranch on 16 August 1887.  It was in operation until 10 June 1896.

10 June 1896          the mail quit coming here

    Mr. Riggs was the postmaster.  Over the years the area where Home Ranch was built was known as “Brannick, El Dorado or the Riggs Settlement”.  After the Post Office was closed we got our mail from Dos Cabezas.



    As with any home age, weather and natural disasters can take their toll on the structure.  Over time maintenance was needed and improvements to the home were made.

May the 3rd 1887 we had a Severe Earth quake

Some thing unknown To Arizonians      

it liked to Scared the people to death    

it cracked our house

18 Feb 1902      we are loocking for the house to crumble down on us  

hope it will not trouble

19 July 1903          Thos an the boyes put a new floar a Sink in the Stove room

piped the watter in

1 Dec 1903          Thos is fixing our house an putting on a poarch in front

A New year 1904

January the 1          Thos hallingfloaring from Willcox for the new kitchen

11 Jan 1904          Thos an John Started to build a new kitchen

13 Jan 1904          Mr TB helped with the new kitch

16 Jan 1904          all the neighbors helped pit the Shingles on the new house

13 Feb 1904          had to prop the old kitchen

2Mar 1904          Thomas went to Willcox for Shingles to finish the kitchen

7Mar 1904          we are Still mooving

14 Mar 1904          pulled the old kitchen down

21 Mar 1904          Savary is halling the old kitchen adobas off

Thos is fixing our house an puting on a poarch in front


    When Mr. Riggs and I were married, I had a few milk cows, a saddle and blanket, and a bridle, to bring to the marriage.  When we were living in Bandera County, Texas, the last three items were traded for three milk cows that we named Saddle, Bridle and Blanket.  From these 3 cows, a herd of milk cows grew.  There were cows of all kinds, colors, and shapes.  There were even some Texas long horn milk cows in our little herd.  When we left Texas we drove this herd of dairy cattle to Colorado.  Upon leaving Colorado and heading for Arizona the dairy cattle were again in the wagon train.  As they had been helpful with our cash flow at Fort Apache and Fort Thomas they continued to be helpful to us when we reached Fort Bowie.  Again we sold milk, butter and buttermilk to the soldiers at the fort. 

    There were many varieties of good grass and there was water available so Mr. Riggs began to build a herd of horses and good beef cattle by trading the steers from the milk cows for Hereford heifers and bulls.  He bought bulls from Colonel Hooker who lived across the Sulphur Springs valley on the Sierra Bonito ranch near the Graham Mountains. He also got some cattle from John Slaughter of the San Bernardino Ranch that is located in the southeast corner of Arizona where Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico meet.  As our herd of beef cattle grew Mr. Riggs acquired the contract to supply beef to Fort Bowie.  In the cool of the evening a beef would be butchered, wrapped and hung to cool.  About 4:00 a.m. Brannick B. and James J., who were in their early teens, would load the beef carcass into the wagon and drive about 12 miles to the Fort where the meat was cut up and ready to sell by 6:00 a.m.  They would come back, bring in another beef to butcher in the evening, then spend time with their school studies.  After butchering in the evening they went to bed to be ready to do it all over again the next morning.  On one of these trips James J. was riding a young horse they were breaking.  The horse stepped in a hole and went down, falling on Jim, breaking his leg at the knee. J.J. was in bed with this broken leg when the earthquake of 1887 happened.  Because the adobe walls of our house cracked and we were afraid of them falling down, J.J. was carried out to the frame school house.  While carrying him out of the house his broken leg was dropped and injured again. It took a long time for him to recover.  After this accident B. B. had to continue the deliveries by himself.         

March the 5 1887          our Son James J Riggs was hurt by a horse    

Dr Chasby Set his knee from fort Bowie    

The neighbors come to See him      

it was a long time before he could walk

April the 10          the Doctor come to See JJ    

he has to come nearly every day    

oh he is Suffering So

i am Sorry      

god bless him

May the 3rd          we had a Severe Earth quake

Some thing unknown to Arizonians      

it liked to Scared the people to death    

it cracked our house

we had to moove JJ to the Schoolhouse  

a lumber house in the yard

    As Brannick and Jim grew older and went away to school, John and BK were old enough so they took over making the deliveries. B.K. was only “a big kid” of about 10 or 12.  The boys would start out early in the morning, before daylight, and reaching Apache Pass they were just sure that the giant soap weeds along the way were skulking Indians!  Their fears were grounded on the violent history of the Apache Pass country where immigrants were ambushed and killed by the Indians.  Old Fort Bowie had been located in the Pass country because of the threat to pioneer travelers and army supply trains bound for Fort Huachuca.  By this time the horse that pulled the wagon knew the way well.  After delivering the meat, John and BK would start the horse toward home, then they would crawl in the back of the wagon, lay down and sleep, depending upon the horse to return them to the ranch safely.  

    Our herd of cattle continued to grow and we had more cattle to sell.  With the closure of Fort Bowie in 1896, our family had to find other markets for the sale of our beef cattle. We then sold our cattle to buyers that came to the ranch.  The cattle were shipped by railroad either west to California or east to various destinations.  Butcher Shops in Willcox, Pearce, Tombstone and Bisbee would also buy cattle for sale in their businesses.    

    Mr. Riggs was the first in the valley to buy and privately own grazing lands.  He also obtained land by homesteading.  When others failed in their attempt at ranching or farming and had to sell out, Mr. Riggs would buy their lands and cattle.  Toward the end of the Civil War many families in the South experienced difficulties with land ownership.  Some of them lost land they had worked so hard to develop.  Consequently Mr. Riggs believed that our land should all be Patented or Deeded Land then no one could come and take it away from the family.  As our children grew to adulthood they took up land for their own ranches but still stayed within the Sulphur Springs Valley or the nearby area. Names of some of the ranches that our family owned were the Tickle Gizzard, the Lap Circle, the 202, Star Ranch, the Mogul, Oak Ranch, the ZZ, the Red Wing, and the Cross J. 

    Rain and drought affects the life of anyone that relies on the land for their living.  If the rains are good, grass grows on the range and the cattle prosper.  When drought comes it is a struggle to keep the cattle alive and sometimes requires desperate measures.  In late 1899 and in 1900 the southeast corner of Arizona experienced a drought.  The rains, which normally start around the 4th of July and continue through September, were late.  Mr. Riggs and William went to Texas looking for a place that we could ship our cattle to pasture so we wouldn’t lose our entire herd. They found a place in Marfa, Texas.  The rains, though late, did come however and it was not necessary for the cattle to be shipped.  Although we didn’t have to ship cattle to Marfa we did cut the numbers of cattle we had grazing here by selling off a lot.

Along with the raising of cattle Mr. Riggs ran a herd of horses.  These animals also had to be branded with our identifying horse brand.  In addition to branding, shoeing the horses was a regular responsibility.  To keep the horses hooves in good condition, a metal horseshoe was heated, formed and nailed to the bottom of each hoof. Shoeing horses was a skill that required strength and experience. Mr. Riggs and the boys worked with our horses getting them used to having their feet worked with.  This made it easier for them to shoe a horse.  Sometimes a man called a “Furrier” would be hired to put shoes on the horses.

    Part of the work for Mr. Riggs and the boys was to gentle a horse and get it to respond to a rider on its back.  This is referred to as “breaking a horse“.  Some ranchers are very adept at this and some horses respond well.  There is lots of excitement though when a horse doesn’t respond well. Some cowboys, known as “bronc busters“, enjoy this activity and become very good at it and travel from ranch to ranch. Their job is just to break horses.  William was especially good at gentling horses and training them to be ridden. The cowboys, and sometimes the rancher, like to exhibit their skills working cattle and horses.  When the work was done a “Rodeo” was held for relaxation and socialization just to see who was the best rider and the best roper.



    I think it may be interesting to my grandchildren and great grandchildren to learn about what life was like on a ranch when we first started our Home Ranch and as it developed.  Over the years, the way of doing many things changed, making life easier for us. However, a lot of things stayed the same.  Life was generally different for men than for women living on a ranch. This certainly applied to our family.  The men did the heavy outside work required for running a ranch and the women did the work that was required inside the home to care for our large family.



    Mr. Riggs, our sons and the cowboys would rise before day-light, eat a hearty breakfast, for it may be evening before they ate again, saddle the horses and begin the day’s work.  The day may consist of any combination of the following activities. When we first came here the land was all open range.  There were no fences. In those early days riding pastures to check on our cattle took up most of the time.  Mr. Riggs and the boys had to be familiar with each cow and each calf and which ones belonged together.  They checked each animal for brands and ear marks and knew at a glance if the cow or calf was ours, or a neighbors that had wandered away from its own range. They often had to ride on neighboring ranches looking for our cattle that had strayed. They watched for a mother cow that was separated from her calf.  They made note of how many calves had not been branded and made certain they each belonged with a cow that had our brand.   Each animal was checked observing if it was fat and healthy or if its ribs were showing because it was not getting enough feed.  They would watch for evidence of worms or pink eye, snake bite, wounds that were not healing well or had become infected and required treatment.  Sometimes they would find a cow that was down and could not get up.  They administered treatment on the range that each situation required.  If additional or specialized attention was needed, they brought that animal into the home ranch corrals and barns.    

    Although care of the cattle was Mr. Riggs’ primary concern, there were many things that had to be checked to keep our cattle safe and healthy.  Barbed wire was a helpful invention and fencing of the land helped keep our cattle separate from the neighbor’s cattle, but fences require maintenance.  After the range was fenced, Mr. Riggs and his sons or cowboys had to ride our fence lines to make sure they were in good repair.  A small roll of barbed wire, a pair of heavy duty pliers and a pair of leather gloves were part of the gear that always went with them along with their lariat.  A break was repaired when it was found. Any break could mean that our cattle were out of our pastures and had to be found and returned. This again meant riding in the neighboring pastures looking for them if they couldn‘t be found in our own pastures.    

    A good supply of feed and water are a necessity to maintain a herd of healthy cattle.  When we first came here, before fences, during times of drought it was necessary for Mr. Riggs and the boys to drive cattle that didn’t belong to us, away from the watering holes used by our cattle on our land. The neighbors did the same on their land. In times of drought there just wasn‘t enough water for all the animals. It was hard to drive thirsty, suffering animals away from water.  Barbed wire fencing helped remove that burden.  Dams were placed across ephemeral streams damming up the water runoff from rains forming dirt tanks to provide water for the cattle. Because dirt tanks are made by damming a stream, a certain amount of dirt is deposited in the tank as the water flows in.  Periodically this dirt has to be scraped out of the tank. 

    All water sources had to be checked on a regular basis to maintain a plentiful water supply.  As time passed and we developed our ranch, wells were dug (some by hand and some with a drilling machine), windmills were installed and tanks and troughs placed to catch and store the water when the wind blew. In some places “Bottomless tanks” were used. A bottomless tank is made of curved steel or corrugated galvanized steel units that can be bolted together and then fastened to a poured cement bottom.  These tanks are low enough for the cattle to drink directly from the tank. If they were taller a system was set up so water in the tank could flow into a trough where the cattle could water.  A windmill was a very useful piece of equipment in this area.  The wind blows a lot in the Sulphur Springs valley so windmills could be placed in various pastures so cattle didn’t have to travel far each day for water. Although windmills were useful, they required a great deal of maintenance.  The gears had to be kept well lubricated with grease.  Sometimes there would be damage to the mill from wind that required repair.  Another regular maintenance chore for Mr. Riggs and the boys was changing out the “leathers” on the windmill.  This required pulling the sucker rods out of the well, replacing the leathers then returning the sucker rods to their proper place in the well.

19 Nov 1897          fixing the pump to the horse power

10           the big wind mill wheal blowed off




William Riggs at top of windmill




    As Mr. Riggs and the boys rode our pastures the grass was checked. When our family came into the Sulphur Springs Valley, there was a sea of many kinds of grasses, “belly high to a horse”, that seemed endless.  Maintaining our grass lands was a learning experience.  Often more cattle were put on the land than it could support.  We came from parts of the country that had good yearly rains resulting in year round pasture that could support more cattle grazing per acre.  It soon became apparent that there was a delicate balance in Arizona between the frequency of rains and the number of cattle that could be put to graze on an acre of land.  When the rains were good and feed was plentiful cattle prospered on the range.  In times of drought, cattle could not be left on one pasture for too long a time for that resulted in rapidly overgrazing the land which led to loss of grass base and erosion.  When drought became more frequent, grassland was lost and fewer cattle could be raised.  It took a number of years for this lesson to be learned and much of the range land was unintentionally damaged.  There were times after several very dry years that it was necessary to drive cattle to New Mexico or Texas to graze so we didn’t lose our entire herd to the drought.  Some cattle were taken to the Pecos/Fort Stockton area where Mr. Riggs’ brother, Thomas, and his family lived.  Some were taken to the Marfa, Texas area.  

30          gathering cattle to Ship to texas

    The droughts and overgrazing led to Mr. Riggs trying to find and introduce new grasses that were hardier as well as nutritious.  We tried planting Johnson grass.

11 Aug 1923          Plowed to plant Johnson grass

    This was another learning experience.  We learned that if cows are turned in on the Johnson grass at the wrong time in its growth and the moisture content is wrong it will poison a cow and you could lose your entire herd.     



Bringing grass hay into the barns


    Because of the droughts and loss of grass Mr. Riggs and the boys added dry land farming, to our many activities. We planted and cut Alfalfa for hay. We also developed areas on our ranches where we could cut the native grasses for hay.  In the good years when there was rain, we would cut the grass for hay in the low spots near the creeks where the grass grew high, load it onto wagons and store it in our barns to feed our cattle in the winter.

6 Sep 1906       all gon to Kays home ranch to get hay

12          I Started to put down butter

13          BB come

went to See William at the hay field

18          the got home from haying

27 Aug 1908          Kay cut Rhoda alpafaltahto day

29          Kay cuting hay below Williams place

30          we had a good rain here at home

31           the creeks is very full of watter

the Amalong boyes is Stackin Rhadas alpaha hay  

they worked for Rhoda more than a month

10 Sep 1912          election at TB Stark  

Kay is cutting hay

11          the Kinnedy boyes is halling hay for Kay

12          Davy Kinnedy lost his horsethaugh he was Stolen

13          the fair in Willcox is greate they Say

17          boyes is getting hay  

got the barn fool here and puting up hay for William

14 Sep 1914          Kay Started cutting hay for home ranch                                 

15          it raned  

Spoilted there haying                                               

19          we put down our first butter                                                              
20          the boyes finished putting up hay    

17Sep 1915          boyes Started to cut cane this morning  

7 July 1916          Kay went to Rhoda to help unload a mooremashine of hers                        

8          4 wagons halling grain to John Riggs ranch

      We also planted and harvested sugar cane, barley and wheat for cattle feed.  When it became available we fed “Cake” to our cattle.

23          Mr Stark Sowing his barley

      When our children were old enough, each one was given a heifer calf and a brand to start building their own cattle business.  They kept the offspring of their heifers and gradually their herds grew.  Mr. Riggs and my brand was BR and was used in Colorado and Arizona.  Each child used the BR brand in Arizona, but it was placed in a different place or in a different way on the animal to identify the individual to whom the calf belonged.  This helped bind the family together as they worked for the common good of all.  In 1895 Mr. Riggs and I sold the use of the BR brand in Colorado to our nephew W.C. Riggs for the sum of $1:00. Our family had several different brands.  We started out with the BR brand but as additional ranches and their cattle were purchased, additional brands were obtained and used by different family members.

    A law was passed in the Arizona Territorial Legislature 27 February 1885, requiring each rancher to choose and register a brand and ear mark. These were used to identify livestock belonging to an individual rancher.  At that time it was all open range in Arizona.  Sometimes a cow would wander for miles and miles away from its home range and become mixed with other rancher’s cattle.  At the time of “Rodeo” (roundup) the branded cattle could then be cut from a ranchers herd and be added to the proper owners herd.  

    The Arizona Range News had a page or two of Brands and Ear Marks belonging to various ranchers in the State.  The areas where the ranchers home pastures were located and how the rancher could be contacted were also published.  Sometimes cattle would wander many miles.  This also made it possible to identify cattle in herds that may have been stolen.



WA Stark and B Riggs brands in Arizona Range News



     Cows usually drop their calves in the spring and early summer.  It is the nature of calves to stay near their mothers.  If they are disturbed and are not close together they will frantically look until they find each other.  When the mother cow is branded this makes it easy to determine which calf belongs to which rancher.

    A device called a “Branding Iron” was made with which to burn the brand into the hide of the calf.  A branding iron was made by forming iron into the shape of the brand, such as the ZZ, and attaching it to a long iron handle.  Rodeo’s (Roundups) were held at various times, for branding young calves or in connection with selling the cattle.  As the cattle were rounded up, each rancher’s cattle were cut out and held in his herd.   The calves were left to find their mothers and the herd was allowed to settle down.  A fire would be built to heat the branding irons, the calves would be roped and tied, and then the hot branding iron applied in the appropriate area for that rancher’s brand.  The ear marking was done, the bull calves were castrated and made steers, the calves were dehorned if necessary and the calves were all vaccinated.  This was called “range branding”.  When we started fencing our land branding was easier.  We only had to be concerned about branding our own cattle. During a roundup the cattle were counted and inspected.  Our herd could consist of unbranded new born calves, branded yearlings, two year olds, three year olds and mother cows and bulls.  If a buyer was at the roundup, the animals he wanted would be cut out of the herd and put in their own area to be taken to market.  If not all the animals were to be shipped, the rancher’s herd that was left would be returned to his own pastures.  



 Riggs boys at shipping time



Cow Camp at shipping time


    Mr. Riggs made the money our family lived on for the year when he sold our cattle.  Getting our cattle from the range to a point where they could be sold, required us to roundup the cattle from off the range and drive them to the point of sale.  We lived close enough to a railroad we didn’t have to trail our cattle overland on a long cattle drive to a point of sale.  Mr. Riggs and the boys purchased a ranch near Willcox where our cattle could be held until enough cattle cars could be made available by the railroad to ship our cattle west to California or east to various points.

they bought the vandawalker Sheep ranches and his cattle

the anderson place too

     The announcement of “Roundup” was published in area newspapers so that ranchers from all over could come and look for cattle that had wandered far from their home range.

    There are animals that prey on the cattle.  The ranchers would organize to try and control animals such as the coyote and the Prairie dog.  

30          I went with Mr Riggs   killed prarie dogs

4          Mr Riggs is helping Jimmie Hudson kill prarie dogs in his pastor

    Mr. Riggs traveled periodically to Willcox.  Sometimes to Tombstone, Bisbee, Douglas or Safford.  It was here that he met cattle buyers and other ranchers, discussed conditions of the range, conducted legal business, obtained supplies needed for maintaining the ranch, caught up on the political happenings that applied to our world, and in general socialized. Mr. Riggs usually traveled alone on horseback or in a buckboard.  He stayed overnight in a hotel and ate in the local restaurant.  On the return trip our wagon was loaded with food and supplies for the ranch.



    Life in the early days of ranching was not any easier for me or the girlsas we did the inside work of caring for the children, growing and preparing the food, keeping the home clean, and the clothing clean and in repair and to occasionally help out with the riding as needed. 

    It was necessary for us to rise early, start the fires and prepare the breakfast for our family.  This was often before day light so that the men could be ready to ride at sunup.  After breakfast the table was cleared, food taken care of and the chores of the day begun.  Each day’s chores may be different but the following are areas that were our main responsibilities. 

    These are some of the things that had to be done on a regular basis in order to have food at meal times. One activity that was vital daily in my home was the building of fires.  Sometimes Mr. Riggs or one of the boys would get up, build the fires then go back to bed while the girls and I got up and prepared food and in general got our day started.  In cold weather our original house was heated by a fireplace in each of the four rooms and a wood burning stove in the separate kitchen. Food was cooked on the wood burning stove which, in our case, had been hauled from Texas to Colorado to Arizona.  Water was heated over a fire in order to bathe, clean the house and wash clothes and dishes.  Wood was stacked by cords in a place readily assessable to the house.  A wood box was in the house where wood was placed to keep it dry and handy for the days use.  The chore of keeping the wood box full I usually assigned to a younger child.

    Food supplies were purchased at a store when Mr. Riggs went to town on business.  Supplies usually consisted of bags of flour, sugar, beans, dry corn for cornmeal, salt & pepper, lard, coffee, tea, cream of Tartar, baking powder & baking soda, oats & barley, vinegar, salt pork & a side of bacon, molasses or honey, Bluing to whiten clothes, Lye to make soap and bolts of material for making clothing. We also needed coal oil for our lamps or candles.  During the summer we grew a garden and canned what we could.  Among the family we had some nice orchards from which we canned and dried a variety of fruits. 

       Periodically a beef or pig was butchered.   Meat would spoil quickly, so when an animal was killed the meat was shared with family and neighbors. Mainly in the winter when it was cold enough the carcass would be wrapped in canvas and hung high in the barn.  When meat was needed it was lowered, a portion of meat cut off, then it would be rewrapped and hung again.  What beef wasn’t used fresh we would make into jerky. Jerky is made by cutting the beef into thin strips, covering it well with salt and pepper and hanging it over stings or wires and leaving it out in the air to dry.  It would be covered lightly with material to keep the flies off as it dried. We also kept pigs which we butchered and shared. Hams and bacon would be hung in a smoke house to be cured.  We raised chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat. When chickens or turkeys were butchered they would be used immediately by our family or sold. 

20          Rhoda butcherd her turkeys taking them to

Willcox an Sold them at 20 cents a pound

    Mayor's Market has ordered a fine lot of Thanksgiving turkeys from Mrs. Rhoda Riggs.  They are expected to            arrive about Tuesday.


Arizona Range News

Friday, 25 Nov 1904

    Miss Rhoda Riggs was in town Monday and delivered a fine lot of Thanksgiving turkeys to Mayor's Market.

21          Rhoda went to Willcox with her turkeys

12 little chickens off




Sourdough crock, butter churn, butter mold & butter paddle


    When it was needed, a large batch of bread dough was mixed and set to rise in a warm place.  Depending on the weather this could take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. At first homemade yeast or sourdough was used as the leavening for bread. When the dough had doubled in size it was punched down, divided, placed in bread pans, allowed to rise again, and then baked in the oven of the wood burning stove.  If sourdough was used for leavening it had to be tended to each day to keep it growing properly.  This was done by not using all of the sourdough starter in the crock at one time and adding equal amounts of flour and water to the starter to feed it.  It was then kept in a warm place to ferment and grow.  I didn’t make very good raised bread.   

I was Sick and made Sour bread a gain

     Mr. Riggs didn’t like raised bread, preferring biscuits. This was great when we were traveling.  Biscuits can be mixed, shaped and cooked immediately in a Dutch oven.  You don’t have to wait for them to rise like you do with light bread. I made fresh biscuits for him for each meal. Because he was the head of our home, Mr. Riggs was always served first.  He would take a biscuit, pull it apart, put the top on his plate and return the bottom to the plate for the children to eat. Pancakes and cornbread were also used as bread. 

    Milk cows were for many years the mainstay of my family.  They required milking each morning and evening.  This was usually done by the girls or me.  Milk was strained into enamel pans, through material, such as cheese cloth, to keep out dirt and trash, then set aside in a cool place, such as a well house, a root cellar or an evaporative desert cooler, to cool and let the cream rise.  A desert cooler consisted of a box framework with a couple of shelves inside.  The outside was covered with layers of burlap.  It was then placed in a shady place where there was a breeze most of the time.  It was set up so that water constantly dripped down all sides, keeping the burlap wet.  The breeze blowing though the wet burlap cooled the inside of the box keeping the milk cool.   When the milk was used the cream was skimmed off the top and set aside in a container.  When enough cream was accumulated we churned it into butter. The buttermilk was worked out of the butter with a wooden paddle.  Water would be added until all of the milk had been worked out. A little salt was worked into the butter for flavor. The butter was then put in a butter mold and left in a cool place to harden.  When it was hardened the butter would be pushed out of the mold to be used by the family.  Each year I “put down butter”.  This was a way of preserving butter. I would melt the butter on the stove until it separated into a clear, golden liquid and a milky sediment.  I would carefully pour off the golden liquid, straining it through a piece of clean muslin.  The milky sediment would be given to the pigs.  The clear butter would be put into a hot sterilized glass jar and sealed.  It was cooled, then stored in the root cellar.  Buttermilk, the milk left after the butter has been churned out of the cream, is also used. It is very refreshing to have a cold glass of buttermilk on a hot day.  Pancakes and biscuits made with buttermilk are light and fluffy.  Another way we use the milk is to leave it set out on the table until it becomes clabber – the milk becomes curdled and separates from the whey.  We then cool it, add some sugar and enjoy a glassful on a hot day. Clabber is one of the first stages of making cheese. If the cream soured we used it to make cookies and cakes.

    Ice cream was a favorite treat of our family.  We had plenty of cream and eggs and ice became available from the ice plant at Fort Bowie and later from Dos Cabezas so we had ice cream often.

9          the girls got a cream freezer

4          we ar having ice cream  

the children come

      Another chore the girls and I did on the ranch was to help with feeding “Dogie” calves (calves that had no mother).  It wasn’t easy trying to keep a calf alive that had no mother.  We devised various methods of letting a new calf nurse.  The most successful way to take care of them was to find what we called a “Dogie Cow”, one that would allow a calf other than her own to nurse.  Just like people that just mother everyone, some cows will just mother any and all calves.    

    We added variety to our food supply with the wild animals available in the area such as deer, fish and ducks.

4          BB come

him an aunt Rhoda Miss heath went to the tanks after ducks  

got them    

    We planted fruit trees that the girls and I watered and cared for.  When the fruit was ripe and harvested, it would be dried or bottled in canning jars.  

    We also planted a large garden to supply the vegetables our family would eat.  What wasn’t eaten fresh was preserved by drying or canning, or stored in a root cellar for later use.  Summer and fall was a busy time for the girls and me as we grew and preserved food for the family for the winter.

    My oldest son, TJ was a Bee Keeper and supplied the family with fresh Honey every year.

Mr Lusk found a bee tree in BB pastor

    So that we always had food prepared to feed an unexpected visitor, a fire was maintained all day in the kitchen stove where a stew, a pot of soup or a pot of pinto beans would simmer.  In order to prepare Pinto Beans, the beans had to be checked over for dirt and rocks, washed, then put to soak.  When they had about doubled in size they were put on the stove to cook.  Salt pork was added for flavoring.   Restaurants were not available on a ranch so there were always things on hand, cooked or ready to prepare, in case company was there at meal time.  No one ever left my home hungry.  Sometimes our dinner guests were near neighbors, sometimes travelers, or old prospectors.  They may even be as exciting as train robbers or the Law men chasing them.

14 Oct 1896          the train robbers eat dinner here

November th8 1896          the officier was here after the train robbers

22          the officiershere for a fresh mount

    Keeping a house clean was a lot of hard work. Cleaning supplies consisted of a broom, a mop, cleaning rags, a bucket of water and homemade soap.  Most of our floors were wooden planks that had been sanded down as smooth as possible.  There was a large rag carpet in the main room which was periodically taken outside, hung up and the dirt beaten out of it.  This was a hard, dirty job.  Floors were swept and mopped, furniture dusted and windows washed.  On sunny days or days with a light breeze the bedding was all hung out to air. 

    At first our washing was done outside on a wash board in a tub over an open fire and hung to dry on clothes lines or fences.  The sun and breezes dried the clothes and left a nice fresh smell. The use of Bluing and hanging our clothes in the sun to dry helped keep our white clothes nice and white. We made our soap at home from lard (rendered from the fat of a pig after it was butchered) and lye that was leached from hearth ashes or purchased in town.  These two ingredients were combined in a large cast iron cooking pot and placed over a fire outdoors.  It was cooked and stirred until it reached the proper consistency, which sometimes took all day, placed in containers to harden, then cut into bars.  Homemade soap was used for washing clothes, household cleaning and for bathing. Later in my life a wringer washing machine was added to our household.


Add picture of cast iron cooking pot


    As I grew older, and the girls moved to their own homes, the work was too heavy for me and we paid others to do the washing and the cleaning.

    Children learned early to entertain themselves.  There was the great outdoors in which to run, imagine, explore and play.  When a child was big enough to handle the physical aspect of work he/she had to help with daily chores in the home and on the ranch.   In order to survive, everyone in our family had to pull together and share the responsibilities.   The older children looked after the younger children.  Our teenage sons helped with the work of the ranch. The younger boys helped outside around the barns and outbuildings.  Our teenage girls helped with the younger children and the household chores.  However, they could ride as well as their brothers and helped with the work of the ranch when necessary.

    We didn’t have a great number of clothes. We had at least one nice dress or suit and clothes for working that were made from strong materials.  Mr. Riggs usually bought his and the boy’s pants and hats along with coats for the family when in town, but shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, bonnets and children’s clothing were mostly homemade.  When Mr. Riggs went to town for supplies, material was purchased by the bolt and brought home.  At first we stitched our clothes by hand.   Later we had a treadle sewing machine that we used for making new clothing and mending torn clothing. It made sewing much faster and easier. Socks were darned by hand to make them last longer.  Shoes were taken to the shoemaker for mending and putting on half soles and heels to make them last as long as possible.  By the early 1900’s we could order our clothes from the Montgomery Ward Catalog.    

    As a piece of clothing wore out it was torn into strips and made into rugs or the good part of the material was cut into design blocks and made into quilts.  Ladies in the neighborhood gathered together for “quilting bees” and made quilts for their families.  A quilt top was pieced together over time at home.  Then when the neighbors gathered, a backing, batting and the top were placed on the quilt frame, the ladies would gather around the frame and with needle and thread it was quilted.  Sometimes designs were sewn into the quilt and sometimes the quilt was just tied with yarn. A “Quilting Bee” was a social occasion that made tedious work enjoyable for all. 

    Our family was not completely isolated socially.  Dances, picnics and “candy stews” were held.  These were usually held in connection with holidays and sometimes with activities such as Roundup.

    There were traveling peddlers or business men that traveled from ranch to ranch offering their services.

13 July 1897          the willcox bloomer girl was here

     The photographer came to Home Ranch often, so we have many pictures of life on the ranch.

23 October 1898          we had our picturs taken at home

    Ministers would travel from place to place and hold services.  The Dentist would come at least once a year and everyone would have their teeth fixed.  Even the Insurance man came.

    We did have excitement at Home Ranch occasionally:

1897 Febuary th 24          a rumblingnoisea comit

    This meteor landed south of St. David.

13 June 1899          a pole cat in the well    we cannot drink watter

oh the ranch Stinks like a dead horse

    How about this for excitement:

20 Sep 1904          a Snake in the dining room to day

    This was more than just excitement, it was right down inconvenient:

17 Feb 1913          we burnt the toilet down    

broak the lamp chimney

     A Lamp chimney was used on a kerosene lamp to defuse the light.  These lamps were the only form of light we had in our homes after dark. They needed to be cleaned often because soot from the burning kerosene would build up and turn the inside of the chimney black limiting the amount of light.  The chimney was fairly thin glass and would break easily during cleaning if not handled gently.

    We killed varmints that were getting our chickens.  There were wolves that killed calves. One of the Hand brothers killed a leopard.

    Work may have been hard on a ranch for both the men and we women but ranching gets in the blood and we love it.  Life on a ranch is never dull.



Progression is coming to the rural areas of Arizona.  The automobile, though considered a passing fad by some of the family earlier, has proven its usefulness in transporting people over a long distance faster.  The men of the Riggs family understood quickly the future of the automobile.  William became a part owner in the McCourt - Riggs Ford Agency in Willcox, AZ.

       Wm. Riggs and T.B. Stark have ordered automobiles.  Autos are getting almost as common in this district as horse teams.  Within just a couple of years each member of the family will have their own car.

7 July 1907          Mr Williams pass by in a all motor car going to William Riggs ranch

4          William Riggs is fixing a otomobile here

5          he Sold his to Mr Johson

Arizona Range News

Friday 9 Feb 1912

Ed Riggs and wife were down in their auto Saturday night to take in the show.

Thursday night of last week the Mascot auto, Ed Riggs, driver, brought down from the property Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Baskett and little son who had been making an inspection of the camp and who left for Chicago on the 10:45 train the same night.  They were accompanied to Willcox by Mr. and Mrs. J.E. France and son and Mrs. Susan Liebenthal.  A.B. Sanderson, a stockholder from Hanover Mich., was taken to the camp on the return trip.

Mar 1912

27          Mr TB and Kay went to Willcox get there cars

28          Mary got her new Sewing mashine

29          Kay got home     Mr TB Stark car broak

Mar 1912

8          we went to TB with Kay in the car

9          Kay taken Ed Riggs car home to him

14          Mr TB got home with his new car

16 Mr Stark taken the neighbors riding in his new car

July 1912  

29          William John an Rhoda went to Dos cabezos in otomobile

Dec 1912

19          Mr TB went to Dos cabezos far gasoline  

cisroe is painting                                                       

Feb 1913

7          it is raining  

William and Ida got home with a new car (Ida learned to drive also)

June 1913

25          TB John and K working on there cars                                                      

29          Tom got a new car

August 1913

22          we broak TB car bringing cement on it 

24          TB K an Mr Dickson went to Willcox to bix TB car  

April 1916 

2          gus Moar an family come in there car   Spent a day

June 1916

14          Rhoda got a new car     a ford 

August 1916

6          I went to Rhod      She can run her car      

October 1916

26          Mary Stark went to Rhodas in the car     She run it                          

November 1916

Mr Eekson baught Rhoda car     

29          Mr Scow come to Sell Rhoda a car 4 Mr Shaw  

January 1917  

11          William is learning Rhoda to ren her car    

February 1917

20          Mr Mc chuskey brought the boyes gasoline      Dos cab



Barn and cowboy at the Riggs Cattle Company headquarters




    Mr. Riggs and I and our children built a small cattle empire at the base of the Chiricahua Mountains extending out into the Sulphur Springs Valley.   At one time Mr. Riggs and the boys would begin roundup near Turkey Creek, drive our cattle, gathering as they went along, to just outside Willcox, a distance of about 40 miles, where the cattle would be pastured and held for shipping on the railroad, and never leave Riggs land.  Mr. Riggs and the boys are very good business men.  As our cattle business grew it became clear that it would be to the benefit of all the family if we incorporated. We started the Riggs Cattle Company in 1904. The Articles of Incorporation were drawn up in September 1905 and the Riggs Cattle Company was officially organized with members of the family all having equal interests.  All of our children, with the exception of Brannick B., for he did not live in the Riggs settlement at that time, and Martha became part of this company.  After the company was incorporated Rhoda dropped out but left her calves in to help get the company going.



31 May 1904          they have Started a company brand


    The company brand was three V’s on the left hip with the points of the V’s all pointing at each other.  It was sometimes called the “Chicken Track” brand.      Even after the death of Mr. Riggs, I remained very interested and involved with the Riggs Cattle Company.  Martha and I were the bankers of the family and with the help of her and my son’s we took care of the books until the company closed in 1922. The Riggs Cattle Company obtained many ranches and state lease lands, which were distributed equally to the stockholders when the company disbanded.

    The Riggs Cattle Company headquarters was not at Home Ranch as one may think, but was located just below a hill on the south side of the road about half way between William and Ida’s Star Ranch and our Riggs Family Cemetery.  A couple of years before we disbanded the Riggs Cattle Company, there was a devastating fire at the Company headquarters.

May 1920     the Barn burned  

lost all wagons, plows and machinery  

several thousand dollars worth

     Each of the boys took their turn as manager of the company. The Riggs Cattle Company had meetings twice a year.  We always met on Christmas day or the day after.  The second meeting of the year would be sometime during the summer.

25 Dec 1911          had a Stock meeting at home ranch christmas day

1918          Tom Riggs is manergy of Riggs Cattle Co

May 9, 1920          the Riggs barn burned down today thfiteen thousand dolars worth wagons

an plows all there mashenry

    The Company operated for 18 years, Mr. Riggs, J.J. and B.B. all died, Mary and Mr. Stark moved to California, I was getting old and there were some disagreements among the members, so it was decided to disband the Riggs Cattle Company.

5Oct 1922          WA Stark come   he is going out of the company  

15Oct 1922          a Stock meeten here to day at home ranch

     After the Company was disbanded the Headquarters fell into disrepair.  Buildings and equipment were moved to be used in other places.  Things that couldn’t be moved, like the cement cone shaped platform for a water tower, is still located up the hill behind where the cookhouse stood. There is a large stump that an anvil was attached too in the area where the barn stood.  There are poured cement walls and a poured cement floor to the side that were part of the cook house.  



    Beside the cattle business, Mr. Riggs and the boys had developed a sizable herd of fine horses that they sold in the area.  When you bought a Riggs horse you knew you had purchased a good, well trained animal.  People even came from the east to buy our horses to use as Polo ponies.  The time came when Mr. Riggs had to decide between raising horses or raising cattle.  As the motor car arrived on the scene, and the use of horses as transportation declined, it soon became apparent he had made the right decision when he decided to stay in the cattle business.  People drive cars now, instead of wagons and buggies that need a team to pull them, but they still continue to eat beef.  Brannick, son of Mr. Riggs’ brother, Thomas, came from Texas a couple of times and drove herds of horses back to Texas to be sold for Mr. Riggs. 



    After the family’s ranches were established and operating well, there was enough income for entrepreneurship by various family members that became part of our family income. The following are some of the business ventures of the family.

    The abundant availability of mesquite, cat claw, cactus and weed flowers led to the development of apiaries and the selling of honey by T.J. The development of small communities such as Bowie, AZ led to the building of an Opera House there, the development of a branch of the Riggs Bank in Bowie and the development of a Telephone company in the southeastern part of Cochise County.
See Thomas Jefferson Riggs story for more information about his involvement in the above businesses. 

    The saw mill business has been part of our families’ interests for a long time.  When we lived in Bandera County, Texas, large Cedar trees were cut and hauled and sold to a saw mill in San Antonio. Later a saw mill was obtained for use by Mr. Riggs and his brother. James became a skilled shingle maker, making shingles by hand.  When we moved to Colorado the sawmill business was again taken up.   A thriving business was developed selling sawn lumber and shingles.  A few years after coming to Arizona the saw mill business again became a family business.  In 1896, Brannick B. and his brother James J. obtained the saw mill in Barfoot Park from Major William Downing.  J.J. was more of a partner than an active participant in the everyday workings of the saw mill.  B.B., being a Civil Engineer, understood the workings of the steam engines needed to run the saw mill.  He also understood building and using grades for laying rails to move the lumber from the place of cutting to the saw mill.  He operated this saw mill about 10 years. After the turn of the century the US Forrest Service came into the area.  All the stumps on the mountain were counted and B.B. was taxed for every stump, whether he had cut the tree or not.  There had been a saw mill operating on the mountain for some time before he took over its operation.  Other people had taken trees, but he had to pay for them even though he had not cut them.  As the result of this taxing he lost the saw mill. 

    The mountains around our Home Ranch were rich with copper, lead, zinc and some gold and silver.  Mr. Riggs and the boys, including the sons-in-law, became involved with the development of some mining interests.  Their main interests were in the King of Lead mine and the Hill Top mines.

    The advent of the Automobile led to selling cars and William became a partner in a car dealership in Willcox.
See William Monroe Riggs story for more detailed information about his involvement in the automobile business.

    Although ranching was the main occupation of our family, investment in land had been important in building their ranches.  What they had learned was put to use in investing in properties and farm land in various communities in the southeast part of Arizona and even into El Paso, Texas. Investments were made in Real Estate in Safford, Solomonville, Pearce, Douglas, Paradise, and El Paso. Mr. Riggs bought 160 acres of improved land near Solomonville where he planted Alfalfa. Mr. Riggs and Mr. Bignon purchased some town lots in Pearce when the mines first opened there.  This land was laid out into town lots, and were generally donated to those who would agree to build on them.  No lots were given to anyone for speculation.

June the 1 1900          Mr Riggs bought a place in Safford for three thousand dollars

    On 2 June 1900 Mr. Riggs bought lots 7, 9, 11, 13 in Blk 39 in the town of Safford from Mr. D.B. Williams and W.W. Williams and wife for the sum of $3000.00.  It was located on the southwest corner of 10th and M streets. In February 1901 Mr. Riggs began preparations for having a commercial building built on our property in Safford.

12 Feb 1901          Mr. Riggs went to Safford

15 Feb 1901          Mr. Riggs come 

is going to have a house built in Safford

26 Feb 1901          Mr. Riggs went to Safford

20 May 1901          We went to Safford    Stayed a month with Mary  

had a nice time

7 June 1901          Mr. Riggs went down to Safford

15 Jun 1901          Mr. Riggs got home from Safford





Riggs Building in Safford when first built




    In June 1901, Mr. Riggs broke ground for a 50’X60’ two-story brick building, with an iron front that will be thoroughly fire proof.  The first story was 16 feet in the clear and the second 14 feet, making it the highest two-story building in town.  The walls were four inches thicker than most brick buildings heretofore erected.  It had a glass and iron front on two streets.  The lower story was occupied by the Taylor Cyclone Department store and the upper story contained four neat and roomy offices and the Masonic hall. 

    For a short time in 1915 our building was used by Graham County to house the County offices until the new courthouse could be completed.

    The boys were opening a bank in Willcox so I sold the building in Safford and let them use the money to open the bank.  On 26 March 1920 a Mr. Karl W. Sloan bought our building in Safford for $20,000.00 as an investment.

Mar 1920          Mary signed a deed for a house they sold in Safford.

    William M., John C. and Barney K. started the Riggs Bank in Willcox in 1920.  It was in operation as the Riggs Bank until 1931.  In 1933 it became known as the Bank of Willcox and the Riggs brothers no longer were involved in running the bank.   

June 1 1920          the boyes is opening a bank in Willcox today




Riggs Bank, Willcox AZ



Inside of Riggs Bank


    William was President of the bank and John C. was Vice President. E.B. McAleb was the clerk. William was not married at the time so he set up a cot in the back room of the bank and stayed there for a time.  He soon realized that living there made him too easily assessable to customers after hours so he made other living arrangements.


Blank Certificate of Shares, Riggs Bank


    In April of 1921 a fire, which caused a total of $15,000 damage, destroyed three buildings and damaged the new Riggs Bank.  The blaze was started in the rear of the Taylor Meat Market by boys who were playing with a fire.  It spread to a bakery shop next door and from there to the McCardy Rooming house.  The Riggs bank suffered severe scorching but no serious damage.



    Several members of my family have been involved in the practice of law and in county and state politics.  My son, James J., served in the Territorial Legislature.  William served on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors for a number of years, serving as president several times, then served in the State Senate right after Arizona became a state.  John C. served in the state Senate. Although they practiced law at different times, James J. and John C. both opened law offices and practiced law in Tombstone.

    James J. served on the Live Stock Sanitary Board of the state.  At one time several Range Detectives stayed in his barn during the day and would work out of there at night to stop cattle rustling.  He was also involved with the control of disease in livestock and poultry, the registering of livestock brands and the licensing of Butchers.   James J. served as the Citizen Member of the Board of Control for Arizona.  He was involved with the financial aspect of the State Prison, the State Industrial School, the State Insane Asylum and the buildings and grounds at the State Capitol building.

    Mr. Riggs joined the Masons in Texas, shortly after our marriage.  About 12 years after settling in the Sulphur Springs valley he helped organize a Masonic Lodge in Willcox and served as Treasurer. The second floor in the Riggs building in Safford was used as the Masonic Hall after the building was finished. Our sons Thomas J., John C. and son-in-law W.A. Stark were also Masons. Our sons Brannick B. and James J. joined the Knights of Pythias in Willcox.

    Although we didn’t have any certain Religious affiliation, we tried to teach our children good moral and Christian standards.  When we lived in Colorado Mr. Riggs’ brother, James would often hold services at his home on Sundays and we would attend.  After we came to Arizona we attended church when it was available.

15 Oct 1905          all gon to Doscabezas to church

24 June 1906          Sunday School Started at School house to day    

lilen Erekson teacher

27 January 1907          Ida had Sunday School at there house

24 May 1910          the minster from tombstone preaches at School

    Over the years different members of my family associated with the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, some practiced Christian Science, and some followed the Mormon faith.  After the death of my husband, I read often in my Bible and gained great comfort there.  Sometimes I would even write scriptures in my diary that had meaning for me. Some favorites were Matt 19:5 and Mark 10:7

Fear not ye daughters of zion

behold thy king cometh

     The end of July and the first part of August, within a weeks’ time, sorrow came to our family with the deaths of two children.  Frank Thomas, “Little Frankie T”, son of T.J. and Eula Lee, died July 28 and our daughter, Edith Bessie, died August 2, 1885 of summer complaint. We chose a quiet spot at the side of the road about 1 ½ miles from our home for a family cemetery.  It was fenced so the animals would not disturb the graves and trees were planted making a quiet spot for the final resting place of family members.  It is a family cemetery and the requirements for burial here are simple: you must be a direct descendant of Mr. Riggs and me or married to a direct descendant.

December 1  1907          3boyes puting up grave yard fence

Sept 11908          2Set the china trees at the grave yard

September 1908

20          Kay went to Willcox to meet the men with

the tombstones for Fathers grave

22          they went to work on it

24          they finished puting it up

25          Kay taken the man back


    After Mr. Riggs died I spent many Sunday afternoons alone at the cemetery spending time with my loved ones and cleaning and taking care of the resting places of my family.

    We had good neighbors.  I fondly remember one young woman that used to visit with our girls at Home Ranch.  Her name was Forrestine Cooper.  Her father was Captain Charles L. Cooper of the 10th Cavalry.  He was a white officer in charge of a troop of “Buffalo Soldiers” (Black soldiers). In November of 1885 they were camped at Camp Bonita, in Bonita Canyon a few miles east of our home.  Forrestine and her mother joined them at Thanksgiving time from Fort Grant and ended up staying the winter.  Forrestine rode a horse named Don and would visit around to the various ranches in the area.  She was a sweet girl and always welcome at our home.  We had an old-fashioned small organ, and when we found out that she had received a first-class musical education and loved to play and sing, we always asked her to give the family music when she was visiting.  Her father asked her to see if Mr. Riggs would “rent a milk cow” to their family. Mr. Riggs agreed promptly, provided she would drive the cow herself, unaided, to the front door of their cabin home.  The other stipulation he made was that she would sing and play each time she visited our Ranch.  Further than that, no payment would be accepted for the first-class milk cow during the time they were in the camp.  

    Forrestine was delighted.  The cow was turned out of the corral and she began to drive her toward the camp, a distance of three miles.  She could ride, of course, but had no experience riding after cattle. Until sunset the cow and Forrestine fought.  She ducked, dodged, darted, then raced, and her horse, Don, got fractious and frequently raced ahead of the cow, instead of at her tail.  When she reached the mouth of the canyon, the cow simply climbed the side of the hill. Forrestine followed after the cow determined to make her go down into camp.

    It was then that Sergeant Charles Faulkner saw a cow racing on the top of the bluff, and back of it a figure with streaming hair.  Knowing that Forrestine was riding by herself, Faulkner hurried to her father, saying Indians were chasing stock on top of the canyon, and maybe they had captured Forrestine.  At once the order was given to saddle up, and prepare to rescue her from the Apaches.  She managed just then to make the cow start down, calling to her father not to help, or he could not have the cow.

    So the soldiers and her father watched Forrestine struggle until the cow actually was in front of the house, then they took charge of her.  Later Forrestine learned that Mr. Riggs had “put up a job” on her, as he knew she was a tenderfoot.  The cow had a calf.  That calf was kept at the ranch, and the hardest thing any cowhand faces is to drive a solitary cow away from her calf.  None of the men at the ranch had supposed she could succeed, but she turned the joke on them.”

    The Hand brothers were mining men that lived at the Hill Top mine in the Chiricahua Mountains.  

13          Mr hand got the leper in a cave on the mountain

14          a car load of people come to See the leper

      They caught a large leopard in a trap.  The leopard dragged the trap into a cave and one of the Hand boys crawled in and shot the animal.  A leopard is about the last animal one would expect to find in these parts so its capture caused much excitement.  People came from all over to see the leopard.

    At age 78, Mr. Riggs passed from this life just six days before his 79th birthday.     


    Mr. Riggs was buried in our family cemetery.  His grave is near the center of the cemetery and is marked with the large monument rising to the height of ten feet.  Most of our family were in attendance at the funeral, as were numerous friends and neighbors.


T.J. wrote this letter to his cousin, William C. Riggs who lives in Colorado.

        It is again I must write but this time it is very sad news Father is deadhe died the 4th of this month he took sick the 27 of June from being too warm caused by helping some boys to break a pare of young colts to work for him.  one of the colts fell down while it was hitched to the wagon   he pushed and helped to get the animal up   the weather was very warm.  He went to the wind millhe said the water was coming out.  It looked so good and cool he drank too much of ithe took cramps and had to go and lay downThe Dr came every thing was done but no relief could be had   the water troubles soon passed off but his ruptures then made trouble   inflammation of the bladder set in   his sufferings were terrible.  I was working on the San Simon Ranch at the timeThey phoned over to my wife to let me knowSo I went to him as quickly as possible  on July 3I thought we might save him if we could get him to Los Angeles where he could get scientific treatment  Father thought he could make the trip.  So we decided to try that evening it was cloudy and cool.  We put his bed on a spring wagongot him snugly fixed.   I did the driving of a fine pair of big white horses his favorite team he says Tom let then travel.  Well I did let them travel on good rode.   Mother and Mrs. WM Riggs were in a buggy just behind us.   The Dr and I were with him.   Just when we all thought we were sure of success he told us to stop and take him out quick.   Mother only had time to get a quilt on the ground.  Oh he was in such misery.  We propped and fixed him with pillows.   He got up and leaned over in the back.  The Dr injected some morphine in his arm   then he says I cannot go take me back.   He was soon under the influence of the morphine and from that time on he began to sink fast.   The next morning at 8 a.m. he passed away at home and nearly all of his family were present.   We buried him the next day etc.  That evening Martha and her husband were driving home in their buggy.   A bolt of lightning struck them, killed both horses, knocked them both out.   He recovered quickly,   found his wife on fire and unconscious.   He put the fire out but got his hands badly burned.   She is badly burned but will recover.   They say she looks bad.   Hair pins were melted, corset stays were red hot.   Good by.    T.J. Riggs

Mr Riggs is Sick

July the firstit is warm

2          Mr Riggs got wors    Sent for the Dr at Willcox     he come

3          he com a gain     Stayed with him

4          Mr Riggs died    he was Sick about a weak  

Martha was Struck with lightning     She is badly burned

BB Riggs come  

Mary Stark come from long beach californa

Martha Stark is getting well

oh Such a Sad loss     my husband is dead

“Oh, such a sad loss, my husband is dead.”

“A precious one from us has gone

A voice we loved is stilled

A place is vacant in our home

Which never can be filled.”

“I am proud to think I was so fortunate as to be the wife of such a good and noble husband.
Now I look forward to the time when we shall meet again to part no more.”

Brannick Riggs departed this

life on July 4 1907gon but not


all is dark within our dwelling

lonly are our hearts today

for the one we loved So dearly

has forever passed away

Sacred to memory of our beloved husband and f   father


Willcox, Cochise County, Arizona

Friday July 12, 1907

Death of Mr. Brannick Riggs

   Brannick Riggs, one of the best known pioneers of the Sulphur Springs Valley and a wealthy cattleman, died Thursday morning July 4 at 8 o’clock.  He had been ailing for some time but his condition was not considered serious until within a few days of the end.

   Mr. Riggs was born in Marion County, Alabama, on the 10th day of July, 1828.  He was a Confederate soldier during the civil war and served in Sibley’s Brigade and was wounded at Franklin, Louisiana, in “63.  He came to this territory in 1877, and 1879 settled and founded the ranch where he resided continuously until the day of his death.

   The funeral took place Friday July 5, at 11 o’clock a.m., interment being at the Riggs cemetery.  A messenger was sent for Rev. Opie to conduct the services but owing to sickness he was unable to officiate so the funeral services were very simple, consisting only of the reading of a chapter from the Bible proceeded by a song and succeeded by the Lord’s Prayer.

   The remains of the deceased were followed to their final resting place by all the neighbors of the Riggs settlement, there being at least seventy five persons present, making it the largest funeral procession ever witnessed in that neighborhood.

   The deceased leaves a wife and several sons and daughters, as follows: Thomas Riggs, Miss Rhoda Riggs, Wm. Riggs, Mrs. Martha Stark, Brannick Riggs, Jas. J. Riggs, Mrs. Mary Stark, John C. Riggs, Mrs. Gus Moore and Barney K. Riggs, all being at his bedside at the time of his death with the exception of Jas. J. Riggs, who resides at Phoenix, and at the time was in Old Mexico and could not be reached, and Mrs. Mary Stark who arrived from Long Beach, Cal., the day after the funeral.

   The Range News joins with a host of friends in extending sympathy to the bereaved family.



The Tucson Post

Saturday, July 27, 1907

   Brannick Riggs is dead.  Every old timer in the country knew Brannick Riggs and what is better yet all knew well of him.  He was an old Confederate soldier, an Alabaman by birth, and a citizen of Arizona by adoption. He came to the Territory in 1877 and two years later settled in Cochise County where he resided till the day of his death.

December 1   1907          3boyes puting up grave yard fence

Sept 11908          2Set the china trees at the grave yard

September 1908

20          Kay went to Willcox to meet the men with the tombstones for Fathers grave

22          they went to work on it

24          they finished puting it up

25          Kay taken the man back

    After Mr. Riggs died I spent many Sunday afternoons alone at the cemetery spending time with my loved ones and cleaning and taking care of the resting places of my family.


As I sit here thinking about my life there are many memories that flood my mind.  It is hard to remember just when they happened and to put them into chronological order so I am not going to try.  I am just going to share them.

    Although it didn’t happen often, I did travel some.  Mr. Riggs and I made a trip to Trinidad, Colorado, in 1890 to visit family there.

    We also made a trip to California and stayed from 22 Jun to 1 Aug 1899.

I went with them to californa Saw the big watter

August the 1          got home to day Lucy got Sick


    Occasionally I would go to Willcox with Mr. Riggs or to Safford.  After Mr. Riggs died I went to California again with my children to visit family that lived there.

    Travel was difficult so we didn’t see family often but some of the family from Texas came to Arizona to visit or to live.  My sister Mellie came from Texas to visit me and her sons, Jim Hudson, who had moved to Arizona for his health in 1898 and lived in our neighborhood, and son Asbury Hudson, who also lived in our neighborhood.  My sisters, Martha and Louisa (Lu), also came to Home Ranch to visit me.  My sisters-in-law, Hannah Riggs, wife of Mr. Riggs’ brother Thomas, and Rhoda Riggs Copeland Miller, Mr. Riggs’ sister, came to visit our family.     Leonard Craft, the grandson of Rhoda Riggs Copeland, came from Blackwell Texas to visit his relatives.  William C. Riggs, Mr. Riggs’ nephew from Colorado, which we helped raise, visited at least three times.  The sons of Mr. Riggs’ brother, Thomas Riggs, came from Texas several times.  They took cattle back to Texas to pasture during times of drought.  They also came and drove horses back to Texas to sell.  My sister-in-law Lizzie Riggs, ex -wife of Mr. Riggs’ brother, James M., came from Tucson to visit several times.  Mr. Riggs’ niece, Mary Riggs Baker, daughter of Mr. Riggs’ brother Thomas, and her husband and family moved into the Bonita area across the Sulphur Springs valley.  Thomas’ son, Richard Riggs, moved onto a ranch south of Tucson.  Thomas’ son Barney Kemp came and worked with his Uncles in the Riggs settlement.  He married a girl, Vinnie Hicklin, from Dos Cabezas.

    As I grew older and my children were mostly grown I started to faithfully keep a daily diary.  Being a very frugal person I used a ledger book that had been used for recording some beef sales to Fort Bowie.  Only a few of the pages had been written on so I wrote my diary in this book until I used up all of the pages.  On some pages, I even wrote around the beef sale entries.  I started one diary in 1896 and it covers the years 1896 through 1912.   My second diary starts in 1913 and I am still writing when I have the strength too.  The Second Diary is written in a ledger book my son, John C, gave me.  

    I didn’t use my diaries to write my feelings about everything that happened and how I felt about it.  That is for young girls to do.  I wrote informational diaries about the workings of the ranch, the weather, and the comings and goings of my family and visitors.  Occasionally I have mentioned things that were sad like J.J. getting his leg badly broken, when my oldest son divorced his second wife, and when my husband died.  A couple of times when I was feeling really bad I wrote about being ill.  There is an entry that seems to sum up how I felt after my husband died when I wrote that I was suffering from “the rheumatism and lonesomism”.  After all of my children had married or left home, most nights one or the other of the children living in the area stayed with us at Home Ranch. Occasionally my diary entry would be, “Mr. Riggs and I are alone tonight”. Since the death of my husband my children make sure I am never alone at night.  After B.K. married in 1911, he and his wife, Mary, came to live with me. I continue to live at Home Ranch with my son and his family.



Family of Brannick and Mary Elizabeth Robbins Riggs




You may continue by clicking on each child of Brannick and Mary in the list below. The list is in order of the child's birth.

THOMAS JEFFERSON RIGGS     (05-14-1857 -- 12-09-1926)

RHODA RIGGS     (03-18-1859 -- 07-16-1929)     

WILLIAM MONROE RIGGS     (12-27-1861 -- 02-13-1949)

MARTHA (RIGGS) STARK     (03-15-1865 -- 01-09-1949)

BRANNICK BENJAMIN RIGGS     (10-21-1867 -- 03-19-1913)

JAMES JAY RIGGS     01-31-1870 -- 01-24-1911)

MARY FRANCES (RIGGS) STARK     (05-21-1872 -- 02-02-1961

JOHN CASEY RIGGS     (09-21-1874 -- 01-04-1943)

LUCY ELIZABETH (RIGGS) MOORE     (10-20-1876 -- 03-05-1965)

BARNEY KEMP RIGGS     (08-23-1879 -- 05-09-1963

EDITH BESSY RIGGS     (08-02-1884 -- 08-09-1885)