History

The Story of El Sultan, a Carthusian Stallion

el sultan

Since our inception in 1926 we have been known for our fine breeds of horses. Circle Z Ranch’s first and most notable stallion was a Carthusian Stallion named El Sultan, and this is his story.

Heavy in foal, a Spanish mare from the Spanish royal stables of Marquis de Domecq of Jerez de la Frontera was gifted to a stable in Havana, Cuba. Arriving in Cuba in 1931, she soon foaled El Sultan, who would become the stallion for the Circle Z Ranch by the age of five.

A Carthusian Horse, El Sultan’s bloodlines dated back to the late twelve hundreds. After the Moors left Spain, the Carthusian monks in Andalusia bred this larger Moorish Arabian stallion with a larger type of mare from central Europe. This original stallion was named Esclavo. The mare’s bloodlines went so far back into antiquity that her exact breed was unknown.

After 300 years of breeding and meticulous record keeping, the Carthusian monks considered their breed firmly established. Taking the purity of the bloodlines seriously, it is said they even refused royal orders to mix their stallions with other breeds. When the monks disbanded in the 1800’s, the horses were taken in by Juan Jose Zapata, who diligently continued the purity of the bloodline. Called the Saintly Horse because of its extremely gentle disposition, these pure bloods were jealously guarded by the Government and the Spanish remount system as they were excellent cavalry horses.

The Carthusian horses are known for their proud and lofty actions, a showy and rhythmical walk, and a high stepping trot. Their canters are rocking in nature, with natural balance, agility and fire. Today Carthusian horses are raised around Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, and Badajoz, Spain on state-owned farms. Nearly all of the modern pure Carthusian horses are descendants of Esclavo.


In 1934 El Sultan was the first Carthusian to live in the United States, and at the time only the sixth to be let out of Spain. Given as a gift from the Cuban Stables to a family in New York, he ultimately ended up in the hands of Mr. R. A. Weaver of Cleveland Ohio. Mr. Weaver was a sponsor of the Kenyon College polo team and a frequent guest at the Circle Z Ranch. Not interested in breeding, he decided that the ideal place for El Sultan would be the Circle Z Ranch, where breeding him with the smaller Mexican range horse would make an ideal guest horse. And he was right.

El Sultan not only sired countless foals for our guest ranch, his gentle disposition led him to serve many functions. Taking well to stock work, he was used for roping at the fall, ranch sponsored rodeos. He also was a frequent show horse at the Tucson parades, winning numerous awards for first of show. Standing over 16 hands, he was said to have been able to jump 6 foot high fences. He was also used during the polo matches at the ranch, which Mr. Weaver helped to establish. He was so gentle that guests rode him as well.


El Sultan was much beloved by the ZInsmeister family, so much so that he had his own stable and corral, and was insured for $10,000. When the Zinsmeisters sold the ranch in 1948, El Sultan stayed with the Zinsmeister family, and was exercised every day until his death on January 2, 1953. In the words of Helen Zinsmeister, “He was more than anyone could expect, and a natural performer and jumper.” His stunning profile still adorns our ranch walls, where El Sultan will forever be remembered as the Circle Z Stallion.

 

By |September 18th, 2015|History, Horse Talk|0 Comments

Camels of the Southwest Desert

camel
Artwork from Smithsonian Magazine

The colorful history of Arizona draws many visitors to her borders. The true spirit of the West lives here, with memories of Apache raiders and brave settlers, mining giants and cattle barons. And into this mix is thrown an anomaly that perhaps makes sense to those who know the Southwest: camels. Yes, the U.S. Camel Cavalry, a brief but memorable experiment with this non-indigenous breed, sporting indigenous traits. The year was 1855.

With the transcontinental railroad decades away, the expansion into the West and Southwest seemed a daunting, yet much desired, venture. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had an epiphany. Why not use camels to help move supplies between military outposts, and to help in the settlement of the West?

By nature and design, camels seemed a perfect fit for desert life, much more so than the mules being used by the military. Able to travel long distances with no water, our arid climate was a breeze for camels. They also thrived on desert flora, making the thorny, dried, and basically unpalatable forage a meal worthy of consumption. Adding in their ability to carry up to 1000 pounds over 30 miles, the westward push seemed less daunting.

Jefferson Davis was able to convince Congress to appropriate $30,000 for the procurement of camels for military purposes, a fortune in that time period. Over the course of the next two years, 75 camels were imported from the Eastern Mediterranean for this camel experiment. Expert handlers who knew the camel’s quirks were soon to follow. Their job would be to assist the hump-backed creatures in their assimilation to life abroad.

Soon after landing in the states, the camels were sent to military forts in Texas and California. They were mostly employed as pack strings to move supplies between the outposts. The camels were also used for expeditions in search of supply routes along the U.S./ Mexican borders.

But these hard working camels were not popular. In Washington the mule lobbyists opposed further camel purchases, and petitioned to protect the mules’ foothold in the Government packing contracts. And in the military forts the reputation of the camels were tainted: horses were annoyed by them, the soldiers found them to be contemptible, and they had the inconvenient tendency to wonder off at night.

The outbreak of the Civil War put an end to the official Camel Cavalry experiment, and after only six years, the Government wanted out of the camel business. But what do you do with unwanted and out of vogue camels? The U.S. Government ordered the camels to be put up for auction. Some were sold off to the salt and copper mines. Others were sold to zoos and traveling circuses. The railroads in Arizona took on some to help in the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The Confederate Post Office Department even employed camels for mail delivery. And others were simply turned loose to graze in the desert, finding their way into Mexico and the grasslands of Arizona. They roamed the desert, along with commercially imported camels that had been turned loose by owners who had also lost interest.

And so the camels became feral, surviving for a few years in the desert. But there numbers were not enough to support a thriving population, so they quickly and quietly diminished. In the early parts of the 19th Century, reports of the feral camels were made by crews surveying the international boundary between Mexico and the U.S. Passengers on the Pacific Railway would also see the occasional camel out their windows as they traveled the long routes. By the 1920’s the camel sightings came to an end.

These Army camels, which had once been destined for greatness in the settling of the west, are now a blip on our historic radar. Imagine what our Sky Islands of the Southwest would be like if the camels had taken hold and survived in the wild. Or perhaps it is best that we do not know.

By |August 14th, 2015|History|0 Comments

Flux Canyon and the Civilian Conservation Corps

Shortly after the Circle Z was established in 1926 America found itself in the grip of the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in early 1933 he faced a challenge of an economy in a shambles with rampant unemployment. His administration established several New Deal programs designed to get people back to work and energize the economy. One of these programs was the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), which reached right into Patagonia at Flux Canyon.

CCC Camp at Flux Canyon, taken by Murphy Lloyd Musick

A panoramic view of Flux Canyon Camp, facing northwest toward Route 82. Note the concrete slabs in the left center, which were the foundations for lodging tents. Photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick for the Patagonia Museum

The CCC had a dual goal: to conserve natural resources and salvage America’s out-of-work young men. The National Park Service had been established about 20 years earlier, increasing awareness of the value of the landscape. Yet public land outside the park system sorely needed irrigation, reforestation and overall land management. The CCC and its new workforce provided the perfect solution. In total the program established over 2,600 camps that employed over half a million men to address these public land needs.

Part of the Coronado National Forest group, the Flux Canyon camp operated from 1933 to 1935 and was located on the eastern side of state route 82 at the junction of Flux Canyon Road. Circle Z guests pass through the remains of the camp during the full-day cookout ride.

Camp related projects focused on water infrastructure: stream development, erosion control and well digging. Camp residents also took on firefighting duties. According to the U.S. Forest Service, in mid 1934 “all lookouts on the Coronado were manned by CCC enrollees.”

Mess Hall, Flux Canyon CCC Camp, photo by Musick

The concrete slab foundation is all that remains of the original mess hall, photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick, Patagonia Museum

Perhaps the most significant contribution by Flux Canyon Camp to Patagonia concerned livestock and grazing interests. CCC crews built fences, cattle guards and corrals as part of a U.S. Forest Service allotment program to regulate fencing and grazing among ranchers. These efforts improved overgrazed areas and ultimately improved the quality of livestock.

Flux Canyon Camp closed in 1935, with its residents moving on to Apache National Forest. Today all that remains are a few concrete pads that formed the foundations of lodging tents and the mess hall, along with a former administration building that is now a private home. But the effects of the CCC linger, in the fences, in the curves of Sonoita Creek, and perhaps in the cattle that are descended from those that grazed here during the Great Depression.

CCC Camp, Flux Canyon, original Admin Bldg, by Musick

The original administration building is now a private residence, photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick, Patagonia Museum

For more information about the Civil Conservation Corps, go to www.ccclegacy.org and www.nps.gov/parkhistory

 

 

By |June 5th, 2015|History|0 Comments

Patagonia Lake: A Park and Preserve

16376480791_7757a42326_b

Guests riding the higher trails on the western side of the ranch often glimpse the shimmering blue waters of Patagonia Lake in the distance. Despite blending beautifully into the scenery today, the lake didn’t even exist when Lucia Nash first came to the Circle Z as a child.

Patagonia Lake near Circle Z ranch

Patagonia Lake was formed by damming up a portion of Sonoita Creek

In the late 1960s a group of local citizens formed the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association, Inc. (LPRA) with the intent of creating a lake and recreation area. In 1968 a dam was built on the Sonoita creek west of the Circle Z, creating 256-acre Patagonia Lake.

Over the next several years the state authorities worked to acquire land surrounding the lake, which at the time was owned by oil company Conoco. Eventually the State of Arizona also secured title to Patagonia Lake itself and in 1975 Patagonia Lake State Park was established. So when Lucia acquired the Circle Z in 1976 she knew the land immediately to the west of the ranch would always be protected!

Today the park consists of over 2,600 acres in addition to the lake and abuts the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area along with the Circle Z, all ensuring a stable environment for the unique ecosystem found along the Sonoita Creek and around the ranch. Tracks from the New Mexico/Arizona railroad like beneath the lake, the same railroad that forms some of the well-worn tracks at the Circle Z.

Fishing is popular at Patagonia Lake in southern Arizona

Channel your inner angler at Patagonia Lake

The lake is a habitat for bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish, and is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter months making it a popular spot for fishermen. Kayaks and canoes are available for rental. If your next visit to the Circle Z has you “angling” to do some fishing or paddling, Patagonia Lake would be a good choice. For the rest of us, the lake provides a beautiful reflection of that magnificent Arizona sky.

Patagonia Lake is a perfect spot for canoes and kayaks

Quiet waterways among the marsh grasses provide wonderful spots for kayaking.

By |June 5th, 2015|Community, Day Trips, History, Nature|0 Comments

Circle Z History-Sanford Butte and Sheep Ranching

Visitors to the ranch often use the Circle Z Mountain, looming up behind the corrales, as a landmark while riding the trails. But older maps and topographical surveys refer to it as “Sanford Butte,” a name it was given when Arizona was still a Territory.

DA Sanford 1878 portrait by WL Sbedden Wash DC

A portrait of Don Alonso Sanford from 1878

The butte was originally named for the Sanford brothers, Don Alonzo and Denton, who first homesteaded in the area along the Sonoita Creek in the late 1870s. The brothers had come the Arizona territory from their native New York to make their fortune in cattle ranching. They established what would come to be known as The Stock Valley Ranch, 45 miles east of Tucson.

Denton established the “Sanford Ranch” on the Sonoita Creek in the 1870s. (Riders at the Circle Z can still see remnants of the original adobe ranch buildings on the hill above the corrales.) But his brother “Don” Sanford, as he was known, had other plans for the land near Patagonia. In 1881 he acquired 13,000 head of sheep a bargain price and set out to increase his growing fortune.

Sanford was drawn to sheep ranching for it’s economic potential: sheep were much scarcer than cattle, and had the potential to draw much higher prices. However, this endeavor was not popular with the nearby cattle ranchers. John Cady, who served as Sanford’s manager in the 1880’s, writes in his memoir: 

If There was one man whom cattlemen hated with a fierce, unreasoning hatred, it was the man who ran sheep over the open range—a proceeding perfectly legal, but one which threatened the grazing of the cattle inasmuch as where sheep had grazed it was impossible for cattle to feed for some weeks, or until the grass had had time to grow again. Sheep crop almost to the ground and feed in great herds, close together, and the range after a herd of sheep has passed over it looks as if somebody had gone over it with a lawnmower. 

Cady goes on to relate more than a few “annoyances” that ensued as a result of Don Sanford’s venture: “Sheep were found dead, stock was driven off, my ranch hands were shot at, and several times I myself narrowly escaped death at the hands of the enraged cattlemen.” Whew!

Cady's sheep camp on the Sonoita Creek, built 1884 (photo taken 1915)

Cady’s sheep camp on the Sonoita Creek, built 1884 (photo taken 1915)

Folks were made of stern stuff back then, and despite the hardships Cady stuck with it for the next three years. In 1884 Sanford was able to sell the herd at a $17,000 profit (which would be well over $400,000 in today’s dollars—not a bad profit, but perhaps not worth getting shot for!).

Sanford Butte on a topographical map, showing the Circle Z Ranch

Sanford Butte on a topographical map, showing the Circle Z Ranch

Shortly after that, Denton Sanford died and his brother Don moved his family back east and lived in Washington, DC for the remainder of his life, pursuing various business interests. Despite this, Don Alonso Sanford stayed connected to southern Arizona, returning often until his death in 1915. The ranch stayed in the Sanford family until 1925, when the 5,000-acre spread was sold to the Zinmeisters, who converted the property into the Circle Z (and Sanford Butte acquired the new name “Circle Z Mountain”!).

More information can be found at the Don Alonso Sanford Collection at the Special Collections of the University of Arizona Library in Tuscon. The collection, donated by descendents of Don Sanford in 2011, contains documents and photographs that offer a detailed look at daily life in the Territory of Arizona.

 

By |April 11th, 2015|History|Comments Off on Circle Z History-Sanford Butte and Sheep Ranching