In Arizona, as in much of the western United States, cattle ranching has been both a mainstay of the economy and a major influence on culture and society. That history is still part of everyday life in Globe and Miami.
Among the region’s earliest pioneers were ranchers who found excellent grazing for their livestock here, and stayed to raise families. Many of the ranching families in Gila County have been ranching for four or even five generations. Cattle ranching in Arizona boomed after the Civil War, when drought in Texas pushed many ranchers west. The first large-scale cattle operation in the area was established in 1876 by Christian Cline and his five sons, who drove 1,600 head from California, and members of the Cline family are still ranching here.
The value of Arizona’s rangelands as prime grazing country made it possible to raise large herds. In 1881, Patrick Hamilton wrote that “the fine grasses and the delightful climate make this region the very paradise of the stock grower. All the year round the rich grasses cover mountain, valley, and mesa. Situated between the extremes of temperature, subject neither to the fierce ‘northers’ of the Southwest, nor the heavy snows of more northern latitudes; requiring no expensive outlay for the protection of stock in winter, and with a range which is only limited by the boundaries of the Territory, there is no portion of the United States which presents a finer field for the successful prosecution of this industry than the Territory of Arizona.” He concluded, “No finer beef is raised in the United States than is produced in Arizona.” By the late 1890s, it is estimated that 1.5 million head were grazing in the Tonto Basin alone.
Today, more than 30 ranches raise cattle in Gila County, and the total number of head is estimated at 15,000. The Gila County Cattle Growers’ Association was “organized in the depth of the depression, during one of the worst droughts since the first settlers and their cattle arrived in Gila County in the 1870’s. 104 ranchers joined this association the first year, 1934, many of them donating a calf to help finance their association. The GCCGA hosts the Burch Cattle Auction each spring which nets over $1 million dollars during the one day sale.
For a complete history of GCCGA by author Mitch Holder, visit HERE.
For more information about Gila County’ Ranches please contact the Gila County Cattle Growers’ Association.