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History of Grapevine Canyon

The name, Grapevine Canyon, is over a century and a quarter old. It appears on the first maps of the area when John Rockfellow surveyed here in the late 1800s, and it stems from the wild grapevines still flourishing in the back of the canyon.

Centuries ago, geologists tell us, the Black Hill just in front of the main gate was formed by volcanic action. The hill is composed of greenstone, forming an underground ledge towards the south, creating a natural barrier collecting run-off water from the mountains. As recently as fifty years ago, the area encircling the Black Hill was a cienega (marshy meadow), often trapping cattle in its swamps.

Probably because of this water - most likely a lake a few centuries back - and because of the Grapevine Canyon Creek which until recently, ran water about ten months of the year, early people settled in the area. There are remnants of at least two primitive Indian villages within a mile of Grapevine Canyon - the rocky outcrops along the entrance drive contain many bedrock mortars where the squaws ground corn and acorns.

The people who lived here those many years ago are said to belong to the Dragoons Culture - but neither Hohokam nor Anasazi. They were agriculturalists, growing corn and other crops along the creek banks, but also making beautiful pottery. Either the devastating Forty-Year Drought or the Apache drove them out during the 15th century - it's not certain which one.

Apache Brave
Apache Brave
Photo by Edward Curtis

The Apaches, an Athabascan people, settled here next. The origin of the name Apache is unclear, and there are several accounts of how it came about. One version states the name originated in Mexico from an old Spanish word, apachurar, meaning "to crush." The Apaches had a distinctive way of torturing the wounded captured in battle. They turned them over to the women and children who amused themselves by crushing the unfortunate victims' bones with rocks. Apachureros de huesos, meaning "Crushers of Bones," later shortened to Apaches, is a distinct possibility. Another, somewhat less bloodthirsty version, says the word Apache is derived from the Zuni word Apachu, which means "enemy."

The word Chiricahua also has several possible origins. One story says it is an old Spanish word meaning "chatterer", and was given to the Apaches because of their incessant yelling and chattering while attacking. Another version says the word Chiricahua means "distant mountains."

Whatever the truth about the name given to the Chiricahua Apaches by others, their own name for themselves was "People of the Woods" - a much more poetic and apt title.

The Apaches regarded the whole valley as their stronghold, not merely the area we know today. Their peacetime camps were in the Chiricahua Mountains, but in time of war or trouble they retreated to the Dragoons, where the rugged terrain made pursuit virtually impossible.

Grapevine Canyon was used by the Apache to escape into the wild country beyond, as the canyon is narrow and easily defended. They naturally viewed the arrival of the white man in the area with dismay. They were a tribe of warriors and hunters, and , not understanding the white man's preoccupation with agriculture and cattle, they fought desperately to retain their hunting grounds.

Chief Cochise, their greatest leader, had the wisdom and the foresight to realize defeating the white man was impossible, and he

Apache Medicine Man
Apache Medicine Man
Photo by Edward Curtis

persuaded his tribe to accept the inevitable and make peace. Indian agent Tom Jeffords, who became blood brother to Cochise - the only white man so honored by the Apache chief, also urged this attempt at harmony. "Blood Brother" by Elliot Arnold, tells the story of their friendship and was the inspiration for the movie "Broken Arrow."

Unfortunately, the peace did not last. Following the Bascom Incident, where Lt. Bascom falsely accused Cochise of kidnapping a child and some horses from rancher Jonathan Ward, eleven years of bloody warfare broke out between the Chiricahuas and the whites. Even during the years of peace, however, many of Cochise's younger warriors disagreed with his views. Some broke away under the leadership of Geronimo, forming a renegade group and continuing to wage war against the whites. Cochise died in June of 1874. His son Naiche (or Natchez), followed as chief, but as white settlers continued to establish themselves in the area, eventually the tribe faced total subjugation. Following Geronimo's surrender in 1886, the remnants of the Chiricahuas were transported to reservations in the east where the majority died. Today, only a few descendants of the Chiricahua Apaches live in Oklahoma and New Mexico, and none at all in this, their own land.

Cochise requested his braves bury him in an unmarked grave so white men would not find his body. According to one account, he and his favorite horse and dog were dropped into a deep crevice in the rocks somewhere in the Stronghold. Another version says they were buried several miles east of the Stronghold, and the braves then galloped their horses over the grave so it could not be identified. In any case, to this day no one really knows where Cochise lies buried.

Among the white men who settled in the valley was Mike Noonan, who came here shortly after the War between the States. He built himself a small cabin at the mouth of what is now called Noonan Canyon. Legend says he was a tall, gaunt Irishman with flaming red hair and beard. He evidently had a lot of courage, because to live here in those days meant constant harassment by the Indians. Noonan hand dug a well some distance from the cabin. Several feet below the water line, he dug a drift, a kind of tunnel, where he used to hide when the Indians attacked. This well is still in use today.

Noonan ran cattle all across this country, and one time he had a large herd of heifers in the basin adjoining the Stronghold. A couple of renegade Indians happened by and wantonly slaughtered all the animals.  Noonan thought Cochise's braves had done it, and he lay in ambush, waiting for them. When some time later a band of Apaches rode across to the Stronghold, he shot at them, killing two braves.

Apaches During a Storm
Photo by Edward Curtis

In June 1885 the Apaches staged a big raid on the Sulphur Springs Ranch, stole a large herd of horses and headed south with them. When they were abreast of the Stronghold Canyon, they saw a troop of Cavalry moving toward them. Taking evasive action, the Chiricahuas turned west and made for the Stronghold by way of Grapevine Canyon. As they were crossing the Grapevine, a couple of them left the group and went on foot across the mountain to Mike's cabin. They caught him unaware and, following a fierce gun battle, killed him.

The ranch then came into the possession of the Coronado Cattle Company, headquartered  for some time  in the Noonan Canyon, less than a half mile away from the old Noonan cabin at what is today the center of operations for our Cobre Loma Ranch.

A little later, in the 1890s, there was a wood chopping camp situated in Grapevine. The old map places it in the northwestern corner of the property. The wood was probably cut for the smelter in the Pearce gold mine, and undoubtedly destroyed the tall timber of the Dragoons. There is none to be seen today.

Maybe at this time, or perhaps a little later, a couple of houses were built at the mouth of Grapevine Canyon, between our entrance drive and the fence. No one knows if the people there ranched, farmed, or cut wood - we don't even know their name. We do feel some kinship with them however, for we keep finding evidence of their existence. A few years back, while chopping burro weed with a brush hog, we found a couple of old table forks, three corset stays, several overall buckles, a door handle, and a saw blade. The road in those days ran from Pearce, past the Noonan Ranch to the Cochise Stronghold, and another road branched off and went northwest to the Goodhope Mine.

Later, the ranch was acquired by the Hatley family, who ran cattle on it for many years. In the 1960's, the Hatleys sold the front section of the ranch to the Horizon Corporation to develop Sunsites, the town just seven miles east of the ranch. Grapevine Canyon was sold to a Mr. Carl Adams, an artist-illustrator from New York.

Adams built part of the existing house, now the office, and about 20ft. away he built a small brick studio. At first, he used the house as a get-away cabin, then later. moved in for year-round occupancy. When his wife became ill, he sold the property to the Searle family, then ranching on the Cobre Loma Ranch in Noonan Canyon.

Grapevine Canyon Ranch, as it is today, began to take shape in 1982, when we decided it would be fun to share the canyon and its magic, its romance, with other people. We added to the original Adams house, about doubling its size. A bathroom was built in the studio and conversion to a cabin was completed by joining the two buildings with a covered patio. Next we built the workshop, then the saddle shed, and the bunkhouse. The Cook Shack, the swimming pool, the corrals, hay barn, and other cabins followed in swift succession. Staff accommodations and the casitas were built by 1988, and in 1990 the Faraway Lodge was put into service.

By careful design, Grapevine is a small, intimate guest ranch, with emphasis on quietness, solitude, and tranquility. Because of this, we keep the number of accommodations small, and therefore the guests to no more than thirty, so the special atmosphere of serenity and romance, which characterizes Grapevine Canyon, is maintained.

Indian Story Teller
Listen, on a moonlit night or in the early morning...
you can almost hear the subdued shuffle of the Indian ponies' hooves as they trail over
Grapevine Pass to their camp, deep in these rugged mountains...
Look out across the that a cattle drive on the old Sulphur Spring Ranch stirring up dust near the Three Sisters Buttes, or is it the cavalry on their way to Tombstone through Middlemarch Pass? Likely, they will overnight at Middlemarch,
the midpoint of their journey, and the busy mining town and its residents will welcome them... Look over there, on the that tall figure Mike Noonan, coming across Grapevine to check on his cattle grazing in the Stronghold Basin?
Hear the hollerin' and laughter in the loggin' camp? A goodly amount of beer drunk here, a good deal of rough-housing, as well as hard work...
And look back over Grapevine Pass into those silent, brooding mountains,
remote and eternal, their spirit as untamed today as it was then,
a monument to a vanished People of the Woods.