True Western hospitality shines at Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House, where we honor the spirit of Arizona’s ranching days. We aim to carry on the legacy of the settlers who came before us by sharing their stories and proudly bearing their name. The struggles and achievements of the Cartwright family helped build Cave Creek and the Phoenix area, and we respect them by serving only the finest foods and providing excellent service in a distinctive setting.
It was the year of the Golden Spike, 1869, and the Cartwright chapter in American history was just beginning.
Redick (Red) Japer Cartwright, a Union Army veteran, decided to head west with his wife Beulah and their three children. They started on a 2000-mile, four-month journey from Coles County, Illinois to Northern California, joining other wagons traveling from Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. It was one of the longest covered wagon train trips in the settling of the West.
Following the Oregon Trail through the Sacramento Valley, they settled in a small northern California town called Goose Lake. A few years of sweat and toil in harsh weather took a toll on Red, Beulah and their children. When a severe winter storm froze their cattle to the ground in 1874, they packed up once again and headed south. Along the way they took in an orphaned boy named Tom Brockman. Later, Tom would marry their oldest daughter, Addie.
They crossed the deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona, passing through Lee’s Ferry and the mining town of Oatman. Swollen streams and impassible roads were always difficult, but the biggest fear was of Indian attacks. With massacres behind them and in front of them, they forged on. Exhausted and broken, and after several harrowing close calls, they arrived in Prescott three months after their journey began.
The family moved to Phoenix in 1877, and it was in the Valley of the Sun where Red resumed farming. There were only two buildings in Phoenix at the time that were not built from mud with brush roofs, and their one-room adobe house was no exception. They cleared the land and farmed near what is now Maryvale for the next five years. Sometime later they acquired a grainery with a brick floor and an inside stove from one John Montgomery.
In the late 1800s, mining companies began springing up in the desert foothills, and the military expanded north. Beef was in high demand to fill the need to feed hundreds of hungry men each day. In 1887, Red traded his acreage for 160 head of prime Texas range cattle. He and his son Jackson (Manford) who was 16, drove their short-horns for three days and two nights to the head of Cave Creek.
Following the road along the Cave Creek to the head of Seven Springs, they reached their destination. The Cartwright Range was settled in 1887 and bore the “CC” (Cartwright Cattle) brand. The road to the ranch was so difficult that it took four days and six horses to pull each load of hay. By the time they got there, they had already fed most of their hay rations to the horses. It wasn’t until 1928 that a graded road ran all the way up to the ranch.
For 100 years, the Cartwright Range was one of the largest cattle ranches of the many that sprung up in the desert foothills, and it has been said that it was the oldest Arizona ranch to remain in the same family for over three generations.
Today, the spirit of the Cartwrights lives on at Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House. Hard work and the unremitting determination to appreciate the delicate and integral balance between the land, the animals and the people who call the desert foothills home have been a trademark at Cartwright’s since the turn of the century. The integrity and fortitude that built a legacy is carried on through the history, sustainable food sources, and welcoming atmosphere at Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House.
Standout bits of Cartwright History:
Fighting for Food
The trail to Arizona presented many trials and tribulations for the Cartwright family. Among them was a brush with hostile Modoc Indians. Young Tom fell asleep while on lookout one night, and their best horse, a black filly named Hora was stolen along with several others. Beulah was able to chase away one of the Indians, who had set his eyes on a slab of bacon from the back of their wagon.
Saved by the Cavalry
The Cartwrights’ long journey took them across the deserts of California, Nevada and finally Arizona, where they dismantled their wagons and crossed the swollen Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry. They trudged on to the gold mining camp of Oatman. By the time they neared Prescott, their famished oxen finally gave out. Their horses weren’t much use either, too weak to carry a load. Their wagons were coming apart, they were low on water, and their future seemed grim. The only thing that saved them was that word of their plight was somehow relayed to Fort Whipple at Prescott, and an army cavalry patrol was sent to their rescue. They arrived in Prescott three months after their journey began.
Building a Foundation
Red Cartwright and his sons were instrumental in building the Arizona Grand Canal, which provided water for their ranch as well as for many others throughout the Valley. Standing up in their wagons to see through weeds and tall grasses, they laid down tracks for roads that are still used today. Red also erected the first schoolhouse near present-day 59th Avenue and Thomas Road. It was the beginning of the Cartwright School District, which is also still in use today. The school remains, a tribute to the Cartwright family and the other early residents who paved the way for growth in the Valley of the Sun.
A Sober Decision
A conversation with an old miner acquaintance named Jim Kentuck at a downtown Phoenix saloon convinced Red to move north to what is now Cave Creek. Over nickel beer and 15-cent whisky (which included free lunch) Kentuck suggested Red relocate north of town to open range land that nobody wanted, despite having plenty of grass and a spring that ran year round. Cartwright was convinced. He and Beulah packed up their children and belongings once again and herded their cattle north.
Early Valley ranch families shared a strong sense of community. Bailing hay, planting, harvesting, and butchering livestock were often chores shared by neighbors. Women would fix dinners, bake pies and fry chickens together, holding regular feasts under shade trees. Men ate first, and children got anything that was left over. Each child eagerly hoped they’d be chosen to receive a pulley bone, or wish bone.
Ringing in Technology
Modern conveniences were not even a sparkle in a rancher’s eye in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Elmer, the youngest of 14 children Red and Beulah raised, was working at a neighbor’s house when he heard a strange sound he’d never heard before. It was a telephone. Technology had come to Phoenix. Elmer and his neighbors soon got them, too, and soon the entire community was eavesdropping on shared party lines.
When the Cartwrights moved to Phoenix, the heat, monsoon floods and shortage of water were not the only struggles that needed to be overcome. Snakes were abundant – even more than they are today – and they would often make their way into the cool shade of the houses. Checking for snakes became a daily practice for adults and children alike.
Chew on This …
The Cartwright Range became known for its honest dealings and quality beef. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley was so impressed by the Cartwright cattle that he bought enough to fill two train cars and shipped them to Catalina Island.