Sierra Bonita Ranch

Sierra Bonita Ranch is a site in Arizona that is significant for its association with Colonel Henry C. Hooker's cattle ranch, the first permanent American cattle ranch in Arizona, located near present-day Willcox, Arizona overlooking the Sulphur Springs Valley. The ranch was first established by Hooker in 1872, on the site of a former Spanish hacienda, which had been destroyed by the Apache in the early 19th century. His main ranch house (photo) was large and rectangular, 80 by 100 feet (30 m), and had thick adobe walls and gunports in the parapets. The water supply was plentiful and consisted of five springs, creeks that flowed in the spring and fall, and abundant, shallow groundwater easily tapped by wells. This water gave Hooker control of a range approximately 30 miles (48 km) long and 30 miles (48 km) wide. Situated at 4,000 feet (1,200 m) elevation, the ranch escaped extremes of heat and cold, and thus provided an ideal breeding range. In the 1880s Hooker improved his herds by importing Hereford graded stock.

He became the largest military beef supplier in the Arizona Territory. Initially, Hooker suffered heavy losses, both in personnel and supplies, due to Apache raids. Gradually he built his holdings until he controlled 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) that carried 20,000 head. So soundly did he build that he was one of the few Arizona ranchers to survive the disastrous Drought of 1891. When he died in 1907, he was still the cattle king of Arizona.

Prior to the Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid, then an unknown, was employed by Hooker. In 1881 and into 1882 members of the Earp faction used the ranch to resupply during and after the Earp Vendetta Ride, with Hooker's blessings.

The Sierra Bonita Ranch was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Present appearance (2005)

The Sierra Bonita Ranch is an operating cattle ranch, owned (as of 2005) by Mrs. Harry Hooker, granddaughter of Colonel Hooker. The adobe ranch house has been remodeled inside, but it still retains the fortress-like appearance of early days. It is shaded by giant cottonwoods and surrounded by the original adobe corrals, bunkhouses, and barns. The integrity of the site is exceptional for three reasons: Continuity, appearance of the buildings, and the same magnificent setting that first attracted Col. Hooker. The ranch is not open to the public.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference and added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com