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SAVING A TURN OF THE CENTURY BUILDING

The Black Angus Ranch reflects the changing economic landscape of southern Arizona from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, as homesteaders became property owners and homesteaded land became property. The Black Angus Ranch was originally constructed by a multiple-property owner rather than a homesteader, so probably was never intended to function as a homestead. Instead, archaeological and historical evidence suggest that the ranch house and buildings were built with the primary purpose of facilitating ranching.

 

Historical documents indicate that the land on which the Black Angus Ranch was built was originally homesteaded by Silveria Telles, a Mexican American woman, in the late 1890s who, according to archival documents, built an adobe structure nearby. When the area was excavated and studied for archaeological significance in 2006, however, the researchers found no evidence of this older adobe structure during excavation or on the ground surface. Additionally, occupation of the current buildings or the site by the Telles family was not apparent based on artifacts or features identified in an earlier project (2004). Also, although Silveria Telles homesteaded the land on which the ranch is situated, there is no archaeological evidence of a female presence, as is commonly inferred through the presence of items of female clothing or cosmetics containers, on the site. Although documents indicate that Silveria resided primarily on the homesteaded property for several years, it is unclear which other Telles family members may have resided there and for how long. The family also owned property in Tucson, and Silveria's husband died "at his home on Main Street" in 1890 (Arizona Daily Citizen March 25, 1890).

 

Inspection of artifacts and features found on the site confirm that the ranch buildings that currently remain at the site were built by James McDonald in 1907, as was indicated by archival research and oral history, and were intended to function primarily as a ranch rather than being constructed with the primary purpose of proving up a homestead. The coming of the railroad in the 1880s greatly impacted residents of Tucson in terms of the goods they were able to obtain, and the artifacts found on the site reflect this shift in consumption, confirming that the ranch was occupied after the establishment of the railroad.

 

The role of the Black Angus Ranch site in the development of southern Arizona becomes clearer when examined in the context of its function as a cattle ranch. While the ranch was not built until 1907, its use continued a tradition of cattle ranching on the land begun in the 1880s by the Telles family. Although land use probably changed very little with the change in ownership from the Telles family to James McDonald, the primary function of the land shifted: from raising livestock and improving the land as a means to land ownership through the homesteading process, to simply raising livestock.

 

Information summarized from "Cultural Resources Assessment of the Black Angus Ranch Site, AZ BB:14:659 (ASM); and Prehistoric Sites AZ BB:14:660 (ASM) and AZ BB: 14:661 (ASM) in Pima County, Arizona, Technical Report No. 20032004.007, Allen Dart, RPA, Principal Investigator, 2006.

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July 2012