VAIL Preservation Society - Creating Community Connections Through Local History - Rancho Del Lago Timeline
1450 …and earlier, the area was home to the Hohokam
1500 Tohono O’odham-traditional use lands
c1700 Sobaipuri, Apache-traditional use lands
1844 Punta de Agua (point of water) on Lt. Elliott’s 1844 map. Later called Cienega after the stage station of the same name about eight miles to the east. Area around stage station also called Cienega.
1873 Surveyed. Theodore White, Surveyor
1880 Southern Pacific Railroad tracks follow the Emigrant Road/Old Wagon Road into Cienega Creek
1891 Carter Crane & John Fraker “Impound the Waters of the Cienega” for farming. Irrigation canals built to water crops. Starting out with a mining water allotment, a canal 18” deep and 3’ wide, by the mid-1890s they were had built a dam that was enlarged over the years.
1894 The Arizona Daily Star reported that the lagoons along the Cienega were full of wild ducks that drew hunters. Until about 1915 the Pantano is called interchangeably Rillito or Pantano.
1897 “Messrs. Fraker and Crane, of Vail’s station, have probably the finest single ranch there is in Southern Arizona. They have 600 acres under fence with more than sufficient water to irrigate the whole tract. Their water they developed by cutting into the Cienega… The harvest this year yielded 1,500 sacks of wheat and barley. …over 100 tons of alfalfa and barley hay. When these men first settled on their present homestead they were regarded as visionary in their ideas so far as it affected their water supply, but they went work themselves and by hard labor developed one of the finest bodies of permanent water there in in the entire country. This place is well worth a visit.” Arizona Daily Star,
1897. Crane & Fraker were supplying both ends of the Tucson to Helvetia Stage line as well as the livery in Vail where the horses were changed out for the second leg of the trip. 1897 Cienaga [sic] School District No. 36. “Commencing at a point two miles north of the residence of “Crane and Fraker” in Section 10, Township 16S, Range 16E
1898 Lillian Lively and Edna Harris, infants are buried near their parents’ home. The Harris and Lively families were teamsters who also rented a house and land from Crane and Fraker.
c1903 Mera Harris about three or four years old is taken to the doctor by wagon to Tucson. She dies later at home and is buried near her cousins. Esmond Station train crash six miles west of Vail. The fire was so intense that the Harris and Lively families still talk about the orange glow over the western horizon to this day.
1903 Henry Dowdle buys a ranch near Vail –may have been part of Rancho del Lago- where the “grass was belly high on the cattle.” He also operated the Vail’s station store.
1907 Diversion dam built. 40’ to bedrock. Daily shipments of frogs were transported aboard the Sunset Express from the Cienega Ranch to the Adams & Co. grocery store. 1907 Jeremiah Tattersfield & Alma Monthan Tattersfield and their five sons settle along Cienega Creek at Crane & Fraker’s.
1920 Guy Monthan applies for surface water rights. 1920s Oscar Monthan, aviator, brings Billie Mitchel to visit and fish in the well-stocked lakes at Rancho del Lago.
1932 Cleveland Putnam purchases the ranch from Alma Tattersfield. He removed the fields, orchards, large trees and built a stable and half mile horse track in their place. He constructed a ranch house, guest houses, foreman’s residence, gate house, swimming pool, hanger and airstrip. George Genung III was six years old at the time. He was very upset when the tall shade tree that held his swing was cut down to make way for the horse track.
1930s Diversion dam enlarged. The resulting pool was a favorite swimming hole for local youth. 1935 Cleveland Putnam and his wife Margaret enter into an agreement with Mattie Adkins for use of water to irrigate crops. Mattie was allowed to divert water from the irrigation canal between noon and 6:00 pm on Sundays.
1940s The casitas at Rancho del Lago were a popular destination. Actors Fernando Lamas and Cesar Romero visited several times. The lake was a popular local retreat for boating, swimming and fishing.
1940s-‘56 Motorola corporate retreat
1956 Harold H. Nason purchased the Vail Ranch, “Rancho del Lago”. Nason also owned the Westward Look; he planned to develop the property into a combination cattle and luxury guest ranch. Accommodations for 20 were available at that time. The ranch was comprised of 1,850 acres of patented land.
1958 Orel Burris sells La Posta Quemada Ranch to Joseph Timan, investor and developer. 1981 Horizon Corporation of Phoenix purchased Rancho del Lago for development. 1983 100 year flood severely damages development along the Pantano River and grants Vail a reprieve from development.
1989 Vail Valley Ranch development plans approved by Pima County Board of Supervisors
1992 Horizon Corporation gave 200 acres within and along the Pantano Wash to Pima County to expand the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve. In exchange it got 60 acres south of Colossal Cave Road. Rancho del Lago main house bulldozed. 19__ Vail Water Company business office in Rancho del Lago guest house until 2003. 1996 Vail Valley Joint Venture together with Bill Estes Jr. purchased the Horizon property
1998 Estes Homebuilding Company sold to Kaufman and Broad. Estes held on to a few pieces of land including Rancho del Lago. A biological survey found no threatened or endangered species. Development moved forward.
1999 Wadsworth Golf Construction Co. of the Southwest began developing an 18 hole golf course at Rancho del Lago. Nugent Golf of Chicago was the architectural design firm.
2000 Estes begins developing Rancho del Lago. Plans for the 1,600 acres of rolling hills, slopes and washes include an 18-hole public golf course, up to 5,500 homes, at least one school and businesses. Homes were priced in the low to mid $100,000s. 550 homes were planned for the first phase of development.
2006 Remaining historic Rancho del Lago guest house bulldozed by Estes Corporation.
2011 July 4th flood damages diversion dam that supplies water to Rancho del Lago Golf Course. Dam is repaired; rock is delivered and covered with a coat of cement replacing the old canopy style spillway.
2014 Flooding takes out over half of rocks from the 2011 repair/reinforcement of the Dam.
A Vail Journey Story - Oscar Monthan, from Rancho del Lago to Aeronautical Engineer
Oscar’s presence in Vail was a long story that began much earlier in England, where he was born. His mother Alma Monthan was from Sweden, and his father Jeremiah Tattersfield, from England. The family owned a woolen mill and lived on a beautiful estate called Kilpin Hill. Unable to adapt to rapid changes in technology, the mill failed, so Jeremiah and Alma decided to immigrate to Canada, which was in the British Empire and required no passports. After ranching in Calgary for two years, the unaccustomed cold drove them to make a long wagon trek south toward the warmer climate and more favorable ranching conditions in Argentina. But, in the end, they found those conditions in Arizona, so in 1902 they settled in Vail. They purchased land, homesteaded additional sections, and named their new home, first, La Cienega Ranch, then, Rancho del Lago.
After leaving Vail in 1917, Oscar began officer training at the Boston School of Technology. The following year he graduated from the school and learned to fly at Wright Field in Alabama, where he flew the famous WWI-era “Tommy” and in short time received his wings. He never flew over the battlefields of WWI due to the length of his training, but he quickly became one of the leading aeronautical engineers in the Army. In 1920 he was Chief Engineering Officer at the aviation school at Rockwell Field in San Diego, and by 1921 he was in charge of the Air Service’s engineering school at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.
Fishing was one of Oscar’s favorite pastimes. The lake at Rancho del Lago was always well stocked with fish, and sometimes his friend General Billy Mitchell came to Vail to visit. Billy Mitchell once boasted that he had caught 400 fish from the lake – but he had released them all, so he probably caught some fish twice!
In 1922, Oscar married his sweetheart Mae, an Army nurse. Within the year, they moved to Hawaii, where Oscar was stationed as the Chief Engineering Officer at Luke Field on Oahu. On March 27, 1924, his life was cut short when he was killed in the crash of a Martin B-2 bomber when it took off into unfavorable wind conditions. Oscar was co-pilot that day. On September 23, 1927, Charles Lindbergh dedicated the new Tucson municipal air field (that later became Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) to honor the service of Tucson pilots Lt. Samuel Davis and Lt. Oscar Monthan, who were killed in separate military air accidents.
Monthan is a Swedish name and pronounced “Mon-tan.” Alma was very particular about that, but with the wave of newcomers to Tucson after WWII, its pronunciation gradually changed it to “Mon-than.” Oscar Monthan’s remains returned home, like Samuel Davis, he is buried in Tucson at Evergreen Cemetery. Thank you to the Monthan Family for sharing their story. J.J. Lamb, Vail Preservation Society
Vail - A Changing Community - Writing Our Own Story.
Vail Preservation Society – Connecting Community Through Local History Since 2006
Tucson’s Loss, Vail’s Gain
R. Pinckney Tulley and Estevan Ochoa hauled 5,000 pounds of copper to Tucson from the Santa Rita Mountains in 1875. Their find sparked great interest and led to the development of mines in the area during the 1880s and 1890s. Copper became a valuable commodity in the 1880s when Thomas Edison improved the light bulb and utility companies began to string copper wire across the country. The price of copper spiked and copper mining became very profitable. The Helvetia Copper Company, located near present-day Corona de Tucson, needed to transport the ore from its mines to the Southern Pacific Railroad for shipment to Globe for smelting. In 1899, the company spent $10,000 to build a 17-mile freight road to the nearest railroad stop, Vail. Helvetia’s freight wagon road was the forerunner of our present-day Wentworth Road.
…Mr. Seager, general manager
of the Helvetia mines, …offered to bear
half the expense of building a fine road
from Tucson to Helvetia. After giving
the supervisors ample time, and no
action being taken on his proposition,
a road was built to Vail’s station by
the mine company. Tucson necessarily
losing by the loss of freighting.
Arizona Daily Star, August 31, 1899
Helvetia’s new stamp mill, needed to crush ore, was at the Vail station waiting to be transported over the new wagon road in 1898. Helvetia mining operations supported a booming community of nearly 500 miners and their families in the Santa Rita’s. Twenty seven copper claims were being worked. Twelve horse teams pulled wagons loaded with 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of ore to the station at Vail. Vail was the “Break-of-Bulk” point; where materials were shifted between different types of transport. The transfer of copper ore from the freight wagons to the railroad cars required large numbers of men, providing jobs and business opportunities. Vail grew from 25 residents in the mid-1890s to over 100 by 1900. The Tucson to Helvetia Stage Line transported passengers daily between Tucson and Helvetia in the Santa Rita Mountains. The stage stopped in Vail at Carter Crane’s and John Fraker’s Livery to change to draft horses for the final leg of the trip. Like most in Arizona Territory Crane and Fraker had multiple business ventures operating simultaneously. They were farming their homesteads, ranching, and investing in land in Tucson. Harry Man, Vail’s first postmaster, formed the Empire Valley Mining Company and served as its president, he was also the Southern Pacific Railroad Agent. Vail’s second postmaster, Otto Schley, operated a successful mercantile, bar, and multiple mining claims including a bat guano claim at Colossal Cave. Sam Hughes, an early Tucson pioneer described this way of life as having “a spoon in every soup.”
The Trotter Sisters - Delivering the 3 Rs in Vail
The Shrine that Love Built
Old Spanish Trail
Teamsters and Tenant Farmers in Vail: the Harris and Lively Families,
STEAM & STEEL RAILS
“In the Cienega a large number of China-men are engaged excavating, as they there encounter considerable elevation through which cuts have to be made, and the grade has to be raised a number of feet above the low, marshy ground…”
Arizona Weekly Star, April 15, 1880
Vail, gets its name from Walter and Edward Vail, ranchers and businessmen who negotiated easements and deeded right-of-way to the Southern Pacific. Like other railroad towns, it had train maintenance and freight structures, a section house that provided housing for S.P. employees, and even a pool hall. By 1895 passenger tickets began to be sold at Vail by potential passengers who flagged down the train. In 1900 a passenger station was constructed on the north side of the east-bound track in response to the increased need. The Helvetia Mining Company had a road built from Helvetia in the Santa Rita Mountains, and a railroad spur constructed for loading ore into box cars. A thriving freight business generated by the mines from the Helvetia District created a flurry of activity at the Vail station between 1895 and about 1912.
School is Where You Find It
An Old Leather Boot, a Teacher, Football, and a Dog = Success
Punta de Agua
From Vail Student to Principal-Micah Mortensen
Pantano Gets a New School and a Dancehall!
Lamar Cobb, Arizona’s First Highway Engineer
Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert
VAIL Preservation Society
Connecting Community Through Local History Beginning as a railroad siding in 1880 Vail has grown into a community that stretches from the beautiful Rincon Mountains, south to the Santa Rita’s. Preservation is not just bricks and mortar. Its true importance comes through its power to bring people together, building relationships and community as we work together to preserve our stories and cultural resources. Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert The Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert is one of the two sole remaining historic buildings in Vail. Located between the railroad tracks the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert along with the 1908 adobe Vail Store and Post Office alone are left to reflect the early history of Vail. The Shrine is the only Catholic Church in the United States built in memory of a Japanese citizen. Dedicated to Saint Rita, patron of impossible cases, it is a place where people come to remember, to pray, visit, rest, unite to serve others, grieve, celebrate holy days and enjoy an annual festival for the residents of Vail and surrounding area since 1935. The Shrine was financed and built during 1934-1935 by Caroline Takamine Beach in memory of her first husband, Dr. Jokichi Takamine (1854-1922), a Japanese biochemist and medical researcher. During his life Dr. Takamine isolated and patented adrenaline, significant enzyme processes, was instrumental in bringing cherry trees to Washington D.C. from Japan and founded the Nippon Club to promote Japanese American friendship. After Jokichi’s death Caroline married Charles Beach and settled near Vail. Caroline was a devout Catholic and had facilitated services in the Vail School for local parishioners who otherwise had to travel 25 miles to the parish they were assigned to, San Xavier del Bac, or wait for intermittent services held by a traveling priest. Caroline Beach wanted a place of worship for the people living in and around Vail. She was a strong, independent woman with the means to accomplish this goal. Architect Herman Einar Axel Figge, originally from Denmark, completed the original design. He “planned the mission so it would carry some of the feeling of a rural Mexican church”. Figge moved to California and was not involved at the time of actual construction. Figge’s original design was modified by D. Burr DuBois. DuBois designed lighting fixtures and interior features for the chapel as well. Construction began in October 1934 and was led by builder and contractor John D. Steffens. The beautiful stained glass windows are the focal point of the Shrine, the center piece around which the building was designed. The windows were purchased by Caroline Beach c1931. They had been salvaged from the 1st United Methodist Church built in 1906 on 6th Avenue in Tucson. The Methodist congregation had relocated and built a new church on Park Avenue in 1929. The graceful arch of the large tripartite lancet style windows is incorporated throughout the design of the Shrine. Hand dressed granite quarried from the Santa Rita Mountains to the south add locally sourced, rustic design details to the sanctuary exterior window sills and stone beading ornamentation on the bell tower where the bell commissioned by Caroline’s son, Ebon Takamine, and cast in New York hangs. The five ton granite altar inside the Shrine was also hand hewn from stone quarried in the Santa Rita Mountains. Ownership of the land that the Shrine is located on was transferred to the Tucson Diocese in 1939 by Charles and Caroline. Since its dedication attended by over 600 guests on March 31, 1935 by Bishop Gercke the Shrine has been an important part of connecting the community of Vail. Its graceful lines almost seemed out of place isolated in the rural desert landscape. Father Jonaitis who served the parish from 1943-1947 wrote that, “It was as if this beautiful Shrine and rectory just dropped out of the sky.” A bronze plaque installed near the entrance to the Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert reads: Memorial to the Takamine Family 1935. J.J. Lamb