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The Cartwright Story


It was the year of the Golden Spike, 1869, and the Cartwright chapter in American history was just beginning.

Reddick Jasper Cartwright, a Union Army veteran, decided to head west with his wife 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, Sarah and their children. When a severe winter storm froze their cattle to the ground in 1874, they packed up once again and headed south. 

 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 (Mantford) 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.

Red Cartwright and his sons were also 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.


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