June 17, 2018

Famous Harvey Houses Supplied by Del Rio Ranch

"Fred Harvey civilized the west with his '3000 Miles of Hospitality' that consisted of an extensive chain of hotels, shops, and restaurants along the Santa Fe Railway, staffed by a professional, customer service army which included the famous Harvey Girls."

To supply his hotels and restaurants with milk and cream, he had a dairy farm, the Territory's first, in Peach Springs. However, water supply was problematic at that location and in 1912, Harvey moved the entire operation to Del Rio Springs, north of Chino Valley.

Previously the land was known as the "Baker-Campbell" ranch. "The Baker-Campbell was possible (sic) one of the largest spreads in Arizona at that time. The home ranch was at Del Rio Springs and extended to the Verde where there was a second ranch house and pens."

"Jim Baker stayed on the ranch and ran the cattle and horse business of the partnership. Campbell lived in Prescott," where he secretly gambled heavily and ran up huge debts.

To pay his partner's arrears, Baker was faced with the heartbreak of having to sell-off all his prized livestock when "cattle was at (its) very lowest price." This blow broke both his spirit and his health "and he was an invalid the rest of his life."

The Del Rio Springs was then sold to the City of Prescott who later entered into a 10 year lease with the Harvey franchise.

The origins of the place names and brief early histories of the following Arizona towns along Route 89: Prescott, Chino Valley, Jerome Junction, Del Rio Springs, Paulden, Sullivan Lake, Hell's Canyon, and Ash Fork.

Once Harvey acquired the ranch at Del Rio Springs, work started immediately. "The work of placing the ground in a state of cultivation" began. The first year grain hay was raised; the second, 200 tons of alfalfa was produced.

"From a financial standpoint the coming of the Harveys to this section is a matter of great import," the newspaper said. "Aside from the fact that a force of 30-50 men will be maintained at the farm, the construction of buildings involving an expense of $40,000-$50,000 will be outlayed (sic)."

Eleven frame and concrete structures were planned with 12 eventually being built. "One of the principal buildings (was) the milking barn which was 35 by 116 feet... Feed sheds, a large corral, a mess, milk, ice and other houses (made) one of the most complete institutions in the diary line in the territory," the paper related.

Soon, "it employed from 50-75 men regularly, but sometimes many more than that." 

George Harkin, superintendent of the farm was well pleased with the operation. "Milk and cream are being shipped daily to the main line stations of the Santa Fe, and average 300 gallons everyday," Harkin said. "The volume will be increased in the future, after the herds are increased."

Two years later in 1914, the dairy produced 80,000 gallons of milk and cream to be served at the Harvey Houses.

However, the alfalfa crop suffered due to prairie dogs. The Harvey farm "is preyed upon by hundreds of thousands of prairie dogs and the loss is heavy," the paper reported. These rodents were exterminated "by mixing carbide with water and pouring the mixture into the openings. The soil absorbs the water, leaving the compound in a vaporized state." Apply a lighted torch and the resulting explosion kills everything in those holes.

How prairie dogs were made extinct throughout Yavapai County in the first third of the 20th century and the consequences.

Dairy products weren't the only things the ranch supplied. "The operation (also) supplied the west coast and east to Albuquerque with chickens, eggs, turkeys, and all meat and dairy products. There was something like 2000 laying hens and 5000 turkeys raised a year. They had around 550 acres under cultivation."

After the water at Del Rio Springs was sent for testing to Washington and was pronounced "the purest of any in the nation," Harvey management decided "to give the Del Rio dairy the widest range...of publicity. To this end every vessel, whether metallic, earthen or glass, will have a lithographic reproduction of the Del Rio Harvey Farm," the paper reported, "and in addition...the table serving...will likewise portray the place in a natural scene." If any of these described items survived, they belong in the Sharlot Hall Museum!

Eventually however, due to the rising cost of transportation, it was found that the Harvey franchise "could buy (the) milk and egg products they needed from sources closer to the various restaurants cheaper than they could raise it and ship it from the ranch."

In 1929 the dairy was closed and silage was grown for Harvey's stock animals. 700-800 tons of hay a year was produced by the ranch with half of it going to the (Grand) Canyon to feed the dude and working stock there." The silage production continued until 1956 when Harvey closed his Houses--at least in the west.

"Del Rio was also the location of the cattle shipping pens for many years. These pens were located a mile north of Del Rio... It wasn't uncommon to see herds of several thousand head of cattle being driven to the stock pens, when fall shipping began."

"Today there are many small farms or dwellings where once huge herds of cattle roamed while waiting to be shipped."


At this date, 39 towns and places are described.


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"Ranch Wife Still Calls the Ranch Home" Prescott Courier, date unknown. Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, Vertical File: Del Rio Springs.
"Baker-Campbell Ranch" by Mrs. Charles H Bowers. Sharlot Hall Museum Archives Vertical File: Del Rio Springs.
"Paulden Pioneers" by Ruth Gilpin. (c) 12/31/1999. Self-published; Pp. 61-62.

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