B Rocking J Books publishes historical non-fiction by Betty Barr that chronicles life in the rolling grasslands and majestic mountain ranges of Southern Arizona, from Territorial days to the early part of the last century.

A John Slaughter Kid, the Story of May Watkins Burns is Betty Barr's newest book. The story of May Watkins is woven against the rich backdrop of John Slaughter's San Bernardino Ranch east of Douglas, Arizona in the history-making days of the early twentieth century. Much has been written about “Texas John Slaughter,” cattle rancher, Civil War veteran, Arizona Territorial legislator and legendary sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona. Less well-known is the fact that Slaughter and his wife, Viola, fostered many children, known as “John Slaughter Kids.” May, a favorite of Slaughter, witnessed Pancho Villa waging a revolution just across the Mexican border, met members of the Lost Kickapoo tribe as they headquartered at the ranch on horse-trading trips, saw Arizona admitted as the 48th state of the union and along the way met many unforgettable characters such as former slave, “Old Bat,” Joe Lee May, the Chinese cook, Pancho Anderson, the chauffeur, and many others.

Slaughter sent her to Tempe Normal School where she earned her teaching certificate and secured a position at a junior high school in Tucson. There she met and married Tucson florist Hal Burns and together they raised a family of three children. Her devotion to the Slaughters was evidenced in the unique way her family life mimicked theirs, from their formal manners and their love of children to their welcoming hospitality. May passed away in 1992 at the age of 91, leaving an enduring legacy of the Arizona pioneering spirit to her children and grandchildren.

The three Watkins girls (left) Gladys, May and Ruth, in a photograph taken in Auburn, Nebraska, just prior to their departure for Arizona where they were reunited with their father, William, a foreman at John Slaughter's San Bernardino Ranch. Early 1901. (Courtesy of the Burns family.)


Cora Viola and John Horton Slaughter in front of the main ranch house in 1895. Slaughter was a widower with two small children when he married Viola. They were never able to have children of their own, but raised his two, plus informally fostered at least ten others. May Watkins was a favorite from the moment Slaughter first laid eyes on her and she was devoted to both of them throughout their lifetimes. (Courtesy of the Johnson Museum of the Southwest.)

 


Arcadia Publishing has added "Around Sonoita", by Betty Barr, to its Images of America Series, celebrating the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today.

Located at the foot of the majestic Santa Rita Mountains in southeastern Arizona, Sonoita is known for its rolling grasslands, grazing cattle, and working cowboys in well-worn jeans. Ranching blossomed in the early 1880s when the Southern Pacific Railroad linked Benson to Nogales, allowing local cattlemen to ship their livestock to market by train. It would be another 30 years before the first Sonoita Post Office was established, with postmistress Clara Hummel dispensing the mail from her home. The area would remain unincorporated - the closest pioneer neighbors were miles away over dirt roads – but the citizenry grew in friendship and cooperation, developing a community spirit that still exists today. Locals and visitors alike enjoy Sonoita's neighboring communities of Patagonia, where a historic train depot evokes memories of the town's role as a distribution center for area mines and ranches; and Elgin, where old time cattle ranches now share fence lines with the lush vineyards of Winery Row.

In this volume, Betty Barr, a Sonoita resident and author of Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County, illustrates the stories of these hardy pioneers with over 180 historic photographs gathered from the Bowman Archives Center, the Empire Ranch Foundation, and personal family albums.

Brothers Charlie (left) and Jim Fraizer stand in front of their dugout shack in Elgin around 1910 with an unidentified child. The roof was constructed of sagging green oak poles topped by a layer of bear grass. A door and window completed the amenities. To keep out the rain, Jim hung a large dishwater tub over his bed. (Ilene Fraizer and Marka Moss.)
From Around Sonoita


Jane Holbrook (left) and actor Robert Wagner pose for a publicity photograph to help sell tickets to the Santa Cruz County Square Dance Festival on Saturday, March 13, 1951. The event, held in the gymnasium at Patagonia High School, was sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Cowbelles to benefit the Patagonia Community Building Fund. Cecil Holley was the square dance caller. Refreshments could be purchased at .75 cents per person. Robert Wagner was in the Sonoita area to play in Broken Lance, starring Spencer Tracy and Richard Widmark. Because of his young age, his mother traveled with him as a chaperone. (Patty Holbrook Oliver.)
From Around Sonoita


"More Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County". The sequel to the highly acclaimed "Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County" includes more stories about homesteaders and early settlers and encompasses the farthest reaches of the county, from Nogales to the west, the San Rafael Valley to the south and Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin to the east.

Socorro Jurahui's father, Hilario Morales (left) and his uncle, Severo Miranda, in 1915. Hilario was an orphan and came to live with the Mirandas at the Babacomari Ranch in Elgin . They raised him and treated him like their own son.
Photo courtesy Socorro Jurahui
From More Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County


Angleo Caviglia (center) sent this postcard to his sweetheart, Luz Encinas, dated September 22, 1914. They were married the following year and lived in Arivaca where they operated a bar, restaurant, grocery store, race track and rodeo arena.
Postcard courtesy Arthur Caviglia.

From More Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County


Betty’s first book, “Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County,” includes stories of homesteaders and early settlers as remembered by their families and friends, and revealed in their personal diaries and treasured photos. The author sat across many kitchen tables listening to stories passed down by word of mouth from parents to children and grandchildren, sharing smiles, a few real belly laughs and an occasional tear, as descendants of these hardy settlers recounted the joys and hardships faced by those whose courage and spirit played an integral role in the formation of the county.

Ruins of the Gattrell house, ghost town of Sunnyside.
From Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County


Ten-year-old Stone Collie in bow tie and bare feet.
From Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County


Arizona in the '50s by Captain James H. Tevis,” edited by Betty Barr and William J. Kelly (Tevis’ great-grandson). Originally published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1954 the book is long out of print. The revised edition contains updated information as well as never-before-seen photographs and maps. Tevis arrived in the Territory in 1857 as a fearless young adventurer. He traveled with Kit Carson’s brother, Mose, fought the Indians with the soldiers from Ft. Buchanan and survived capture and torture by the mighty warrior, Cochise. His travels took him across Southern Arizona from the missions at Tubac to the Butterfield Stage Stop in Apache Pass and on to Piños Altos in New Mexico Territory. The book covers the years 1857 – 1860, when Tevis left Arizona to join the Confederate Army during the Civil War.


Merejildo Grijalva, Mexican boy captured by Cochise who later became an Army scout.
From Arizona in the ‘50s.


On the drawing board – a sequel to “ Arizona in the '50s by Captain James H. Tevis.” William J. Kelly, Tevis’ great grandson plans to utilize Tevis’ journals of his life upon his return to Arizona after the Civil War to author a new look at the last days of the 19th century in Arizona. Along with co-author, Betty Barr, Kelly is planning to publish a book based on these journals which will provide a firsthand look at Arizona as it struggled to lose its reputation as a wild and wooly outpost and gain statehood. Tevis continued to fight the Apaches, formed a mining district, represented the Territory as Commissioner of the Mineral Display at the Louisiana Exposition in New Orleans and served as a member of the Fifteenth Territorial Legislature.