William Cornell Greene had come to the fertile lands of Wisconsin to build a farm. Upon the death of his father Townsend Greene, the family moved back to New York State where William stayed until about 1872 when news of rich mineral strikes near Tombstone lured him to southern Arizona, where he would eventually build his mining and cattle empire. He and his family lived on a ranch in the San Pedro Valley where they raised cattle and farmed various crops.
In 1897, his daughter Ella drowned in the river on the San Pedro Ranch. Jim Burnett, a local farmer, was suspected of blowing the river dam on Greenes property in order to divert more water to his land thus leading to the drowning. Upon seeing Burnett in Tombstone, Greene shot and killed him. Greene was acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Between the years of 1884 and 1896, Greene spent his time running the ranch near Tombstone and searching for possible mining claims. Greene finally hit pay dirt when he leased four Cananea mines in 1896 including the famous Cobra Grande. He immediately organized his first corporation, the Cananea Copper Company. In 1896 he incorporated the Cananea Copper Company, the first of many mining corporations. In 1899, Greene relocated to Cananea, Sonora, Mexico incorporated the Cananea Cattle Company and the Greene Cattle Company. At the peak of his career, from 1899-1906, Greene was a man worth almost fifty million dollars. He owned a copper enterprise, a lumber business, and had accumulated almost one million acres of ranch land in both Arizona and Mexico. In 1908 Greene's mining and lumber empire collapsed. He returned to ranching and managed the Greene Cattle Company and the Cananea Cattle Company until his death on August 5, 1911 resulting from injuries sustained in a carriage accident.
The Greene Cattle Company was incorporated in 1901 encompassing his U.S. land holdings. The Cananea Cattle Company was incorporated the same year for all ranch lands in Mexico. In 1901, the holdings of the Cananea Cattle Company (700,000 acres) vastly outnumbered those of the Greene Cattle Company (100,000 acres). The Greene Cattle Company quickly grew in size. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Greene acquired the San Rafael del Valle Land Grant, the Palominas Ranch, and the San Rafael de la Zanja Land Grant. He raised many cattle on these lands and shipped them to vendors all over the U.S.
Prior to his untimely death, Greene put his ranch holdings in his wife's name. Mary, Charles Wiswall - general manager and Mary's future husband, and the Greene children would run the two cattle companies until they were dissolved. In 1958, the Cananea Cattle Company lands were expropriated by the Mexican government. The Greene Cattle Company was dissolved in 1973 with the sale of the Baca Float.
The bulk of this collection was donated to the Arizona Historical Foundation in 1974 and was restricted for access for unknown reasons until 1980. During the restricted years and the decades to follow, the collection was disassembled and reorganized. Therefore, the original order of the Greene Cattle Collection is primarily unknown. At some point, a few of the Spanish documents were transcribed as well.