University of Arizona

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Don Alonzo Sanford Papers

Photographs of Mabel Sanford, circa 1905

Don Alonzo Sanford spent his early years working in various areas such as painting, carriage making, dentistry and law enforcement (as deputy sheriff) before deciding to move to the West to make his fortune. In about 1870 he joined his brother in driving cattle. During a large cattle drive, Kiowa and Comanche warriors attacked their party and stole their livestock and horses. In 1873 he traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a claim for redress by the U.S. government of the damages suffered as part of this “Indian Depredation” and met Louisa Jane Bloxton. In 1875, Louisa Bloxton and her brother Benjamin traveled to Tucson and placed a claim on additional ranch land in the Sonoita Valley before she married Don Sanford on October 5, 1875. Sanford raised barley and beef which he sold to army outposts at Camp Crittenden and Camp Huachuca. They lived on their ranch with their family which grew to include daughters Etta, Ada (who died as an infant), Amo, Mabel, and Bertha, as well as son Don, Jr.

Don Sanford also was involved in political matters in Tucson during the 1880s, serving as Councilman, Chairman of the Printing Committee and as acting Mayor in 1884. In addition, the Sanford’s’ purchased several properties in Tucson which they rented to various businesses and residents. After years living on their ranch in Patagonia, the family decided to move back to Washington, D.C. in about 1886. Don Sanford continued to manage ranch business from both afar and through frequent visits to Arizona. He was an astute businessman who bought, remodeled and rented out many properties in the city. He kept meticulous records and accounts of his various business interests and recorded them in ledgers he termed the “Books of Knowledge”.

Don Sanford and his wife Louisa were also strong supporters of the Temperance Movement and assisted Carry Nation in her efforts to outlaw alcohol, including posting her bail for release from jail in 1909 and providing her with a residence in Washington, D.C. A man of varied interests, Don Alonzo Sanford also enjoyed travel, drawing and was fluent in Spanish. He died in Washington, D.C. on May 15, 1915 at the age of 75. The ranch land in Patagonia was sold by family members in 1925 to the Zinsmeister family and became known as the Circle Z Ranch.

Papers, 1812-1983 (bulk 1870-1915). This collection is comprised of the correspondence, documents, diaries/ledgers and photographs of Don Alonzo Sanford. The bulk of the material relates to his many years as owner of a large cattle/sheep ranch in the Sonoita Valley near Patagonia, Arizona. These materials include correspondence, legal documents, livestock records, and other materials relating to the history, development, and operation of ranch property in Southern Arizona. Correspondence with ranchers, vaqueros and other residents of Southern Arizona/Borderlands region during the 1870’s-1890’s shed light on the Territorial Arizona life. Documents detailing Sanford’s time driving cattle in 1860’s Texas, and later cattle and sheep ranching in Arizona, with his brother Denton Sanford are also present. Their claims of redress from the U.S. Government for losses suffered by the Sanford brothers when their cattle were stolen by Kiowa and Comanche warriors can be found in the “Indian Depredations” materials. The collection also includes materials concerning the San Jose de Sonoita land grant and the Baca Float, including the Sanford vs. Ainsa case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1912. Financial and property records also relate to Sanford’s extensive business interests as owner of several rental properties, both in Tucson and in Washington, D.C., where he owned several hotels, including Arizona Hotel and The Patience (Rochester Hotel). Materials relating to the politics and governance of Tucson in the 1880’s are also present. Family materials, research/genealogical materials and photographs document several generations of the Sanford family. Correspondence between Don A. Sanford’s daughter Amo Sanford McKee, her daughter Louise McKee (Summers) and her future husband, Arizona writer Richard Aldrich Summers is also present. The photographs/negatives include various images of the Stock Valley Ranch and the Aztec/ 97 Ranch, as well as early photos of Tucson, San Xavier del Bac, Tumacácori and Altar, Mexico.