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Longer Stories- last update 6-21-2020

Longer Stories

Homestead Entry Survey (HES 435) for William Toney's homestead. June 7, 1920 survey.

Homestead Entry survey (HES 435) for William Toney's homestead. The survey was completed on June 7, 1920. Map courtesy of BLM, Phoenix Office.

Tony Ranch Cabin in Haunted Canyon.

Toney Ranch Cabin in Haunted Canyon.

Toney Ranch

by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart

Toney Ranch was established in August 1913 when William Toney built his cabin in Haunted Canyon on federal land. Toney applied for his homestead two years after he built the cabin, and in 1922 he received the patent for the 78.05 acres, which is the same property and acreage that the Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT) acquired in 2008. In the 1940s, the map makers misspelled Toney as Tony and the ranch was incorrectly known as Tony Ranch for many years. In the fall of 2018, we are changing the spelling to Toney Ranch.

The 1899 Gila and Salt River Baseline survey skirted the southern edge of the homestead on the Crook National Forest, but no structures were noted along Haunted Canyon at that early date. However, documents in the Toney homestead file at the National Archives indicate that before Toney built his cabin, he torn down the existing structures—a cabin, a thatch hut, and a corral. Another homesteader named T. M. Cox of Miami applied for the Haunted Canyon homestead in February 1913, and the January 1914 survey for 74.84 acres was performed in his name, so he may have built those early structures. Cox’s name is absent from the homestead documents after Toney settled, which may indicate that he turned the Haunted Canyon property over to Toney, or he may have lost interest in the homestead before Toney arrived.

Initially, Toney built a 12-foot-by-30-foot two-room log cabin with corrugated roof. Forest Ranger Henry Taylor estimated the value of the 1913 cabin where the Toney family lived at $71. On his June 1919 inspection, Taylor wrote, “…no one at home but the children, I found the land under cultivation, farming implements consisted of a plow and a broken disc. The log cabin was furnished with a cook stove, two bunks, a board table, two chairs and a few cooking utensils and dishes.” By 1921, the cabin was enlarged to 12-feet-by-34-feet with three rooms, which may be the present-day cabin.

The Toney Ranch property is a long sliver-shaped area straddling Haunted Canyon Creek in Township 1N, Range 13E, Section 32. The 1919 homestead survey of 78.05 acres described the area with sycamore, cypress, and oak trees. The creek was normally dry on the southern half of the homestead, which made cultivation by irrigation only possible on the northern end toward Hill Spring (now named Toney Ranch Spring). The land is much the same today as it was then, except that the creek is dry for most of the year. Toney ran 1,600 feet of one-inch iron pipe to a spring for domestic use. From the cabin, it is only 1,000 feet to Toney Ranch Spring and about 2,600 feet to Kennedy Spring, so it will take some investigating to identify the spring where he obtained his water.

Since the homestead straddled Haunted Canyon Creek, a metes and bound survey was made, which was marked with small stone-monuments at the four corners of the property. The survey monuments are often difficult to find, so nearby trees are inscribed with the corner identification, and the location of the tree is recorded in the surveyor’s notes. We have found two corner markers for Toney’s homestead, but the other two are still elusive.

Rae Clark was Toney’s nearest neighbor to the north at the present-day Miles Trailhead. Rae Clark was the chainman on the survey for the Haunted Canyon homestead, and both Clark and Toney were the chainmen for Clark’s homestead. We found five of the six survey corners on the Clark homestead.

posted the documents on his door. The officials accepted his explanation.

Toney preferred to frequent Globe for some reason, which could have been the convenience of the County and Federal Courts, and possibly the better trails, although it was a shorter distance to Superior. Toney would have been able to connect with the trails and road to Globe that were routinely traveled by going through the Jose Periz homestead on Pinto Creek at the mouth of Haunted Canyon.

In 1921, Toney presented the final proof for his homestead before U.S. Commissioner J. F. Hechtman in Globe. He had to appear in person and bring at least two witnesses. His witnesses, Rae Clark and John C. Gibson, provided written affidavits stating they knew Toney, and that all of his testimony about the land, cultivation, and residency was correct. Rae Clark was the homesteader for the land we now know as Miles Trailhead. Gibson stated that he knew Toney for ten years, so he must have known Toney at the Skeleton Canyon Ranch near Apache, Arizona or at the Toney family ranch near Cliff, New Mexico. Two other witnesses, Nathan J. Mistler and Thomas Gray, made affidavits earlier in the process, but they did not appear for the final proof. The U.S. government issued the Haunted Canyon homestead patent to Toney on May 4, 1922.

In 1924, Toney sold the “Toney Home Ranch” in Haunted Canyon and cattle to George Taylor who used the ranch to run some of his own cattle. After Taylor died in 1949, his wife Ann hired Jim Herron to manage the Toney Ranch and another ranch property. When she died in 1989, Jim Herron inherited a life estate in Toney Ranch with John Daer, Ben Taylor, and Milford Taylor. In August 2008, the Carlota Mine provided funding under the Army Corps of Engineers 404 mitigation program for The Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT) to purchase the Toney homestead property and cabin from the Ann Curtis Taylor Trust.

Check with SALT about their visitation policy if you plan to visit Toney Ranch.


National Archives, Washington, DC, William Toney homestead, RG49, serial patent 861707.

BLM Phoenix Office, HES 435 Survey.

Suggestions to Homesteaders and Persons Desiring to Make Homestead Entries, 1922, Government Printing Office, Washington.

Superstition Wilderness Trails

The chainmen held the ends of a linked chain and measured distances for the surveyor. The chain was sixty-six feet long, and it was made of one hundred wire-links.

Toney was considered a cattle rancher, and taking on the homestead project was a different business for him. He had the future in mind, and thought that if he could satisfy the cultivation, residency, and farming requirements of the homestead, it would make a fine headquarters for a stock ranch on the Crook National Forest, which later became part of the Tonto National Forest.

In addition to building a habitable house, and establishing residence on the land, the homestead law required Toney to cultivate part of the land. In 1915, he planted five acres in wheat and laid out six hundred apple trees. The trees were valued at $126. In later years, he planted beans, corn, potatoes, sorghum, alfalfa, and garden truck. Complying with the cultivation requirements was difficult for Toney, and in the first years he only had fair crop yields. By 1919, only one hundred forty-six apple trees were still alive, but some were bearing fruit. The spring 1920 planting of six and one-half acres of sorghum did not sprout, and the fall planting of six and one-half acres of wheat was only used as pasture for the stock. The crops under irrigation were one acre of alfalfa, which was used for pasture and two and one-half acres of beans, which only produced six sacks of beans.

The drought years of 1918 through 1920 prompted Toney to file for a “Reduction in Cultivated Area.” In his request, he noted the rocky soil, the drought, and the difficulty in irrigating since “the upper end of this sand wash is dry, and the water does not raise (in the creek) until about half way down this tract.” The Forest Ranger was sympathetic and reported that Toney was trying in good faith to meet the cultivation requirements, but the acting Forester recommended denial because it was generally acknowledged that Toney was only interested in the grazing allotment. Eventually Toney’s request was granted and the Forest Service did not appeal the Land Department’s decision.

The homestead law did not require the settler to raise livestock, but most homesteaders complimented their farms with a variety of animals. In 1914, Toney had 120 chickens, twenty-five turkeys, and four horses in Haunted Canyon. He also had an uncounted number of cattle on the nearby range. Forest Ranger Henry Taylor observed the lack of livestock at the homestead when he wrote in his 1919 report, “There were no chickens, turkeys, or milk cows. I saw a sow, several pigs, and one duck.” In an affidavit on the 1920 drought conditions, Toney listed his livestock as “three to six head of horses, three to seven head of milk calves, and from fifteen to twenty head of hogs.” In the 1921 final proof document, Toney mentioned that he had 234 head of cattle on the range, which he ran under the Lazy W Bar T brand.

The homestead application process required the homesteader to “establish settlement” by living on the land with his family for three years. Husbands, wives, and children were expected to live on the homestead full-time until the final proof was made. Requests for absence of up to five months each year were accepted with written permission from the Land Department. The families often used this time away from the homestead for public education. Toney’s wife Ella Mary and the eight children spent the school year in Phoenix during 1915, 1916, and 1917. Toney remained on the homestead and made frequent trips to check his mail in both Superior and Globe.

Some delays in official paperwork occurred due to Toney having mailing addresses in both Superior and Globe. In the spring of 1921, he was having his mail forwarded to Globe, and that caused a delay in receiving the survey and final proof, which he was required to post on his cabin door during the time the homestead entry was published in the newspapers. He sent notarized letters to the Land Office explaining the situation and stated that he had now