Slaughter Ranch Museum
A National Historic Landmark, the old adobe ranch house has been restored along with several outbuildings. Visitors can tour the icehouse, wash house, granary, commissary, and a car shed to understand about life in southern Arizona at the turn of the 20th century.
Backstory and Context
In May 1822 Lieutenant Ignacio Perez purchased the of San Bernardino Land Grant from the Mexican government. The 73,000-acre ranch covered the southeast corner of modern Arizona and extended far down into Sonora, Mexico. After about ten years Perez and other Mexican ranchers in northern Sonora found themselves unable to defend these remote holdings against attacks by hostile Apaches. In 1854 the northern third of the grant became part of the U.S. New Mexico Territory. However, apart from occasional military encampments, little was done with the land, since it still lay on one of the major Indian raiding trails into Mexico.
By the 1880s the Indian wars were almost over, and American settlement of the area began. John H. Slaughter of Texas acquired some 65,000 acres of the old San Bernardino land grant from an heir of the original owner. The San Bernardino ranch was managed by John Slaughter's father-in-law in the early years, while Slaughter served two terms as Sheriff of Cochise County.
Refusing to seek a third term, Slaughter moved out to the ranch with his family and spent the last three decades of his life there. As time went on, the adobe house was expanded and other buildings were added, including a big barn, a commissary, bunkhouses and an icehouse. Three hundred pounds of ice at a time were brought out from the new ice plant in Douglas, enabling John's wife, Viola, to treat everyone to homemade ice cream.
Unlike many ranches in Arizona, the San Bernardino had a natural supply of water from Yaqui river drainage and artesian wells. These springs saved the Slaughter ranch during the severe droughts of 1892 and 1893 when many cattlemen went under. Today, the ponds provide a pleasant spot for visitors to the ranch, which is now a museum.
After Slaughter's death in 1922, the ranch was leased and later sold. Finally it was deeded to the Floyd Johnson Foundation, which has restored the ranch as the Slaughter Ranch Museum.