In my last post, I reported on how researching the history of a local wildlife area for a story in Arizona Wildlife Views magazine led to an accidental encounter with legendary wanderer Everett Ruess.
The question that began to obsess me was, “Did Ruess once stay at what is now Lamar Haines Wildlife Area?”
At my excellent local library, I checked out “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. It describes Ruess’s 1931 meeting with the wildlife area’s former owner, Randolph “Pat” Jenks, and the weeks Ruess spent at Jenks’s “Deerwater Ranch.” Was this the same place as our Lamar Haines Wildlife Area?
I was confused by rumors of two properties nicknamed “Deerwater.” I couldn’t tell if there really were two. If so, were both owned by Jenks? That would mean Ruess could have stayed at Jenks’s other “Deerwater,” wherever that might be — not at what is now the Game and Fish Department’s wildlife area.
Roberts described how Ruess “chipped in with the chores of cutting down aspen trees and building fences. He also hiked up some of the peaks that towered to the east.” The detail about the aspens, and the description of Ruess hiking those peaks, encouraged me to believe this Deerwater might be our area. Lamar Haines is around 8,500 feet. It’s a lot easier to hike to the peaks starting from there than starting from somewhere out west of town at a much lower elevation, where the second Deerwater was rumored to be. But I needed more evidence.
My next step was to follow up on the fact that Jenks was an ornithologist. Maybe I could find records of birds collected at a place called “Deerwater.” Sure enough, I found two official descriptions of study skins collected at a place by that name. The two records described Deerwater as either 7 miles NNW of Flagstaff at 8,500 feet, or 10 miles NW. I didn’t know what to make of the different distances. Did this mean there were two Deerwaters, or was poor record-keeping to blame?
On my next visit to Flagstaff Public Library, I asked to see a map called “San Francisco Peaks Horse Trails and Homesteads.” The map was hand-drawn in 2006 from original township surveys and Forest Service maps dating from the 1860s through 1912, and other records.
Right there on a drawing of the San Francisco Peaks, in the approximate location where our wildlife area sits today, I saw the inscription “Deer Water Ranch.” It’s next to dots for “Veit Spring” and “Jenks Cabin.” Veit was the earliest recorded owner of the wildlife area, and Jenks is, of course, Pat Jenks, the person who sold the area to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in 1948.
That is a very exciting clue, but I want to be a careful researcher. Much of the history of this wildlife area has been inaccurately recorded. I don’t want to make the next mistake in the historical record. So, though the map is interesting, I still need something more, if I’m going to prove Ruess visited what is now Lamar Haines Wildlife Area.