by Jack Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart
In 1920 when Jim Herron was one month old, his family moved to their homestead land on Queen Creek about four miles east of Superior, Arizona. This was a good location with flat land for dry farming oats and barley and plenty of room for the horse pastures. It had a good well and there was seasonal water in Queen Creek. Today, looking at the ranch windmill silhouetted against Picket Post Mountain, one can imagine that this homestead was selected in part for the spectacular view. The adobe ranch house that Jim’s father built in 1920 still serves as the Herron Ranch headquarters. Jim lived there until his death in 2004.
Jim was born James Clarence Herron in Ajo, Arizona on September 11, 1920. He went to grade school at the Hewitt Station school along Queen Creek. Hewitt Station was a train stop for the Magma Copper Company railroad. Jim later attended Superior High School, but left school to work as a cowboy for several different outfits including Miles Ranch, TU Ranch, and the Zalleywager outfit. He was the cattle inspector in the Superior area for 27 years after returning from England at the end of World War II.
When Jim was growing up on the Herron Ranch in the 1920s, his father held a grazing permit for 30 head of cattle and branded the H open A. In earlier times, cattle herds in the area could become quite large. For example, Jim had a 1914 bill of sale by Sanders and Steward that estimated their herd (branded the TU, YI and Y Bar) at 2000 to 2500 head. In those days there were no fences, so their cattle grazed on the open range along with the neighbors’ cattle. After the Forest Service was established in 1905, the government began to limit the number of cattle and outline specific grazing allotments. However, Jim said it took until 1932 to complete construction of the fences to define his Superior allotment.
In 1953, Jim Herron took over the management of the TU Ranch for owner Ann Taylor. He ran 220 head of Taylor’s cattle using the TU brand and some more cattle using his own H open A brand. When Ann Taylor died in 1986, Jim inherited a share of the 35 acre TU Ranch and also a living trust interest in the 78 acre Tony Ranch in Haunted Canyon. He said there are just too many mountain lions and bears in the Tony Ranch area to make it worthwhile to run cattle there now.
In 1991, Jim bought out Milford Taylor’s share of the TU Ranch and now the Herron family owns the entire TU Ranch. Portions of the 160 acre Herron homestead that was patented in 1926 have been sold over the years to the Arizona Highway Department, to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and to private individuals, leaving the land on the north side of Queen Creek for the ranch headquarters, horse pasture, barn, and corrals. Today the Herron Ranch consists of the original Herron Homestead on Queen Creek, the TU Ranch on Arnett Creek and 100 sections on Tonto National Forest land with a grazing permit for 315 head of cattle and horses.
The Herrons had their Superior grazing allotment divided into three pastures—North Pasture, 88 Pasture, and TU Pasture—where the cattle are rotated at 6-month intervals. The Herron grazing allotment borders Billy Martin’s
received her RN diploma. That was during the war years and they were called Cadet Nurses. The nurses had military style dress uniforms and some of the other women entered the service near the end of World War II. She worked 15 years at the Magma Copper Company hospital in Superior between 1950 and 1982.
Jim Herron died on July 6, 2004 and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Superior where you have another fine view of Picket Post Mountain. Today, their oldest child, James “Frank” Frank Herron, manages the Herron Ranch. Frank does all the work at the ranch with occasional help from a hired hand. Before the drought beginning about 1999, roundups were held in May and October with the help of family members and friends who rode their own horses to herd the cattle into the corrals for branding. Yearlings were shipped in the spring for auction at the Burch Feed Yard in Globe and after the spring and fall roundups, selected cows and bulls were shipped to the Marana Stockyards for auction.
Jim and Phyllis’ second child, Phyllis Lee Herron, is a nurse and is married to Joel Giarrizzo. Their youngest child, Jane Ann Herron, married rancher Hugh Nichols. The Nichols run cattle with the old Herron brand (H open A) on the range south of Florence Junction, Arizona.
Many of us have only experienced the life of a rancher through westerns at the cinema, but the Herrons continue the tradition of ranching every day. It is an enjoyable and satisfying way of life.
This article is based on several interviews with the Herron family by Greg Davis, Jack San Felice and the authors. The book, Fifty Years on the Owl Hoot Trail, by Harry Chrisman, gives the early history of the Herron family in Oklahoma and Arizona. Many people helped with this article including Jay Bateman, John Shaw, Gary Holder, Connie Teague, the staff at Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, and the staff at BLM in Phoenix.
Superstition Wilderness Trails
Millsite allotment on the west, the JI Ranch Devils Canyon allotment on the east and the Superstition Wilderness to the north.
The Herrons started out using Hereford bulls, but due to problems with pink eye and cancer eye they switched to Angus bulls and then went with Braford bulls. They switched to Limousin bulls because of the superior conformation of their offspring (deep chest and beefy hindquarters).
The original Herron brand was the H open A. When Jim bought out the Taylors he decided to use their TU brand and gave the H open A brand to his youngest daughter and son-in-law. Josephine Taylor bought the TU brand from cattleman Myron Sanders in 1915 who first recorded the brand in 1898. Jim said the letters of the TU brand do not have any particular meaning.
Jim and Frances “Phyllis” Richardson were married in 1950. They met through family activities when both of their fathers were county sheriffs in the 1940s. All 14 of the sheriffs in the State of Arizona knew each other and worked together. Jim roped with Phyllis’ father at some of the sheriff’s events. Jim’s father, James Herron, Jr., served as Sheriff of Pinal County from 1939 through 1946, and Phyllis’ father, William H. Richardson, was Sheriff of Gila County from 1941 to 1949.
It wasn’t until almost a year after they wed that Jim and Phyllis set out on a horseback ride into the Superstition Mountains for a delayed honeymoon trip and a welcome break from a busy schedule of ranch work. They loaded the packhorse at the Herron Ranch headquarters on Queen Creek, mounted their horses and rode north across the divide into Haunted Canyon.
They spent the first night at Tony Ranch in Haunted Canyon, camping out under the stars and cooking over an open campfire near the old cabin. The next day they met some Forest Ranger friends working in Bull Basin and camped with them for the evening. They continued over to Kennedy Ranch where the Miles Ranch Trailhead is now located and visited for a few days with rancher Jack Kennedy and his wife, Frances. The trip home was a long day in the saddle. They rode southwest from Kennedy Ranch, up Rock Creek, across the divide and down into Whitford Canyon and over to Superior.
Phyllis was born on October 10, 1926 in Globe, Arizona and grew up there. She is a retired registered nurse. In 1944 she began her training at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix and