Saturday, 29 May 2004
Pix Of The Day: 19th Century Frontier Luxuries
CREDIT: © Ian Scott-Parker/CAMwrangler.com
WHERE: Pipe Spring, Arizona, USA. WHAT: living standards in the Old West.
MAP: Kaibab (PDF format). Thumbnail clicks  pop-up larger images.
Recently we did two  features about Pipe Spring, the frontier post for the LDS (Mormon) expansion into what is now known as the Arizona Strip. During the time it was being developed it was thought by the LDS president, Brigham Young, that the area north of the Grand Canyon was part of Utah. Surveys by John Wesley Powell, which established the ground position of the geographic parallel, disabused BY of that belief, reportedly much to Young's annoyance after LDS settlers had struggled so hard to establish cattle ranching in the area as part of church's expansionist goals.
The interior of the Pipe Spring stronghold, named Winsor Castle after its builder, was the height of frontier comfort in its day. In a hierarchy of needs, water falls second only to air, so the main building sits firmly over the spring supply, which lies directly under the parlour seen second from the left. The water then runs into the dairy across the courtyard, in the first left picture, which has a cheese making room next door.
Next to the parlour is the kitchen/dining room, where the stove in the center picture was the center of operations: it is said that many of the cowboys passing through preferred to eat outside, rather than comply with the standards of etiquette required by the strict Victorian ladies who ruled inside! Upstairs, the sleeping accommodations, in the upper storeys of both building wings that form the central courtyard, have that essential frontier feature of loop holes for shooting at enemies when under siege.
Winsor Castle at Pipe Spring offered water, food, safety, shade and shelter: all this was free to the LDS settlers passing through, presumably as an encouragement to travel to such an otherwise hostile region. It was, however, a ranch built upon a sandy place: although the foundations of the buildings are on rock, the Sevier fault that created the spring has in recent times also shut off the water supply.
Water is now piped in from another spring nearby, but even had all the springs in the area been tapped they would have been insufficient to water the grasslands that were intended to support the cattle ranching operations necessary for Pipe Spring to thrive.
Eventually the LDS church decided to sell out: Powell's survey may have been a factor, but if anyone had listened to Powell (then or now) while he was wearing his water engineer's hat, they would know that the place was doomed. Over grazing reduced the grasslands to desert scrub, and it is thought they may never recover.
It is to the credit of several owners, who followed in the LDS footsteps because they were determined to show that ranching was possible, that even though the place could not be made an economic success they installed caretakers, so that in modern times we may still enjoy this little piece of frontier history.
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)