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Published: March 14th 2013
A POOR SWIMMER
From Continental Road in Green Valley take I-19 southward a few miles to the Canoa Ranch exit. Go through the traffic puzzle and underneath the freeway. Turn south onto the frontage road and go 0.7 miles to a locked gate on the east side of the frontage road. Find a place to park. It is county property that you may need a permit to enter. The spring site is about a quarter mile to the east. There was a plan afoot near the turn of the 20th century to divert water from the spring 30 miles through a canal to Tucson. The plan failed but the headgate for that canal remains. Remnants of the stock tank where the spring was located are a short distance to the north of the access road. Ground disruption has removed any evidence of where the inn once stood.
A POOR SWIMMER
When the Gadsden Purchase was negotiated between the United States and Mexico it opened up new territory for settlement, but the Mexican’s conveniently forgot to mention anything about the Apache menace. The danger posed by hostile Apaches was also played down by men like Sylvester Mowry and Charles Posten who were loudly hawking our salubrious climate and mineral wealth hoping to speed up the process of settlement. Posten and his associates went so far as to start up a newspaper in Tubac that first went to press on March 3, 1859 as the Weekly Arizonian. It would have gladdened their hearts immensely later that year when a passel of greenhorns from Massachusetts turned up in the Santa Cruz Valley looking for land and opportunity. In order to capitalize on their fresh start most of them went to work knocking down trees and sawing them into boards at the Big Rock Saw Mill in Madera Canyon. Edward Tarbox was among them but he did not have that sort of ambition. He felt himself to be much better suited to more leisurely pursuits that did not raise as many painful blisters. His plan was to run the new hotel being planned at the crossing on Canoa Ranch. The Canoa Ranch was situated on a Mexican land grant along the Santa Cruz River in an area where the surface flow sunk below ground level. Consequently the water table was quite shallow with water being supplied from a reliable spring. Most of the year a person could cross the river there without even getting muddy boots. The term “Canoa” refers to a hollowed out cottonwood log used as a water container. It looked like a canoe when put onto service. The canoa was filled by bucket from the spring. In the Sonoran lexicon a canoa is a horse trough. The Weekly Arizonian of September 15, 1859 carried the following ad:
Notice. The subscriber having opened a hotel at the Canoa, calls attention of his travelling public to his new house ‘The Cross Road Tavern’. Every attention will be paid to the comfort of travelers, who will find a good table and the best liquors the market affords. Having made arrangements to supply lumber in any quantity either at my ranch or delivered, I will sell lumber at my place at $100 per thousand or $125 per thousand delivered to Tucson or other points accordingly. Richard M. Does, Canoa Ranch.
The Weekly Arizonian did not remain very long in Tubac. It was sold to Sylvester Mowry and moved to Tucson shortly after a contentious dispute resulted in a duel fought between Mowry and the newspaper editor Edward Cross. The following item appeared in the Tucson paper on Feb 1, 1861:
The Canoa Hotel has been recently fitted up, and is now under the superintendence of Mr. Edwin Tarbox, a young gentleman well qualified for the position, who will take pleasure in making his guests comfortable. The travelling public, whether by stage or otherwise, will find the Canoa Hotel a superior and a convenient stopping place. Wm. S. Grant, Proprietor, Tucson, N.M., Feb. 1, 1861.
A week later the Bascom Affair commenced in Apache Pass and as a result Cochise took the warpath. The Cochise War got underway with attacks along the old Butterfield Trail in Doubtful Canyon. By June all commerce into Arizona from the east had stopped. Cochise then swept westward taking mules in attacks on stagecoach stations at Dragoon, San Pedro Crossing, and Cienega. They then headed for Mexico down the Santa Cruz Valley pillaging as they went. William Rhodes operated a ranch a few miles north of the Inn at Canoa Crossing. He stopped by with a vaquero searching for a few horses that had strayed from his ranch. He did not find them at the spring and continued searching further to the south along the river. During the time it took to collect the horses and return with them to the inn the Apaches had struck, killing Edwin Tarbox, two employees, and a man named Jones who was passing through. It became known as the Tarbox Massacre and it was the beginning of the Cochise War in the Santa Cruz Valley. Rhodes and the vaquero fled back southward toward Reventon with the Apaches in hot pursuit. The vaquero made it safely and then continued on to Tubac to spread the alarm. Rhodes’ horse gave out a mile short of Reventon and he took an arrow in his left elbow before finding cover in a dense thicket. He fought off repeated assaults killing and wounding a few of his attackers. As darkness fell the Apaches hurled a few final invectives in his direction and rode off with his horses. He made it to Reventon the next morning. Continued depredations forced Rhodes to abandon his ranch on the Santa Cruz River and move to Yuma. In 1870 he drowned trying to cross the Colorado River. He was a better rancher than he was a swimmer. The photo shows a stock tank that was later built around the spring at Canoa Crossing. The spring eventually dried up due to overuse of the water by nearby mining operations.
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