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HERITAGE GUIDE * Steam Pump Ranch: The Pusch Era (1874 – 1933)

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In 1865, two young immigrants arrived in New York where they later met and developed a partnership that lasted for many years. The first, George Pusch, had sailed from Bremmen, Germany and the second, John Zellweger, arrived from Switzerland. Both were 18 years old and on their own. They worked in butcher shops in New York and held various jobs across the country including Saint Louis and San Francisco before establishing a cattle ranch along the Canada del Oro north of Tucson.

George Pusch’s grandson, Henry Zipf, knows many of the family stories passed down from his mother. He writes: “Both George and John were bright, hard working, industrious people. They had learned the trades of farming and butchering in their native land and used those trade skills to provide incomes for themselves shortly after their arrival in the United States.”

He adds: “At the age of 27, George Pusch thought the time had come for him to be a “Py Gott, big cattleman!” So, he bought a wagon and a span of 14 mules and headed from San Francisco to Prescott in the Arizona region. Then it was on to Phoenix and finally to Tucson.” Pusch recruited his friend Zellweger to come with him, and together they bought ranch land and cattle and established the “PZ” brand.

Pump house and blacksmith shop in 1928.

George Pusch hand dug a well at the ranch and purchased a steam driven pump to propel water from the well into holding tanks. The pump was housed in a tall adobe building with an adjacent blacksmith shop. This ready supply of water, for both people and cattle, led to the name the property retains today. By the mid 1880s, “Pusch’s Steam Pump” was a well-known location.

Pusch and Zellweger shared additional business endeavors. They opened a butcher shop in Tucson in 1875, and they owned the leading slaughterhouse and wholesale/retail meat firm in the city from 1875 until 1925.  Another shared venture was the Tucson Ice and Cold Storage Company, also established in 1875.

Gertrude Pusch, Henry’s mother near the Ranch.

In 1881 Pusch married Matilda Feldman, a young woman recently arrived from Germany. Two years later, John Zellweger married a friend of Matilda’s. He then sold his interests in his Tucson businesses with Pusch and relocated to the Florence, Arizona.

Pusch also purchased property along the San Pedro River in Pinal County in 1886. He put Henry Feldman, Matilda’s brother, in charge of this ranching operation. As Zipf wrote: “The Feldman Ranch grew — at one time it stretched from the San Pedro River to Oracle Junction.”

Zipf also described trips to the Ranch: “Pusch used the Steam Pump Ranch as an overnight stop for the trip to the Feldman Ranch — 55 miles from Tucson. He would travel in a wagon across the Antelope Plains, and on many occasions mounted Apaches would circle the wagon to greet my grandfather. He never carried a gun, but instead would give the Indians sugar, flour, and other provisions.”

Between 1883 and 1898 George and Matilda had nine children (twin girls died shortly after birth). They maintained a residence in Tucson where Pusch pursued business endeavors such as director of Arizona National Bank, chairman of the Territorial Livestock Sanitary Board, member of the Territorial Legislature in 1891 and 1899, and member of the state constitutional convention in 1910.

Pusch suffered a series of strokes beginning in 1914 and died in 1921. Zipf sums up the years following his grandfather’s death: “George Pusch, Jr. took over operation of the Steam Pump Ranch in August 1921. On June 27, 1928 George sold Pusch Land and Cattle Company and the properties owned on Congress Street. In 1933 J. M. Procter bought the Steam Pump Ranch from Matilda’s estate shortly after her death.” Thus, a new era of occupation began at the Ranch. (Patricia Spoerl 2011).

Photograph of the Pusch family taken at the Ranch about 1900
(Matilda, George Jr., George, and Gertrude)

HERITAGE GUIDE: George Pusch and Arizona Statehood

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Many Oro Valley residents are familiar with the historic Steam Pump Ranch and its original owner, George Pusch. A German immigrant, Pusch, along with his partner John Zellweger, established the ranch in 1874 in what is now the heart of Oro Valley. Pusch Ridge was named after him by 1902. An unknown fact about George Pusch is that he was twice a member of the Arizona Territorial Legislature (1891 and 1899) and served as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1910.
An entry for GEORGE PUSCH in the records of Arizona history states:
“Republican from Pima County”. “Cattleman and owner of a butcher shop. Partner in firm of Pusch & Zellweger whose cattle brand was well known throughout the area. Director of the Arizona National Bank. Member of the city council, Tucson. Served in the house of representatives 1891, 1899. Refused to sign the finished constitution. Died Tucson, August 20, 1921.”
Pusch’s refusal, noted above, to sign the Constitution is part of the broader picture of Arizona politics in the early 1900s. Arizona’s movement to statehood was a lengthy one and it was not proclaimed a state until February 14, 1912, the last of the contiguous 48 states.
Fifty-two delegates were elected to the 1910 Arizona Constitutional Convention held in Phoenix. Of these, 41 were Democrats and 11 were Republican. The large majority of Democrats was attributed to voter dissatisfaction with a territorial government that gave considerable power to large corporations. Pusch was one of the few Republicans at the Phoenix convention as were the other four representatives from Pima County.
The Constitutional Convention lasted 60 days. The Democrats wrote a constitution that contained measures for the recall of all public officials including judges who were often viewed as being controlled by large companies and the railroads. They thought it would be approved by a Republican Congress in Washington D.C.. During the Convention, Republicans disagreed and all except one refused to sign the Constitution. George Pusch and the other Pima County delegates went home, so Pima County had no signatures on the document sent to Congress for ratification.
Congress did approve the Constitution, however President Taft did not until Arizona removed the provision specifying that public officials, including judges, were subject to recall. Arizona voters complied and on February 14, 1912 President Taft signed a proclamation admitting Arizona to the Union. Later that year, Arizona voters amended their constitution to reinstate the recall of judges provision. An independent state from the beginning!
George Pusch’s records from his participation in the 1910 Constitutional Convention have been donated to the Oro Valley Historical Society by his grandson, Henry Zipf. They will be displayed at Steam Pump Ranch in the future. By Patricia Sped (2010).

Members of the Arizona Constitutional Convention Phoenix, Arizona --October 10 to December 9, 1910

Members of the Arizona Constitutional Convention Phoenix, Arizona –October 10 to December 9, 1910. George Pusch did sign the above photograph (No. 12, above the center arch). He is seated in the front row, the first person on the right. (The woman in the photo was not a delegate).

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President Taft signed the proclamation officially making Arizona a state

President Taft signed the proclamation officially making Arizona a state

HERITAGE GUIDE: Steam Pump Ranch: An Overview

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The Ranch known as “Steam Pump Ranch” was established by George Pusch and John Zellweger in 1874. The two young men had come from Germany and Switzerland respectively and, after living on both the east and west coasts, they found a place to put down roots north of Tucson. They bought land and cattle, and registered the “PZ” brand. They also purchased a steam pump to pump water into holding tanks. It was housed in an adobe building with an adjacent blacksmith shop. This ready supply of water, for both people and cattle, led to the name the property retains today.

The 1870s were a difficult time for new settlers along the Canada del Oro drainage. Apache raids, primarily for cattle and horses, occurred on a regular basis. Bands left the confines of the reservations in an attempt to regain their freedom and traditional way of life. The “Apache Wars” did not end until after Geronimo’s final surrender in 1886.

During the 1880s numerous ranches were established in southern Arizona. Steam Pump Ranch became a favorite stopping place for ranchers taking their cattle to the railroad stockyards near Tucson. Pusch charged 15 cents per head for water. A stage line stopped at the ranch on a route from Tucson to Florence, and the Calvary from Ft. Lowell also camped there on at least one occasion during Apache scouting operations.

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Pump house and Blacksmith shop in 1928

Pump house in 2007 with Jim Kriegh

Pump house in 2007 with Jim Kriegh

By 1891 lands in southern Arizona had become heavily overgrazed and a drought led to the loss of many cattle herds. Pusch and Zellweger seemed to prosper, having opened a butcher shop and ice storage facility in downtown Tucson. Zellweger had sold his interest in the ranch to Pusch in 1883, but the two continued as partners in other business ventures. Pusch was also active in politics, serving in two Territorial legislatures. In 1910 he was a member of the Constitutional Convention that led to Arizona statehood. After that his health failed and his son took over management of the ranch. The family also established the Pusch Land and Cattle Company to manage their properties. Pusch died in 1921 at his residence in Tucson.

Pusch Family at the Ranch, circa 1900s

Pusch Family at the Ranch, circa 1900s

Pusch family at the Ranch, early 1900s

Pusch family at the Ranch, early 1900s

 

A new era for Steam Pump Ranch began in 1933 when John Monroe “Jack” Procter purchased the largely abandoned ranch from the Pusch estate after Matilda (George’s wife) died. Procter had moved to Tucson in 1932 to manage the exclusive downtown Pioneer Hotel, a position he held until 1962. Procter is said to have called the ranch “my best diversion”. In addition to ranching and breeding prize bulls as a hobby, Procter built a new house, associated ranching structures, and a long row of chicken coops. He raised chickens to provide meat and eggs for the hotel dining room. Over the years the family often used the ranch as a leisure retreat from the city. Jack died in 1972 and ownership of the ranch passed to his grandsons.

Jack Procter and a prize bull in 1941

Jack Procter and a prize bull in 1941

Pioneer Hotel downtown Tucson

Pioneer Hotel downtown Tucson

The ranch continued as a family residence, and also became a boarding place for horses. While the original ranch spanned thousands of acres its headquarters remained near the Canada del Oro crossing throughout its existence. A 15 acre parcel containing the two major residences, ranch out-buildings, and the remains of the original pump house now belongs to the Town of Oro Valley. The property was acquired in 2007 with Pima County Bond funds for historic preservation and interpretation. It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (Patricia Spoer12011).

HERITAGE GUIDE: History and Art on the Wall: Livestock Brands along Oracle Rd (St Route 77) in Oro Valley

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As one drives north or south along Oracle Road between the Hilton El Conquistador Resort and the Oro Valley Marketplace at the Tangerine Road intersection, it is hard to miss the unusual letters and marks depicted on the sound walls on either side of the highway. These livestock brands and marks can be seen by the casual observer. One must look much more closely however for the historic Ranch concealed behind large trees along the same road corridor with which the cattle brands are associated.
The historic Steam Pump Ranch, owned by the Town of Oro Valley, and the livestock brands placed on the sound walls by the Arizona Department of Transportation, are closely connected, not only within the few short miles of road but also in terms of their shared history.
The story of Steam Pump Ranch is becoming familiar to many in the Oro Valley area. Its founder, George Pusch, immigrated to the United States from Germany as a young man in 1867. After living in New York, San Francisco and places in between, he came to southern Arizona. Here, with his friend John Zellweger, a Swiss immigrant he met in New York, he purchased land along the Cariada del Oro and decided to become a cattle rancher. The two men registered the “PZ” brand and began ranching enterprises that lasted for decades. Today, a portion of one of their ranches is preserved in public ownership -¬the Steam Pump Ranch. The “steam pump” name was acquired after the two men
installed a well and pump driven by steam to provide water for cattle.
The Territory of Arizona had a long history of open range grazing. Branding cattle was the main means of determining ownership during the era when Pusch and Zellweger developed their cattle operations. Livestock branding became law in the Territory in 1897 and a brand tax was passed in 1903. Over 11,000 brands were recorded in the Arizona Territory prior to statehood.
In 1908 “Brands and Marks of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Goats and Hogs, as They Appear of Record in the Office of the Live Stock Sanitary Board of Arizona at Phoenix, Arizona” was published. It was the most comprehensive of the Brands and Marks books issued beginning in 1898. Over 11,000 brands are depicted, in addition to articles on contagious diseases of live stock and advice for ranchers. George Pusch was the Chairman of the Live Stock Sanitary Board at the time of the volume’s publication.
The “PZ” brand is only one of at least eight brands Pusch registered, individually and with partners, beginning in the mid-1870s. John Zellweger, sold his interest in the “PZ” brand to Pusch in 1883 and the Pusch family continued to use it.
Stockmen typically kept records of live stock transfers because of the importance of knowing their livestock numbers for accurate assessment of taxes. Payment of

the brand tax was serious business in the early part of the 20th century. A brand owner annually had to submit a sworn statement with the number of head of stock for which he was assessed. If these requirements were not met and the tax not paid the brand was no longer considered evidence of ownership of the animals so branded.
Records were kept at Steam Pump Ranch and a ledger book listing some of the transactions was retained in Pusch family files. (Pusch’s grandson, Henry Zipf, donated the book to the Oro Valley Historical Society in 2005). The ledger book has a handwritten title, “RANCH PROVISIONS AND CATTLE,” and includes entries from 1898 until 1921.
All of the brands registered by George Pusch and listed in the 1908 “Brands and Marks” volume also appear in the Ranch ledger. His son, George Jr. also owned a brand, the “P swinging Z” that was clearly distinguished from the original “PZ”. The “P swinging Z” brand remained in the Pusch family until 2010 when Henry Zipf sold it to the Oro Valley Historical Society.
The brands depicted on the Oracle Road sound walls were obtained from the Steam Pump Ranch ledger book. The brands one sees were owned by ranchers with whom George Pusch did business. Specific ones were selected for use on the wall for their aesthetic appeal rather than for proximity to nearby historic ranch lands, but they do represent brands registered in the early 1900s. Reading these brands involves a specialized system. Brands are read from left to right, top to bottom, and outside to inside. Capital letters, numbers and characters are among the combinations.

Letters can be vertical, sideways, reversed, or hanging.
One of the brands depicted on the walls was owned by Henry Feldman, brother of Matilda Pusch (George’s wife). For many years he managed the PZ-Feldman Ranch along the San Pedro River near its junction with Aravaipa Creek. The Pusch family reportedly grazed cattle in the entire area between the Steam Pump Ranch and the PZ-Feldman Ranch.
The “JE” brand was owned by Noah Bernard and John Bogan who ran cattle in the Arivaca area southwest of Tucson. Pusch was a partner with them in the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company. Another brand depicted on the Oracle wall is the “7-6.” It was owned by W.O. Ramsey from Tombstone, Arizona.
The story of brands and their uses is much more complicated than a single ranch and a single owner and there are numerous stories still to be uncovered about ranching partnerships and the brands associated with the Steam Pump Ranch.
Text and photographs by Patricia Spoerl, 2012.

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RANCH PROVISIONS AND CATTLE (Steam Pump Ranch Ledger)

 

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