Ranch History

The land was homestead in the early 1920's when the national forests of the west were opened for homesteading in hopes of  relieving the deprivations of the Dust Bowl depression*. The land was homesteaded by Arthur W. Sypher, probably in 1917 and was "proved out"  in 1924 when the patent was issued. Sypher was born in Oregon in 1867 (we think). Thus, he was in his late 50s when he came to New Mexico. Seems a bit strange to come to the desert from Oregon during the Dustbowl days. He married a local woman of Spanish descent, Agapita Quintana, who was from a local family. Agapita was born in 1902, so she was barely in her 20s when she married Sypher. They had 7 children - six girls and one boy, also named Arthur. They lost the homestead in 1933 when a severe winter storm killed the cattle. The land had been mortgaged to Emmet Worth (sp?), who foreclosed on the mortgage. The Howards bought the land out of the foreclosure. The family moved into "town", near what is now Lindrith. One of the daughters started a penpal relationship which eventually led to a rediscovery of the family in Oregon. They later returned to Oregon where Arthur died in 1948 and Agapita died in 1993. The children are now living in Oregon, Washington, and northern California. Two of Agapita's sisters are alive and living in Farmington or Aztec.

There is a cabin still standing on the ranch. This was "dragged" there by Don Howard who was helping his parents, who were the third owners of the land (excluding the bank that foreclosed on the second owner.) The original homestead shelter was a dugout, which we believe is located near the cabin. When we purchased the ranch the cabin was filled with trash from previous occupants and hunters who have squatted in the cabin over the years. It seems incredible anyone would set foot in the place it was so filthy. I would have thought the threat of hantavirus would have kept everyone at bay, but apparently not. Before cleaning it out, we wore respirators while spraying the entire interior with a dilute mix of bleach and water. We eventually dragged out everything and amidst the debris found a few signs of the past occupants.

This is the front and back of an old burlap sack that was buried in the litter in the cabin. The 1933 date is pretty suggestive that this sack has been in the cabin since the original. Life on the homestead was no doubt one in which nothing was wasted.

Here's another old burlap sack that was in the cabin. There is no date, unlike the one above. This delightful item is a Victor #2 leg-hold trap. It's hard to know if this was left by the homesteader, or a subsequent trapper.

We have recently made contact with several people who will undoubtedly fill in many of the gaps in the history of the ranch. Don Howard, the son of the previous owners is old enough to have known Syphers and went to school with his children. In May, 2003 we ran into John Huffman on the road to the ranch. He is a contemporary of Don Howard and also knew the Sypher family. He pointed us to H Freeman Davis of Aztec who apparently is still in touch with the Sypher children and is planning to visit them in Oregon. 

*For more about life on a homestead in this era, see "Pie Town Woman" by Joan Myers.