The story of Evangelina “Eva” Ferra and Ricardo “Dick” Jimenez is typical of many area families in the early 20th century whose parents or grandparents emigrated from Mexico to work in area mines and ranches. Dick’s father, Antonio Jimenez, arrived from Sonora, Mexico about 1906; his mother Maria Eugenia Soto was born in Arizona. Eva’s parents, Mariano Ysidro Ferra and Mercedes Escalante, were born in Sonora and their families arrived in Arizona about 1909.

Mercy, Dick and Eva Jimenez in the Empire Ranch garden area, 1943. Photo courtesy Empire Ranch Foundation

Eva Ferra was born on October 23, 1917 in Pantano, AZ. Her mother died in November 1918 from influenza and her grandparents, Mariano and Juana Ferra, took her in and raised her. Her grandfather worked as a cowboy for the Vail family, stationed at the Rosemont Camp area of the Empire Ranch. The Rosemont school had closed when Eva was of school age, so she attended the Empire School located on Greaterville Rd. She rode her horse, accompanied by her dog Valente, about two hours each way to school. Her grandfather would start the ride with her to open a few gates, but she continued alone.

In 1927 Mariano Ferra was reassigned to the Empire Ranch headquarters where the family lived in a two-room adobe structure known as the Hired Man’s House. 

When the Boice family purchased the Empire in 1928 they allowed the family to remain in the adobe house. Eva helped Mary Boice with her young sons, Bob and Pancho. While in school, Eva frequently wrote reports for the Empire [School] Merry Makers, which appeared in the Arizona Daily Star. 

Dick Jimenez was born in Harshaw, AZ on June 23, 1913. Dick and his four siblings grew up in Harshaw where their father, Antonio, worked in the mines. At age 15 Dick worked as a mine mucker alongside his older brother Angel. In 1932 he began to work as a part-time cowboy for Henry G. Boice at the Rail X Ranch. In 1934 he moved to the Empire Ranch as a full-time cowboy. 

On Nov. 25, 1937 Eva and Dick were married in the St. Rita in the Desert Catholic church in Vail. They had a one-night honeymoon in Nogales and returned to the Empire Ranch. Dick resumed his cowboy duties and Eva cooked for the cowboys and did laundry for them for a fee. Their daughter Mercedes “Mercy” was born in 1938. 

In 1945 the family moved to the Crown C Ranch, owned by Blake and Jane Carrington, where Dick was the foreman. 

Dick was an active competitor in rodeo events. In 1960 he and a cowboy from the Douglas ranch, Alfredo Gheredia, killed a male mountain lion that had been hunting cattle in the area. [Tucson Daily Citizen, 2/26/1960]. 

Dick almost died and lost the hearing in one ear when he was struck by lightning while driving cattle on the Crown C. He was kept alive by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the ambulance arrived. His horse was killed. [Dick and Eva Jimenez oral history, 1991].

Dick continued working for the Carringtons until 1970 when Mrs. Carrington sold most of the Crown C property. She gifted a parcel of land to Dick and Eva for their home and built a shop and a garage for Dick, complete with welding equipment. [Barr, More Hidden Treasures of Santa Cruz County, 2008]. When the Crown C became a guest ranch under the direction of Mrs. Sydney Franklin, Dick and Eva assisted with guests and other ranch chores. Eva died in 2003 at age 85, and Dick died in 2008 at age 95.