The Coronado National Forest we know today was originally comprised of nine separate Forest Reserves established in the early 1900s. The Santa Rita Reserve was established in 1902, followed in 1906 by the Huachuca Reserve. Robert Rodgers, the first ranger of the Huachuca Forest Reserve, wrote: “The stock men and others in the Santa Rita Reserve were not impressed favorably with the idea of control, but were not unpleasant about it. The Huachuca Reserve was inhabited with an entirely different kind of men.” Robert received death threats when he took up his post in 1907. [Rodgers, Robert. How and Why I Went Into the Forest Service, undated].
Robert Andrew Rodgers was born in 1861 in northwestern Pennsylvania. By age 19 he was living in Pittsburgh, employed in the mercantile business. He married Anne Eason in 1884 and they had two daughters, Pauline and Helen. Robert “hated the cold and yearned for out-doors,” so in 1903 the family moved to Tucson, “looking for a ranch where I might get into the cattle business.” [Rodgers, Robert. “How and Why I Went Into the Forest Service,” undated].
They settled in Canille [Canelo] in June 1904, purchasing land and improvements from a “squatter” for $1,000. [Report on Agricultural Homestead Applications, 11/26/1908].
In 1904 Robert was appointed as the first Canille postmaster, a position he, and later Anne, held until 1910.
In 1905, when Robert learned that his land holdings would likely become part of the newly established Huachuca Forest Reserve, he took the forest ranger examination.
In 1906 he was assigned to the Rosemont station in the Santa Rita Reserve, and in 1907 he moved to the Huachuca Reserve. The work was challenging and dangerous, as cattlemen had been grazing and fencing areas now part of the Forest Reserve, mining companies had been freely cutting timber for their operations, and “squatters” farming in the area were not sure if they would be able to retain their property.
The Forest Homestead Act of 1906 alleviated this last concern by allowing homestead claims for land chiefly valuable for agricultural purposes within national forests. Robert added the duties of land examiner to his portfolio and completed more Forest Homestead inspections than anyone else in southeast Arizona. [Gillespie, Bill. Personal communication, 8/30/2023].
In 1908 Robert filed his own claim for 160 acres in Turkey Creek Canyon. Listed improvements included a three-room house and a two-room warehouse and Post Office building; title was granted in 1910. Robert and Anne grew corn on their homestead and the Post Office building also served as the Ranger Station. Their primary residence was destroyed twice by fire.
Daughters Pauline and Helen married brothers Arthur and Stanley Young in 1912 and 1916 respectively. Helen’s marriage to Stanley was short lived and by 1923 she had remarried and moved to Los Angeles. Arthur and Pauline built a home near Robert and Anne, helped operate the ranch, and their children, Seigfried and Virginia, attended the Canelo School.
Around 1922 Robert transferred from the Forest Service to the plant quarantine section of the U.S. Horticultural Service in Nogales. Robert retired around 1932 and he and Anne lived on the ranch until Robert’s death, at age 86, in 1947.
The Rodgers’ ranch was sold in 1948, and Anne moved to Tucson to live with Pauline until her death, at age 95, in 1956. Robert and Anne are buried at Black Oak Cemetery.
Special thanks to Corbin Smith, Betsy Miller and Bill Gillespie who provided documents and photographs for this article