CCHS Tours Fischer Ranch and Veteado Peak Ranch
On May 31, the Catron County Historical Society toured the Veteado Peak Ranch and Fischer Ranch. Gary Blum, Ken Fischer and Jim Bratten showed up early at the meeting place on Highway 36 and found members already waiting to view the Whitley Cabin, a kiva site, a lava wall, and the remains of Sunny Slope School. After passing the ruins of the 616 archeology site, the caravan entered Fischer Ranch and then arrived at the Whitley Cabin.
Fred Black, migrated from Decatur City, Iowa, to north of Quemado, met and married Billie Whitley, whose family homesteaded here in the early 1920s. The Blacks moved into the Bob Sage homestead located approximately one mile north of the entrance to the Fischer Ranch. Billie passed at age 53 and Fred at age 99. Both are interned in the Quemado Cemetery.
Billie’s parents, Charles and Anna Sarah “Ma” Whitley, originally came from El Paso, Texas. The Whitleys built an elaborate cabin by the standards of the day with a large stone fireplace, picture windows, cistern, and root cellar. Charles Whitley was born in 1871 and died in 1932. Ma Whitley was born in 1871 and died in 1965. They both now rest in Sunny Slope Cemetery on the south side of the Fischer Ranch.
Billy Green, who helped Fred gather his cows, stated he did not remember Fred Black riding horses, but herded his cattle by pickup. Bonnie Armstrong offered more details about the Whitleys and remembered the nearby Bob Sage Saw Mill.
The tour proceeded to the kiva site where Doug Fischer gave a talk on his work.
The kiva he is excavating is situated in a late P-III or early P-IV (AD 1200-1300) ancestral Pueblo ruin. The walls are made of sandstone with around 500 rooms. Kivas were usually built below the surface of the ground and had ceremonial significance. They can be located by looking at depressions on the surface of the ground. Kivas generally fall into three types: key hole, square or dshaped.
Doug’s excavation work started in May, 2013 and was substantially finished in 2014. The excavation was done by hand trowel, rock pick, and shovel. Benches along the kiva walls accommodated participants during ceremonies. In each of the two corners, Doug found two small ollas or ceramic pots intended for carrying water built in the wall as offerings.
Among the mysteries still to be unraveled is the presence of a large tunnel or ventilator shaft that could lead to a room next door where the medicine man would enter and leave during ceremonies.
At the next stop members viewed the lava wall. Ten to twelve feet high in places, the wall winds along the Continental Divide for a considerable distance on the east side of the Fischer Ranch. The wall appears man-made but is a natural feature created by magma. The wall is likely 100,000 years old or older.
The last stop before the BBQ at the Veteado Peak Ranch was a viewing of the site of Sunny Slope School. The site was donated by Bill Hunter whose cabin was situated about a half mile to the south of the school. Sunny Slope School was erected in 1934 at a cost of $20 and with plenty of volunteer labor from Lon Hayherst, Bob Sage, Cliff Brown, and Mr. Koger. The lumber for the school came from the Sage Saw Mill. They students did not have desks but sat on logs, and Jim Hogg was the teacher. Remnants of the foundation, picket fencing, and other debris can be seen.
The tour proceeded to a BBQ at Veteado Peak Ranch. Thanks to Sally and Gary Blum, members enjoyed another yearly event at their home.