The following story, written by a local Cascabelite, gives a little historical background to the community of Cascabel.
Cascabel, a bare bones accounting of some significant happenings along the San Pedro River.
by Mary Taylor
Cascabel is a place and a community. The place is an area about 40 miles long and ten miles wide along the San Pedro River, beginning about 8 miles north of Benson. There is no post office, no school, no service station, no quick mart and just the beginning of a general store. There is only one road in, through and out of the area with some ranch access roads.
The Community is mostly made up of special, different“characters,” independent, but cooperative when needed. Through cooperation and good will they have built a fine Community Center (1989) without government or private loans. Quilt making and raffling, bake sales, donations and other fundraisers along with lots of time, sweat, physical effort and expertise have made the Center a very special place.
Historically, the area has a long and interesting background. When early explorers first came, Coronado in 1540 and Father Kino in 1706, they found a lush valley of green grass, running water, cottonwoods, abundant game, fish, and peaceful, farming Indians.By 1865, both Mexican and Anglo settlers had begun to farm in the area, but were driven out by the Apaches who had, by that time, driven out the farming Indians.
In 1868, the Leach Wagon Road was built through the area to join military posts to the North and South, and to provide a less hazardous way for travelers going west.
The Redfield family settled at Redington in 1875 and were followed by others who found it a great farming and ranching area. Soon there were so many families that a need was felt for a post office, which was established and called Redington.
A year later and seven miles south, the Souza family of Tucson settled, created a farm and ranch, built a chapel and school, hired a teacher, and raised 14 children. Life was hard and uncertain.
Shortly after the Souzas came, Frank Pool from Tucson moved to a choice spot six or seven miles south of the Souzas, near Hot Springs Wash. He wrote in his journal,
“It is one of the most beautiful valleys I ever saw. When I arrived, a few farms were already under cultivation, grass everywhere. Fine cattle ranged from the Mexican line to where the San Pedro joins the Gila River. There was wild game in abundance and the river teemed with fish.”
The Bayless family of Tucson came to the Redington area in 1885. One of the descendants, Jack Smallhouse, and his family operate the ranch at this time (1995). In 1887, the year the Apache leader, Geronimo, was captured, a severe earthquake shook the entire area and part of Northern Mexico, causing many changes in stream flow and natural springs.People came and went, population fluctuated. In 1902 the Pool Post Office was established at Mr. Pool’s ranch, but was discontinued in 1913.
Alex Herron had a ranch and a small store a short distance north of Hot Springs Wash. In 1916, when he applied for a post office, he wanted to call it Pool,after the former post office. The name was turned down by the authorities. Later, on the way to Benson, Herron met a Mexican with a rattlesnake the man had killed. Herron asked the man the name of the snake and the reply was“Cascabel.” Herron decided to call his post office by that name.
The old school at the Soza ranch had been hauled down to a new location just north of the new post office, and another room was added to accommodate the increasing enrollment. The school also served as a community gathering place with box socials and “barn” dances. Many interesting stories are told about those times; in recent years two Pool School reunions have been held at the new Community Center. The school was disbanded and torn down in the 1970’s. A bus comes from Benson now to pick up and return students living in the area.
The 20’s and 30’s saw hard times in many places, and Cascabel was no exception. For a while, people came to make a living along the river, with a garden, a few chickens, a goat or cow and wild game. Eventually these folks lost heart and moved back to towns where living was a little easier. By 1936 the Cascabel Post Office was discontinued.
World War II caused a further decline in the population. All those work-hardened, ranch-raised boys joined up, saw the world, and decided when they came back that they could do better financially by going to college or working in town.
Things were pretty quiet for a while until the late 50’s when electric power was brought in, bringing with it the convenience and luxury of coolers, refrigerators, better lighting and more convenient water pumping equipment. Housewives could even have a washing machine.
In the early 60’s the City of Tucson bought the old Pool place and some adjoining land along the river for water rights to the land. Officials had planned to pump water from the San Pedro watershed to Tucson. This was eventually pronounced illegal and the project was abandoned. In 1985 the acreage was sold at auction to developers. This land was divided into irregularly shaped, near 40-acre parcels and put up for sale. Choice lots went rather quickly and new faces were seen on the river, new marks on the land, and more cars on the road.
In 1970 a new State road was proposed through the area from Benson to San Manuel, to replace the old 1868 Leach Wagon Road. Surveys were made, some rights of way were purchased, four bridges were built, money was appropriated to finish it,then through some political convolution, the project was abandoned and money diverted to another area. Thus is our condition determined. Our road is called“primitive” (actually, Cascabel Road).
Portions of the lower San Pedro River were designated as one of the Last Great Places in1990. The Bureau of Land Management purchased some of the local riparian river bottom acreage to preserve the wildlife habitat and perennial stream. Those who appreciate the unique qualities of the area are pleased that it will not be otherwise exploited.
Phones, faxes, and more convenience arrived in 1993, provided by the Midvale Telephone Co. It is a service taken for granted by many, but doubly appreciated by those who had done without for so long.
The really interesting history of the area is in the stories of the people. Tales of tragedy abound, along with stories of floods, droughts, illnesses, murders, accidents, feuds, scandals, romances, wild cows, wild rides, screw worms, everyday entertainment, humor, attitudes and ways of doing things.
Even today the neighbors tell of the mountain lion that recently held the community hostage for ten days. Sometimes they speak of the little Mexican national boy who became lost and starved to death because he was too afraid to ask for help.
It is hoped that folks who have lived here or heard these stories will write them down so they will be preserved, perhaps as an addendum to this manuscript.