Eulalia Elias Was Irascible, Untamed Rancher

By Cleere, Jan | AZ Daily Star, September 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

Eulalia Elias Was Irascible, Untamed Rancher


Cleere, Jan, AZ Daily Star


Dona Maria Eulalia Elias Gonzalez Romo de Vivar was born February 12, 1788, in the small, Sonoran agricultural town of Arizpe, Mexico.

She grew up in the large Elias-Gonzalez enclave that at one time owned at least 30 large land grants and thousands of acres of ranching land stretching from Sonora into what would become Southern Arizona. A refined Spanish woman, Eulalia along with her brothers, was responsible for the financial well-being of the family empire and often rode with her siblings to survey their vast holdings.

In 1828, Eulalia and her brother Don Ignacio Elias Gonzalez purchased from the Mexican government 8 sitios (roughly 54 square miles) of land along Babocomari Creek near present-day Fort Huachuca. Initially called San Juan de Babocomari, the ranch's was eventually changed to San Ignacio de Babocomari. Eulalia and her brothers brought in hundreds of head of cattle and horses to range across 130,000 acres of verdant fields of grass, abundant cottonwood groves and almost continuously flowing streams.

Receiving the deed to the property on Dec. 25, 1832, the family began construction of an adobe stronghold along Babocomari Creek.

Since she was responsible for managing many of the family's ranches, as well as the Elias's agricultural and mining interests, Eulalia and another brother, the priest Juan Elias, undoubtedly often rode up from Arizpe to oversee the formation of the 15-foot walled fort at Babocomari.

The old adage, "El hombre en la calle, la mujer en la casa" (men in the street and women at home) certainly did not apply to Eulalia and it probably did not represent the true nature of most Mexican women at the time. Eulalia never married, but she personified the grit and determination of many Elias women, often staying for long periods on some of the family's isolated, remote ranches.

From the late 1700s, this multi-generational family built a vast empire across northern Mexico and Southern Arizona. Family members involved themselves in governmental, military and religious endeavors in addition to ranching. Few families of the time could match their power and influence.

Construction of the fortified hacienda along Babocomari Creek was completed in time to celebrate San Juan's Day on June 24, 1833. Many of the Elias women rode from Arizpe, a distance of almost 140 miles, to admire the new structure. Ignacio proffered casks of brandy and wine for the hardworking laborers.

The 100-square-foot enclosure, which resembled a small presidio, had only one entrance along the east wall. The fortress was lined with large rooms while the flat roofs, along with watchtowers on the east and west corners, allowed the occupants to watch for approaching invaders. Warring Apaches posed a constant threat to landowners in this sparsely populated part of the country.

By 1840, Babocomari was running about 40,000 head of cattle and Eulalia had a say in many aspects of managing the prosperous ranch. …

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