Guns and Gold
History of the Galiuro Wilderness

The Power Family

The Power family left an indelible mark on the history of the Galiuros. Originally from west Texas, the family moved around for years as Jeff Power, the father, sought work and tried his hand at ranching. They came to the Galiuro Mountains in 1909, to a place in lower Rattlesnake Canyon. Two years later the oldest son bought out Spence's goat ranch. The family moved there and continued raising horses and cattle, also adding four rooms to the cabin and building a couple of corrals. They planted a garden as well, thus the placename Power's Garden. At this time the Power family consisted of Jeff, also known as the Old Man, his three sons Charles, John, and Tom, and a daughter, Ola May. Rattlesnake Springs was their main headquarters until about 1917. By then the oldest brother, Charles, had sold his share of the cattle to the rest of the family and left for New Mexico.

Power Family. From left to right, Jeff, Martha, Charley, Ola Mae, Tom, and John.

In what was still a rough and occasionally violent frontier, the Powers were a fairly typical family—close-knit, quick to defend their interests, rarely staying more than a few years at one place. Life was not easy and the Power men periodically sought employment with other ranchers or at the mines around southern Arizona to supplement the income from their own cattle. They also held mining claims at Rattlesnake Springs and Gold Mountain. Other Galiuro residents held mines along upper Rattlesnake Canyon and in the headwaters of Kielberg Canyon.

As miners, the Powers and their neighbors did little more than assessment work to hold their claims, probably hoping to eventually sell at a profit. It was typical that individuals expected to make money by selling their claims rather than by bringing a mine into production, especially if a property had only low-grade ore. The gold and silver prospects in the Galiuros were all extremely low-grade and limited to the shear zone along a single fault line. The Powers of course were not geologists and they may have been wildly optimistic about the value of their holdings.

What has been called the Tragedy of the Galiuros started when Jeff Power bought Perry Tucker's one-quarter interest in the Abandoned Claims from Tucker's estate. Eventually the Old Man and his sons acquired a three-quarter interest in this property, now known as the Power's Mine. They also had gold fever, and started serious preparations for mining after selling their ranch and cattle at Rattlesnake Springs.

First they built 25 miles of wagon road through some of the roughest country imaginable, completing this with the help of a hired man, Tom Sisson, early in 1917. The road ran from the Haby Ranch, several miles above Klondyke on Aravaipa Creek, south for a dozen miles before dropping down what is still called Power's Hill into Rattlesnake Canyon, then up this canyon to the mine sites.

Next, the Powers purchased a second-hand stamp mill and hauled this to Gold Mountain, where the family and Tom Sisson now lived in the old buildings. There on December 6, 1917, a week after her 23rd birthday, Ola May Power "came to her death from an unknown cause " according to a coroner's jury. The circumstances were never really explained at the time and lingering questions have prompted later writers into endless speculation and some graphic descriptions. Following her death, the Power men and Sisson moved to the cabin near the Power's Mine.

Stamp Mill, Gold Mountain.

By this time the United States was well into World War I. At their father's insistence, Tom and John Power, aged 24 and 26 years, had failed to register for the draft, making them what were called "slackers". They must have realized the seriousness of their action although Tom Power later claimed that they were told the Army did not need them, after which "we did not give the matter any more thought."

The law did not regard draft evasion lightly. In mid-January 1918, as the Powers completed their preparations to begin mining and processing ore, Sheriff Robert F. (Frank) McBride of Graham County happened to meet Jay Murdock in Safford. At the sheriff's request, Murdock agreed to carry a letter back to the Galiuros and deliver it to Jeff Power. The letter outlined the situation that his sons now faced and asked them to come in immediately. The Old Man evidently thought that the sheriff wouldn't follow up on his words. Tom and John Power stayed out.

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Last Updated: 28-Jan-2008