In Our Backyard Pennington Stone House and the Ruby Loop

Written by: Doug Hocking
On March 26, 2016, Trail Boss Matt Greenway led the corral on a trip to see the Pennington Stone House, Lagunas de Anza and the Ruby Loop. Members of the La Frontera (Green Valley) and Tucson Corrals joined the Cochise County Corral pursuant to a general invite to area corrals to join us. By joining three corrals, Matt pulled a significant coup.

Tony Sedgwick, who owns the property, met the corrals and told us about the significance of the stone house. It was home to the Pennington’s on the Santa Cruz River from about 1858 to 1866. Tucson named Pennington Street for this family. Many of the Penningtons died at the hands of Apaches and Mexican bandits. The story of Larcena Pennington’s ordeal at the hands of the Apache appeared in the May 2016 True West. The house is probably the oldest surviving structure in Arizona built by Anglos. Sheriff Doug Hocking claims that Tony is his cousin since their two families intermarried at Stockbridge, MA, around 1720, when his ancestors were missionaries to the last of the Mohicans.

Tony took us to the nearby Mexican border where Dan Judkins of the La Frontera Corral explained the significance of the Graham Cut-off to Cooke’s Wagon Road. The cut-off entered Mexico from Guadalupe Pass, bypassed the San Pedro River, and came up the Santa Cruz, an easier and more level route. This was the main southern route in 1849 and the earlier 50s during the California Gold Rush and ran through Mexico in what is today Sonora and the Gadsden Purchase.

We stopped briefly across the Santa Cruz from the ruins of Quevavi Mission, the first structure in Arizona built by Europeans, founded by Padre Kino in 1691. Tony explained the significance of stone barriers and outcroppings along the river, which form bathtub like basins where there is always water to be found. The barriers drive water to the surface and Indian villages have occupied these sites since earliest times.

From there we pressed on to the Lagunas de Anza, also owned by Tony and now turned into a park. Journals left by the explorers identify these small lakes as the first place the de Anza expedition of 1775 stopped in what is now the United States on its way to found San Francisco. Today, they are a birding site where many species are found.

After a stop for lunch at La Bocanita, where the food is excellent, in Nogales, we pressed on down the Ruby Loop. The road is rough and beautiful but not hard to find; follow the signs for Arivaca. We saw plenty of wild game and mountains and cliffs too beautiful to do justice to in words. Ruby is a ghost town with roots going back to the 1870s. In 1942, mining ended in Rudy and the town is now on private property. We learned a lot in Ruby. Only the wealthy had electric lights and the average miner lived in a tent. There was no indoor plumbing. The mine went 800 feet deep and in addition to ore produced wonderful white sand that forms a fantastic beach between two lakes. Ruby is close to the border and Mexican bandits, who murdered the storekeeper, twice held up the merchantile.

As the sun set, we made our way to Arivaca completing the loop.