John Slaughter spoke softly and carried a big stick long before Teddy Roosevelt made it cool. Elected Cochise County sheriff in 1886 — five years after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral — Slaughter patrolled the streets of Tombstone wearing a pearl-handled .44 and packing a 10-gauge shotgun. He politely asked troublemakers to leave town. And he didn’t ask twice: Legend has it the lawman killed at least a dozen men “who had it comin’.” Slaughter is credited with helping to tame the Arizona Territory, and after four years as sheriff, he retired to his ranch east of Douglas. During its peak, the ranch employed 150 people, controlled 100,000 acres in the U.S. and Mexico, and supplied beef and produce to area towns and military posts. And, except for when Pancho Villa’s men showed up, no shotgun was necessary. Ranching continued for nearly six decades after the Slaughter family left the property. Today, it’s officially known as San Bernardino Ranch and is adjacent to San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. Its centerpieces are a large pond, built by Slaughter and fed by natural springs, and the restored ranch house, now a museum that gives visitors a glimpse of ranching the way it used to be.
DIRECTIONS: From Douglas, go east on 15th Street, which turns into Geronimo Trail, for 16 miles to San Bernardino Road. Take a slight right onto San Bernardino Road, a well-maintained dirt road, and continue 0.6 miles to Slaughter Ranch Museum, on the left. The ranch is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; a $5 donation is requested for adult visitors, and children are free.
CONSTRUCTED: 1893 (ranch house; approximate)
BUILDER: John Slaughter
INFORMATION: Slaughter Ranch, 520-678-7935 or www.slaughterranch.com