One sunny November Saturday, I decided to take a road trip to the Chiricahua Mountains in southeastern Arizona. I have been working on processing the Riggs family papers as well as investigating ranches in the borderlands for an upcoming exhibit, so I was curious to see the area where the Riggs’s have ranched since the 1870s. My first stop was in Willcox, AZ at the Rex Allen Museum where several of the Riggs men are recognized in the museum’s Cowboy Hall of Fame. It was interesting to see how this little corner of Arizona influenced the Hollywood movie industry with its wild and vibrant history of cowboys, cattle, Apache raids, and Mexican wars.
As I headed south from Willcox on Highway 186, my next stop, which was totally unplanned, was at a fenced-in pine grove that enclosed and sheltered a small family cemetery. I was surprised at how easily I located it without directions–the Riggs family cemetery.
I just saw it from the highway and sensed this was it. As I wandered through the graves I recognized the names from the Riggs family history book, Our El Dorado, written by John Casey Riggs and his daughter, Jeannette Riggs Roll.
I know their story pretty well now, having been processing this collection the past few months. These people were Arizona pioneers, struggling to make a home in an often unforgiving land. As I drove away from the pine grove, I knew I was traveling through Riggs country, a land of cattle, horses, and the ever important windmills. If I kept going south I would soon be in the town of Douglas at the U.S.-Mexico border, but I decided to leave that adventure for another day.