In 1892, James Oliver Power came to Arizona with his belongings in a tin trunk aboard a buckboard wagon that his family brought from Kansas. He first settled in Lehi, a Mormon community near present-day Gilbert. Here he met his bride, Sarah Loveda Bullock, at a church dance. Sarah and her family had moved to the area from Blanchard, Iowa in Page County. James and Sarah were married in 1900.
With the help of the Pima Indians, the early Lehi Pioneers (as the settlers were known) organized work parties and began digging irrigation ditches to bring in water from the Salt River Valley so they could plant crops. With the completion of the Roosevelt Dam in 1911, which provided abundant and steady irrigation, settlers flocked to the Gilbert area.
Young James and Sarah began their 2,000-acre Power Ranch homestead living in a tiny frame bungalow. The five-room adobe house, with its 10-inch thick walls and screened porch in back, was where they raised their 13 children (including two sets of twins). All of the children, except Lou, the youngest, were born at home with the older girls helping in delivery.
Without a doubt, coron was king at power Ranches. In fact, James Power was known throughout the area as one of the best producers of Pima cotton, named after Pima County, Arizona. When the depression hit in 1929, the banks closed and everyone was broke. Power Ranches couldn’t sell its cotton, so it diversified into all kinds of vegetables and hired a Japanese supervisor and Filipino crew from California. Nevertheless, the ranch operation survived and was prospering again by 1934.
Following World War II, Power Ranches also began running cattle and continued the operation until 1962. At its peak, the cattle herd counted 600 head. If James's power put his strength and ingenuity into Power Ranches, then Sarah Power provided its heart and soul. indeed, it was Sarah who fashioned the family’s branding iron - the letter "W" beside the shape of a heart - saying "it takes a lot of work and a lot of love" to run a ranch it is a proud symbol of heritage that the family honors to this day.
During its peak production years of 1963 - 1979, Power Ranches employed as many as 500 persons. The variety of crops raised on the 2,000-acre spread included cotton, peaches, plums, grapes, nectarines, barley, wheat, sorghum, and potatoes. typically, the Power Ranches cotton crops yielded five blaes per acre, while the standard for the area was 3.5 bales. The Gilbert Cotton Gin had opened in downtown prior to 1920 to help farmers bale and ship their crops.
Coping With Summer Heat
Behind the family home, tall, spreading cottonwood and eucalyptus trees were "lifesavers" in summer. They provided much-needed shade for the cattle and horses - and the family.
To survive the summer heat, the Power family slept outdoors as did other early residents of Gilbert. Air conditioning and evaporative coolers did not exist; and since there were no paved roads to retain the heat, the desert evenings cooled off considerably after the sun went down. At the Power home, father James rigged up a "misting system" by pumping water from the windmill to the top of the enormous cottonwood tree in the back. The mist filtered down through the branches and onto the sleeping family, in effect cooling the outside temperature by 30 degrees.
Other ways the Power family kept cool: they hung burlap soaked in water over the windows, took a 10-gallon barrel, filled with ice, to the fields, and constantly dipped their straw hats in water. A light summer meal consisted of bread and a glass of cold milk. Of course, swimming in the canal shaded by a row of lush cottonwood trees was a favorite pastime, particularly for the Power boys.
Power Ranch Properties
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Listing Information Current As Of Feb 28, 2021 1:28:pm