Stafford Cabin

The Stafford cabin is notable as one of the first homestead dwellings in the Chiricahua Mountains and is one of the oldest surviving log cabins in the region. The original part of the cabin consists of two rooms each about 13 by 12 feet. The south room was built first, probably about 1880, and the north room added in 1886. The second door shown in the photo below was added later when the cabin was converted to a guest cottage after Stafford's death.

Stafford Cabin exterior, HABS ARIZ.2-WILCO.V.1B-1

Stafford filed an application for a homestead of 160 acres in Bonita Canyon in October, 1880, and began work on his cabin, gardens and orchard. He designed and built the cabin himself, and there is evidence that he had some previous experience as a cabin builder. For example, he used beetle-killed pine and juniper logs because they contain more pitch which protects the logs from deterioration, and he used moisture-resistant logs of alligator juniper in the sill positions. (This distinctive tree is still plentiful near the cabin and is recognizable by its "alligatored" bark.)

Living room, Stafford Cabin, HABS ARIZ.2-WILCO.V.1B-8Stafford was also an expert gardener and grower who earned his living by providing fruit and vegetables to nearby residents and to the Army at Fort Bowie until it was closed in 1894. Beginning in 1880 he planted an orchard and devised an irrigation system that brought water from warm springs further east in Bonita Canyon to his apple, pear and peach trees. He had two large vegetable gardens, one near the cabin on the west and a remote garden about a mile to the east in Silver Spur meadow. The "upper garden" was watered by springs. The gardens produced turnips, cabbage, and lettuce. Stafford also shared his irrigation system with his neighbors the Ericksons. After his death the orchard was no longer irrigated and died off. His upper garden became the site of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp in the 1930s.

Stafford's patent had been granted in 1886, and he lived in the home until his death in 1913 when the homestead was inherited by his daughter, Clara S. Wheeler. In 1918 she sold the cabin and 160 acres to Lillian and Hildegarde Erickson of the nearby Faraway Ranch. They remodeled the cabin to serve as a guest cabin for their dude ranch.

The Historic American Buildings Survey provides a brief but interesting biography of Ja Hu Stafford based mainly on interviews of his granddaughter, Helen Kenney, in 1983.

"Ja Hu Stafford (1834-1913) was born and raised in Davidson County, North Carolina. For reasons unknown, when the Civil War broke out Stafford enlisted in the Union army. After his discharge, he moved to Illinois, where he married for the first time and worked as a salesman for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. After bearing two daughters, Stafford's first wife died. The widowed father left his daughters in Illinois and migrated to Wyoming or Montana. There he became a rancher, achieving some success. Reportedly dissatisfied with the cold, Stafford decided to move south to the Arizona Territory. Enroute he contracted pneumonia and spent a winter in Salt Lake City under the care of the Madsens, a Mormon family. Pauline Amelia Madsen (ca. 1867-1893), one of the daughters of the household, accompanied Stafford to Arizona, marrying him on the way. The couple established their home in Bonita Canyon, in the Chiricahua mountains of southeastern Arizona. They were among the first settlers in the region. Seven children were born to the Saffords; four lived to adulthood. The first child, a boy named Raveley, died in infancy and is buried west of the cabin in the midst of the former orchard. Pauline Stafford died at age 26 in 1893, and Ja Hu raised their children alone."

See also Faraway Ranch

Information on this page is based on
Built in America, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present
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Photo credits: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, Reproduction Numbers: HABS ARIZ.2-WILCO.V.1B-1 and HABS ARIZ.2-WILCO.V.1B-8