WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees


Henry Lyter Ellis was born near San Angelo, Texas on February 5, 1884, the second son of Dr. Richard H. and Susan F. (Huffman) Ellis. The Ellis family, including a grandmother, Martha Ellis, came to Willcox in 1911 from Del Rio, Texas. The move was made because the eldest son, Joseph William (Joe Willie), suffered from chronic bronchitis and they were hunting for a dry climate. They found it! The family furniture and belongings were loaded in a railroad freight car along with two horses, a cat and a parrot. The two boys, aged sixteen and seventeen, made the trip to Arizona in the Freight car to take care of the horses.

Grandmother Martha Ellis established a homestead adjoining Severin Springs on the east slope of the Winchester Mountains during the open range era. The family helped prove up on this homestead. Then other members of the family made homestead applications in the same area along the east slope of the mountains. Joe Willie did not exercise his right to homestead until land became available next to his grandmother's claim. By this time two uncles had moved to Arizona, so he and his Uncle Will Ellis applied for adjoining claims and built a one-room cabin, which straddled the line joining the two places. With a bed on each side of the cabin, they used one house but each complied with the law by sleeping on his own claim. Also to comply with the homestead law, a lot of good grassland was plowed under on all the claims to plant crops that didn't receive enough rainfall to live or mature.

When the Homestead Grazing Act came in, each could add a half section of grazing land to his homestead. The family also bought up other homesteads, forming a family enterprise called the Circle A Cattle Company. This was owned by the father, Richard H., and the two sons, Joe Willie and Lyter. Dr. Ellis never applied for a license to practice medicine in Arizona, choosing instead to try ranching and farming,

Lyter married Millie J. Upchurch in July 1917. Millie Jane Upchurch was born near Ft. Thomas, Arizona, November 24, 1897, the second child of David Allen and Margaret E. (Weaver) Upchurch. Millie's parents came to Arizona in a covered wagon, arriving in the fall of 1896. They came from Mason County, Texas and first settled in the Ft. Thomas area where her father had a contract to cut mesquite wood for the railroad. He also served as deputy sheriff while living there. Their home consisted of two tents, one for cooking and eating, the other for sleeping. The family moved to the Aravaipa Valley, homesteaded near Klondyke, and Al Upchurch worked in the mines. There, the children were reared and educated through the eighth grade. The family moved to Willcox in 1916 so the children could attend high school.

In October 1917, Lyter went into the armed forces and was stationed in California. After marriage, Lyter and Millie established their homestead and grazing privileges next to the other family land holdings. They could never dig nor drill to water on their homestead, and so for the next twelve years they hauled water from a well about six miles lower down the slope of the mountain.

Lyter applied for and recorded the Campstool brand in 1921. Millie later had the H slash E which was used for a while on part of the cattle.

By 1928 the Circle A Cattle Company consisted of forty-eight sections. Besides the homesteads and homestead grazing lands, a state lease law had come into effect whereby each homestead owner could lease one section of land for grazing purposes. The family had bought the Y Cross brand and cattle from Redus over on the San Pedro River, also a piece of patented land from Jap Keith. This land was later sold and the Y Cross cattle, which were good mountain cattle, were moved to the Circle A outfit. In 1928 Lyter and Millie and J.P. Cummings bought out Dr. Ellis and Joe Willie. The land was divided, with Cummings taking sixteen sections along the south side of the ranch to add to his other holdings. Lyter and Millie had thirty-two sections, ranging from the top of the Winchester Mountains east to the edge of the farming area in the Stewart Valley. Four more sections were added to this when they bought the Dickerson place, which had almost cut their ranch in two on the north side.

Lyter and Millie raised two children, Margaret "Peach" (Mrs. Jack Busenbark) and Richard H. (Dick). Like everyone else, the going was rough during the depression. There were no funds to hire help, so ranch work was a family affair. The kids weren't big enough to be much help but were too little to be left at home, so the whole family rode when necessary. Lyter devoted all the time he could spare from cattle work, trying to get more water on the ranch. Dirt tanks were built, but during dry years some of the cattle had to walk miles to the lower part of the ranch for water. He tried digging wells; then, in the early twenties, bought a well rig which wasn't enough machine to drill through the rock formations along the mountains. In 1931 they moved from the original homestead to a spring that ran the year around up higher in the mountains. The little spring went dry only once, but would be low every summer.

The family home wasn't large, but It was necessary to move it in two sections to get it through and over the canyons. This was the family home until they had a rock house built in 1937 at the same site. At about the same time, a large well rig was bought and a driller hired to continue the search for water. At last the ranch had some permanent water along the mountains. Lyter worked all the years he was on the ranch to improve the cattle herd, to improve on corals, fences, windmills, storage tanks for water and roads.

The ranch was managed by Millie and son Dick until January 1966. The ranch was sold to Wright, Wootan, and Wise from Demmitt, Texas and is now known as the Tri-W.

Lyter died January 21,1951.