Gila County ranching family inducted into Arizona Farm and Ranch Museum Hall of Fame
This year a deep-rooted Gila County ranching family was welcomed into the Arizona Farm and Ranch Museum Hall of Fame, honoring its history and contributions to the field.
“It was a total surprise to us,” said Linda Griffin Brost, one of six siblings who operate the Griffin Cattle Ranch, about 16 miles northeast of Globe. “They sent us a letter and said ‘You’re going to be inducted.’ They came up and interviewed us, and then we went to the banquet and were honored there with a plaque and all of that.”
The ranch, she added, is one of the oldest continuously operating outfits in the county.
In 1912 Mollie Beach, descended from a Spanish land grantee, married a rancher from Texas named John Cox Griffin, who had come to Gila County to settle his brother’s estate.
Mollie was born in Globe in 1887 and grew up there. Her grandparents, John C. and Maria (Romero) Clark, had moved from Globe to Tucson in 1875. “They built one of the earliest homes in Globe that was not a tent with a wood floor, it was an actual structure,” said Brost.
John Griffin, who moved to Globe in the early 1900s, took over two or three ranches in the Roosevelt/Tonto Basin area. He also became vice president of the First National Bank of Globe, an independent bank of the kind that often sprang up in copper and cattle towns that had no large banks.
“Because the bank officer had to back the loans to ranchers, if they defaulted he got ownership of the ranch,” said Brost. This was how John acquired four outfits that became the Griffin Cattle Ranch – the X4, 4 Lazy Y, I Lazy HL and part of the old JU. “In 1923 we got to register the X4 brand; prior to that there were several different brands,” said Brost.
In the mid-1920s, with things going well at the ranch, John and Mollie built a large tufa stone house next to Globe High School. Several years later, on the brink of the Great Depression, a run on the banks forced John into bankruptcy. Forced to choose between the house and their ranch, the Griffins chose the ranch. Their former home is now the site of Globe Unified School District’s administrative offices.
Tragedy led Mollie to take over the ranch in 1932. John was instructed by the U.S. Forest Service to round up some wild cattle: “They were big longhorn wild cattle, and they were called blackjackers,” said Brost. He had roped two yearlings and was leading them to the corral when they turned around and went backward, pulling his horse over on top of him. John was taken to the hospital, but died of his injuries the next day. With their son Jimmy only 12, Mollie assumed management of the Griffin Cattle Ranch.
Jimmy worked at the ranch while attending high school and college. When World War II struck, he joined the U.S. Army. He was stationed in England when he met Minnie Keeler, a Massachusetts native serving in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. They were married in England in June 1945, and returned to live at the ranch after both were discharged.
Brost recalled living on the ranch until school started. With the ranch so far from Globe, her grandmother bought a house in town, at the corner of Six Shooter and Ice House Canyon. “She remodeled it extensively and that’s where we lived during the school year. The day school was out, my mother would be there with the station wagon and we’d come out and spend all summer here.”
Mollie Griffin died in 1966, the year the Forest Service reduced the allowed number of cattle by half because of overgrazing concerns. “My dad’s income went in half,” said Brost. “It was a very difficult time.” Jimmy enlisted help from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Service, which introduced him to the system of rotational grazing. To make that happen, the ranch had to develop more pastures and install water systems to reach them.
Today Brost and her five siblings carry on a family partnership set up by their father, Jimmy Griffin – an arrangement which originally included their parents. Jimmy Griffin passed away in 1999 and Minnie Griffin in 2018. The ranch is co-managed by John Griffin and Therese Griffin Oddonetto.
“Our main goal is to leave this viable and sustainable for our kids,” said Brost. “They’re all committed and interested in keeping the ranch going. They all have jobs, of course, but they’ll be up here on weekends to help with branding and all the things that go with a ranch. It’s very unusual in agriculture operations that it is sustainable for more than three generations, but most all of us are close by and committed to making this work.
“It was a huge honor that other people recognized what we were doing, how we were sustaining this to move forward and the progress we’ve made,” Brost said of the family’s Hall of Fame induction. “To be recognized by your peers, by other cattle people and livestock people who know how much dedication and hard work it takes, is really an honor – really amazing.”
Founded in 2007, the Arizona Farm and Ranch Museum & Hall of Fame was created to recognize Arizona farmers and ranchers “who have played a pivotal role in Arizona’s agricultural history and economy.” According to its nomination form, nominees must “have distinguished themselves in farming, ranching, agribusiness, ag education or sciences” and “created a significant enduring legacy for future generations.”