A Ride to
the Fritz Ranch(XXX Ranch) on the Blue River
The Fritz Ranch was established on the Blue River in the 1880's near the New Mexico Border in eastern Arizona. Approximately 100 years later, the ranch was involved in a land swap for land near Showlow. The ranch is now owned by the Forest Service.
Access to the site is accomplished by the way of the Juan Miller Road off Highway 191 north of Clifton/Morenci. After 15 miles or so of travel on the Juan Miller Road, a primitive road takes off to the north a couple of miles to the ranch. The spur road was not constructed until the 1940's. A lot of blasting had to be done in order to carve the road out. It is said the Fred Fritz Jr. was able to use his influence as a state legislator to make the road happen.
The original owner was Fred Fritz Sr. In the 1880's, times were tough out on the Blue. One of Fritz's partners was killed by Apaches. One story states that he chose the location of the ranch so that it could not be readily seen by folks traveling along the river bed.
Another story describes how the brand came to be "XXX". Apparently, Fritz operated for a while without one. The range inspector said that could not continue. Fritz did not speak or write English well, so he put down an X for his name. Two of his cowboys put down their X's as witness. Thus the "XXX"
Fritz was mortally wounded by a grizzly bear in 1916. The attack was apparently a long and drawn out affair. Fritz shot the bear with a pistol. The shot did not kill it, but blew off the bear's jaw. The bear attacked. Fritz emptied his gun, then beat on it with his pistol. He then stabbed it multiple times with his knife. Someone finally came along and killed the bear. Fritz never recovered from the wounds and died a few months later. He is buried at the ranch site.
Fred Fritz Jr. took over the ranching operation after the death of his father. As the years passed, he acquired other ranches in the area. The ranching life apparently went well. Fred Jr. also became Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and the President of the Arizona Senate.
Life with the Forest Service was not so good. In later years, his cattle were blamed for the poor condition of the range land. His allottment to run cattle was reduced to a point that he was no longer able to keep the ranch working. It was sold. That buyer soon tied in with a group of investors who made the land swap.
The ranch is unoccupied today. All of the buildings currently standing look modern. I do not know if the original structures are underneath the siding and wallboard or whether they were demolished to make way for the new.