Borderman

The Memoirs of
Federico José María Ronstadt


Transcription of the Original Text

from the manuscript in the Ronstadt Family archives
at Special Collections, The University of Arizona Library



Part 8

The death of my good old friend, Rufino, was a blow to me in more ways than one. We had been chums for many years, and he had also been my financial adviser. As the business continued to grow, we found that we needed not only more capital but also a competent and trustworthy bookkeeper and cashier. I had known a man well qualified for this place who was in business in Cananea, Mexico, and very anxious to get out of there, Billy Field. When I mentioned the opening to Billy, he immediately arranged to dispose of his Cananea business to come in with us. He purchased a few shares of stock in our corporation and became our treasurer. Later a Mr. Joel H. Huntsman who had come to Tucson from Tennessee for his wife's health expressed a desire to invest some money in our business. He went over our records and bought $10,000 of stock, 100 shares of Treasury Stock at $100 par value per share. Mr. Huntsman had other investments in Tucson. He was only a stockholder in our concern and had no other connection excepting as one of our directors without any salary. Later, he purchased 60 shares more and when he made some losses handling Overland Automobiles and in some mining investments and had to sell his Ronstadt Co.'s stock to us, he told his secretary that our stock had been his most profitable investment. For his $16,000 he received altogether including dividends, over a period of ten years, something more than $40,000. Mr. Huntsman finally died in poverty. He had made a fortune in the grocery business in Tennessee and could have lived comfortably for the balance of his days, but he was still active and ambitious for more wealth, and mining and selling automobiles all over Arizona ruined him.

By 1906, we had built up a good trade for custom made wagons and other lines in Southern Arizona and in the state of Sonora, Mexico. We had established an agency in Cananea and also had subagents in Nogales, Hermosillo, and Guaymas. Pepe would travel over this territory and made a good many friends and good customers. Our agent at Cananea, Alfredo Pesqueira, a son of my godfather, General Ignacio Pesqueira, also purchased 100 shares of our Treasury stock. We also sold 20 shares to Carl Bucholtz who was by that time superintendent and designer in our carriage shop. About 1906, Mr. William C. Greene, the man who had developed Cananea to one of the largest copper producing mines in the U. S., started to build a railroad from Chihuahua towards Cananea. He had timber lands and other mining interests in the region through which this railroad was to pass. He had in mind a separate and independent transportation connection from the eastern cities to Cananea through El Paso, Texas. We realized that a direct line from El Paso through Chihuahua and Sonora to Cananea would place Tucson at a disadvantage as a supply point. It appeared that to retain the trade we had developed at Cananea and northeastern Sonora, we would need a branch either at Cananea or El Paso, Texas. We decided that El Paso was the best location and we started a branch there under the management of a local man who had experience in handling vehicles and harness.

Our plan was to try this venture for a time and if it proved profitable, to let my brother, Pepe, change his residence to El Paso and take charge of that store. We operated for the first year with very satisfactory results. We had a good system of duplicate accounting for El Paso. The Tucson office purchased all the merchandise and made all disbursements. The El Paso manager would only pay out petty accounts with a manager's cash fund that he could maintain by sending the Tucson office vouchers signed by the parties receiving the money. The system worked smoothly and it was clear to us that we had a fine field in El Paso for our business. We leased a larger store building and Pepe took his wife and babies to try to locate there permanently. Both he and his family liked the change and made friends there readily in a few months, but Pepe was sick with a bad cold for several weeks that seemed to aggravate a chronic condition of leaky valves in his heart. He was born with this heart condition, had suffered with heavy palpitation during his childhood, but as he grew up his heart improved and we never thought much more about it.

He came to Tucson to dispose of his home by either renting it or selling it and to move his furniture and household goods to El Paso. Before doing this, I told him to go to his doctor for an examination of his heart. He did so and the doctor found that the higher elevation of El Paso had aggravated the condition of his heart and told him not to think of moving to any but a place lower than Tucson. That disarranged our plans for the branch at El Paso. While trying to determine what to do, we discovered that the man we had in El Paso had not only swindled us in several ways but also involved us in a lawsuit by accusing one of his clerks of stealing some diamonds belonging to a friend who had left them in our safe for safekeeping.

I had to go to El Paso to see about this matter when I heard about it through a telegram sent to me direct by the clerk's lawyer. I found that our manager had the clerk put in jail, accused of robbery. After talking to both of them, I decided that we had no justification for the charge and had the clerk released. There was nothing for us to do but discontinue the El Paso store. We advertised a sale of the entire stock, found a ready renter to take over the lease on the building, and in less that 30 days we sold 80% of all the vehicles, harness, and supplies at 10% over our invoice cost. The unsold stock filled a railroad freight car and this was shipped to our Tucson house. Of course, we had fired the El Paso manager and tried to avoid making any scandal. He was married to a lovely girl, the daughter of one of the leading merchants of El Paso. They had a little daughter and for the sake of his family we said nothing. The owner of the diamonds told us a few months later that this same manager of ours had taken the diamonds himself, but for the same reason of his lovely family and family connections, he had dropped the matter. A few years later this manager asked my assistance to get a job with the city government at El Paso and I was glad to give him a hand. I always thought that he appreciated what we did for him and the lesson helped to reform him. He died a young man about ten years later.

I have a framed picture of our El Paso Branch store in my office. I tell my friends that the picture cost me $3,000. That was the net loss resulting from that venture. It could have been ten times more if El Paso had not proved such a fine field for our line of business enabling us to make money the first year and to convert most of the stock of merchandise into cash within a short month when we decided to close it out.

The Madero revolution in Mexico dislocated all our business and plans for the future in Mexico. The Cananea agency was liquidated without any loss, but as many of our good customers were found to flee Mexico when Madero succeeded Porfirio Diaz and the government of Mexico was demoralized for years after, we made serious losses of accounts due us in Mexico.

About that time Charles Solomon, Mose Drachman, and others had purchased the Arizona National Bank of Tucson. The management of the Consolidated Bank where we had banked for years had changed. Our good friends, Herbert Tenney, the cashier, and principal owner of the Consolidated had died suddenly and the president, Mr. Freeman, had sold out and retired. Both of these men were not only good bankers but lovely characters. I was not very happy about the change in the Consolidated Bank, and when Charlie Solomon and Mose Drachman came to my home one evening to invite me to take some stock in the Arizona National Bank and act as one of the directors, I was interested and it took me only a few days to decide to accept their proposition. I had some building and loan stock on which I could realize the necessary cash to purchase ten shares of the Arizona National Bank and I did so. The revolution in Mexico had reduced our sales about 33% and tied up in frozen notes and accounts about one-third of our working capital. Worse than that, some of our stockholders were alarmed on account of this situation and my new Bank connection was a great help at this particular time.

We had sold 250 shares of F. Ronstadt Co. to Sam Heineman, rather reluctantly as Sam was not familiar with our particular line. He had been a successful wholesale liquor man. Prohibition had forced him out of that business and his brother-in-law, Fred Fleishman, had advised him to come in with me believing that our business was clean and that Sam could fit into it in some way. Had we not needed capital on account of the losses in Mexico, we would not have taken Sam Heineman in with us, but $25,000 at that particular time was very necessary. This happened about 1914. Sam proved unfit for our organization. We gave him a place in the office as credit man and cashier at $200 per month. His training in the liquor business was of no help to him. My brother, Dick, who was with us at the time, could not get along with Sam Heineman and we had to buy Dick's interest in the business and let him go. My brother, Pepe, had been out of the business for some time.

The Democratic convention had nominated me for County Supervisor in such a way that it was difficult for me to refuse the nomination. I happened to be one of the only two Democrats elected at that election for which I made no campaign and served my two-year term. Before that, I had been helpful to elect men who were fighting the A P As (American Protective Association). Again, to put women out of the saloons, and again when Gen. L.H. Manning ran for Mayor to prohibit gambling and to raise the licenses for operating the saloons. All of them -- big fights. The political control in Tucson and Pima County in those days was in the hands of saloon men and the gambling houses. While many of the men engaged in that line of business were good citizens, their following and the atmosphere surrounding them was bad. Perhaps on account of my activities in the above campaigns, the party leaders wanted to get me in office. Another time I was nominated for the legislature, and again for the State Senate, but I had to refuse. One time both the Republican and Democratic party were hard put for a candidate for Mayor and they urged me to take the nomination and endorsement of both parties. While taking it would have meant a serious loss to our business since we would have been disqualified to do any business with the city government, I appreciated the offer very highly and would have accepted it if two or three men whom I knew would make capable councilmen had consented to run on the same ticket with me.

I mention these episodes to show how it was that my brothers Dick and Pepe became interested in party politics and later got into the campaigns running for office themselves. Dick ran for Supervisor the year before he left our business. He devoted nearly all of his time to the campaign and lost by only a few votes. Pepe got interested in a different way. First, the year that Woodrow Wilson was elected President, Pepe had managed the Democratic campaign in Pima County very efficiently and later he was appointed Postmaster by President Wilson and served with credit for eight years. He also had engaged in the cattle business and made a fine success in all his deals. He had stock in the Southern Arizona Bank and was a Director for several years until he died. A few years before he died, he was elected Supervisor for Pima County. During his term as Chairman of the Board he worked to build the present County Building.

Dick also engaged in the cattle business and opened a store to sell hay and feed and also farm implements and wagons but he met with reverses that finally forced him to liquidate. Both Dick and Pepe died before their time. Pepe's old heart ailment was aggravated by the concentrated attacks of his political enemies and Dick, while in perfect physical condition and as active and strong as anyone could be all his life, in his last days developed a case of angina pectoris that killed him in a few hours. My sister, Emilia, also died from a heart attack or a ruptured blood artery. They were all younger than I.

I will again go back to the years while I worked for Tio Adolfo Vasquez. Soon after I had started to work I had an opportunity to see, what was called here, a western picnic. Tio Adolfo and two or three of his friends were in charge. The invited guests were fifty or more families. They drove to a place under the cottonwoods at the Rillito River near Fort Lowell. There was a steer butchered, large wood fires made, and the men all had long sticks with sharp points to stick pieces of meat and broil them over the live coals. They had other good things to eat, and beer and wine for everybody. Two Italian musicians that played the violin and the harp furnished fine music for dancing on large canvas. These Italians were Juan and Pancho Pascalli. I got well acquainted with them. Returning to town after a very fine day we had a hard time managing Jacob Martin, a friend of the Vasquez and Dalton families. Martin was a good hearted, easy going, likeable young man until he would take a few drinks. Even a few glasses of beer would make him lose his head and become violent and entirely a different person.

I was invited to two other picnics after that, one to the ranch of Don Emilio Carrillo near Tanque Verde, and another one to Agua Caliente. These places we can now reach in one short hour by automobile. At that time it would take several hours from town by horses. My social life covering these years consisted mainly of gatherings with some of the shop boys until I made a few acquaintances on account of my music. I was naturally shy and did not meet any young women. I would play with different groups of musicians at different times for the pleasure of it.

The manuscript ends here




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Last updated 12 August 1997