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Ferris Ranch


Cattle ranch in Dry Springs, Arizona Territory in the 1870s.[1]


In the years following the Civil War, white settlement and migration across southern Arizona trails were meeting with more frequent Indian attacks, and the U. S. Army had established many forts and camps around the Territory. As their numbers grew, so did their hunger for beef, but the distant herds from Texas were often too far away and too expensive and local ranching began to move into the region.[2]


Jedd and Martha Ferris bought the small spread just outside of Dry Springs, hoping to make a living together, providing fatter cattle and cheaper prices from shorter trail drives to the Arizona forts. The moved there with Martha's father in March of 1872.[3]


In May of that year, Jedd was mistakenly identified as an outlaw that had killed a teller during a bank robbery in Dry Springs. One of the bank robbers, Ben Maxwell, had attended the trial, knowing he wouldn't be recognized due to the mask he had worn during the hold-up. There, he met and fell in love with Martha Ferris.[1]


When Jedd was sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing, Maxwell bought the Rocking Star Ranch just to the north of the Ferris Ranch to be closer to Martha. Too large for Martha and her ailing father to manage, she put the ranch up for sale, but due to the Ferrises' notoriety, their were no buyers. Maxwell began to help out around the spread to further gain Martha's trust and affection.[1]


In October of 1877, Bret Maverick delivered a message to Martha from Ferris in prison. Knowing he would never be released, Ferris wanted her to divorce him and remarry in order to have a happy life without him.[1]


Two months later, Bret realized Maxwell had been one of the bank robbers in 1872. Maxwell was shot and mortally wounded by the sheriff of Dry Springs before Maxwell could pull the trigger against Bret. As he lay dying, Maxwell's love for Martha drove him to sign a confession letter clearing Jedd Ferris of the murder charge.[1]


Jedd was released from prison and returned to Martha at the Ferris Ranch[1] in February of 1878. Together, the ranch prospered and Jedd regained his good name in Dry Springs.[3]


Grateful for all Bret had done for them, the Ferrises remained close friends with him through the years. During Bret's retirement in the 1880s, the Ferrises were frequent guests at Bret's own ranch, the Lazy Ace, in Sweetwater, only 120 miles to the northwest of Dry Springs.[3]


In March of 1888, Jedd suffered a heart attack and died with Martha at his side. As the ranch had prospered and the Ferris name was once again held in high regard, she was able to sell the ranch and its livestock at a favorable price and move to Tucson where she spent the remainder of her years.[3]


See: The Long Hunt


01. Maverick, The Long Hunt (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

02. Arizona: A History (1995), Thomas E. Sheridan

03. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

Jedd Ferris returns home from prison to his wife, Martha, at the Ferris Ranch, Dry Springs, Arizona Territory, February 10, 1878.[2]

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