McGEE SETTLEMENT  -  McGEEVILLE


The settlement was founded in 1898 by about 18 members of the J. R. McGee, George Harris and David Lively families.  Thirty sections or 19,200 acres comprise the holdings of the Sierrita Mining and Ranching Company, some of which were sold in 1960 to the Duval Mine (Phillips Dodge Sierrita - Grupo Mexico).  The arrival of electricity in 1952, telephone service in 1962 and currently the delivery of water from area wells to settlement storage tanks have made life in the settlement more comfortable.

The J. R. McGee (Texas) and Harris (Pennsylvania) families settled in Salt Lake City then  in 1882 teamed up traveling together to New Mexico working as haulers and in the Carlisle Mine.  The two families moved on to Arizona, first to Greaterville to work the mines in that area, then in 1895 to Vail.  A decision was made to move out on the Camino del Diablo to California.  At Chigger Hill (Lobo Peak) 4 miles SW of the settlement, a wagon wheel broke necessitating repair in Tucson.  During its absence the families took up gold mining joined by David Lively and his family.  Gold mining did not yield a livelihood but cheese from the milk of wild cows and honey from beehives they found were traded in Nogales for needed staples. The California destination was abandoned and within three years the families discovered what is now McGee Settlement.  It had been owned and abandoned by an Englishman who planted figs and grapes that remain today even though farming was abandoned by 1950 for lack of water.

Construction, hauling and ranching became the major occupations.  Their first major project was the construction of Twin Buttes Road for the Twin Buttes Mine. They hauled ore in 1903 from Helvetia to Vail via a RR spur which was added to Southern Pacific. Canoa Ranch was purchased by the families between 1910 and 1913.  During this period the families moved down to Canoa ranch and the Settlement was maintained for grazing.  During this time a horse and buggy service that ran from Canoa Ranch to Madera Canyon was a sideline catering to summertime vacation trade.

By 1913, unable to make the payments on Canoa ranch, the families moved back to the Settlement. Canoa was then purchased by L. H. Manning.  During these difficult years the family operated communally, pooling their resources.

J. R. McGee had 17 children each of whom has a life estate and the right to a home site.  N. E McGee, a son of J. R. was the first child born in the settlement and 3 generations have followed.  All five of his children plus almost all of their 43 grandchildren live at the settlement.

Today:  In 2001 there were about 300 people living in about 80 homes in the hamlet. More McGees than Harrises live in the settlement and only one Lively family remains.  200 mining claims are maintained today including the Glove Mine although currently (2001) no mining activity is carried on.  The mining claims preserve grazing rights and keep copper interests from the land.  A non-denominational church ministers to the settlement families; elders run the church.  Neither the church nor the community is Mormon (LDS).  Children attend the Sahuarita Schools.

Material has been collected and edited by Margaret Bieber, Russ Hartley, Bob Lund and Lillian Monson.

Bibliography:
“McGee Settlement-first Outpost,” a newspaper article by Pamela Kahn
An address by Lynn Harris to Hiking Club leaders 1-16-02 summarized by Lillian Monson
Recommended reading:  Ranch Schoolteacher, by Eulalia Bourne who taught in a one room school in the Sierrita area for 8 years in the 1940’s.  She also wrote Woman in Levis: 9 Months Make A Year

Additional Material: GVHC Library File 67