Cochise Hotel
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1898 to 1913 The years of Town Father, John J. Rath, builder of the Cochise Hotel.


John J. Rath, Cochise's town father, arrived in the area in 1894.  

W. Goodman night operator for the Southern Pacific, at this place for a year left last Monday for California.  Mr. Rath now occupies his place.  

April 17th, 1894  Arizona Range News under the Bowie News column

JJ. Rath was the son of John J. Sr.  and Susie Antz Rath bothe natives of Germany.  John Jr. was born in Queens, Long Island, New York on March 25th 1870.  At 13 he left home and went West.  He worked in Colorado for two years and lived in California until the year 1893.   In April 1894 he became the night telegraph operator for the Southern Pacific at Bowie. Later, he was promoted to chief clerk at the station.

John Rath pictured in the middle standing by the Cochise Wells Fargo Express coach.

Mr. Rath, who is not only hopeful of the mining possibilities in the Dragoon mountains, but has acted his faith and good will by investing heavily in mining and other property, and acting in the capacity of chief improver of the settlement.  He came to Cochise in 1897 as the Southern Pacific Railroad agent, remaining as such until 1899.  Upon being made postmaster and Wells Fargo express agent he resigned his position with the railroad and while still retaining the latter named positions built up a large mercantile business, which he recently sold.  

Portrait and Biographical Record of Arizona  Chapman Publishing Co. 1901

For the carrying on of his enterprises Mr. Rath built a fine large building, which is used as an hotel, post office and express office, and is fitted with all of the requirements of a first class and extensive trade.  The traveling public are glad to avail themselves of the fair treatment accorded them by the genial and obliging proprietor, whose integrity and sound commercial honesty are never questioned.  As further evidence of his devotion to the public cause may be mentioned Mr. Rath's successful attempt to supply the town with water from a small works instigated by himself.  He is now able to branch out somewhat in this line and is preparing to supply the railroad with water. 

In 1896 Mr. Rath married Lulu B, Olney, of Solomonville.  Of this union there is one child, Edith, who is two years of age.  Although a strict party man, and a Republican of indelible dye, Mr. Rath is not an aspirant for political honors.  Rather he prefers to devote his entire time to his business and mining pursuits, and to a general supervision of the upbuilding of the town.  He is regarded as one of the most enthusiastic of the advocates of the resources of Arizona, and his name will be inseparably associated with the rise, prosperity, and future history of Cochise and the Dragoon mountains.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Arizona  Chapman Publishing Co. 1901

With the Commonwealth Mine thriving in Pearce they built a 16 mile road from Pearce to Cochise and the 24 horse teamed wagons of ore began to roll.  

The bonanza at Pearce attracted miners throughout the west, including a miner from Colorado named John Gleeson.  He worked an area at the southern tip of the Dragoon Mountains near the settlement of Turquoise.  Gleeson discovered a copper deposit claim christened the Copper Belle, which also shipped out of the rail head at Cochise.  

The town of Cochise is fast assuming city airs.  She now boasts a store, post office, express office, restaurant and meat market.  

February 9th, 1897   The Arizona Range News

When the new century arrived, Cochise was a growing town where entrepreneurs were involved in numerous enterprises.  Among them was Henderson's saloon at the end of Rath Avenue on the Southern Pacific side of Front Street (now Cochise Stronghold Road.).  Albert Eaton opened a sporting house which included gambling, a bar, and a restaurant.  The bar had fixtures seldom equaled in the West and the restaurant was known for its fist class meals day and night. John Collins and his wife worked the Cochise Dining Hall.

 The post office opened in 1896.  The first postmaster was Charles Sims. from Sept. 10 to Nov 28 housed in an abandoned railroad car only eight feet from the main line.    The next postmaster was Tomas Steele, a rancher and former stage station operator.  He stayed on as postmaster until town father , John Rath, took over in 1898. at a compensation of $58 a year.

The first Southern Pacific timetable that included Cochise appeared in November 1897 soon after the Cochise Depot was opened.  On October 19th of that same year the Southern Pacific's new passenger train the Sunset Limited arrived at Cochise during its inaugural run.

In February 1898 John Rath and his wife Lula Belle applied for applied for a homestead of 120 acres at $1.25 per acre. The deed was transferred to Rath on October 13th, 1899.  In August 1899 the Hotel Rath was reported being constructed of Adobe, 30 x 60 feet in size. The hotel was finished in med September and opened for business about November 15th.  Originally named the Hotel Rath it soon became the Cochise Royal and was advertised as having large, well-furnished rooms and courteous service


Johnny Ringo 

John Rath's wife, Lula Belle Olney was born in 1875, her father was Joseph Olney who ran into trouble with the law in Texas and changed his name to Joe Hill only to become one of the most wanted men in the New Mexico Territory.  Joe Hill moved the family to Arizona and became a member of the powerful Curly Bill - Clanton gang.    The 1882 census lists outlaw gang members John Ringgold (aka Johnny Ringo) and Ike and Phin Clanton at the Hill Ranch along with Lula Belle Hill then age 7.

About the time the Cochise Hotel opened for business, a woman was hired to help Mrs. Rath.  The woman was Mary Katherine Cummings.  She was once known as Big Nose Kate, the girlfriend of Wild West gunman Doc Holliday.  Lula's father would have been bitter enemies with Doc Holliday.  There is some speculation that Mrs. Rath did not like Mrs. Cummings, although there is no proof that either knew the history of the other.  Mary Katheryn was listed on the 1900 census as a resident of Cochise.


Burt Alvord

Just before midnight September 9th, 1899 the Southern Pacific #10 westbound train pulled into Cochise and was held up by a gang of masked men.  The train had just slowed to a stop at the station when the masked men came out of the darkness.  The passengers were advised by one of the gang members that none of them were going to be molested.  He went on to explain that they were only after the money in the express car.  The Wells, Fargo express car and engine was uncoupled from the rest of the cars  The engineer was ordered to pull forward a short distance while the main and passenger cars were to be left behind. The train pulled forward about a half mile to a point pre-determined by the robbers.  A request was made to Charles Adair, the Wells, Fargo agent, to open the express car door, but he refused.  Then the bandits set up a charge of giant powder under the Wells, Fargo car.  After the explosion the bandits jumped aboard the damaged Wells Fargo car and quickly filled a pack.  Their horses, held nearby, were mounted and, with a parting shot, the bandits were on their way.  The entire event lasted about half an hour.  Afterward when the train backed up to the station and continued on to Tucson.  In Cochise, townspeople gathered at the Cochise Hotel as the small settlement learned of the robbery.  There was some talk of gathering a posse, but, since there was no lawman in town, it was hard to put together a group of determined men.  Still, a posse formed and found a trail leading toward Willcox.  The posse followed the trail along a route that went north and then east toward Willcox.  The trial played out among many tracks just 100 yards from town.  Many theories abound for a while about who the robbers were.  The Willcox Marshal Burt Alvord gathered a bigger better posse and took off again out of town to try and capture the bandits. No arrests were made until early the next year.  On February 15th 1900 a north bound train was held up while stopped at the Fairbank station, north of Tombstone.  During the robbery, express messenger Jeff Milton was shot.  But, he was able to severely wound one of the gang.  Three-fingered Jack Dunlap escaped with his companions, but was soon abandoned. He was found by a posse and before he died in jail, he spilled the beans.  He implicated several men involved in the Cochise train robbery.  They were: Burt Alvord, the constable at Willcox, Billy Styles, his Deputy, Matt Burts, a former Deputy and William Downing.  Styles was found and confessed to the robbery.  Downing was found in Pearce, while a posse went to get Alvord in Willcox.  Alvord and Downing were brought to Cochise and held there until a train could transport them to Tombstone.  In the end, it appears Alvord, after getting out of jail, took off for Central America, where he died in 1910.  

Following the train robbery a reluctant John Rath was persuaded to become the town's Justice of the Peace. 

Much of the above text came from the book THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF COCHISE ARIZONA by Brad Smith.

Wyatt Earp                    Warren Earp                  Virgil Earp   

In the early morning hours of July 6th, 1900, Warren Earp took a fatal bullet at the Headquarter saloon in Willcox.  At the time the barroom was filled with cowboys still celebrating the July 4th holiday.  The killer John Nathan Boyett and Warren Earp walked into the saloon together at about 1:30 am, arguing between themselves.  Both likely had been drinking elsewhere.  Some men playing cards overheard Warren telling Johnny he'd learned Boyett had been offered $150 to kill him.  Johnny answered that he wasn't looking for trouble, to which Warren taunted, "Go get your gun... I have mine." Boyette  shouted, "I'm not afraid!" then stormed out of the saloon.  Earp, meanwhile, ducked out the back.  Minutes later Boyett burst through the front door gripping a six shooter in each hand.  "Where is that son of a bitch?" he shouted.  The card players took the hint and abandoned their game. Others made a hasty exit from the building.  Earp would have been wise to stay away, but he walked back into the barroom, where he dared the enraged Boyett to shoot.  Warren even advanced toward Johnny, jeering as he opened his coat to make a better target.  Four shots rang out, perhaps by way of a warning, but Earp didn't turn away.  The fifth shot found Warren's heart, killing him instantly.

Later Mary Katherine Cummings (aka Big Nose Kate), mentioned the affair in an interview. Cummings lived 15 miles from Willcox in 1900 when Boyett Killed Warren, thus she heard all the news.  "Warren Earp's death in Willcox," she reportedly said, "was the result of an altercation between two individuals involved in an unnatural male relationship."

Wild West Magazine  February 2014 by Phyllis de la Garza

It is rumored that by August of 1900, Wyatt Earp snuck out of Alaska and met with his brother Virgil Earp to travel to Willcox to investigate the murder of their brother Warren. Wyatt and Virgil were still un-liked by many in the area due to the OK corral shootings less then 20 years earlier and were still wanted men in Arizona.  Therefore they took precautions to not be noticed by anyone.  They grew beards and hid out at the near bye Cochise Hotel where their old friend Doc Holliday's girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, was working.  After their investigation they mysteriously left the territory without any vengeance or ever even being noticed. 

Note the Cochise Hotel in the back left behind the train.

After the turn of the Century the Southern Pacific Railroad began to eye Cochise as part of its expansion plan to supply the smelters in Cochise County with coal from Colorado and Mexico.  Epes Randolph, the head of the Southern Pacific, visited Cochise in March, 1901.  In 1902 the plan came closer to reality with the incorporation of the Arizona & Colorado Railroad.  The railroad would link to the Ferrocarri de Canenea, Rio Yaqul y Pacifico, a Mexican railway. The first train from Cochise pulled into Pearce on May 28th, 1903, leaving Cochise at 7:30 am and arriving Pearce at 9:30 am, a 10 mile run.

Most of the early lots sold in town were along Front Street. Note the Real Estate sign posted above the Rath Hotel pictured above to the left of center frame. This photo is taken looking down what is now Rath Ave. with the old Railroad Station in the center of the picture on Front Street which is now called Cochise Stronghold Road.

In 1903 the post office which had been in the depot, was moved to the Cochise Royal.  The population of Cochise rose from 50 in 1900 to 75 in 1905 and 100 by 1910.  The small town of Cochise had a lively social scene.  Along with the gambling and saloon activity in down, dances and masquerade balls were held at the depot.  At one dance, forty couples showed up on one hot and humid August evening.  In 1901 John Rath petitioned the County Board of Supervisors for a school district.  The petition was accepted and the first school board election took place in March.  John Rath, Charles Halerman and John Bentley were elected.  

On September 7th, 1905 John Rath and several of his friends rented a buckboard from the Newton's Livery.  The group left Cochise about noon, heading out of town to hunt.  Rath sat with his loaded shotgun next to him, the butt of the weapon resting on the floor.  Just outside of town, the buckboard hit a rough spot, causing a jolt.  Rath's shotgun slipped from his grip and then the manner caught as it slid down.  The shotgun fired with the discharge entering the right side of John Rath's neck, killing him instantly.  The buckboard returned to Cochise  and Judge Page and Constable Bud Snow came in from Willcox.  A coroner's jury was summoned and an inquest was held.  Rath's death was ruled accidental.  On Monday morning, a procession left Cochise, through Willcox an on to Bowie.  A ceremony was held at 1:00 pm in Bowie with the Rev. A.A. Hyde of Tombstone officiating.  John Rath was buried in the Olney family plot at the Desert Rest Cemetery.  Today, there is a small concrete headstone marking his grave.  Lula returned to the town, a widow with three daughters.  In early November Lula and her daughters left Cochise to live with William Olney, her brother in Globe.  Lula returned by April 1907 to assume the responsibilities of postmaster and to reopen the boarding house.  

After John Rath died his estate went to probate.  The problem was that John Rath's estate was frozen.  Half of the estate was Lula's, the other half his three daughters. The girls were minors and nothing could be done about their half unless it was decided that it would be in their best interest.  The matter went before a probate judge in April 1909.  The judge ordered a public austion of the minor's half of the estate.  News of the auction was published in three newspapers for ten days before the sale.  On June 8, 1909, George Olney offered the winning bid of $1,700 for half the interest in the estate.  The court accepted the bid on July 9th and the matter was settled.  On July 21st, George Olney sold his interest back to his sister Lula for $1,700 so that the lots in the townsite could be sold.  One would not think there was a pent-up demand for lots in Cochise but there was.  In less than six month's time, 75 lots were sold.  The average sale price was $20 per lot. On June 15th, 1910 Lula married Charles A Cornell the Minister of the Gospel church in Tombstone.  

Yancy Womack's Hotel was one of the first establishments to be located away from the main business section of town.  It was on Rath Avenue, two blocks from the depot.  The original building was two stories high, Womack's family occupied the second floor and guests, on the first. It is currently a one story private residence owned by Sam and Bonnie Samuel.

Other new establishments in town was Perry Hamilton's Lumber Yard, located behind the Norton Morgan property.  Miles Merrill opened a General Store across the street from the Womack Hotel.  Miles was a grandson of Philemon Merrill, the founder of St. David Arizona.  He sold the store to Artie Slaughter in 1918 who ran a stable. Ed Haldeman opened a butcher shop.  Br. J.B. Ellis became the local physician.  

In early 1913, Lula Belle, Charles Comell and the tree girls closed the rooming house and moved to Los Angles.  The property was sold to Yancy Womack.  Lula Belle Cornell died in Fresno County on July 17th 1966 at the age of 91.





In 1913 Norton-Morgan Commercial Co. erected a huge two story adobe store.  They sold the store in early 1917 to the Ragsdale=Ballard Mercantile Co.   Henry Morgan was the president of the company with E.N. Ragsdale and H.C. Ballard the managers.  The adobe structure is now a private residence owned by Sally. 

Many of the land holders in the town bought their blocks of land when Lula first made lots available in 1909.  By 1914 many were ready to sell off their holdings.  One of the most eager buyers was John Skinner who purchased the Cochise Hotel from the Womacks in 1919.