John Slaughter Ranch and Museum is a National Historic Landmark located east of Douglas, Arizona. John Slaughter was born in 1841 and grew up in Texas. He began serving as Arizona Cochise County Sheriff in 1885—just five years after the OK Corral shoot out. Slaughter knew the Earp’s, the Clanton’s, Johnny Ringo and Poncho Villa and other famous names of the Southwest. He acquired his 65,000acres of land in 1884. An earthquake in 1887 destroyed many of the buildings on the property.
Slaughter’s Ranch is a synonym for San Bernardino Ranch, which was originally established in Mexico and covered thousands of acres. The new US-Mexico border of the Gadsden Purchase sliced through the ranch. It is still called San Bernardino today, but is affectionately known as Slaughter’s Ranch almost 100 years after John Slaughter’s death. After his second term as sheriff ended, Slaughter moved to the ranch permanently and the present house on the land was built in 1893.
The ranch is now a living museum of ranch life in the early Arizona Territory. The main house consisted of five rooms on either side of a wide hallway. There was kitchen with a pantry, bathroom and a dining room. Family and friends gathered in the large room with a built-in china cabinet Slaughter ordered through a Sears & Roebuck catalog. Besides the main house, the ranch compound contains several other buildings.
A car shed holds a fully restored 1915 Model T Ford. North of the car shed is a large granary. Adjacent are the cook’s room and commissary. On the west side of the compound are two stone structures: the washhouse and the icehouse. The washhouse was used to iron clothes; the icehouse, to store 300-pound blocks of ice hauled in by wagon.
The MVD Ghostchasers and two of their workshop groups spent the day exploring the grounds of Slaughter Ranch. The most active areas were in the parlor where they could hear the faint sound of a woman humming near the piano. There was also activity on the grounds in one of the small out buildings. A few of the ladies were snapping photos in the washhouse when “a spirit” reached out and touched one of the ladies arms which naturally startled her.
The cemetery on the San Bernardino Ranch is located about one mile east and north of the ranch compound. There is only one marker left on the graves and it is almost impossible to know for certain how many are buried there. The graveyard contains about 32 known graves. Some of the people buried there were employees of John Slaughter, children of the employees, three outlaws and his adopted Indian daughter. John Slaughter died in 1922. Both he and his wife are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Douglas.
As you follow Geronimo Trail 15 miles to the museum, you will see the beautiful landscape that inspired Stan Jones to compose the mystical song “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. You can also discover Signal Hill, a site for the heliograph during the time when the Army was placing Indians on reservations. The old West in Cochise Country has not changed since the days Slaughter ruled the ranges. It is still very isolated from the city, and hauntingly beautiful.
If you go:
From Douglas, go east on 15th Street. At the edge of town it becomes Geronimo Trail. Continue east for 15 miles to the great white Slaughter gate with the letter “Z” over it. There is a sign at the edge of town and also one at the end of the lane going back to the museum.
6153 Geronimo Trail
Douglas, AZ 85608
Corporate Office: (623) 974-2541