Ethel and Pancho
by Rod Timanus
Pancho Villa. Perhaps no other name in
Mexican history, other than Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, can
elicit a wider variety of impassioned perceptions.
Villa has been described, with equal intensity, as a heartless
bandit, a cold-blooded killer, a shameless self-promoter, a
heroic revolutionary, and a champion of the poor and
downtrodden. In truth, he was probably all of those things to
one degree or another.
Villa was the absolute ruler of the northern Mexican province of
Chihuahua, an area he had lived in,
exploited, since his arrival there from Durango in 1897 at the
age of twenty. Between 1897 and 1900, Villa rustled cattle,
robbed banks, and always managed to skillfully avoid capture and
punishment for his crimes. He amassed a following of like-minded
individuals and was soon a very powerful bandit leader. When he
and his bandit army joined forces with a revolutionary army
Francisco Madero in 1910 to help
overthrow the oppressive government of Porfirio Diaz, Villa
became a revered hero to the populace and was named governor of
Chihuahua. The revolution both
succeeded and failed within a short period of time and Villa’s
forces soon came under attack by other segments of the
revolutionary army. By 1912, open warfare raged throughout
Mexico, but Villa and his army could not be dislodged from their
It was during this time of dangerous turmoil that Villa
encountered Ethel Exile Bingham Farnsworth, a strong-willed
Mormon woman who stood her ground and refused to be intimidated
by the great and powerful Pancho Villa.
In 1875, Brigham Young had ordered a five-man expedition to ride
from Utah to northern Mexico to explore the possibility of
creating Mormon settlements there. After the expedition was met
cordially by Mexican authorities, land was purchased, and all
necessary arrangements were made, in 1885 Mormon colonists from
Utah arrived to begin construction of their new homes. The
first, and ultimately most successful, of the nine Mormon
settlements was located in Chihuahua and was named Colonia
Juarez. By the time Ethel Exile Bingham, born in Riverside, Utah
in 1887, married Stephen August Farnsworth there in 1903, the
community was productive and thriving.
Colonia Juarez, with its red brick
houses, irrigated farmland and orchards, tanneries, gristmills,
mercantiles, and a cannery, provided an ideal environment for
the Mormon colonists. Relations with the local Mexican
population were generally good, although the Mormons were
considered rich compared to the dirt poor native inhabitants.
Stephen ranched and farmed his property, while Ethel kept his
house and bore him four children, two boys and two girls, before
By that time the Mexican Revolution had raged throughout the
countryside for two years, with rebel armies fighting government
troops and each other for power. Revolutionaries and federal
soldiers alike roamed the land taking whatever they wanted or
needed from the civilian population at the point of a gun,
ruthlessly executing whoever objected to their thievery. The
Colonia Juarez citizens began to hide caches of food, valuables,
and their livestock in the nearby Sierra Madre mountains to keep
them from being stolen. It was such a dangerous and chaotic time
that President Howard Taft ordered all Americans living in
Mexico to leave for their own safety. Between 2,000 to 6,000
Mormon colonists wisely chose to join the exodus across the
border to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
However, by 1913 many Mormon families began to return to Mexico,
either thinking the worst was over or overwhelmed by curiosity
about the fate of their homes and property. Stephen and Ethel,
with their children, came back to Colonia Juarez to find it a
ravaged, looted wasteland. Their home had been burned and they
were obliged to take up residence in a nearby house that had
escaped major damage. The rebel army of Pancho Villa now
occupied the town and had ransacked all the homes and stores,
carting away everything useful and destroying all else. Villa’s
headquarters was situated in a large house behind the local
school, or Stake Academy, while the Farnsworth family lived only
a block away.
The Academia Juarez has existed since 1897.
It goes from 7th to 12th grade.
While Ethel cared for the children and put the house in order,
Stephen busied himself gathering firewood and whatever
foodstuffs he could find to augment the meager supplies they had
brought with them. He had several large piles of collected wood
around the house that the rebel soldiers soon discovered made
perfect observation posts and defensive positions. Each day the
soldiers, some mere boys, would sit atop the woodpiles watching
for the approach of any enemy and Ethel, ever the charitable
woman, would send her children out laden with plates of beans
and slices of fresh-baked bread for the ragged sentries to eat.
But when word of her kindness spread, she found herself feeding
not only the rebel soldiers but several of her Mexican neighbors
also. Each day she supplied meals for a mentally handicapped
orphan boy, a blind old man, and a young widow and her children.
Soon, though, Stephen decided he must ride up into the nearby
mountains to discover the fate of the livestock previously
hidden there. He took his sons with him, leaving Ethel and the
girls in possession of the remaining family horse, a sorrel they
called Dick, to use in case of emergency. There being no trouble
with Villa’s soldiers and no indication that any hostilities
were likely to break out, Stephen obviously felt secure leaving
his wife and daughters alone and unprotected. But the very next
morning after Stephen’s departure, when Ethel went out to the
corral near the house to feed Dick she was dismayed to find the
gate securely fastened but the horse gone. Knowing exactly what
had happened, Ethel marched resolutely down the block to Villa’s
headquarters. In a rope corral there she spotted her horse among
the others inside the crude enclosure, and without hesitation
she ducked under the rope.
She untied her apron and slipped it around the neck of her
horse, leading him out of the herd and under the rope barrier
right into the gun sights of a startled guard who started
shouting at her to stop right where she was. The clamor raised
by the guard caught the attention of other soldiers nearby and
they ran to the spot with their weapons at the ready. Now
confronted by a mob of heavily armed rebel soldiers shouting and
gesturing at her all at once, Ethel realized that her life could
end in an instant.
”I want to speak to General Villa!” she shouted above the din.
After a short consultation, the soldiers decided to grant her
demand and promptly marched her over to Villa’s headquarters.
Once inside, Ethel was ushered into a where Pancho Villa waited.
He was an imposing figure, thick-bodied and standing taller than
most of his soldiers, with a broad face and high forehead. The
whole time the soldiers were explaining the situation to him, he
fixed Ethel with a fierce scowl that made her knees tremble. She
knew of his reputation for ordering executions on a suspicion or
whim, and had also heard tales of his insatiable appetite for
women. She was terrified, but determined not to show it.
When the soldiers finished their list of charges, Villa nodded
his head slightly toward Ethel to indicate she was now free to
”General Villa,” she said without hesitation, ”The horse is
mine! Your soldiers stole him from me even after I shared my
food with them and your people. You say your revolution is to
protect the poor and weak. Well, I’m poor and alone and I need
my horse to go for help in case my children get sick. It’s my
horse and your soldiers had no right to take him!”
A thick silence followed Ethel’s pronouncement. The soldiers
shifted uneasily and glanced at each other. Villa continued to
glare at her. With a look of anticipation, she returned his
stare with equal intensity. Then, slowly, Villa’s eyes softened
and his thick mustache twitched slightly as the corners of his
mouth curled up in a grin. In the next instant, he threw back
his head and laughed heartily.
”I admire a brave woman!” he announced, ”You may take your
Ethel Exile Bingham Farnsworth went home with her horse that
day, and with the story of an extraordinary encounter she would
relate to her family, her children, and her grandchildren in the
years to follow. She passed away in Chandler, Arizona in 1960.
Pancho Villa, however, was not lucky
enough to see old age. He was assassinated in 1923 near the town
of Parral, Mexico.
Mr. E.B. Farnsworth of Glendale, Arizona kindly shared
the written family history about his grandmother which this
article chronicles. Art By
Rod Timanus Photo Compliments of Pancho Villa Website.
Arizona Trail -
by Rod Timanus - Published WWG Vol 2 No 6 Nov 2008
Pioneer Living History Village and Deer Valley Rock Art Center
Probably the two best
kept secrets in the Valley of the Sun, except to schoolchildren
who have visited on class fieldtrips over the years, are steeped
in so much tangible history that it is hard to imagine that they
remain virtually unknown to the general public.
Living History Village, open since 1969,
started out as the vision of several prominent politicians who
lamented the loss of Arizona’s territorial past to the sprawl of
urban development and population increase. Senators Carl Hayden
and Barry Goldwater, among others, helped spearhead a drive to
save many of the state’s older buildings from the wrecking ball
and relocate them to a safe site. On a state land lease property
donated by the Robert Lockett family in 1962, Pioneer Living
History Village was born in 1966 with the relocation and
reconstruction of two one-room log buildings dating back to
1875-80. The Schoolhouse and Teacherage which once stood in
Gordon Canyon, 30 miles east of Payson, became the centerpieces
of the Pioneer Village experience.
Over the years many more buildings were
added to the site, including a Ranch cabin (1870) from Gordon
Canyon, the Opera House (1876) from Prescott, the Ashurst Cabin
(1879) from Anderson Mesa near Flagstaff, the Northern Cabin.
(1885) from Newman
Canyon also near Flagstaff, and the Flying V Cabin (1880) from
Pleasant Valley near Young. From Phoenix came the Holsum Bakery
building (1880), the Wheelwright Shop (1890), and the Victorian
House (1890). From Glendale came the Jack Farmhouse (1885), and
the Meritt House (1890).
recreated buildings were constructed, patterned after real
structures that no longer exist, to fill in time gaps and
represent other aspects of frontier living. All together they
help create the experience of walking the unpaved streets of a
town that might have existed during the days of Arizona
Territory (1863-1912). To further enhance the feel of stepping
back in time, most of the buildings are outfitted with period
furniture and implements the early pioneers would have been
quite familiar with.
Interpreters in period
clothing can also be found in several buildings, ready to answer
any questions and share stories of Arizona history.
there are gun safety demonstrations for the schoolchildren, a
very important part of the experience, and tongue-in-cheek
cowboy action shootouts staged for the entertainment of the
audience of visitors, Pioneer Living History Village is still
the real deal. It is not a reconstructed or false-front town
where behind every door can be found a restaurant or gift shop
ready to relieve the visitor of his cash with an array of food,
drink, and baubles. It would be safe to say that there is more
collective and real Arizona history here than anywhere else in
For more information
Pioneer Living History Village
Photo credit Barbara Prichard aka Tumbleweed
Tillie Official Photographer of the Wild West Gazette & Pioneer
Living History Village.
Rod Timanus is an accomplished, published
western writer and member of Western Writers of America.
Valley Rock Art Center presents a far older picture of Arizona
history, a history of the Native
inhabiting this valley long centuries ago. The site was
discovered during the construction of the Adobe Dam in 1980 at a
location known as Hedgpeth Hills, and was developed by the Flood
Control District of Maricopa County. While the Flood Control
District owns the dam, the land, and the building, Arizona State
University operates the site through the School of Human
Evolution and Social Change department.
petroglyphs, images actually carved into the stone as opposed to
painted on (pictographs), found here were created hundreds,
probably thousands, of years ago by the people living in the
area. Each new generation added their own symbolic markings to
the local rocks until an artistic record was created for us to
wonder at and about today. To this day researchers are still
trying to decipher what many of the images mean, although many
are easily recognizable as people and animals. This place was
obviously important, even sacred, to that ancient race of
people. They speak to us today through the carved images they
left behind in the desert.
The visitor center,
through which you enter the site, is a modest building with
exhibits geared more toward children. Once outside, though,
children and adults alike will marvel at the 1500 petroglyphs
found on a hillside just a quarter-mile walk along a clearly
marked path. Along the way the desert plants and geology are
certainly interesting, with identifying signs, but the real
treat is at the end of the trail where the petroglyphs are
located. You could spend much enjoyable time trying to spot all
the images, benches under shade are provided for that purpose,
and marveling at the ingenuity it took to create them using
Deer Valley Rock Art Center is located on West
Deer Valley Road just west of 35th Avenue (watch for the
entrance on your right when the road curves). The hours of
operation are Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday 12pm to 5pm,
October through April and Tuesday-Sunday 8am to 2pm May through
Both these locations,
Pioneer Living History Village and the Deer Valley Rock Art
Center, will provide an interesting glimpse into the past of
Arizona many visitors do not see, experience, or understand.
These two locations are not well advertised and therefore not
easy to find, but are definitely worth the time and effort to do
so if you are even remotely interested in the lives and beliefs
of the people who were here long ago and who helped shape the
Arizona we know today.
On the Arizona Trail
- by Rod Timanus Published WWG Vol
2 No 5 Sept 2008
Castle National Monument
Just a 90 minute drive north on I-17 from Phoenix, 45 minutes
south from Flagstaff, stands a very tangible link to the ancient
past of Arizona that will inspire and amaze any traveler.
Perched 100 feet above the ground within a massive recess
in the face of a limestone cliff, the ruins of Montezuma Castle
stand in silent witness to the passage of the centuries.
Located within the Verde Valley, this apartment-like dwelling
was constructed in the 12th century entirely by hand using
primitive tools and materials. The builders were the
Sinagua Indians, so named by the Spanish, who mysteriously
disappeared into the shadows of history around the 1400s.
It was, and is, a
marvel of ancient construction skills, and in its heyday stood
five levels tall with a total of twenty separate rooms of
various sizes. Nearby, at the base of the cliff, once stood a
six-story structure of forty-five rooms that has deteriorated to
the point of being almost a pile of rubble. The cliff dwelling,
with its protective stone overhang, has survived the last 600
years in much better condition. In fact, it is one of the
best-preserved ancient native structures in the Southwest.
The Sinagua were an agricultural people who had abandoned their
hunter-gatherer life, although they did hunt to supplement their
diet, but had long since deserted their homes by the time the
Spanish arrived in the area in the late 1500s. If the Spanish
explorers glimpsed the cliff dwelling they were not impressed
enough to leave any record. It was the first Anglo settlers in
the 1860s who gave the site the distinctive and erroneous name
of Montezuma Castle, believing that the structure must be Aztec
By 1897, members of the Arizona Antiquarian Association began
restoration on the site and in 1906 it was named a National
Monument by a presidential proclamation issued by Theodore
Roosevelt. Since that time the federal government has managed
the site, and has purchased adjacent private lands to expand and
preserve the surrounding area in its original condition.
Viewed now only from below, over thirty years ago the practice
of allowing tourists to climb up to the structure via a series
of installed ladders and wander through its rooms was ended, the
Castle is still an impressive sight.
At the base of the
cliff a series of paved trails wander 1/3 of a mile through
stately sycamore trees and beside a meandering stream, providing
views of the cliff dwelling from varied and interesting angles.
Benches are provided to rest and relax while taking in the
sights and sounds of the natural environment.
Inside the park
visitor center there are exhibits of artifacts and a modest gift
store that provide more information on the Sinagua people who
built the Castle and the history of the site.
The 102-year old park is open daily 8am to 6pm from June through
August and 8am to 5pm from September through May. Admission
price is a quite manageable $5.00 for adults 16 and over and
free for children under 16. It is located just off exit 289 of
I-17 on Montezuma Castle Road.
For a tranquil,
go-at-your-own-pace stroll through an ancient site without the
hustle, bustle, and crowds associated with other Arizona
attractions or similar areas, this trip is highly recommended.