Steam Pump Ranch
Nestled amidst the busy commercial developments along Oracle Road, sits the historic Steam Pump Ranch. Unimposing and easily passed by, most drivers don’t give the old buildings a second thought. Or their historical significance.
The Steam Pump Ranch and the families who resided there significantly impacted not only Tucson, but all of southern Arizona. In 1874, two German immigrants – and Johann Zellweger and George Pusch – arrived in Tucson and bought a portion of the Canada del Oro Ranch. They built a way-station for the large cattle companies driving their herds from the north to the Red Rock or Tucson shipping stations. The name of the ranch came from their ingenious use of a steam pump to draw plentiful water from the then shallow aquifer along the Canada del Oro wash, creating a desert oasis for the cattle ranchers in the area
They received 15 cents per head of cattle they watered. And the Steam Pump Ranch's location made them extremely busy. Cattle were bought by the pound a few miles down the road and ranchers were happy to fill their thirsty cattle up with water just before they were weighed.
Their business boomed and Pusch diversified into the butcher and ice industry. Within a few years, Pusch became wealthy (yes, he is the man Pusch Ridge is named after) and was active in politics and was an instrumental voice toward gaining Arizona’s statehood. Another rarity about Pusch was that he never carried a gun. He always treated the Indians well, giving them water, food, sugar and flour whenever they asked. A few of his daughters had long, blonde hair and this was an amazement to the Indians at that time and they would stop Pusch and his family as they rode to their ranches north of Tucson just so they could run their fingers through the girl's hair.
In 1933, Jack Proctor bought the Steam Pump Ranch from the Pusch estate and it was owned by members of his family until it was acquired by the Town of Oro Valley in 2007. The Town of Oro Valley has partnered with Pima County to restore and preserve the buildings, artifacts and landscape of Steam Pump Ranch.
Today, the public can enjoy experiencing the history of Steam Pump Ranch. The site is open for special occasions such as Settler’s Day, open houses and holiday events. These include tours of the Pusch family ranch house, guest speakers, food, entertainment and historical demonstrations. For information and dates on activities at Steam Pump Ranch, check Oro Valley’s Parks and Recreation calendar of events at: http://www.orovalleyaz.gov/town/departments/parks-and-recreation/calendar
Another little known piece of information is that there is a large historical "trash dump" that has recently been discovered near the Steam Pump Ranch.
During my a recent open house, I was given a private tour of the trash dump and other historical foundations by one of the members of the Oro Valley Historical Society. He had "discovered" the foundations and trash dump while looking at Google Earth images, noting some of the more rectangular lines and unnatural piles of debris in the area. He found what appears to be a slaughtering station, remnants of old buildings and sheds from the early days of the ranch and possible prehistoric stone walls. The site has been surveyed by an archeologist and continues to be studied.
One of the coolest things he pointed out to me was a few pieces of native coal. He told me there used to be a coal mine at the base of A-mountain where they would get the coal to run the steam pump. I had no idea! What a cool find.