A career as a forest ranger who discovered part of a National Monument; a law officer who helped round up two Santa Cruz County murderers; a brief try at placer mining and clerking in a law office, all preceded the service in the local post office in which Albert Justin Abbott became best known to most Nogalians.
As a boy Albert and his sister trudged a mile and a half from their farm home in the flat Kansas praire country through the deep snows and cold winds of winter, and the rains and muddy roads of spring to a little country school house. "We didn't seem to mind it at all," Abbott recalls.
Although he was born in Lyons, Kansas, on Jan. 13, 1883, Albert's first memories are of the farm hnome, 3 miles northwest of Garden City, Kansas. The farm was run by his brothers, for Albert's father was judge of the 27th judicial district and held court in several different counties and cities, among them Dodge City, then in the heyday of its "tough town" era.
There were seven children in the family of A. J. Abbott and his wife whose maiden name was Ruth Barrington. Albert had three brothers and three sisters. Today the survivors are a brother in California and two sisters in Oregon.
Crops on the farm were irrigated by water from the Arkansas River, but after a few years, Colorado farmers used all the water before it reached that section of Kansas, and the Abbott farm was abandoned. The family moved to Alvin, Texas, for a time. There his brothers ran a truck farm and raised vegetables and fruit for northern markets. The family lived for a year or so in this Texas town about midway between Galveston and Houston.
In the meantime, Albert's father had completed his term of office and opened a law office in Trinidad, Colorado. The younger members of the family joined their father in Trinidad where Albert finished his grade school work.
In 1898 when his older brothers had a placer mine and a store at Red River, New Mexico, young Albert found helping his brothers in the placer mining fascinating, and clerking in the store interesting. However, the gold was in pockets along the creek and difficult to find, so the venture did not last long.
Albert's brother was elected to the New Mexico legislature from Taos county and at the end of the session was appointed District Attorney for the first Judicial District which included the counties of Santa Fe, Taos, Rio Arriba and San Juan. The family moved to Santa Fe where Albert's father was appointed special attorney for the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
For the next two years Albert attended the New Mexico Agricultural College at Mesilla Park. Afterward he returned to Santa Fe to work in his brother's and father's law offices for a while. When the Jamez Forest Reserve was created, he secured a job as forest guard, expecting to go out in the forests, but much to his disgust he was kept in the fofice because of his experience. Later, hwen civil service examinations were held for Forest Ranger, Abbott took the exams and received a permanent appointment.
During his college and office era he had been interested in miliaary tactics and at college was sergeant major of the battalion there. In Santa Fe he joined the New Mexico National Guard, Company F, and was made a sergeant. At the annual encampment at Austin, Texas, he was made a sergeant major of the regiment. He so well demonstrated his expertness as a rifleman at the encampment that he attended the National Rifle Match at Seagirt, New Jersey, before returning to Santa Fe. The Forest Service then sent Albert into the field to work at a large timber sale, and his career in the National Guard came to an end.
In his new work he had to locate trees and see they were cut properly, working in areas that later became national monuments. On his first trip out he stayed all the night at the Cochiti Indian Pueblo with John and Cyrus Dixon, two Indian Carlysle graduates. Cyrus ran a store and John was a carpenter, but htey were Indians at heart and told Albert during the evening of a nearby canyon where their ancestors once lived. Their description of the cliff dewllers intrigued Albert and he decided to visit the canyon and see the cliff dwellings for himself.
His hosts told him how to get there but they did not tell him how difficult the canyon's entrance trail was. The old trail, worn in the rocks by the Indians centuries before had large rocks lodged in the path which Abbott's saddle horse had a hard time getting over. Albert found almost perpendicular mountain walls with a clear mountain stream running through the canyon. The cliff dwellings on the north side of the canyon fascinated him more than a huge mound of dirt, which was just a pile of dire to Albert. Later, this circular communal dwelling was excavated by Edgar I. Hewett of the Smithsonian Institute and was rich in relics.
Because the forest rangers were instructed to look for administrative sites good for headquarters for forest officers, Albert tacked up an administrative site notice and recommended withdrawal of the canyon from the public domain. He wrote his father about his discovery, one of the most interesting he made, and later his father was made custodian of the area which was set aside as Bandelier National Monument with one of the main attractions the cliff dewllings in Frijole Canyon.
When the Forest Homestead Act of June 11, 1906, was passed, Abbott was on of the rangers of the various forests selected to survey and report on these homesteads with headquarters in Albuquerque. Their job was to survey out productive homesteads within the forest.
About thhe time this work was completed, Roscoe G. Wilson, then supervisor of the Garces National Forest with headquarters in Nogales, needed an assistant in the office, and Albert was sent to Nogales as ranger clerk. The office was first in the Evans Hotel and then moved to the Santa Curz County Court House.
The assignment to office work and the removal from New Mexico to Arizona, prompted Albert to set the wedding date for his marriage to his fiancee, Alice Ford of Las Cruces, New Mexico, to whom he had become engaged while he was in agricultural school. They were married on June 10, 1908, and come to Nogales as bride ang groom.
When the Garces and Coronado National Forests were combined, the Abbotts moved to Tucson for a few years, but Abbott wanted to get back into the field service so he applied for service in the Nogales district. They were the first to live in the small new four-room home constructed on the site of the present ranger station and lived there for seven years. Elizzabeth was born in Nogales and Ruth at the Ranger Station during this era. Abbott was then transferred to Chiricahua division and the family moved to Cave Creek near Rodeo, New Mexico, where they lived a year.
After completing nearly 12 years in the Forest Service, Abbott resigned and returned to Nogales where he was made a deputy sheriff under George White. Most exciting manhunt Abbott experienced was that for Silvas and Martinez, murderers of the sheriff who they killed when White was taking them to the penitentiary. Twenty-five or more were in the posse that hunted down the killers and cornered them west of Nogales. Abbott was in on the capture, an exciting moment. Harry Saxon was appointed sheriff to fill out White's term, and Abbott was retained as deputy.
When Saxon's term was completed, Abbott received a temporary appointment with the United States Customs Service here and served about four months. He resigned to take a position in the United States Post Office here where he worked for the next 25 years, retiring about three years ago.
Abbott's familiarity with Nogales extends back about 44 years with most of that time spent in the Nogales area. He remembers Nogales as sort of a minor dust bowl before the paved roads were completed in town, and he thinks one of the great improvements was the elimination of the drainage ditch that ran down the middle of Grand avenue.
The Abbotts are sure they have one of the loveliest hills in Nogales out on Sunset Heights where they built their home 20 years ago next March. The hill section is sometimes known as Jund Heights, but the Abbotts and their neighbors prefer Sunset Heights because they can see some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world from that hill, they say. And the view of Nogales at night is like fairyland.
Abbott enjoys many activities, but most, perhaps, his Masonic Lodge and Pimeria Alta Historical Society. He is a Past Master and the present secretary for Masonic Lodge No. 11, F. & A. M., Nogales, secretary of the Nogales Scottish Rite Club, a Knights Templar, and treasurer of the Pimeria Alta Historical Society. He has time, too, to enjoy his four grandchildren, two of whom live in New York City, but come here for visits, and two of whom live in Nogales. His hobby, sometimes a full time job, cabinet making, goes back to his first love in a way, wood from the forests he surveyed as a young man.