Arthur Newton Pack: We Called it Ghost Ranch
I had just finished reading Ghost Ranch by Lesley Poling-Kempes and was intrigued by about the previous owner, Arthur Newton Pack, who was once known as Mr. Tucson, 1952. He was also co-founder of the Desert Museum here in Tucson. Pack wrote several books, one about his time at the Ghost Ranch.
I ordered the book, We Called it Ghost Ranch. I already knew that the Packs gave the Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955 and had resettled in Tucson at what became the The Ghost Ranch Lodge on the Miracle Mile. It is now a senior living facility. Was once a modern vacation stay as well as a primary residence to Arthur and Phoebe Pack who ran the place. The logo on the sign outside was designed by Georgia O’Keefe, famous artist, who lived at the Ghost Ranch, made it famous, and whom Arthur had sold a portion of it. The logo was a gift at their wedding.
Arthur Pack was a Harvard graduate and served in England in WWI. He was initially part owner and editor of Nature Magazine and who, with his father had started the American Nature Association, his father having become wealthy in the forestry industry. Arthur inherited his father’s wealth, but he could only use it as it forwarded the cause of nature and conservation. Arthur Pack has come to be known as one of the first conservationists, warning about the decimation of forests. The book begins in 1925 on a trip to Tucson to take photographs and write of the Saguaro Cactus, the road runner, jackrabbits and the Gila Monster. You know, all the usual suspects which seem incredibly odd and possibly mysterious to the typical Easterner. They stayed at the Santa Rita Hotel. The next trip was out in the Galliaro Mountains to photograph a mountain lion. There are still a few left in the Galliaros. Most have been hunted out of existence. The following year, they stayed at the Circle Z Guest Ranch near Patagonia. Pack writes, “Near the Mexican Border”. I suppose for an easterner, it is. I don’t really think of it as such, even though it is less than 20 miles from the border. I love books that talk about places that I know well, and put them in a different light. within the next couple of years, Pack had stumbled upon the Ghost Ranch outside of Abiqui, New Mexico, fell in love and purchased it. If you have read the first book “Ghost Ranch” by Poling-Kempes, you would know the details of that story as well.
Now, while Ghost Ranch, by Lesley Poling Kempes, is a comprehensive history of the Ghost Ranch and its inhabitants going back to prehistoric times, “… we Called it Ghost Ranch”, is a personal memoir of Arthur Pack’s experiences, and life on the Ghost Ranch while he owned it. In it, we learn again, about the Ranch’s troubled, storied past, Rancho de los Brujos, (Ranch of the Witches) and how it was acquired by the Packs. Arthur was at that time married to his first wife, “Brownie” who apparently ditched him in time, for a more exciting life. He barely mentions Georgia O’Keefe at all, indicating, simply, that she seemed to prefer it that way. There were plenty of other well-to-do folks that visited the Ranch as guests, such as Robert Wood Johnson, of Johnson & Johnson, to whom Arthur and Brownie, and then, Phoebe were hosts.
Arthur’s recounting of his life on the Ghost Ranch, was quite interesting, and full of humor. I did like this fellow. It is a fairly short book, broken out into distinct chapters. He recounts the early days, rebuilding the Guest Ranch from when it had been “Rancho de Los Brujos”, through the Depression, then WWII, and finally his move to Tucson after the war where he built the Ghost Ranch Lodge and proceeded to be a philanthropic force in Tucson’s modern development, including the beginnings of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and a large grant to St. Mary’s Hospital funded by his late father’s stamp collection. The story he tells about how he and Bill Carr collaborated on the Desert Museum is a good one. Few histories go into such personal detail. I found Arthur’s first-person recollections more refreshing than mere historical facts.
In 1955, the Packs gave the Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church, who owns it to this day. Apparently, Ms. O’Keefe was rather upset that he did not see it to her, but eventually got over it. You can book a stay at the ranch. It is still much like it was when Pack owned it. Few amenities have been added. They do offer tours, retreats and classes, many of which follow Georgia O’Keefe’s legends surrounding the appeal of the Pedernal and Piedra Lumbre of Northern New Mexico.
we called it GHOST RANCH by Arthur Newton Pack, is a good read if you can find a book in a reasonable price range. I may just read it again. It appears to be out of print. If you don’t have any luck on Amazon, you might try the Ghost Ranch Website.