An Amazing Place to go to experience “A Little Bit of Heaven”
The land where Sprucedale Ranch is located was homesteaded by Hiram & Maryette Thompson of Springerville, AZ. Sprucedale at that time was called Espero, a Spanish word for “hope,” and was the post office for the surrounding ranches and homesteads.
The Thompsons built their homestead cabin (still in use and still a favorite), two log barns, and a well. They sold the property to Ernest R. & Bertha A. Patterson in 1921.
Shortly after the Patterson’s bought it, some fishermen came by and asked if they had a place they could stay. The fisherman had been camping and a typical White Mountain Monsoon season had rained on them for several days and they wanted a warm and dry place to stay. The Patterson’s had a small cabin that they used for storage that they offered to them. The fishermen had a great time and asked if they could come back the next year. From that simple request, the Patterson’s began building Sprucedale Guest Ranch with the addition of three new cabins.
In 1941 the Pattersons approached Walter and Faye Wiltbank to purchase Sprucedale for $10,000 at zero interest for as long as they needed to pay. This was quite a change and challenge for the Wiltbanks as they were cattle ranchers and 1941 was at the end of the great depression.
Walter and Faye hesitantly agreed and Walter went to work providing for his wife and two small children by adding seven additional cabins, ranching and farming, and by packing hundreds of fisherman down Black River. Faye cooked and sewed homemade clothes, curtains, and quilts while also providing the nearby CCC Camp at Buffalo Crossing on Black River with eggs and homemade butter and cheese.
Walter and Faye ran Sprucedale with their four children (Margine, Bud, Emer, Ellis) until Walter’s passing in 1980. In 1981 Sprucedale was handed down to Emer and Esther Wiltbank and their seven children. Emer added six more cabins bringing Sprucedale’s rentable cabins to thirteen. Esther focused on adding to Sprucedale by constantly improving the menu, cabin comfort, and overall ranch aesthetic beauty.
Emer and Esther retired in 2004 and their youngest son Whitney with his wife and three children are now carrying on the Wiltbank tradition of warm Western hospitality.
If you haven’t been, this summer is the perfect time to go. Sign up early to reserve a place. You won’t regret it.
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