150 Years of History - The Story

This year, 2018, is a special year that marks 150 years of history. Tanque Verde Ranch is not only a dude-ranch vacation destination but also a long-living story with an abundance of truthful tales waiting to unfold and for someone to blow the dust off. The Arizona desert fifteen decades ago was filled with ambushing Indians, greedy gangsters, and deadly trails. Tanque Verde Ranch lived through it and then some building along the way. Today, Tanque Verde Ranch is still surrounded by the beauty of the mountainous desert and continues to showcase the adventurous activities of the southwest. The story begins in 1868, and 150 years later the story is still turning, one exciting page after another.

The Carrillos

The 150 years of history all started in 1868, when Don Emilio Carrillo started ranching on the Tanque Verde land. Emilio and his contemporary, William Sanders, began raising short-horn cattle together. Emilio named the land Bueno Vista, then Cebadilla (Spanish for the barley that grew on the property.) He built the original corral and the ranch house. Made from adobe mud, the card room, living room and The Dog House Saloon were all built by Emilio. In 1904 a Western gang hung Emilio because he refused to give them money. Four years later in 1908 Emilio passed away from the complications. In those four years, Emilio and his oldest son Rafael became very close. When Carrillo passed away, Rafael took over the ranch (February 14th, 1908). In 1914 more land was bought adjacent to the ranch from Mexican farmers, after several consolidations from a couple of different men it was then named Tanque Verde Ranch, which means ‘green tank’ or ‘green pool’ in Spanish. This was the name of just the land, not the ranch. Rafael was successful in naming the ranch La Cebadilla Ranch.

Jim Converse

A man from Texas named Jim Converse came in 1928 and bought the ranch from Rafael. He also made the name ‘Tanque Verde Ranch’ official throughout his time there. Jim was the turning point in which the ranch began to host ‘guests.’ Although Jim started the hospitality industry there, he was not the best for the role. You could expect him to be out in the mountains hunting. However, Jim was known to get along with many people. He had many friends and enjoyed entertaining, but he was also quite obnoxious. Converse went to jail because he tried frightening his friend with a gunshot. He missed, and the man was shot dead. Jim Converse sold the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch to Lynn Gillham in 1955, but Jim still owned an abundance of the land and continued to ranch and raise cattle.

Here Come the Cotes - Brownie and Judy

Forgoing a promising law career, Brownie Cote decided to follow his passion for developing the lives of the youth, purchasing Camp Lincoln for Boys in 1921 and Camp Lake Hubert for Girls in 1924, near Brainerd, Minnesota. Being successful, he acquired Grand View Lodge in 1937 to accommodate parents visiting their children in his camps. In 1944, he purchased the Desert Willow Ranch in Tucson, Arizona  (6 miles west of TVR) to offer year-round employment to his seasonal Minnesota employees.

In 1957, Brownie Cote first bought 480 acres of the Tanque Verde Ranch from Lynn Gillham, and then 480 acres over a series of increments throughout time. Brownie Cote purchased the remaining land from Converse in September of 1959. In 1959 Brownie Cote and his wife, Judy, began to add to the Ranch.  The indoor pool building, the outdoor pool, and hot tubs were all built that year. With beautiful brick walls, native-stone fireplaces, mesquite wood ceilings, verandas, and archways; they began to maintain an international reputation with their western, territorial style.

Bob Cote

Brownie’s son, Bob, took over management in 1969. Having spent the thirteen previous years overseas in a variety of countries, Bob decided to market heavily in Europe in the early 1970’s and to remain open year round. He and his wife Rita have introduced a wide range of activities to cater to the varied interests of multiple families now visiting the Tanque Verde Ranch. Retiring in 2009, Bob retired but still lived on the property. In 2017 Bob Cote passed away. Rita, Bob Cote’s wife became General Manager. As of January 2018, Tanque Verde Ranch welcomed Terry Hanley as the new General Manager of the Ranch. However, Rita is still doing work at the ranch as the Innkeeper.  

The Tanque Verde Ranch Today

The present-day ranch has 640 acres and also leases from the U.S. Forrest Service approximately 60,000 acres for its cattle operation.  Guests today can experience its varied history with miles of exciting horse trails, which wind their way through desert and mountain scenery where once silent Apaches waited in ambush to surprise Carrillo’s cowboys. Four tennis courts now lie in a neat formation among the towering saguaro and ocotillo, and the swimming pool sparkles in the Arizona sun, where Converse’s Mexican vaqueros once roped bawling steers. The ranch’s 180 plus horses are rounded up in the old rough-hewn mesquite corral fence for the morning ride, where both Carrillo and Converse would gather their cattle for the drive to the Tucson market. Today’s guests can kick off their dusty boots and gaze into the spectacular Arizona sunsets just as the earlier cowboys did after a long days ride.

This history also denotes a commitment to providing the best service as the main priority, as well as ensuring our accommodations are up to the Cote Family Companies standards. Going forward into the next hundred and fifty years, we can never forget the roots of our beautiful property and why so many love Tanque Verde Ranch today.

What to Look Forward to at the Ranch’s Year-Long Celebration of 150 Years Because this is such a special year for Tanque Verde Ranch and their history, we plan to celebrate 150 years all year long! Keep your eyes out on our website, Facebook, and Twitter for special rates and activities.

Fun Facts Throughout 150 Years of Tanque Verde Ranch History

  • In 1970-1982 ‘Chuck’ Corchran started the Tanque Verde Ranch Bird Watching Program with a total of 24,833 birds branded throughout the 12 years. Lake Corchran’s name at Tanque Verde Ranch took after Chuck.
  • On Don Emili Carillio’s last dying breath, he told his son to “Dig in the kitchen beneath the stove.” He did so and found $85,000 worth of shiny, gold coins.
  • Tanque Verde Ranch has its own historical cemetery of 31 graves. Most graves are visible by the crosses and mounds of stones, and most are unknown as to who rests there. It is located about 150 yards from the flagpole, down the road.
  • Just outside of the main entrance to the Buena Vista Room there are stones with family names on them. This is the Legacy Walk. Any family that has been guests to the ranch for 10 or more years may request their own brick in the Legacy Walk.
  • In the historic card room, the rope marks in the mesquite wood from where Don Emilio Carrillo was hung can still be seen to this day.