William Wade "Bill" HILDRETH 1872 - 1939

Bill Hildreth

Born on February 27, 1872 in Mendocino County, California, William Wade “Bill” Hildreth was one of five children of John Henry and Rebecca Potter (Gordon) Hildreth.

When Bill Hildreth was born, he had one brother – John R. age 8, and two sisters - Nettie E. age 6 and Annie L. almost 2 years old. A half-sister from his mother’s first marriage, Nancy Gordon age 17, may also have been living with the family.

When Bill was just 14 months old, his sister Maggie Bell was born on 20 April 1873. Maggie Bell only lived about 15 months before her death on 10 July 1874.

Bill’s father, John H. Hildreth died on 22 April 1876 in Pomo, Mendocino County, CA, when Bill was barely four years old. Other children still at home included John R, age 12, Nettie E, age 10, and Annie Louisa, age 7.

In 1877, Bill’s mother Rebecca married George Cleveland in Mendocino County, CA. Two years later, when Bill was seven years old, a half-brother, William Jasper Cleveland, was born on 12 December 1879 in Ukiah, Mendocino County, CA.

A few years later the family began moving into Arizona. Cleveland family stories mention William Jasper and his mother Rebecca moving in stages, stopping off at Oatman and Goldfield, where Rebecca ran boarding houses for the miners {from article in Arizona Cattlelog, February 1968}. No other children are mentioned, although Bill Hildreth is known to have lived in Arizona, so this story will assume he and several of his siblings were also with them, until other information is discovered.

In 1881, the following Hildreth children may have still been with Rebecca – John R. age 17, Nettie E. age 15, Annie L. age 11, and Bill Hildreth age 9.

The Cleveland family story states that Rebecca left her husband George in California, but there is some evidence that George initially moved with Rebecca and their family to Arizona. A George W. Cleveland is found in Arizona voter registrations Pima County, AZ in 1882, and in Cochise County in 1884 and 1886.

Family stories state they continued on to Fairbank, where Rebecca ran laundries. They left Fairbank when she was put out of business by the Chinese, who were able to do the washing cheaper. Rebecca and son William Jasper, and possibly several Hildreth children, moved on to Charleston and finally Bisbee, Arizona.

There is evidence that the family reached Bisbee some time before March 1888. A letter dated March 5th 1888 from W. J. Hildreth to his nephew, Master Willie W. Hildreth, discusses the difficulty of sending money to Bisbee because there was no money order office nor Express office in Bisbee. {Transcript of letter}

Bill Hildreth is said to have filed for the original Cleveland homestead, since his half-brother William Jasper was not old enough at the time. Assuming a man had to be 18 years old to file for a homestead, this would have been 1890 or later. It’s been said that Bill signed the ranch over to William Jasper just before he died in 1939, but W.J. Cleveland is found in the tax rolls as early as 1908 – when William Jasper would have been 28 years old.

In 1894, William Hildreth registered to vote in Cochise County, Arizona. He is listed in the Great Register, Cochise County, Arizona Territory on line 640 as age 22, rancher, Sulphur Spring Valley, registered May 9, 1894.

In 1896, at the age of 24, Bill Hildreth was a sheriff’s deputy in Cochise County, Arizona. He was said to have been slightly wounded in the neck during the Skeleton Canyon Shootout on 12 August 1896, where his horse was shot and killed (Skeleton Canyon Shootout article in Wikipedia). A story in the book "Brewery Gulch" by Joe Chisholm may be referring to Bill Hildreth in his telling of Black Jack's gang in Skeleton Canyon when he states "Deputy Hildrich ... put a bullet through the pony before the bad man could make his getaway. Black Jack went wild with rage.... Hildrich had been creased with a slight wound on the back of his neck when he exposed himself to plug the horse."

Bill Hildreth was working as a miner when he registered to vote on August 30, 1902, at age 30, local residence Naco.

On 21 February 1905, Bill Hildreth's mother, Rebecca Cleveland, died in Bisbee, Cochise County, Arizona.

Bill registered to vote in Cochise County again in 1908, with a local residence of Bisbee. In 1910 the Federal Census lists his home as Whitewater District, Cochise County, Arizona, and occupation Cowboy.

Bill Hildreth - cowboy

The photo here was taken in 1909 by Erwin E. Smith, and the cowboy at the left is said to be Bill Hildreth, "stray Man for the S O outfit, coming in from day-herd while on round-up with the O R's, Greene Cattle Co., near Hereford, Arizona." Mr. Smith was also quoted saying "Hildreth was of the old school of cowpunchers and moved to the open ranges of Arizona when pastures in Texas became too confining.".

According to other Arizona voter registration rolls, Bill Hildreth lived in Hereford in 1912; Douglas in 1918 and 1920; Bisbee in 1922; and Lowell in 1924. He changed jobs frequently, listing his occupation as a cowpuncher, Locomotive Foreman, Rancher, Cowboy, and Mining, in that order.

William Wade Hildreth registered for the draft in WWI, stating his age as 40, birthdate February 27, 1878, and occupation as locomotive foreman for E.P. & SW R.R. in Lowell. W.J. Cleveland of Bisbee is listed as nearest relative. {WWI Draft Registration}

Bill Hildreth lived at the Oak Thicket Ranch with his half-brother William Jasper Cleveland for several years before his death on June 22, 1939, at the age of 67. {HildrethWilliam-Deathcert.pdf}