'Sister' Bourne; pioneer, teacher, rancher, author dies at Bar GF ranch

Sister' Bourne; pioneer, teacher, rancher, author dies at Bar GF ranch
Bob Dalton

[note: this typescript was created in February 2004 from a newspaper clipping contained in the Oracle Historical Society's collection of artifacts from and about Eulalia Bourne. We are guessing that the original article appeared in the San Manuel Miner at the time of her death in 1984.]

She was tough as nails and as stubborn as a mule when she had to be, which was most of the time.

She was as well-known and as well-loved as anybody in this area.

She was a pioneer Arizona schoolteacher, rancher, and author. She was 'Sister' Eulalia Bourne and she was found dead last Tuesday at her GF Bar Ranch east of Mammoth, where she lay peacefully on her bed.

She was 91, according to records at the San Mauel Hospital.

Her 1982 driver's license, however, shows her age as 86 but there are some in the area who say she was closer to 100. One thing for certain, she was born to Sabrey and Albert Collins on Dec. 23, probably in 1892, in a small town in Texas; the oldest of five daughters.

She was survived by two sisters Sabrey Botkin, Bakersfield, Calif., and Bernice Dennison, Porterville, Calif.; four nephews and one niece.

A simple burial service was held last Friday morning at the Oracle Cemetary. Sister's will stated she wanted no funeral or religious ceremony.

She wanted no flowers and asked that remembrances be sent to the University of
Arizona Alumni Association to be used for an English scholarship in creative writing.

She asked that the American flag that she had proudly flown at both her ranches everyday for 50 years be draped over her simple pine casket. She asked that two songs, "Wayfaring Stranger," and "I Ride Old Paint," be sung.

Don Haines, a justice of the peace from Globe and a friend of 30-years, sang these songs.

She asked that a special song, one she had taught to her students - "My Country Tis of Thee," - be sung. This was done by two students from Oracle Middle School with those who had gathered for the service spontaneously chiming in.

At the service were reporters, friends and some of her former students. One student brought an old report card, another read a short poem dedicated to Sister.

She was married at the age of 16 to her first husband, William Bourne. She was married four times after that, the last time to a man named Ryland. She signed all her legal documents Eulalia Bourne Ryland.

Sister taught at rural Arizona schools from 1914 to 1957. She began at a school in the Verde Valley near Prescott and ended her career at Baboquivari on the Papago Indian Reservation about 50 miles west of Tucson.

In between were stops at Helvetia- a mining camp in the Santa Rita Mountains where she instructed students in their native law - Redington, Sasco in the Avra Valley, Sasabe on the Mexican border and Sierrita.

She is best remembered by Tri-Community residents for her work in Redington.
It took her nine years to earn her English degree from the University of Arizona, and then she asked to be sent to the "most rural school in Pima County," which was Redington.
When she arrived in the early '30s she wrote that her students were woefully lacking in basic skills. But they were eager to learn, and that was all she asked. Eventually, Sister's students ranked well above the other rural students in the state.

Her students at Redington drew praise for a newspaper they put out called The Little Cowpunchers. One reporter called it "the most distinctive school publication" in Arizona.
While teaching at Redington, she homesteaded a piece of land in Pepper Sauce Canyon and began her dual-existence as a schoolteacher/rancher.

There were plenty of lean years on the ranch - droughts, floods as well as the unpredictable beef marker to blame - but she stuck with it, and at the same time she continued teaching at Redington and later at Baboquivari.

In the late 50s, she swapped her Pepper Sauce ranch with Magma Copper Co. for another in the Galiuro Mountains.

She began writing a column in the Arizona Cattlemens Associatio's newsletter while at Pepper Sauce, and these writings spawned her first book, "Woman in Levi's," eventually published in 1967. After that were two more autobiographical books, "Nine Months is a Year" and "Ranch Schoolteacher."

Her last book was a children's book called, "The Blue Colt."

In 1973 she was named "The Woman of the Year" by the Arizona Press Women. In 1980, she received a Service Recognition Award from the UA department of reading and in 1983 the Arizona State Library Association named her the year's Outstanding Arizona Author.

She was an active member of the Democratic Party and was a charter member and former president of the Tri-Community Womens' Club. Dasiy Willeford, another former president of the club, recalled that Sister developed friendships with many of the state's political leaders, including Secretary of State Rose Moeford and Gov. Bruce Babbitt, for her "independence and way with words."

Before she became president of the club, sister was the recording secretary, where she gained the reputation of not withholding anything.

After so many years on the ranger, ranch life was part of her blood and that's where she wanted to die.

She commented to a visitor shortly before her death that she was in tired and in pain and wished she could die; "but I just can't do it."

Like all her needs and wants, it was a simple one, and it was granted last Tuesday.
For 30 years, sister has lived alone rather ranch in Copper Creek. When the ranch was active she'd hire on part-time help but much of her time was spent alone.

For the past several years she has gotten by on her monthly Social Security check.

Royalties from her books went to the UA Alumni Association.

Her many years of ranch work banged her up plenty and in the end had left her nearly crippled. She struggled around her ranchhouse on a cane almost as tall as she was. Her hands were arthritic and her hip, which she had broken twice, pained her greatly.

Friends like Ceclia and Loney Pettit, Harry and Edna Hendrickson, Davey McGee and others visited regularly and helped her with the chores.

The often urged her to move into town where life would be so much simpler, but she wouldn't hear of it.