By John Hernandez
On Feb. 14, 1912 Arizona became a state. On Aug. 14 of the same year on a small ranch near Bluff Texas, Gussie White was born. She was the second child of Abel White and Verna Otelia Hext. Her older brother Laurence White was born in 1910.
Although Gussie White Upshaw turned 100 last Tues. she celebrated her birth with family and approximately 70 friends at the Oracle Community Center on Aug. 11.
While a lot has changed in the past 100 years White said she feels more or less the same. “I don’t feel any different, I still live at home in Oracle,” she said. “A lot of friends come by and help me.”
The White family’s journey to Arizona was still some years away in 1912. At that time the White family moved to a ranch on the Nueces river and then to Playas New Mexico, in 1915.
Gussie, her brother Laurence and their mother then traveled to Hachita, New Mexico on a passenger train along with their uncle Eugene White, their Aunt Dora, and Cousins Buster and Edna.
At the same time James White, rode on a freight train with all of the family possessions including a wagon, hack, horses and some buck goats. From Hachita they traveled to a place at Playas that belonged to Gussie’s great uncle James White.
Gussie’s dad and Eugene began raising angora goats and started homesteading in the mountains near Cloverdale and Animas, New Mexico, which was about 70 miles from Playas.
Gussie’s mom would take the kids to the goat camp during the summer where there was no running water or electricity. The family lived in what they called a dugout. There was a dirt floor, wood stove, and a bed. All of the water had to be hauled quite a distance from the spring.
While living in this part of New Mexico, Gussie says she remembers the excitement caused by Pancho Villa raiding Columbus, New Mexico, which was only about 90 miles away from Playas.
In 1920 the family sold all of their goats and began their journey to Arizona. It took 30 days to get to Aravaipa.
On June 4, 1920 Gussie’s dad bought a place in the Aravaipa Canyon from Manuel Zapata. In Gussie’s memoirs she says, “We thought we were in paradise with the fruit orchards and vegetables galore. There was a creek that ran year round which we spent many hours in during the summer.”
Gussie attended grammar school there and went to high school in Hayden; she graduated in 1930 and then attended Tempe College the following year.
In 1935 Gussie married Fred Upshaw but they were divorced one year later. Gussie went back to live with her parents until June 30, 1941 when she and Fred Upshaw remarried.
They lived at Deer Creek where Fred worked for his dad and took cattle as his payment. Gussie worked hard hauling water, washing clothes with a washboard and ironing with a flat iron heated by a wood stove.
In 1946 Fred and Gussie had the opportunity to buy the Eskiminzin ranch where they would live and raise cattle for twenty years. During roundup time, Gussie would go to the different ranches to cook for the cowboys.
Eventually the government-leased land was restored back to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, so Fred and Gussie were forced to move. In 1972 they sold all their cattle and bought a home on one acre in Oracle where they moved in 1973.
Fred has since passed on but Gussie continues to live there. In 1985 Gussie wrote the story of her life. In it she said, “I’ll always praise my parents for being so good and raising their family with plain old hard work. They taught us to be good citizens and taught us how to work and be honest. We’ll never be able to be thankful enough for having such wonderful parents and I’m proud to say I was brought up the way I was.”