The John J. Rath Years at the Hotel

John Rath was the father of Cochise.  He arrived in the area in 1894.  The son of John Sr. and Susie Antz Rath immigrants from Germany, he was born in Queen, Long Island.  He left home at 13 and went west.  John worked in Colorado for a couple years and lived in California until the year 1893.  In April of 94' he became the night telegraph operator of the Southern Pacific Railroad at Fort Bowie and was soon promoted to chief clerk.  In 1896 John Rath applied for a homestead of 120 acres in Cochise, at $1.25 per acre.  In August of 1896 the Hotel Rath was under construction.  The hotel was opened for business in November. The center photograph above is J.J. Rath.  To the right is John Rath in suspenders, standing beside the Well's Fargo Express coach he managed.  To the left is a blow up of a building in the picture at the top.  Note the entire side wall is a billboard advertisement for the upcoming Buffalo Bill's West performance set for Douglas on October 26th & 27th of 1910.  The Ringling Brothers Circus played Douglas as well.  Both disembarked the train in Cochise and gathered their things for the journey south, taking rooms at the Cochise Hotel.

"W. Goodman night operator for the Southern Pacific, at this place for a year left last Monday for California.  Mr. Rath now occupies his place."                                                                                                  April 17th, 1894  Arizona Range News under the Bowie News column 

Cochise, looking north to the Red Bird Mountains.  The Railroad Station centered at the end of the street, the Womack Hotel on the left.  The Cochise Hotel is on the left in the far back.

"Mr. Rath, who is not only hopeful of the mining possibilities in the Dragoon Mountains, but has acted his faith and good will by investing heavily in the mining and other property, and acting in the capacity of chief improver of tea settlement.  He came to Cochise in 1897 as the Southern Pacific Railroad agent he resigned his position with the railroad and while still retaining the latter named positions built up a large mercantile business, which he recently sold.  For the carrying on of his enterprises Mr. Rath built a fine large building, which is used as a hotel, post office and express office, and is fitted with all of the requirements of a first class and extensive trade.  The traveling public are glad to avail themselves of the fair treatment accorded them by the genial and obliging proprietor, whose integrity and sound commercial honesties are never questioned.  As further evidence of his devotion to the public cause may be mentioned Mr. Rath's successful attempt to supply the town with water from a small works instigated by himself.   He is now able to branch out somewhat in this line and is preparing to supply the railroad with water.   In 1896 Mr. Rath married Lulu B. Olney of Somononville.  Of this union there is one child, Edith, who is two years of age.  Although a strict party man, and a Republican of indelible dye, Mr. Rath is not an aspirant for political honors.  Rather he prefers to devote his entire time to his business and mining pursuits, and to a general supervision of the up building of the town.  He is regarded as one of the most enthusiastic of the advocates of the resources of Arizona, and his name will be inseparably associated with the rise, prosperity, and future history of Cochise and the Dragoon Mountains."                                                                                                                                                  Portrait and Biographical Record of Arizona   Chapman Publishing Co.  1901

"The town of Cochise is fast assuming city airs.  She now boasts a store, post office, express office, restaurant and meat market."                                                                                                                           The Arizona Range News   February 9th, 1897

John Rath was a true western entrepreneur.  His Hotel Rath was renamed the Cochise Royal Hotel and Water Works.  He was partnered with Henderson's Saloon at the end of Rath Avenue on the Southern Pacific side of Front Street, now Cochise Stronghold Road.  Albert Eaton opened a sporting house that included gambling, a bar, and a restaurant.  The bar had fixtures seldom equaled in the West and the restaurant was known for its first class meals day and night.  John Collins and his wife worked the Cochise Dining Hall.

The Bonanza at Pearce attracted miners throughout the west, including a Colorado man named John Gleeson, who discovered a copper deposit christened the Copper Belle.  With the Commonwealth Mine thriving in Pearce they built a 16 mile road from Pearce to Cochise and the twenty-four horse teamed wagons of ore began to roll in to the shipping hub of Cochise.

On October 19th 1897 the Southern Pacific's new passenger line "The Sunset Limited" arrived in Cochise.  In November the Southern Pacific timetable included Cochise.   John Rath served as the Railroad agent, as wells as the Wells Fargo agent, Justice of the Peace, and Postmaster at a compensation of $58 a year. 

After the turn of the Century the Southern Pacific Railroad began to eye Cochise as part of its expansion play to supply the smelters in Cochise County with coal from Colorado and Mexico.  Epes Randolph, the head of the Southern Pacific, stayed at the hotel in March 1901 to initiate the deal.  In 1902 the Arizona & Colorado Railroad was incorporated and created a link to the Ferrocarri de Canenea, Rio Yaqul y Pacifico, Mexican railway.  The first train from Cochise pulled into Pearce on May 28th, 1903.  It left Cochise at 7:30 am and made the 10 mile Pearce run by 9:30.

Most of the early lots in town were sold along front street and main street.  The Rath's had surveyed their homestead and sold the real estate that created the town.  The population of Cochise rose from 50 in 1900 to 75 by 1905 and 100 by 1910.  The small town had a lively social scene.  Along with the gambling and saloon activity, dances and masquerade balls were common in Henderson's Saloon.  In 1901 Rath petitioned the County Board of Supervisors for a school district.  The petition was accepted and the first school board election took place in March.  John Rath, Charles Halerman and John Bentley were elected.

On September 7th, 1905 John Rath and several friends rented a buckboard from Newton's Livery.  The group left Cochise around noon on a hunting excursion.  Rath sat with his loaded shotgun next to him, the wagon hit a rough spot and Rath's shotgun discharged hitting John on the right side of his neck.  Killing him instantly.  The buckboard returned to Cochise where Judge Page, Constable Bud Snow of Willcox and a coroner's jury inquest was held.  Rath's death was ruled accidental.  On Monday morning a procession left Cochise, through Willcox, to Fort Bowie, where a ceremony was held officiated by Reverend A.A. Hyde of Tombstone.  John Rath was buried in the Olney family plot at the Desert Rest Cemetery.  Today there is a small concrete headstone marking his grave.  Lula returned to the town, a widow with three daughters.  In early November Lula and her daughters left Cochise to live with William Olney, her brother, in Glove.  Lula returned by April 1907 to assume the responsibilities of postmaster and to reopen the hotel.  In less than six months Lula sold 75 lots with the average price being $20 per lot.  On June 15th Lula remarried Charles Corness, the minister of the Gospel church in Tombstone.


In 1913 Norton-Morgan Commercial Company erected a two story adobe store across the street from the Hotel.   There were 39 students during the 1908-1909 school year and by 1910 the enrollment jumped to 67.  Until 1911 there was only one teacher but a second was added in 1912 and a third by 1916, when the school had reached nearly one hundred students.   In 1912 the official school building was built along with the Methodist Church. 

Yancy Womack's Hotel was one of the first establishments to be located away from the main business section of town.  The original building was two stories high with the hotel on the first floor and the Womack home on the second.   Other establishments in town was Perry Hamilton's Lumber Yard, Miles Merrill's General Store.  Artie Slaughter's stable and Ed Haldeman's butcher shop.  The local physician was J.B. Ellis.

In early 1913 Lula and Charles Comell sold the Hotel to Yancy Womack and moved to Los Angeles.  Lula Bell Cornell died in Fresno County on July 17th, 1966, at the age of 91.

Lula Belle Rath Comell