First Arizona Forest Ranger to use Wireless
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In 1916 use of short-wave radio by a Forest Ranger was uncommon enough to rate a headline in the newspapers. On December 5, 1916, the following article appeared in the Arizona Star at Tucson:


Outfit Costs $75.00 Whereas A Phone Line Would Have Cost $4,000.00.

A message, received here this morning from District Forester Redington*i*t, who is inspecting the Apache National Forest in Arizona, states that a wireless message was transmitted yesterday from the Baseline Ranger Station to Clifton, a distance of 40 miles. This is believed to be the first time that wireless has been used in transacting National Forest business.

The outfit was installed by Forest Ranger Warner and Ray Potter of Clifton and cost $75.00. An ordinary telephone line between Clifton and Baseline would cost at least a hundred dollars per mile, or $4,000.00. The transmittal of the message demonstrates the practicability of overcoming the heavy static incident to the dry climate of the Southwest, and Forest Officers hope that wireless telephoning will be the next development in the National Forest communication system. Wireless telephoning would eliminate the cost of special telegraph operators incident to an ordinary wireless *@system, and would be of incalculable value in combating Forest fires and transacting general forest business.

Actually the first message appears to have been sent a few days earlier on November 26, 1916. Mr. Redington was fortuitously on hand and seems to have been an enthusiastic supporter of wireless operations. He sent the following message:

Forestry, Albuquerque, New Mexico 
This message by wireless from Baseline Ranger Station, Apache National Forest, Arizona to Clifton, Arizona, distance forty miles. First of its kind sent in this district. Probably first from any ranger station in the United States. Project conceived by Ranger William
R. Warner, apparatus installed by him and Ray Potter. Cost $75.00. This method should render possible large decrease in construction and maintenance cost Forest communications system. This message being sent to all Districts and Washington.


This message was transmitted by wireless only the 40 miles to Clifton and then relayed by telegraph to the Regional Office of the Forest Service i*h Albuquerque where Mr. Redington was District Forester for the Southwestern Region. Nevertheless, use of radio for Forest Service communication was born.

This paper is not an attempt to write a definitive history of radio use in the Forest Service, but it is what the author believes to be a spotlighting of the first known attempt of such use.


The Foreword of the current Radio Technician Handbook, FSH 7211.32, gives a brief overview of Forest Service radio history. Some of the passages are quoted below as background:

The Forest Service has long recognized the need for communication facilities other than those furnished by wire telephone systems. A rapid form***???? of communication with field personnel and with stations engaged in Forest protection work was needed. Radio was suggested as early as 1913. Extensive attempts were made to use the heliograph, but with indifferent success. Later, sporadic trials were made of radio in New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, and elsewhere. Radio was then far from *fts present state of development and the experiments were abandoned for lack of adequate equipment. (Emphasis added.)

In 1927, D. L. Beatty, a Forest Officer whose hobby was radio, demonstrated a small radio telegraph transmitter/receiver to a group of Forest Service officials. Results were so encouraging that Mr. Beatty was urged to devote his entire time to the radio experiment at least until it was definitely determined whether radio equipment was sufficiently advanced to be used advantageously in forest-protection work.

It was decided to employ commercial, portable radio transmitting-receiving apparatus in order to learn something about the absorbing effect of green timber on radio signals, and to discover to what extent radio "shadows" from hills and mountains would interfere with communications. To the consternation of the sponsors of the p*y*t*iect, suitable equipment could not be found on the market. Finally, a contract was entered into with a well-known manufacturer of radios to build two portable outfits. When the sets were received, it was evident that the manufacturerís idea of construction and portability differed somewhat from that of the Forest Service. The sets were portable by truck but one complete outfit could not be packed on a single pack animal. After some modifications the sets were finally made to work and considerable time was spent making transmission tests on various National Forests. Signal measurements were made with radio transmitters set up in brush areas, under dense mature forest canopies, in deep canyons, and on high mountains. Different frequencies in the HF, 3 to 4 Mc band were tried for both day and night communications. Varying amounts of power were used.

Early in the history of the project it became apparent that satisfactory results might best be obtained by placing the work under the supervision of foresters who had some technical knowledge of radio. Obviously, the men who, by years of training and experience, had detailed knowledge of the Forest Service organization and the many different conditions of topography and fire hazards, were best equipped to determine the basic kind of tool needed. Cost was of course a factor. In fact, the project was set up as an experiment, to determine if radio equipment could be made that would be sufficiently light, strong, and inexpensive, and also reliable over given distances to meet the specific Forest Service needs. So in January 1930, Forest Officer Beatty began work on the model of a portable Forest Service radio transmitter-receiver. Later, nine duplicates of this model were built. They were used throughout 1930 and 1931 in field tests, principally to determine the best construction, size, and shape.

The genesis of the Baseline radio experiment is best described by a report written at the time (Slonaker, 1917(3)). Excerpts follow:

Ranger Warner in charge at Baseline, while riding to Clifton during the summer of 1916 noticed a wireless aerial over Mr. Potterís house(4), two miles north of Clifton, Arizona. Mr. Warner, his interest suddenly being aroused, rode to the house and asked for information as to the wireless equipment. Mr. Potter who is a high student in Clifton has always been interested in electrical work, especially in methods of communication and he informed Mr. Warner that his wireless station had given very satisfactory service. He had succeeded in sending and receiving messages from a similar wireless station three miles south of his station and also had picked up messages from many points in the United States. Mr. Warner became greatly enthused and discussed with Potter the possibilities of the installation of wireless telegraph equipment to connect him with the stations in Clifton from which point messages could be transmitted by regular telegraph.

Mr. Potter and Mr. Warner then ordered the necessary material for a wireless telegraph outfit from a mail order house for the Baseline Ranger Station. This material was received in a few days and was immediately packed to the station where Mr. Warner and Mr. Potter installed it. They worked under many adverse conditions. The aerial is attached to a point on the west bank of the Canyon 557 feet above the river bed, and then stretched to a point on the east side of the Canyon 198 feet above the river bed. The distance between these two points is about 1,600 feet. The wire and all the material for the aerial were secured in Clifton but when they came to build, it was found that there was not enough of all the material necessary so substitutions were necessary in many cases. When the brass wire ran out for the antenna copper and baling wire were used. They figured on using No. 10 galvanized iron wire for the sustaining wire but there was not enough of this so they were required to use over 500 feet of ordinary barbed fence wire. The lead-in wire consisted of 25 feet of galvanized iron and 133 feet of copper wire with rubber covered wire where it enters the house to the aerial switch where connections are made to the receiving and sending set. They used the side frame of an iron bed for a ground rod instead of the standard for such installations. Nevertheless, with all this makeshift material and conditions under which they were required to work, in less than six weeks after the time the order was sent in for material messages were being sent and received between Baseline Ranger Station and the two wireless stations in Clifton, Arizona.

The first message was received in Clifton by Mr. Harriman--not otherwise identified--but who had the other set in Clifton, in addition to that of Ray Potter. The wireless equipment could not transmit voice and messages were in Morse Code. The operator had to learn telegraph but apparently Ranger Warner mastered it quite quickly. 

Baseline Site

The old Baseline Ranger Station, from which the first radio message was sent, has been gone for many years and nothing marks the site except two exotic, unattended Osage orange trees where the well-kept yard used to be, and the fence around the old alfalfa field and horse pasture. The site is now used as a holding pasture for cattle (See Figure 2).

Baseline Station gets its name from its location on the Gila and Salt River Baseline of the public land surveys. On December 1, 1919, the Baseline Ranger District was combined with the Clifton District to form the Baseline-Clifton District. Later there were other consolidations and it became the Clifton District on December 31, 1926. The present District includes most of what, in different times and combinations, were parts of the Baseline, Greenlee, Metcalf, Clifton, Eagle, Chase Creek, and Honeymoon Districts. The District went to the Crook National Forest on January 23, 1925, then to the Gila on October 23, 1953(5) , and back to the Apache on August 15, 1958(6). Ranger Warner was the next to last Ranger at Baseline, serving thereafter as Clifton Ranger and then on the Big Burros District of the Gila National Forest.

The Baseline site has a history preceding the establishment of the National Forest and use by the Forest Service for a Ranger Station. Fred J. Fritz lived there awhile; of this Arizona Place Names(7) says:

Here he lived with Nat Whittum, an older man who had been an Indian scout. In 1891 Fritz went to Clifton for supplies and *s*c*ion his return found Nat kneeling by the bed in the cabin, dead. He had apparently been reaching for his gun and died in that position. From the house Fritz followed the trail of blood which led to the spring and horse corral. This indicated that the killer had watched Nat leave the cabin, go out to the horses, and then had shot him unarmed early in the morning. It was thought that Nat was killed by the Apache Kid, a renegade Indian.

This location became known as Whittum and was the site of a post office which was established there July 21, 1894, with Isaac F. Castro as postmaster. The name was changed to Blue on November 3, 1898, and C. D. Martin was later the postmaster. Still later (probably in 1904) the post office was moved upstream about 4 miles to Benton at what is now the Fred J. Fritz, Jr., HU Bar

The Baseline site is on the south boundary of the 233,000 acre Blue Range Primitive Area and much of Mr. Fritzís Sandrock Allotment lies within this area. Freddie, as he is known affectionately to people all over Arizona, says in a letter to the author about Baseline:

I have many memories of Old Baseline - as Iíve been here always - if it could talk it could reveal much. It was the second place where my father lived in 1886 and 1887 and the Indians killed Nat Widom (sic) - a fellow who was staying with father (he had gone to Clifton after some supplies) - there were others killed in the same raid. After that dad moved to this location. Too, it was at Baseline I met my wife Kathleen Anderson - we were just kids - she 15 - I 16 - she was the youngest sister of Mrs. Ernest (Bertha) Patterson*s*/ who was Forest Ranger and had been transferred to Baseline - Kathleen came out - she was raised in Tennessee - to spend the summer. We were married August 1927. Yes, I could ramble on forever about Baseline and the Blue.

Speaking about the radio experiment Freddie says:

It was quite an event for us here - and was used by us here on various occasions to get messages to Clifton and elsewhere. Hal Sizer*s/ - who later became Forest Supervisor also a brother-in*-law of Harry Hinck*!*O/ who was a Ranger at Baseline in the early days wrote quite a poem about Warnerís wireless operation and the only lines that come to my mind at the present time are:
HAnd the aerial swung From the barbed wire hung From a crag on the mountain wkll, And the transmitter set on the table to let Sir William send out his first call."

Warner was ranger here when I left for 1st World War October 3, 1917, - and was transferred while I was gone - and a fellow by the name of Searle was the ranger, but he too was gone and Baseline abandoned while I was gone - that all happened in 1918 I think. I have had a lease on the place since then - in later years and tore the building down.
So that was the end of the Baseline Station and the radio equipment didnít fare much better. Mr. Redington was enthusiastic about it but equipment was cumbersome and not very reliable. The Baseline report states that as early as 1914, Mr. Slonaker had recommended wireless for use on the Carson when the Supervisorís Office moved to Tres Piedras*l*l/, a rather isolated location even today; and District Forester Ringland*!2/ had recommended it for the Datil*!3/ also in 1914.

Those concerned with the Baseline experiment enthusiastically recommended it as a way of saving thousands of dollars in telephone line construction costs, but they failed to reckon with some of the real problems. The installations were fixed and lacked versatility. The antenna installations for the frequency used were major undertakings. The antenna at Baseline spanned the Blue River Canyon for 1,600 feet and was 132 feet above the station. At the time telephones were still the best bet for communications because field sets could be tapped in and phones assigned to fire cooperators all along the lines. Nevertheless, the Baseline radio experiment was the beginning of interest in use of radio and it led to some early portability achievements by the Forest Service radio lab, which in turn stimulated manufacturers. And so today we have come to rely almost totally on radio for field communication. It all began by a few pioneering spirits at Baseline down on the Blue.

Paul G. Redington, District Forester from April 1916 to Decemberl9l 9.

21All Regions, that is.

3/Slonaker, L. V. - 1917, Report on the Baseline Wireless Station, Apache National Forest, Arizona, and Wireless Investigations in the Southwestern National Forest District. MS on file USDA - Forest Service, Southwestern Region.

Ray Potter, son of Del M. Potter, c.f., The Coronado Trail: First Federal Aid Highway.

5/ The Crook was abolished in 1953 with portions going to the Gila, Coronado, and Tonto National Forests.

6/ C. C. Searls followed Warner is Ranger serving from October 1917 to February 1918.

7/ Arizona Place Names, By Will C. Barnes, University of Arizona Press.

8/Ranger Ernest R. Patterson - Clifton Ranger District, January 1911 to June 1911; Greer Ranger District, June 1912 to February 1914; Basline Ranger District, February 1914 to September 1915; Alpine Ranger District, September 1915 to July 1919.

9/James H. Sizer, Supervisor, Apache National Forest from January 1922 to September 1925.

10/ John H. Hinck - Ranger at Baseline from November 1910 to February 1914.

11/ Supervisorís Office moved to Tres Piedras, New Mexico, from Antonito, Colorado, in May 1911. In January 1915, it moved to Taos.

12/ Arthur C. Ringland, District Forester from December 1908 to April 1916. Mr. Ringland still lives in Washington, D.C., and remains very active.

13/ The Datil National Forest was established June 18, 1908, from parts of the Gila National Forest and other areas with Headquarters at Magdalen*e, New Mexico. John Kerr was the first Forest Supervisor. The Forest was abolished in 1931 and parts added to the Apache, Gila, and Manzano National Forests.
be  patient I have to find the  sheet  that has the corrections  for this...


ed sharpe archivist for smecc

Ranger Warner At The Wireless Station. (photo)
Figure 2. Looking across the Blue River from east tie point to the west point 1600 feet away. Note the twisted barbed wire in foreground. Note Baseline Station at lower left.

Ranch site on patented land within the Blue Range Primitive Area. Present day Blue Post Office is in the upper Blue River and is not related to this earlier Blue Station.


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