Abandoned Adobe House in Arizona

Post image for Abandoned Adobe House in Arizona

This isn’t a story — it’s a sketch of a story. We were traveling through Arizona and spotted this abandoned house in Portal, Arizona.

What makes this mystery so compelling is a grave marker for Edward John Hand, pioneer, rancher, miner, archaeologist. I imagine a solid man, tall, English-born (1866), exploring the American West and building this one-room adobe structure with his own hands.

My internet research turned up nothing about this man and his simple home. I’m finding much of the American West — possibly the best stories — are not google-able.


Related Posts with Thumbnails


Lindsey 06/02/2011 at 11:41 am

“I’m finding much of the American West — possibly the best stories — are not google-able.”

That’s what libraries are for. 🙂

Teleia 06/02/2011 at 11:42 am
beth ahlquist 06/02/2011 at 11:51 am

It’s a type error I think. I did some quick research and found that his last name is “Hands” and the building use to be a museum per this website. http://www.mycochise.com/cemmisc.php

11-1-1866 TO 1-31-1939

John Hands is buried in Portal, next to the museum he had there.

Per Ed Francis, local historian.

DJ 06/02/2011 at 12:41 pm

It has the look of a closed memorial or memorial museum.

Patrick 06/02/2011 at 1:09 pm

I haven’t found Edward’s story, or anything about his house, but I was able to discover some of the outline of his life.

Edward John Hands was born 1 November 1866 in Kings Weston, Bristol, the third of eight children of James Hands (1836-1901) and Charlotte Maria Downey or Downing (1841-1912). Kings Weston is now part of the city of Bristol.

Edward and his older brother Francis Henry (“Frank”) Hands (1862-1936) came to America in the 1880s. On 4 June 1889 in Cochise County, Arizona, Edward made a Declaration of Intention to become a U.S. citizen. He was naturalized on 12 December 1903 in Cochise County.

In 1900, Edward and Frank were working as miners and living in a boarding house in Grant County, New Mexico, two counties over from Cochise County. Their surname is listed in the census as “Hans.” Both are listed as single.

In 1910 they were back in Cochise County, working as copper miners. The census indicates that both brothers are single and that their home is owned free (without mortgage) by Frank. Both the 1900 and 1910 census say that Edward immigrated in 1884 and Frank in 1888.

On 24 November 1915 Frank, 52, married Grace S. Kernaghan, 37, a native of New Jersey. In 1920, Frank and Grace are living in Paradise Precinct of Cochise County, where Frank is a cattle rancher. Edward is living on his own in the same precinct, and is a fruit farmer. Each brother owns his land free and clear.

I haven’t found Edward in the 1930 census, but Frank and Grace are still listed in Cochise County, and Grace’s mother, 88-year-old Emma Kernaghan, is living with them.

Frank died of stomach cancer, 20 June 1936 in Cochise County: http://genealogy.az.gov/azdeath/054/10541216.pdf

Grace died of heart failure 26 March 1955 in Cochise County: http://genealogy.az.gov/azdeath/0218/02181920.pdf

Edward died of cancer of the right kidney, 31 January 1939 in Cochise County:
On his death certificate, the word “Single” is crossed out and “Divorced” is written in.

April 06/02/2011 at 2:11 pm

Very neat!

Hillary 06/02/2011 at 6:34 pm

Thanks to everyone interested in piecing it together. Nice work!

Janet 06/02/2011 at 7:02 pm

I also discovered that he had another brothers that came to AZ.

Alfred James Downing Hands
Birth Mar 1873 in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, UK
Death 28 Mar 1895 in , Cochise, Arizona
1881 Age: 8 Residence Portree, Invernessshire, Scotland
1889 2 Sep Age: 16 Arrival New York
1895 28 Mar Age: 22 Death, Cochise, Arizona Killed by Indians, Reed Cemetery

Percy Ashton Hands (totally deaf)
Birth 9 Feb 1875 in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, UK
First lived in Cochise Cty, AZ
Death 12 Mar 1960 in Ukiah, Mendocino,California, USA

Another brother, Frederick, lived in New Jersey.
Death 12 Mar 1960 in Mendocino,California, USA

Alice 06/03/2011 at 2:00 am

how cool that you spied this and that everyone helped piece the story together… very interesting to read. I am so intrigued by lives gone by. Hope you are both well, healthy and happy!

Patricia 05/31/2012 at 10:45 am

Dear Patricia, There is a picture of a small, NEW adobe house on the internet next to a memorial to John Hand. This is not abandoned. It was built (I think) by the local firefighters as a recreation hall.
As far as I know there are no houses built by John Hand still standing. There are piles of adobe bricks, etc. The person who knows about this is Kimrod Murphy / 999 W. Portal Road / Portal, AZ 85632. He has written a book called The Devil Played Hell in Paradise with the history of the Hand family and the houses they built (as well as everyone else’s history here). Mr. Murphy is about two generations older than computer science and you will have to contact him via snail mail. Portal is a unique community of retired astronomers, scientists and good old boys. The average age seems to be 80, but occasionally there are a few youngsters around. I hope this helps. All the best,

Ian 07/29/2013 at 5:14 pm

If that is his original house, then it’s been updated relatively recently as it looks like it has aluminium windows.

john hinckley 07/29/2013 at 7:15 pm

Here’s some more information on Hand (though from a site I kind of detest…):

keith osborn 10/03/2014 at 12:35 pm

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: