The Wilbanks cabin in Arizona's remote Kofa Mountains was homesteaded in the early 1930s by a young cowboy named Jack Wilbanks. He dreamed of having his own cattle ranch. In 1931, the abundant grass, perfect for grazing cattle, attracted him to the area. He acquired some existing equipment from another rancher and brought his small herd of Herefords to the mountains.
With his father-in-law's help, Jack built a four-room cabin, barn, and corrals, hauling building supplies over very rough terrain. He moved his wife Martha and baby daughter Jacqueline to their new home. Eventually, the couple would have three more daughters growing up right here.
But things soon took a turn for the worse. The Great Depression struck, and severe drought left the land barren. Jack worked tirelessly to keep his cattle alive, but with the land barren of grass, many died of starvation. Making matters worse, their original cabin, with all of their belongings in it, burned down in 1934.
Undeterred, Jack rebuilt a smaller two-room cabin directly across the wash from the old cabin. Over the next several years, the family endured extreme isolation, injuries, and challenging conditions but Jack's determination paid off. With the coming of World War II, beef prices rose, and the ranch became profitable. In 1937, the family moved near Vicksburg so the girls could attend school but still vacationed at their cabin. By 1939, Jack had established his headquarters at Vicksburg but frequently returned to his beloved Kofa cabin.
All the hard work eventually caught up with Jack. In 1945, at only 40 years old, he was forced to sell the ranch to Crowder Cattle Company and moved to Parker. But he often drove back to the Kofas to camp and enjoy the landscape he had tamed. Jack passed away in 1966. Livestock grazing ceased on the Kofa Game Refuge in February 1976 when it became a National Wildlife Refuge and no longer comanaged with the BLM.