History of Arizona | Ed A. Tovrea
One of the most important industries in Phoenix is the Arizona Packing Company, of which E. A. Tovrea is the founder and president. This great concern, which has been in existence for forty years, has enjoyed a very successful record and is numbered among the leading packing houses of the Southwest, being the largest between Fort Worth, Texas, and Los Angeles. Mr. Tovrea was born in Sparta, Illinois, on the 20th day of March. 1861, and is a son of Arthur T. and Rosa (Hood) Tovrea, both of whom are deceased. His father was a native of Nashville, Tennessee, and devoted his life mainly to farming pursuits. His mother was a native of South Carolina. To these parents were born eleven children, five of whom are living. E. A. Tovrea received his education in the public schools of his native state, and after leaving school he gave his attention to farming. He came to Arizona in 1883 and located at Ashfork, Yavapai County, where he engaged in freighting from that place to Prescott. He carried on that enterprise for two years and then, in 1885, came to Phoenix. Here he purchased stock in the Buckeye canal, where he located considerable land. He had contracts on the construction of the canal, developed his land located there, and, as superintendent of construction, turned the first water into the Buckeye canal. Later he went to the Harquela mines and engaged in a mercantile business, as well as in hauling the ore to Harrisburg. Subsequently with his farming and stockraising activities, he became associated with Mr. Maston, who was the contractor for the Wolfley dam, now known as the Gillespie dam. Mr. Tovrea was made general foreman of construction and after the dam was constructed, under his supervision, water was turned into the Wolfley canal, now the Gillespie canal. This carried water to capacity for several months, and then came the greatest rainfall that Arizona has known during Mr. Tovrea's residence here of forty-six years. The waste way of three hundred feet which had been prepared would not take care of the overflow, which extended to a width of five miles, reaching Mr. Tovrea's home, a mile and a half from the river, fifteen miles above the dam. This caused the washout of the rock and dirt construction of the remaining eighteen hundred feet, which had been built six feet above the overflow. Mr. Tovrea had, in connection with his employment, the contract for supplying beef for the camp, which he selected from his own herd. Unfortunately for him, the canal company, known as the Peoria Canal and Dam Company, had gotten into difficulties with their contractors and it went into the hands of a receiver, Mr. McMillan. This made it impossible for the contractors to pay their obligations, leaving Mr. Tovrea with his cattle all sold, and not paid for. After waiting until the last hope had vanished of getting his money, he came to Phoenix and rented a small frame building, located on the present site of the Kress store, for which he paid thirty-five dollars a month. Selling out here, he went to Jerome and bought out William Munns and remained in that city for three years. Early in 1901 he went to Bisbee and, buying out Overlock & Company, continued the business until 1919, when he organized the Arizona Packing Company. However, this was not his first experience in the meat packing business, for in 1889 he had engaged in that line, and has been identified with it continuously since. He has given his close attention to the present business, the development of which represents his determination, energy and sound judgment, and he has gained marked prestige in the business world through the remarkable success which he has achieved.
As stated, the Arizona Packing Company was organized in 1919 and completed its plant late in that year. Like many other business ventures organized or starting just after the war, the company had its ups and downs, and there was a time when the postwar depression had it almost clown and out. But the inevitable spirit of the typical Westerner at its head remained unconquered. Today the results of one of the bitterest commercial battles in the history of the state are to be seen in the company's fine plant and business.
The big plant of the company is located four miles east of Phoenix, on the Tempe highway, and is modern and up to date in all respects, both as to its mechanical equipment and its operating methods. The plant consists of three modern buildings with ample holding and feeding pens. The latter are of considerable extent and are made necessary by the rather extensive feeding operations carried on by the company at times, and particularly during the winter months. The buildings consist of the main manufacturing and processing building, the office building and the power plant structure. The main building is of reinforced concrete and steel construction, eighty-five by two hundred and twenty-five feet in size, three stories high. There is a full basement under this building, in which are housed the curing and hide cellars and such other departments as can be located there. There is storage capacity in the building for two thousand five hundred tons of ice. The refrigeration capacity is three hundred and twenty-five tons.
Cattle, hogs and sheep are slaughtered. A complete packing-house business is conducted, including the manufacture of fertilizers and all by-products. In addition to handling and processing meats, the company is also a large manufacture of shortening from cottonseed oil. This is marketed under two brands, "Fenix" shortening and "Desert Bloom" shortening. The former shortening is manufactured from cottonseed oil and the latter is a product of cottonseed oil and beef tallow. The shortening department of the company has grown until it now takes for its use the entire production of one of the largest cottonseed oil mills in Arizona. Hams and bacon are merchandised under two brands, "Cactus" and "Apache." The choicest of these meats receive the former brand and the standard cuts the latter.
The company believes that quality meats and meat products have their beginning in quality livestock. With this thought in mind, the proper purchasing and handling of all animals is considered paramount. Every animal that comes into and every piece of meat that goes out of this establishment is government inspected, the inspection being maintained from the time the animals enter the corrals, on through every stage of handling, butchering, dressing, cutting and so on until the meat is finally loaded into railroad cars for shipment. Hogs are selected care-fully to secure the size, weight and quality of hams and bacon in popular demand. Thousands of cattle are purchased and pastured on the company's ranch until they are finished and ready for slaughter.
As far as possible, the company confines its purchases of livestock to this state. So far as high-quality cattle are concerned, it finds the supply adequate, but a large Proportion of the hogs slaughtered are secured from the corn belt, principally Nebraska and Kansas. During 1928 the company slaughtered 33,000 cattle, 65,000 hogs and many thousands of sheep, paying for the livestock slaughtered the sum of $2,271,000. During this time also, its sales of cured meats increased thirty-three per cent and of fresh meats twenty per cent. In addition to operating the meat packing plant, the company has various ranches, located adjacent to Phoenix, where ample storage and mixing facilities are provided to take care of the large feeding operations necessitated by the demand by consumers of certain classes and weights of cattle. During the winter season these are moved to the feeding pens at the plant. The Arizona Packing Company's products are rated among the very finest meats on the market today and the volume of its business is showing steady increase from year to year. Branch houses are maintained at Nogales, Bisbee, Tucson, Superior, Yuma, Miami, Prescott and Flagstaff. The business of the company is confined largely to Arizona, although during the last year its sales over the border in Mexico have been growing rapidly.
In 1907 Mr. Tovrea was united in marriage to Miss Della Gillespie, of Austin. Texas. By a former marriage he has two sons, Harry R. Tovrea, who is superintendent of the plant, and Philip Edward Tovrea, who is sales manager and has been associated with his father since leaving school. Mr. Tovrea has given a due share of his attention to the public affairs of his community and state, having served as mayor of Jerome, and was a member of the constitutional convention of Arizona in 1910. He belongs to the Benevolent Protective Order of Ell's at Bisbee and is a member of the American Institute of Meat Packers. He is a man of strong personality, has shown marked executive ability and clearheaded judgment in the con-duct of the business of which he is the head, and is regarded as a distinct asset to the locality honored by his residence and benefited by his activities.