Frank Nataros began ranching in Canada and acquired a succession of ranches running north to south from Alberta, Canada to La Paz, Baja California Mexico. He enjoyed all the challenges of ranching in three countries. He enjoyed the outdoor life so much that his parents despaired of him finishing his formal education, he surprised them at age 23 however with a doctorate of Optometry from University of Chicago and a new wife at the same time, Frank fell head over heels in love with a beautiful nursing student, Ann, the moment he met her and convinced her to marry him only a week later. Their whirlwind romance gave them a head start on 65 years of wedded bliss. They raised their four children to appreciate the great outdoors as much as he did and taught them all respect for the land and animals.
Arizona is well known in history for being home to the most peaceful and settled native Americans, like the Pima and also to some of the most blood thirsty and savage tribes in all America, like the Apache. Amid all the Apache raids, when Geronimo was at his height of reign, in 1880 one of the largest ranches in the desert SW was founded. It was named Willow Springs Ranch after a spring there surrounded by willows where animals, riders and stage coach drivers would stop to water. The ranch quickly became one of the more prominent ranches in the southwest. There also was a post office and stagecoach stop on the ranch, at Manleyville, a small town.
The ranch houses were typical for the times. Territorial homes in the late 1700s through the early 1900's were a combination of Spanish and Anglo style homes. Built from the resources at hand, Saguaro ribs and mud, the flat roofed thick walled Adobe houses of the south western territory were a stylish and practical home to withstand the desert heat. The style of these homes was so appealing!
While there has been a focus on cattle ranching, all of the ranch's owners have improved the ranch while owning it. In 1945 it consisted of 100,000 acres of patented and leased land with a carrying capacity of 3,000 head of cattle and the 96 ranch of 50,000 acres and a carrying capacity of 2,000 head. The ranch has always also been known for its great cowboys. In the old days they would participate in the Tucson Rodeo along with their compares from other southern Arizona ranches. In the late 50s Willow Springs was known to have one of the largest cattle spreads in Southern Arizona. With over a 100,000 acres of deeded, state, and grazing land the ranch was easily running 1,500 head of quality Brangus beef cattle and bringing large numbers to auction annually. Topped by the palatial like main ranch home, Willow Springs became a well known name among ranchers and cowboys.
When Frank Nataros obtained the ranch in 1980 he soon wanted to improve the already successful ranch. Two years after acquiring the Willow Springs Ranch, Nataros purchased two neighboring ranches, the 3C and 96 Ranch which expanded the already large ranch to 200,000 acres.