CHAPTER XI. EARLY SETTLEMENTS.
FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENT IN VERDE VALLEY—DR. J. M. SWETNAM7'S STORY—MEMBERS OF PARTY—LOCATION OF SETTLEMENT—PRICES OF SUPPLIES—DIFFERENCES OF OPINION—THE CAMP DIVIDED—OPENING IRRIGATION DITCH—NEW ADDITION TO PARTY—INDIAN RAIDS—HARVESTING CROPS—REFUSAL OF U. S. QUARTERMASTER TO PURCHASE CROPS—FINALLY AGREES TO PURCHASE—MORE INDIAN RAIDS—MILITARY PROTECTION.
Soon after the organization of the Territorial Government and the settlement of Prescott, parties of hardy pioneers began to branch out and form settlements in other parts of the Territory. One of these parties, headed by James M. Swetnam, now a practicing physician and surgeon in Phoenix, made the first white settlement in the Verde Valley. I am indebted to Dr. Swetnam for the following account of this settlement:‘‘
“Early in January, 1865, a party consisting of James M. Swetnam, William L. Osborn, Clayton M. Ralston, Henry D. Morse, Jake Ramstein, Thos. Ruff, Ed. A. Boblett, James Parrish and James Robinson, left Prescott for the purpose of locating a colony for farming purposes in the valley of the Verde River, if a suitable place could be found. At that time the only ranch east of the immediate vicinity of Fort Whipple and Prescott, was that of Col. King S. Woolsey, which was at the upper end of the
“The men were all on foot, taking along a single horse on which was packed their blankets, cooking utensils, and provisions for ten days. They followed the road to Woolsey's ranch, then the Chaves trail, to near the head of the Copper Canyon, at which point they left the old trail, following down the canyon by an Indian trail to the Verde River, which they reached on the third day at a point almost due east of Prescott, and fifty miles distant.
“At Prescott the ground was covered with snow, and the contrast presented by the valley, not only devoid of snow, but showing evidences of approaching spring, was very agreeable. But the one thing which was not so agreeable was a quantity of fresh Indian signs, and the sight of a couple of columns of blue smoke, lazily ascending at a distance of four or five miles.
“To reach the east side of the river, which was perhaps fifty feet wide and in the deepest part two feet, the party waded across and camped until toward evening, when they moved down the valley something over two miles to a point half a mile north of Clear Fork, where they camped for the night, placing a guard with relief every two hours.
“Three or four days were spent in the valley, the exploration extending from one mile below Clear Fork to ten miles above. But it was finally decided, although the amount of arable land was less than desired, to locate on the ‘V’-shaped point between the Verde and Clear Fork on the north side of the latter. The reasons for this decision were:
“Third: The large amount of stone reduced to the proper shape for building—remains of an ancient edifice, perhaps a temple whose people had been driven from its use and enjoyment hundreds of years ago by the ancestors of these same savage Apaches.
“The location being determined upon, the party returned to Prescott, and began preparations for making a success of the enterprise. This was no easy task. Some of the best informed and oldest settlers about Fort Whipple
“Tools for clearing the land and ditching were purchased. Plows, (cast mould boards), a very inferior utensil, but the best that could be got, were bought at exorbitant prices. Barley and wheat for seed cost $20.00 per cwt. This was the price in gold, greenbacks being worth seventy cents on the dollar. Corn for seed cost them $22.00 per cwt., and they had to go eighteen miles to the Hassayamp to get it, then pack it to Prescott on donkeys over an almost impassable trail. Provisions were also high. But all these difficulties were overcome, and early in February the party, numbering nineteen in all with supplies loaded into six wagons drawn by oxen, bade farewell to their friends, and set forth to try the experiment of making a permanent settlement in the midst of a region surrounded by the murderous Apaches.
“Four days later these adventurers reached and passed over the Verde River at the same point where the exploring party had crossed one month before, and pitched their camp. Here the first trouble came, not from Indians, but amongst themselves. Two parties had
“Nothing was decided that afternoon, and though the day had been beautiful, during the night it began to rain, a thing they were not expecting, and were not prepared for. Several of the wagons had no covers, and the rain increasing, the contents became soaked with water. When morning came everything looked gloomy. The men gathered shivering around the fires, which were with difficulty made to burn. Two miles away upon the hills to the south it was snowing, and only the lower altitude kept them from being in a snowstorm where they were. Such was the condition of things on the first morning.
“All were impatient of delay and wanted to have the matter of the exact location of settlement determined. Those favoring the lower valley quietly numbered their forces, and found there were seven voters sure, and three more who were noncommittal, among them Mr. Foster, who had no cattle, and no interest in them, and who would be compelled to rely on some of the others who had. J. M. Swetnam went to him and agreed if he would join those favoring the lower valley, he, Swetnam, would furnish him cattle for breaking and cultivating his ground free of charge. The offer was accepted. There were yet the two who so far as those who favored the lower valley knew, had expressed no opinion.
“J. M. Swetnam, W. L. Osborn, H. D. L. Morse, Jo. Melvin, Thomas Ruff, C. M. Ralston, Mac Foster, Ed. Boblett, John Lang, and Jake Ramstein, ten in all, pulled out, and that evening pitched their camp at the place already selected on the point between the river and Clear Fork.
“The first work was to build a place to secure the cattle and provide for their own defense in case of an attack from the Apaches. The next morning before the sun was up they had begun work. The stone of the old ruin previously spoken of, was used to make an enclosure sixty feet long and forty feet wide. The walls were built to a height of seven or eight feet, being four feet thick on the bottom, and two feet thick at the top. A well was also dug that they might have water in case the supply from the river or ditch was interfered with.
“The stone enclosure being completed, they built a cabin on each corner. These cabins were built of poles, notched at the ends, and made a very substantial habitation. The floor was mother earth, wet, levelled, and pounded so as to make it hard and smooth. The cracks between the logs were chinked and plastered with
“The spot selected for the dam was a point on Clear Fork about one mile and a half from the Fort. This would enable them to cover about four hundred acres with water. The plan was to make the ditch three feet wide at the top, and fifteen inches deep. Then came the survey. For this they had no instruments. Ralston had once carried a chain with some surveyors in Illinois, and thought he could survey the ditch, so he arranged a triangle with a leaden bob, and with the aid of a carpenter's level, the work began. The first half mile was through greasewood and mesquite, which annoyed the surveyors, and afterwards rendered the digging in places quite difficult. The survey being completed up on to the level, from which point the water would have plenty of fall, the work of digging was begun with a will, every man doing his part. There was a division of labor. Two or three men had to remain about the cabins to be on the lookout for Indians and to look after the
“The work was hard, but they were at it by sunrise in the morning, and sunset often found them wielding the shovel and the spade. Work upon the ditch had continued for over a week when it became necessary to go to Prescott, for provisions were getting low. They had expected to be able to get some game in the valley, but nothing had been killed, excepting two or three geese and as many ducks. A few fish of the sucker family had been caught, but the addition to the larder did not pay for the time spent in catching them. About the 20th of March, five of the party, with one wagon and two yoke of oxen, left on the trip to Prescott.
“At the upper camp they were joined by two men who were leaving the valley in disgust. This increased the number to seven. The Indians on the way up annoyed them some, though they were not attacked. During the absence of the party after supplies, work on the ditch almost ceased, and the time was spent in gardening and such other work as could be done near the Fort.
“The cabins were now occupied as follows: The northwest by Swetnam, Ralston and Foster; the northeast by Osborn, Melvin, Morse, Yates and Culbertson; the southeast by Lang and Ramstein, and the southwest by Mr. and Mrs. Whitcomb, Mr. and Mrs. Boblett, and Thomas Ruff.
“Work was again vigorously prosecuted on the ditch, but when Culbertson, one of the new arrivals who had had much experience in irrigating in California, came to look the ground over, he insisted that the survey was incorrect, and unless they had the power to make water run up hill, the ditch would be useless if continued on the present survey. Ralston contended that the survey was correct, and to settle the matter a dam, which was intended to be left until the ditch was finished, was now thrown across the stream, and the water turned into the ditch. Though turned on with considerable head, it ran sluggishly for about one hundred feet and stopped. Clear Fork water would not run up hill.
“The atmosphere grew blue and sulphurous for a little while. Many days of hard labor had been lost by the blunder, but they were not the kind of men to repine. The upper end of the ditch was lowered, the survey made on a little lower level, and the work progressed without interruption
“The work of clearing off the land and breaking had begun, and was prosecuted with such vigor that by the 10th of May over two hundred acres had been planted in barley, wheat, corn, potatoes, beans, melons, and garden stuff, and was growing with a rapidity only seen where there is rich soil, a hot sun, and plenty of moisture.
“Two or three times the Indians had made their appearance on the hills, and twice tracks were found within twenty rods of the cabins where the savages had been the night before, but up to the first of May there had been no particular annoyance, and the settlers began to have hopes that the Indians would not molest them, and became careless. The cattle were allowed to wander without someone being with them all the time, though they were looked after, brought up at noon, and kept corralled every night.
“One morning in the early part of May, the settlers were engaged on their different tracts of land when the cry of ‘Indians! Indians!’ rang out upon the startled ears of the settlers, and in a minute every man was hurrying to the Fort. Mr. Whitcomb, whose duty it was to look after the cattle, had, just before 10 a. m., missed three head of oxen. It was but a few moments work to reach the spot where he had seen them half an hour before, some sixty rods away from the cabins. He soon struck their trail and, following it, were moccasin tracks. This explained their disappearance.
“Twenty minutes after the alarm was given, Melvin, Ralston, Osborn, Swetnam and Morse were upon their track in hot pursuit. The direction of the trail was south of east, crossing Clear Fork not far from the head of the ditch, and coming out on the mesa nearly three miles from the Fort, the general direction being Tonto Basin, for which point the Indians were evidently heading.
“The cattle were in good condition, and the Indians, probably a small foraging party numbering nine or ten, were sparing no effort to get away with their booty, and with three-quarters of an hour start, through a region every foot of which the Indians knew, and of which their pursuers knew little, it could be nothing else than a dangerous and a long chase. But this only increased the determination of the boys to recapture the cattle. ‘For,’ said Ralston, ‘this is their first raid and, if successful, they will soon come again, but if defeated in this effort, it will teach them to let us alone in the future.’
“At a distance of about four miles the trail entered the mountains, where the rocky condition of the ground rendered the trail, in places, quite indistinct, thus hindering the pursuers. At this point Thomas Ruff, mounted upon the only horse in the valley, and with a supply of bacon, flour and coffee for two days, and bread for one meal, overtook the boys, increasing their number to six.
“About half-past one p. m., they came to a beautiful clear cool stream of water. Here they stopped for twenty minutes and ate a lunch of raw bacon and bread, washed down with cold water, and no banquet was ever better relished.
“By two o'clock there was no trouble in following the trail, the droppings from the overheated cattle, and the little flecks of foam, not yet dry, showed that the distance between the pursued and the pursuers was growing rapidly less.
“At four o'clock a small stream was reached where the cattle tracks in the water had not yet cleared, and the boys knew their game was near. Here the trail was almost directly up the mountain side, which was covered with pretty thick brush, necessitating a little more caution in the advance, but the speed was not lessened. With faces flushed with the muscular exertion, guns in position for immediate use, and every eye and ear upon the alert, they ascended the mountains for nearly a mile, Swetnam in the lead, Melvin at his heels, and Osborn next, thus reaching what seemed to be the top. In a hollow some fifty steps ahead stood the cattle, with tongues hanging out, panting for breath, and a number of arrows sticking in each, but no Indians in sight. Beyond the cattle was another short rise, and the savages, finding the pursuit so close that they could not get their booty in its exhausted condition over the edge before the boys came in sight, concluded to abandon the cattle and save themselves.
“About six o'clock they met John Lang (the cattle belonged to him and Jake Ramstein). John's face was covered with dust, his hat was off, his shirt bosom was open, the sight was knocked from his gun, and the stock broken.
“Upon questioning him regarding his broken gun, it developed that he, being at work south of Clear Fork, did not hear of his loss for half an hour after the party had started in pursuit, when, against all remonstrance, he started to follow, and, on his way, came across an Indian who had evidently been left behind to watch and report. Lang got up near enough to him to shoot, but he did not kill the Indian, and this made him so angry that he threw the gun away and charged the Indian with his sixshooter, but the savage soon disappeared. Then Lang returned, picked up his gun, and followed on the trail. When asked why he threw the gun away, he said, ‘The tam gun, is no goot.’ He felt
“An hour before dark the party halted long enough to prepare and eat supper, after which they resumed their journey, reaching home at three o'clock the next morning, having been out seventeen hours, and travelled fifty miles. The cattle stood the trip home, but one of them died from the effects of his wounds on the day following. The other two lived to be again captured, and again rescued.
“About this time the upper camp was abandoned entirely. Too late they found that they could not get water on to the ground in time for a crop, and, becoming discouraged, they gave up entirely, Parrish and four or five of his followers going back to Prescott, and the remainder joining the lower camp.
“Everything went on smoothly for some time, except that the horse was one evening run off by the Indians. Corn had been planted, and the grain and vegetables were looking well, though the grain had been planted late. The corn began to need cultivating, but without horses how was this to be done? Three or four shovel plows had been brought down, and these could be stocked if the motive power could be got. It has been said, ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ Short yokes were made, a harness improvised, and single oxen were put to plowing between the rows of corn, and, though slow, they did the work very well. But in this instance the command, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle the ox,lsquo; had to be disobeyed, or there would have been no corn, and no plowing.
“At Prescott flour was $30.00 per cwt., in greenbacks; bacon 50¢ per lb. But when the new vegetables were ready for use, they fared better, and when the sweet corn and green beans came, followed by potatoes and melons, they lived like kings.
“Late in May a man by the name of Sanford, an old Californian, joined the colony, and about this time a man from Texas, named Elliott, with his wife and three or four children came. Another cabin was built on the east side, the end being placed immediately against the stone enclosure. Crops were now growing vigorously, and the boys began to feel in good spirits. Work was now less pressing, and the company being larger, more trips were made to Prescott, and upon each of these occasions one or more persons would accompany the party back to the valley.
“Prescott being the nearest postoffice, letters and papers were received at intervals of three or four weeks. Books were few, and amusements, outside of cards or target shooting, were scarce. There was no game to hunt, and altogether it was rather a humdrum life to lead, except when the Indians gave them a little excitement.
“Scarcely a man in the whole valley went by his own name, nicknames being given to each. For instance Clayton Ralston, because he got a letter stating that his sister had a boy, was immediately dubbed ‘Uncle Clayton’; Boblett and
“The latter part of May, while five or six of the party were on a trip to Prescott for supplies, just after the noon hour, the ditch was found to be without water. There could be but one explanation, either the dam or ditch was cut, and only Indians would do it. The breach must be repaired and the camp protected. This might be a scheme on the part of the Indians to divide the force left in the valley, and then attack the cabins. The cattle were corralled, and Culbertson and Swetnam volunteered to make the attempt to find the break and repair it. In addition to their usual fighting implements they took an axe, and a spade, and followed up the ditch. They had not gone more than one-third the distance to the dam when a column of smoke was seen rising from a point on the mesa, south of the dam. The redskins were there, and were watching the settlers. The boys, after reconnoitering for some time, finally reached the dam, which had been cut and the water turned into the main channel. Three or four hours steady work, one standing guard while the other labored, was sufficient to repair the breach and throw an abundance of water into the ditch. The boys quit just before night and returned safely to the Fort.
“The cattle had been brought up to the corral at noon, but had not been put inside. The two horses were picketed within a hundred feet of the northeast cabin, and there was no thought of Indians. Dinner had been eaten and several of the boys were lounging in the northwest cabin, the window of which looked directly up the river. During the dinner hour the cattle had wandered off up the stream perhaps a half a mile, and half as far from the river, it being another half mile to the bluffs to the northeast. Some one glancing up the river saw four naked men running from the cover of the bank directly toward the cattle. ‘Indians! Indians!’ was the cry. Swetnam, Ralston and Foster, seized their guns and started on the run to save the cattle, the other boys hurrying to their own cabins for their guns. The intention was to reach the cattle before the stampeders could get them to the bluffs. Swetnam, being the fastest runner, was in front, Ralston next, and then Foster, but the latter had thought of the horses, and, leaping on the back of the best one, passed Ralston and overtook Swetnam when nearly half a mile from the Fort. Swetnam here mounted on behind Foster. From four Indians first in sight, the number had increased to over sixty, and they had formed a hollow square around about twenty-five of the cattle, and were hurrying them on the run to the
“It was a beautiful sight. The Apaches were naked except for the breechclout, and armed with rifles, long handled spears, and bows and arrows. The spears were freely used in urging the cattle forward, but five or six of them broke away from their captors and escaped.
“Foster and Swetnam both urged the horse to as great a speed as possible, and, without stopping to consider the danger, did their best to reach the canyon before the Indians, but the distance was too great; they were still eighty yards away when the mouth of the canyon was entered by the savages, who divided into three columns, one moving up the center after the cattle, and one up each side of the canyon. Swetnam here leaped from the horse and dropped on one knee, when there was a roar of firearms, and the bullets knocked up the ground all around him. He selected his Indian and fired. Foster, armed with a double barreled shotgun, urged the horse forward almost into the mouth of the canyon, and emptied both barrels in the face of a shower of balls and arrows from the foes who had taken shelter behind rocks. Foster then wheeled his horse, which had been shot through the neck, and rode back to where Swetnam was watching a chance to pick off a savage if opportunity occurred. In a few minutes Ralston, Culbertson, Osborn, Melvin, Boblett and one or two others came up, and, leaving the wounded horse behind, they continued the pursuit, the Indians having disappeared in the retreat. The boys followed for perhaps two miles through the hills, hoping that they might
“About this time the harvesting began. The barley was so short that it could not be well cut with a scythe and cradle, so the boys pulled it like flax. The grain was then beaten out with flails, or tramped out with oxen on dirt floors, and the grain separated from the chaff by a man standing on a stool and pouring it slowly on to the ground, thus allowing the wind to blow the chaff and straw away. By repeating this several times the grain was got pretty clean, except for gravel and dirt, more or less of which had unavoidably got into the grain from the roots and the thrashing upon the ground.
“In the latter part of July the settlers were scattered about among their respective crops, Lang, Ramstein and Yates across Clear Fork, where they had been camped for two or three days thrashing their wheat, having two yoke of oxen with them; Whitcomb with the herd between the Fort and the river; Culbertson forty rods to the south of him at work in the field, and the other settlers at work to the east of and about the Fort and the cabins.
“That the camp across Clear Fork had been attacked there was no doubt, but a belt of timber between it and the Fort prevented anything from being seen. Half a dozen brave fellows at once volunteered to go to the assistance of the Dutch Camp, nearly a mile distant, and started at the double quick, when the lookout called their attention to a party of Indians hurrying down the west side of the river in the same direction. This was the band that had made the attack upon Whitcomb, and they were evidently hurrying to join their companions who had made the main attack upon the weaker camp. Matters began to look serious. No time was lost in speculation for there seemed bloody work before them. When about half way through the timber, they met Lang and Yates with one yoke of oxen, and the wagon, Ramstein lying in the bottom with a severe bullet wound in the hip. It seemed that Ramstein had been alone in the camp when the attack was made, Yates and Lang having gone into the field for a lead of wheat. Ramstein fell at the first fire, and Lang and Yates, leaving the team,
“Determined not to leave the savages in peaceable possession of that side of the creek, it was agreed that the wounded man, accompanied by all but four men, should go on to the Fort, and that these four should return and give battle to the Apaches, who numbered about seventy-five warriors. C. M. Ralston, Polk, James Boblett, and Swetnam, volunteered for this work, and immediately began a cautious but rapid movement in the direction of the enemy, distant not more than eighty rods, and whose chattering and exulting shouts could be plainly heard. When the boys had reached a spot about forty feet from the open ground, they came to a stop, and Swetnam, getting into the bed of a dry ditch, crawled along to the
“The question was solved. Swetnam and James each selected his Indian and fired, Boblett and Ralston reserving. Each of the Apaches fell, as is their custom when fired upon from close quarters, and as those who were able arose, Ralston and Boblett sent a couple more leaden messengers into them. The chattering was immediately changed into the war
“It now became evident that the Indians were bent on destruction, and the settlers felt that they had got their harvest ready and that they deserved protection from the government. Earnest appeals were made to that effect to the authorities at Fort Whipple, and fair promises made that were not fulfilled. Peace reigned again for nearly a month, during which time a party of prospectors left Prescott, nineteen
“In August the first load of barley was taken to Prescott. It was not choice, but it was the fruit of hard and dangerous labor. In gathering the grain up, which was done by hand, the boys were often stung by scorpions, and sometimes a rattlesnake would roll out of the bunch and go wriggling away, but it was the Apache that was the bane of life. On arriving at Prescott with the barley, the quarter-master was asked to buy it at eighteen dollars per hundred, what it cost to get it from San Francisco. He refused because it had gravel in it and was not so good as the California barley. When questioned as to what price he would pay, he answered: ‘Don't think I want it at any price.’ J. M. Swetnam, who was trying to make the sale, then said: ‘This is a shame. Soldiers are sent here by the government to protect the people and their property, but instead of doing that they lie around the forts where there is no danger, and leave the settlers to protect themselves. Here are a few men who, for the purpose of developing the country, have staked all they had and gone into a region where twice the number of soldiers would not dare to attempt to stop for one month.
“The settlers now had a much easier time; wheat and barley had been harvested; the corn was growing finely, vegetables of all kind were plenty so that, but for the Apaches, it would have been a life of ease, though monotonous. Corn was in roasting ear, and the Indians began to pillage. They would pass through a field of corn at night, and not only carry off, but pull, bite and destroy. This offended the boys very much. The most of the depredations were upon the corn of the Dutch boys across Clear Fork, that being the furthest away. ‘After consultation it was determined to watch the field at night, kill an Indian, and hang him up on a pole as a warning. Lots were drawn for who should stand first, and for each succeeding night until all had stood, or the object secured. Osburn and Ruff came first, so they left the fort at dark, and slipped over into the field, where they remained until midnight,
“The guns loaded, the boys listened breathlessly for some sound, when there came a rustling in the corn all around them. It was a terrible moment; each felt as if he were surrounded by Apaches; as if his time had come. For five minutes they stood, trying by the force of their willpower to quiet the tumultuous beatings of their own hearts. Silence again surrounded them when, the excessive strain relaxing, they sat
“About the middle of September, Lieut. Baty, with sixteen men, was detailed by the commander of Fort Whipple for the protection of the settlers of the Verde valley. But they were of little use, several of the men, from one cause
“When the soldiers had been in the valley about one month, the savages made another attack, capturing all the remaining cattle except seven, being the last but seven of a herd of fifty-five head brought into the valley less than eight months before. In this raid the direction and management of the defenses was left to the military, though the settlers joined them with their old-time vigor. Lieutenant Baty gave his orders, detailing a sergeant to execute them, and was immediately taken ill, returning to his tent, keeping a man to fan him, and did not come out again for more than an hour, not until the fight was over and the Indians gone. The savages had made the raid from the hills northeast of the fort, and were back again with their booty under cover before the sergeant with nine troopers and eight settlers got started in pursuit. But half a mile back in the bluffs they made a stand, and but for the watchfulness and intrepidity of two of the settlers, Culbertson and Sanford, part of
“Although October, the day was hot, and one of the funny incidents connected with the fight was the appearance of one of the Indians, evidently a chief from the active part he took, wearing during the whole time a soldier's heavy cape overcoat.
“A few weeks after this, Baty was relieved of the command, Lieutenant McNeal, with a small reinforcement, being sent to take his place. McNeal was a very good man, who seemed to realize the situation.
“The government made arrangements to take all the corn and grain which the settlers wished to sell, paying for the corn, without its being shelled, thirteen dollars per hundred. This was some compensation, but when it is remembered that during the season the Indians had destroyed or carried away barley and corn to the amount of nearly $2,000, driven off horses to the value of $500, and cattle to the value of over $6,000, for none of which the settlers have ever received any reimbursement, the profits were not large, considering the labor, anxiety and privations, not to mention the sufferings of the men who established and maintained the first settlement in the valley of the Verde.”
Never in the history of the world did men have to contend against so formidable a foe as did the pioneer settlers of Arizona. Harassed on all sides by the relentless Apaches, cut off from civilization by the desert plains of New Mexico and California, they lived a life of warfare and privations, a few determined men against hordes of savage foes. Many of these hardy settlers fell victims to Indian cunning, and the finding of a few bleached bones in after years was all the record left of their untimely departure.’’