CHAPTER I. CONDITIONS IN 1867 AND 1868.
GENERAL JAMES E. RUSLING'S DESCRIPTION OF ARIZONA-FREIGHT RATES-GENERAL RUSLING'S PARTY JOINED BY GOVERNOR AND MRS. MCCORMICK-ABUNDANCE OF MESQUITE-THE GILA VALLEY - PAINTED ROCKS - GIANT SAGUARO-MARICOPA WELLS-PIMA AND MARICOPA INDIANS - MONTEZUMA - TUCSON - SAN XAVIER DEL BAC - HEAVY RAINS-OVERFLOWING OF THE GILA RIVER-CROSSING THE GILA AND SALT RIVERS-FORT MCDOWELL - HARD ROAD TO PRESCOTT - AGUA FRIA RIVER-DANGERS AND DIFFICULTIES EXPERIENCED IN HASSAYAMPA RIVER-WICKENBURG-THE VULTURE MINE.
In 1867 and 1868, the conditions in Arizona were in all respects bad. The Apaches and the River Indians above Fort Yuma were all on the warpath, besides which, the uncertainty of transportation and excessive cost, with the dangers to life attending the hardy adventurer, made Arizona at that time anything but a desirable place of residence.
Their trip from Wilmington to Yuma, then Arizona City, was one of hardship and not of interest to us at this time. Freight was shipped from San Francisco to the mouth of the Colorado River at that time in sail boats, from which point it was transferred into small river steamers for transportation up the river. Oftentimes on account of the uncertainty of the river channel, to reach Yuma involved a trip of two months. The rates current then, according to General Rusling, were, from the mouth of the Colorado to Yuma (or Arizona City), 150 miles, twenty dollars a ton in coin; to La Paz, 300 miles, forty dollars a ton in coin; to Fort Mohave, or Hardyville, 450 miles, sixty dollars a ton in coin. The rates from San Francisco to the mouth of the river, some 2,000 miles, were from twelve to fifteen dollars per ton, coin, so that every load of freight landed at Arizona City or Hardyville, cost from thirty-five to seventy-five dollars a ton for transportation alone, to which should be added five dollars a pound in gold for each one hundred miles into the interior, which made freight cost delivered in Tucson about $250 a ton in gold, and in Prescott about the same, which, in itself, was ruinous to any mining enterprise, and, in fact, to any enterprise whatever. Even at these exorbitant rates it is doubtful whether the freighters amassed any great amount of money for frequently their trains were captured and
General Rusling and his party arrived in Yuma on the 2nd of March, and after inspecting the post there, were joined by Governor McCormick and his wife, they having left San Francisco in advance of Rusling's party, and on March 4th they continued their journey to Prescott over a road which was difficult and dangerous. Their outfit consisted of two four mule ambulances, into which they stored themselves, their baggage, rations, forage, cooking utensils, etc., with two wagon sheets to pitch as tents if necessary. These, however, they did not use except for making their beds. General Rusling declares the climate was simply unrivalled. There was no cavalry at Yuma, and the road being reported comparatively safe to Maricopa Wells, they went thither without escort, depending upon their own courage and vigilance. Nevertheless, they provided themselves before starting with firearms, giving to the cook whom they took along to provide their meals, and to both drivers, Springfield muskets, while they themselves were equipped
Their road, for the most part, ran along the side of the Gila river, which was swollen at that time on account of the melting snows of spring, and over the desert sands. Portions of the Gila bottoms, he claims, were fine agricultural land, but required irrigation. They found but few settlers along the route and nothing but here and there an abortive attempt at cultivation, usually unsuccessful. The bottoms everywhere were covered with bunch grass and mesquite-timber-"the one the delight of horses, the other invaluable in that treeless region. The mesquite has but little height; but its trunk is often two and three feet in diameter, though only about as many high, from which point it throws out great, sturdy, black, gnarled limbs for a distance of thirty or forty feet all around. We saw many of them, that I think could not have been more than five or six feet in height, the bend of the branches included; nevertheless, with their crooked and gnarled limbs, they sprawled over the ground for a diameter of fully seventy-five or one hundred feet. At first they strike you as dwarfs, puny in aspect and purpose; but afterwards, as stunted giants, massive in strength and power, writhing in very anguish, because unable to tower higher. For lumber purposes, the mesquite amounts to but little; but for fuel, it is invaluable, and the future settlers on the Gila will prize it highly. It occurs pretty much all through Arizona on the best river-bottoms, and everywhere seems a providential
"A few miles west of Gila Bend, between Berk's Station and Oatman's Flat, we passed a group of rocks that interest everybody, but which nobody seemed to know much about. They stand near the roadside, and consist of smooth, red porphyry, or some such stone, curiously carved with figures of men, birds, beasts, fishes, etc. Many of the figures are now quite indistinct but sufficient remain to show what they were, and their very indistinctness-coupled with the hardness of the stone-proves their great antiquity. The rocks themselves, when struck, ring like genuine clink stones; and, it would seem, only the sharpest and hardest instruments could make much impression on them. The place is called ‚Painted Rocks,‚ and we only had time for a cursory examination; but the sculpturing seemed too remote for Spanish times, and was generally attributed to the days of the Aztecs. However this may be, they appeared to be there as a species of hieroglyphics, and doubtless have a story to tell, that some future Champollion may unfold. It may be that the ancient travel for Mexico left the Gila here, or about here, and struck across the country for the Santa Cruz and so south, flanking the Maricopa Desert, and that these sculptured rocks record the place as the starting point-as a sort of finger-board or milestone.
Aside from the mesquite, ironwood and palo verde trees, scattered here and there along the Gila and its bottom, the entire country from Yuma to Tucson was treeless. Sagebrush and greasewood abounded as throughout the great internal basin of the continent generally. On the uplands were to be found the saguaro, or giant cactus, in full vigor and maturity, increasing in height and bulk until when they reached the Maricopa Desert they were to be found thirty to forty feet in height, by two or three feet in diameter, with perpendicular branches half way up, nearly half as large as the main stem. General Rusling says:‘‘
"This variety is a green fluted column, with its edges armed with semi-circular thorns, and bears a cluster of apples on top, from which the Indians extract a rude molasses or sugar. (This fruit was also highly prized by the Mexicans.) Inside, it is a frame work of reedy poles that serve many useful purposes in that woodless region. These immense cacti dot the country over to Tucson, and beyond-indeed, down to Mexico, and largely through it-and are a leading feature of southern Arizona. * * * How such a gigantic vegetable or immense plant can thus flourish here, where nothing else comparatively will grow, is a continuing mystery and perpetual astonishment. It would seem more fit for a luxuriant soil and a tropical
At Maricopa Wells they entered the Pima and Maricopa reservation. The reservation was described as some twenty-five miles long by four or five miles wide, embracing both sides of the Gila, and in it were twelve different villages, two of them occupied by Maricopas and the rest by the Pimas.‘‘
"Both tribes are a healthy, athletic, vigorous-looking people, and they were decidedly the most well-to-do aborigines we had yet seen. Unlike most Indians elsewhere, these two tribes are steadily on the increase; and this is not to be wondered at, when one sees how they have abandoned a vagabond condition, and settled down to regular farming and grazing. They have constructed great acequias up and down the Gila, and by means of these take out and carry water for irrigating purposes, over thousands of acres of as fine land as anybody owns. Their fields are well fenced with willows, they had been scratched a little with rude plows, and already (March 9th) they were green with the fast springing wheat and barley. In addition, they raise corn, beans, melons, etc., and have horses and cattle in considerable numbers. One drove of their livestock, over two thousand head, passed down the road just ahead of us, subsequently when en route to Tucson, and we were told they had many more. The year before these Indians had raised and sold a surplus of wheat and corn, amounting to two millions of pounds, besides a large surplus of barley, beans, etc. The most of this was bought by Indian
"Their wigwams are oval shaped, wicker work lodges, made of poles, thatched with willows and straw, and this in turn overlaid with earth. An inverted washbowl, on an exaggerated scale, would not be a bad representation of one of them. They are usually five or six feet high in the centre, by fifteen or twenty in diameter, and would be very comfortable dwellings were it not for their absurd doors. These are only about thirty inches high, by perhaps twenty wide, and consequently the only mode
"These Indians had long been quiet and peaceable, and it would seem are already on the road to civilization. What they need is school-houses and religious teachers. They had an agent, an ex-officer of volunteers, who seemed honest and capable. But his hands were tied as to many essential things, and as a rule he was powerless for good. The Indian Bureau, with
The trip from thence to Tucson, nearly a hundred miles, was traveled over a good road, but there was a want of water everywhere. Frequently our travelers went from twenty to thirty miles before reaching a stream or spring. In the early days of Arizona there was less population on that road than on the Gila until they struck the Santa Cruz near Tucson, where ranches again thickened up and flocks and herds on a moderate scale were not infrequent.
The weather was beautiful all the way down and their ride was a delightful one. They heard of Apaches at one or two points, but it was always a fortnight before, or several miles ahead, and they went through unmolested.
The Tucsonians had heard of their coming and had, according to custom, held a town meeting, in which an organization was made to give them a grand reception. A band of string instruments was arranged for, and an orator was chosen for the occasion, but before the committee completed its arrangements, our travelers entered the Old Pueblo with their jaded teams, much to the disgust of the old settlers who proposed to make it a kind of a holiday or general fiesta, with a procession and accompaniments.
"The town itself is built wholly of adobe, in thorough Mexican or Spanish style, and its population fluctuated. During the rule of Maximilian in Mexico, there was a considerable influx of Liberals here from Sonora, so that the town at one time numbered perhaps fifteen hundred souls. But with his ‚taking off,‚ and the rise again of Juarez, many had returned thither; so that the population was then only about a thousand or so, as above stated, of whom fully two-thirds or more were Mexicans, originally or by descent. Its streets are unpaved, and all slope to the middle as a common sewer, as in Spain. It boasted several saloons, one rather
"The basis of Tucson's existence, it appears, is the little Santa Cruz river, which flows along just at the edge of town, and irrigates some hundreds of surrounding acres, green just then (March 13th-18th), with wheat, barley, oats, etc. There is a good breadth of fine land here, and near here, and the river ought to be made to irrigate the whole valley. No doubt with proper husbanding and utilizing of the little stream, thousands of acres might be cultivated, and the whole region, both above and below Tucson, be made to produce largely. Peach trees were in bloom down by the river side when we were there; the grape, the orange, and the olive appeared in many gardens; and both climate and soil seemed all the most fastidious could wish. But Tucson lacks energy and capital, and besides, it seemed, the Apaches claim original, and pretty much undisputed, jurisdiction over most of the country there. Merchants complained that the Apaches raided on their teams and trains en route, and ranchmen, that the wily
"The livest and most energetic things, however, that we saw about Tucson were its innumerable blackbirds, that thronged the few trees about the street, and awoke us every morning with their multitudinous twittering and chattering. How those birds did chatter and sing, from daylight well on into the morning; and what a relief they were to the dull and prosy old town! The men and women, wrapped in their serapes or blankets, sunned themselves by the hour in the doorways. The dogs and cats, the goats and pigs, slept on in the streets, or strolled lazily about at will. But these plucky birds sung on and on, with all the heartiness and abandon of the robin or mocking bird in the East; and Tucson should emulate their intrepidity and zeal. She should shake off somewhat of the spirit of Rip van Winkle, and remember she is under Yankee Government now, and in the latter half of the nineteenth century."’’
Evidently Tucson did wake up, for when the capital was moved there about a year after this writing, she began to put on cosmopolitan airs. Large mercantile firms located there and it became the distributing point for all merchandise to the military posts in the southern part of the territory, and a trade centre for large business
"South of Tucson, some ten miles, on the road to Tubac and Mexico, on the banks of the Santa Cruz still, is the famous church of San Xavier del Bac, a venerable relic of the former Spanish rule in Arizona. The road thither leads through dense mesquite and palo verde bottoms, with water enough in the Santa Cruz to irrigate them all; but, as yet, they were unbroken by husband-men. The church itself seems to have been built about a hundred years ago, and, though abandoned, is still in a good state of preservation. It is not of adobe, but of large, red, kiln-burnt brick, rough-coated with a yellowish cement that seems well nigh indestructible. It is cruciform in style, with thick and solid walls, and its antique front and towers have originally been decorated with saints, angels, griffins, etc., in niche or bas-relief, though many of these are now mutilated or destroyed. Inside it is handsomely frescoed, and was no doubt once rich in paintings, ornaments, relics, etc., though these have now mostly disappeared. Its roof seems to be a sort of asphaltum or concrete, and appears as tight and firm as when first laid. In one of the towers, there is still a fine chime of bells, that came no doubt originally from Castile
From Tucson our travelers returned to Maricopa Wells. There had been very heavy rains at Tucson during their stay, and a great melting of snows in the mountains to the east, so that the usually sluggish, half dry rivers, were now full and booming. The Gila had overflowed its banks, and its whole valley below in many places was inundated. ‘‘"Ranch after ranch had been swept away, and in several instances the scant inhabitants had barely escaped with their lives, from its treacherous waters. The fine mesquite bottom at Gila Bend was reported four feet under water, and Mr. James' house, corral, etc., there-the finest we saw coming up the Gila-were all gone. The freshet was said to be the highest known there for years, and inflicted a loss on the Gila valley alone, it was alleged, of many thousands of dollars. The road was submerged or washed out in many places, and all travel to and from Yuma was interrupted for weeks, except such as could make its way around over the hills and mesas, by the old Indian trails."’’
The two rivers, the Gila and the Salt, lay directly across their path to Fort Whipple and Prescott, for which point they were bound. Both rivers were swollen and turbid. No one had forded them for a month. They were still at freshet height, and rising, without bridge or ferry. So they decided to halt at Maricopa Wells for a few days, as they could neither go forward to Prescott, nor backward to Yuma. The delay was most vexatious at such an out of the world place where the mail was intermittent
"Late in the afternoon of the second day, leaving our teamsters and little escort to get the ambulances together and repack them, we proceeded up the Salt River to Fort McDowell-the commandant here having heard of our approach, and sent an ambulance to bring us. It was some fifteen miles, part of the way through a dreaded Apache canyon; but we passed safely on, though we did not reach the post until after nightfall. We found the post-the largest and finest in Arizona-short of rations, and wholly out of forage, as it had been for several weeks, because of the spring freshets as it was alleged, though there was plenty at Maricopa Wells, which it would seem might have been got there, if we could. This was suggested to the officer
"For the first fifteen miles or so, after leaving the Crossing, we found a well broken road, used the year before as a hay road from the river bottoms to Fort McDowell. (This was probably the road built by J. Y. T. Smith to deliver hay at the Fort in 1866-67). But, ultimately, this ended in a bend of the Salt, and from there on all was wild and unbroken-a veritable terra incognita. We found the Salt crookeder than a ram's horn, or a mesquite tree, or anything else that is most crooked and involved. Laying our course partly by the compass, and partly by the Salt's fringe of cottonwoods, we struck across from bend to bend of the river, sure only of one thing, and that was-keeping near to water. We found the river bottoms, as a rule, thick with chemisal, relieved here and there by dense mesquite groves, looking in the distance like old orchards, through which it was almost impossible to penetrate with ambulance or wagon. Now and then we had to flank a slough, or flounder through a quicksand, and sundown still found us pushing along through these bottoms, though we had made fully thirty miles since morning. We went into camp by the river side just at dusk, thoroughly worn out, and not without a degree of anxiety, as we had crossed a number of Indian trails during the day, though none seemed fresh. Our animals were well blown, especially the cavalry horses, and the best we could do for them was a bite of corn, as we had no hay along, of course, and it was too late to graze them."’’
They were on the road early the next morning, and a struggle of three miles or so brought them to an ill-defined track running in the supposed direction of Wickenburg, and so to Prescott, which they resolved to take, though quite certain that it was not the regular road. It was lucky they did for, in a short time, this road struck directly across the Agua Fria, and came into the true Prescott road near White Tanks. ‘‘"This Agua Fria, usually one of Arizona's ‚dry rivers,‚ we found with three feet of water in it, and bad quicksands beneath that. However, we discovered a practicable crossing, and soon after nightfall reached the vicinity of White Tanks, some thirty miles, since morning."’’
"The Hassayampa itself flows through a wild and rocky canyon, with high precipitous walls on either side; and it was soon apparent that our only alternative was either to flounder through its quicksands, or retrace our steps to Maricopa Wells. The latter was out of the question as our rations and forage were both about exhausted, and, besides, our improvised ferry boat had returned to the Gila; so that the only thing left for us was to try the Hassayampa, and get through, somehow, at all hazards. We had heard of a trail, across the ridge and over the mountains, by the Vulture Mine, and so into Wickenburg, by a roundabout course; but a careful reconnaissance revealed no trace of it. We called a ‚council of war,‚ and discussed the ‚situation,‚ pro and con, with
Evidently this trip was made from somewhere about Smith's Mills or Seymour into Wickenburg as the distance was twelve miles and was up the canyon along which the Phoenix & Prescott road is now built. By good luck they made the trip and got into Wickenburg about dusk, with animals thoroughly blown and men pretty well used up. It had taken just a week to come from Maricopa Wells, usually a drive of a day or two, or three, at the farthest, but the Gila and the Salt were still unfordable, and they would have been detained at the Wells probably a fortnight or more longer had it not been for Louis Heller's boat. They were the first party to pass through in a month, and no one was expected to cross the Hassayampa either way, for a month or so to come.
‘‘"Of course,"’’ the narrative continues, ‘‘"with such rivers and roads-rivers without either bridges or ferries, and roads that follow the beds of rivers-our only conclusion was, that Arizona was in no hurry, for either population or business; and, I judge, this is about so. She must bridge her streams, and construct good substantial roads-at least between all chief points-before she can expect to grow and prosper. This is fundamental in all civilized communities, and she would have recognized it long since, had her population been more from the busy North, than from the indolent, happy-go-lucky South."’’
Evidently our author was somewhat prejudiced against Southern people and while, according to his own statement, Arizona had a territorial area at that time, including Pah-Ute county, of about a hundred and twenty-seven thousand square miles, she had only a population of about three thousand people, the native Americans being about equally divided between the citizens of the Northern and Southern states, most of whom were engaged in trade, farming and teaming, and she was not able to construct bridges across the treacherous streams of Arizona. All Arizonans know the expense attending such enterprises, and when we had an assured population, the legislatures were constantly giving franchises for ferries, etc., over the rivers, particularly along the Colorado, but they had to be supported by travel, and were rather primitive affairs at best. The Apache was the disturbing element, preventing real development in all lines of industry. As we shall see later on, when this menace was removed, Arizona went forward by leaps and bounds, increasing rapidly in both population and wealth.
Wickenburg was found to be an adobe hamlet of perhaps two hundred inhabitants, depending chiefly on the Vulture mine. Here the party halted for two or three days to rest and recruit, which afforded them an opportunity to visit the mine. The General reports it as follows:‘‘
"It is really a fine specimen of gold-bearing quartz, off in the mountains, some fifteen miles west of Wickenburg, whence the ore was then wagoned to the mill, on the Hassayampa at Wickenburg. It consists of a fine vein of free
"The mill at Wickenburg, belonging to the same company, was a fine adobe structure, roofed with shingles, and had just gone into operation. They had previously had a small five stamp mill, which paid very well; but this new mill ran twenty stamps, and would crush forty tons of quartz per day, when worked to its full capacity. Their ore was reputed to average from fifty to seventy dollars per ton, though of course ‚assaying‚ much more, and we were assured would pay for working, if it yielded only from twenty to thirty dollars per ton. If so, we thought stock in the Vulture Company must be a ‚gilt-edged‚ investment; and their noble mine was certainly the best looking enterprise we had yet seen in Arizona. It appeared,