CHAPTER II. CONDITIONS IN 1867 AND 1868 (Continued).


[page 27]


Our travellers passed from Wickenburg to Prescott, via Skull Valley, some eighty-four miles, without mishap. They made the distance in two and a half days and rolled into the capital, "just as the last rays of the setting sun were purpling the triple peaks of the distant San Francisco Mountains."

Skull Valley was a narrow vale of perhaps a thousand or two acres, but devoid of timber, and inaccessible in all directions, except over bad mountains. A few ranches had been started and a petty military post was there to protect them, but this post had been ordered away, the location was so faulty, and with its departure, Skull Valley, as a settlement, seemed likely to collapse.

Skull Valley and Wickenburg were the only settlements, indeed the only population, they

[page 28]

found between Maricopa Wells and Prescott, a distance of nearly three hundred miles by the way they travelled. The narrative continues:


"The whole intervening country, as a rule, was barren and desolate, and absolutely without population, except at the points indicated, until you neared Prescott. There were not even such scattered ranches, or occasional stations, as we found in crossing the Colorado Desert, and ascending the Gila; but the whole district seemed given over, substantially, to the coyote and the Indian. The Apaches and Yavapais are the two main tribes there, and were said to infest the whole region, though we saw nothing of them. In the valley of the Hassayampa and across the Aztec Mountains, they certainly had an abundance of ugly looking places, that seem as if specially made for ambuscades and surprises. If they had attacked us in the canyon of the Hassayampa, while floundering through the quicksands there, they would have had things pretty much their own way-at least, at first, vigilant as we were. They had killed a wandering Mexican there, only a few days before; but we did not know it, until we reached Wickenburg, and came through ourselves unscathed. * * *

"As I have already said, we found the intervening country substantially unsettled, and much of it will never amount to anything for agricultural purposes. Its mineral resources may be great; but, as a rule, it lacks both wood and water, and much of it is a barren desert, given over forever to chemisal and greasewood. On the Agua Fria and Hassayampa, however, there are considerable bottoms, that might be successfully

Ancient Canals and Ruins, of Gila and Salt River Valleys.

[page 29]

irrigated; and between the Gila and the Salt there is a wide district that deserves some further notice. As you come up out of the Gila bottoms, you pass through scattered mesquite trees, and at length enter on a broad mesa (Spanish for ‚tableland,') ten or fifteen miles wide by thirty or forty long, which bears every evidence of having once been well cultivated, and densely populated. Instead of mesquite, you here find clumps of chemisal two or three feet high, and bits of broken pottery nearly everywhere. Farther on, some eight or ten miles from the Salt, you find immense ruins in various places, and soon strike a huge acequia winding up from the Salt, in comparison with which all the acequias we had yet seen in Utah or California were the veriest ditches. It must be, I should think, thirty feet wide by ten or twelve deep, and seems like a great canal of modern times. Just where the road to Fort McDowell crosses this, it subdivides into three or four lesser acequias, and these branch off over the mesa indefinitely. This great acequia heads just above where we crossed the Salt. The river has a considerable descent or ‚rapids‚ there, and the ancient constructors of this gigantic watercourse, apparently, knew well how to take advantage of this. They have tapped the river there by three immense mouths, all leading into one common channel; and this they have coaxed along down the bottoms, and gently up the bluff, until at a distance of miles away it at last gained the level of the mesa, and there distributed abroad its fertilizing waters. So, there are other ancient acequias, furrowing the bottoms of the Salt on

[page 30]

either side, though we observed none so large as this.

"The ruins of ancient buildings, thoroughly disintegrated, are scattered widely along these bottoms, and in some places there must certainly have been large cities. The rectilinear courses of the walls, and the dividing lines of the rooms, are all plainly visible still, though nothing remains but the cobblestones and pebbles out of which they seem to have been mainly constructed, and here and there a bit of cement or mortar. The ancient builders and occupiers of these could not have been our present Indians there, because they use different forms and materials. They could not have been Mexicans or Spaniards, because they invariably use brick or adobe. Who they were, where they came from, when they disappeared, and why-these are knotty problems for the antiquarian, which it is to be hoped time will soon solve. One thing is certain, these ancient builders-Aztecs (as popularly believed) or whoever they were-were at least good architects and engineers, and they must have peopled much of Arizona with an industrious and dense population, such as it will not see again-I was going to say-for centuries to come. But the Salt, in those days, must have been a larger river than it is now, or probably ever will be again; because two or three of these old acequias would carry off all its present waters, and leave none for the others, whose remains yet furrow the country there everywhere.

"However, the larger acequias may have been used only as receiving reservoirs, to husband the spring freshets, and for this purpose they might

[page 31]

be soon utilized again. However this may be, there are fine lands all along the bottoms of the Salt, and enough water flowing there yet to irrigate many thousands of acres. Indeed the best lands we saw in Arizona are here in the heart of it, on the Gila and Salt, and in time no doubt there will be flourishing settlements there. What the region needs is a railroad to connect it with ‚inside,‚ or civilization, and this the ‚Texas and Pacific,‚ it seems will eventually furnish. Now, like so much of Arizona, it is inaccessible, or practically five hundred miles across a desert-from about everywhere. A railroad will remedy all this, and stimulate Arizona wonderfully in many ways. The whistle of the locomotive will end her Indian troubles, and many others, and may she hear it echoing and re-echoing among her mountains and canyons very soon! A railroad, indeed, is a great blessing everywhere; but in our western territories it means civilization as well, and without one Arizona will evidently continue to slumber on, as she has for so many years."


Prescott at this time remained about the same as for several years before. It had its full supply of saloons and gambling houses; no churches, although the chaplain from Fort Whipple semi-occasionally preached there. The population was less than five hundred. The placer mines in and around the town were on the eve of failure. Eleven mills, all from five to twenty stamps each, had been erected at mines where the ores assayed from one to two hundred dollars or more per ton, but of all these only one five stamp mill was then running, the Ticonderoga,

[page 32]

which was reported as only about paying expenses. ‘‘"Instead of two hundred dollars, or more, per ton, as per assay, the mills in fact could only stamp out and save from ten to twenty dollars per ton; and this was a losing business. A new ‚process‚ was just being tried at the Eureka Mill, which did excellently well, as per assay in the laboratory; but it was uncertain what would be the result when applied to large quantities of ore in the mill. The Bully Bueno and Sterling lodes seemed to be the most in favor. Specimens from the Sterling, that were shown, were indeed wonderful in richness, and there seemed to be no doubt that the ledges around Prescott abound in mines, which will yield very largely, if only a process can be found to treat successfully such obstinate and refractory sulphurets. For the present, however, mining operations about Prescott were very ‚sick,‚ with poor prospect of speedy recovery. The region had indeed two advantages, very rare in Arizona, to-wit, good fuel, and sufficient water. The breadth of timber here, however, had been much overstated. An area of ten miles square or so embraced the bulk of the pine, which was an exceptional growth just there; the rest consisted chiefly of scrawny juniper and scraggly cedar, fit only for fuel and fencing."’’

Concerning the Indians in Arizona, General Rusling gives the following:


"The Indian population was estimated at about twenty thousand, of whom ten thousand were regarded as friendly, five thousand as hostile and five thousand as half and half-that is,

[page 33]

sometimes friendly, and sometimes hostile, depending on circumstances. To offset and antagonize these, the Government had then about twenty-five hundred regular soldiers in Arizona, which would seem sufficient, if well handled, though the people of course were clamoring for more. The great controlling tribe in Arizona, and extending into New Mexico, and the terror of the Mexican border, were the Apaches. Those that we saw gave one the impression of a fierce, sinewy, warlike race, very different from the Plains Indians, and it was plain there would be no peace in Arizona, nor much hope for its development, until these Apaches received a thorough chastisement. This they had never had yet, from either Mexicans or Americans, and consequently they despised and hated the Pale Faces, as we hate (or ought to hate) Satan himself. They inhabited the mountains chiefly, though they often descended into the plains, and in bands of two or three, or more, scoured the country far and near, as it suited them. About Tucson and Tubac they stole stock, and occasionally killed travellers, often within a mile or two of the towns. Sometimes, for months together, they would leave a road unmolested, and then, suddenly, attacking it at different points, clean out all the ranches. A few miles from Camp McDowell on the road between there and Maricopa Wells, they infested a rocky canyon on the Salt River, and mockingly defied all efforts to expel them. A fortnight before we reached Maricopa Wells, en route to Tucson, a party of them crossed the

[page 34]

Salt and the Gila, and stole ten head of stock from a ranch only three miles from the Wells. About the same time, another party of three lurked around the station at Blue Water, on the road to Tucson, some fifty miles south of the Wells, and, failing to find anything they could steal, vented their spleen by shooting an arrow into a valuable horse that was stabled safely from their reach. This done, the same night they struck across the country, some fifteen or twenty miles, to the peaceable Pima settlements on the Gila, where they stole a couple of horses apiece, and made good their escape with them to the mountains.

"Some of their exploits were very amusing, as well as very daring, worthy of the best days of Osceola or Tecumseh. We heard one of a party that had just preceded us in Arizona. They camped at a station for the night, and thought their animals thoroughly secure when they had put them into an adobe corral, with a wall four or five feet high by two thick, and then lay down themselves across the only entrance, with their rifles by their sides. The stealthy Apaches waited until their pale face friends were well asleep, and then with a piece of dry cow hide, hard and thin, sawed out a section of the adobe wall, at the other end of the corral, and in the morning Los Americanos found themselves horseless and muleless. We may ‚fancy their feelings,‚ when they discovered the opening! Just then, I fear, they would have made poor Peace Commissioners! Especially as they had to foot it fifty miles, back to the next station, for new animals!

[page 35]

"There was another story told of a gallant army officer, who had been out on a scout the year before, and was determined not to lose a favorite horse he had along. The Apaches were about thick, and the night before had stolen several animals, in spite of the utmost vigilance. To guard against what he supposed even the possibility of loss, the officer picketed his horse with a lariat to a tree, and then spreading his blankets camped down under the tree-at the same time posting a sentinel over his horse, with strict orders to watch faithfully. Toward morning the sentry thought the horse was a little farther from the tree than he should be; still, as he saw nothing suspicious, he supposed he must be mistaken as to the length of the lariat. After walking a few more beats, he thought the horse was still farther off; but it seemed so little, and the horse was so quiet, he did not think it right to make an alarm. A few beats more, however, convinced him that something must be wrong, as the horse was evidently still farther away. But now, simultaneously with his challenge, lo! an Apache sprang lithely upon the steed, and in a twinkling he was galloping off through the chaparral and cactuses, with a yell of defiance at the astonished Blue Coat! Creeping stealthily up in the dark, with a more than cat-like caution and silence, he had severed the lariat, and edged the horse off little by little, until at last his capture was sure.

"If a party were strong, or not worth cleaning out, or killing, the Apaches usually gave them a wide berth. But woe to those whom they marked for their prey, if not well armed,

[page 36]

and ceaselessly vigilant. They would dog a party for days, with the tireless energy of the sleuth hound, watching for an unguarded moment in which to attack, and then suddenly pounce upon them like fiends, as they were. As a rule, they used bows and arrows still; but many had firearms, and knew how to handle them with deadly effect. We were shown several of their children, captured in different fights, and they were the wiriest, fiercest little savages imaginable. Sullen, dogged, resolute little Red Skins, they lacked only maturity and strength to ‚make their mark‚ on somebody's head; and this they seemed quite likely to do yet, unless their Apache natures were thoroughly ‚reconstructed.‚ They had a peculiar and pleasant penchant for setting fire to haystacks and ranches, and on the whole were a species of population that nobody but an Arizonan would care much to fancy. They were held as servants in different families, and their service in too many instances approximated to downright slavery-so much so, indeed, that the attention of the Territorial authorities was already being directed to the matter.

"As if to give us some proof of their enterprise and audacity, a band of these Apaches made a raid near Prescott, the very day we arrived there. They attacked a ranch only three miles east of this ‚New England-like‚ village, and seized several cattle and drove them off. A mounted scout was at once sent out from Fort Whipple, and though they marched seventy-five miles in twenty-four hours, they failed to come up with the Red Skins. The officer

[page 37]

in command reported the bold marauders as strong in numbers, and fleeing in the direction of Hell Canyon-an ugly, diabolical looking place, some forty miles east of Prescott. Gen. Gregg, then commanding the District of Prescott, immediately ordered out two fresh companies of cavalry, and, himself at their head, made a forced march by night, in order to surprise them in their reported stronghold. Next morning at daybreak, he was at Hell Canyon, but no Apaches were found there, nor any trace of them. After a brief halt, he ordered the cavalry to follow down the canyon to its junction with the Verde, and after scouring all the canyons centering there, to return by a wide detour to Fort Whipple. The General himself now returned to Prescott, and I cheerfully bear witness to his vigor and chagrin, having accompanied him out and back. A detachment of the cavalry, a day or two afterwards, succeeded in finding a rancheria of Apaches in a villainous canyon, miles away to the southwest of the Verde-a thin curling smoke in the mountains revealing their presence. The troops pushed boldly in, and came suddenly on the rancheria or village before they were discovered. Dismounting from their horses, they poured in a rapid volley from their Spencer carbines, that killed five Apaches, and wounded twice as many more. The rest fled, but in a few moments bravely rallied, and soon came swarming back, down the canyon and along its rocky cliffs, in such numbers and with such spirit, that the officer in command deemed it prudent to fall back on the main column. This he succeeded in doing, but it required a march

[page 38]

of several miles, as the column had moved on; and when he rejoined, it was thought best for the whole command to return to Fort Whipple, as their rations and forage were about exhausted. Subsequently, Gregg sent them out again, and this time they succeeded in damaging the Apaches very considerably; but it was not long before they were lurking about the country again.

"The rough ride to Hell Canyon and back, despite occasional snow squalls, was not unpleasant, and not without its interest. Our route in the main was down the valley of Granite Creek, and past the site of old Fort Whipple, now called Postle's ranch. Here was a fine plateau of several hundred acres, with acequias and a petty grist mill, the whole used formerly by the troops; but occupied now by only a family or two. The truth is, population was too sparse, and the Apaches too plenty, to make farming an agreeable occupation just there. We saw several men at work in the fields, as we rode along, all with rifles slung across their backs, and the infrequent settlers protested they meant to quit the country, as soon as their harvests matured. The last ranch eastward-the one most remote from Prescott, and, consequently, the very edge of the frontier there-was owned and occupied by what may justly be called a typical American emigrant. Born in New Jersey, the nephew of an eminent minister there, he early emigrated to Canada, and thence to Michigan. Here he married, and soon afterwards emigrated to Illinois. Thence he went to Kansas, and thence to New Mexico. Subsequently

[page 39]

he emigrated to California, and when he grew weary there, as he could ‚go west‚ no farther, concluded to remove to Arizona. Here he had been for two years, with his family on the very edge of the border; but was now tired of the West, and meditating a return East. He said his children were growing up, and needed schoolhouses and churches, and he meant to sell out and leave as soon as practicable.

"The country as a whole proved barren and sterile, like so much of Arizona elsewhere, though here also the Aztecs (or whoever the ancient population were) had left their marks, as on the Salt and the Gila. The remains of edifices or fortifications and acequias, were still quite visible in various places, and no doubt the ancient settlers had followed up the rivers, and their tributaries, nearly everywhere. They seem to have been a pushing, progressive people, bent on conquest and civilization, after their kind, and doubtless swayed the whole interior of the continent. At Point of Rocks, on Willow Creek, we halted for an hour or two, to explore the wonderful rock formations there; and subsequently dined with a settler on a wild turkey that stood four feet high and weighed forty-three pounds, when first shot, and about thirty pounds dressed. We were tired and hungry, from long riding and light rations, and you may be sure enjoyed our meal to the full.

"Fort Whipple, already alluded to several times, was situated on Granite Creek, a mile and a half east of Prescott, near the centre of a reservation there a mile square. It consisted of a rude stockade, enclosing the usual log quarters

[page 40]

and barracks of our frontier posts, and was then Headquarters of all the district north of the Gila. Its garrison was small, and dependencies few and petty; but the cost of maintaining it seemed something enormous. Here are a few of the prices then current at the post; hay cost about sixty dollars per ton; grain, about twelve dollars per bushel; lumber, from fifty to seventy-five dollars per thousand; freight on supplies from San Francisco (and about everything had to come from there via the Gulf of California and the Colorado), two hundred and fifty dollars per ton; and these all in coin. The flagstaff alone, quite a respectable ‚liberty-pole,‚ was reported to have cost ten thousand dollars; and District Headquarters-a one and a half story frame house, surrounded by verandas, but barely comfortable and genteel-was said to have cost one hundred thousand dollars. This last, plain as it was, was then about the best modern edifice in Arizona, but was used as the Post Hospital-Gen. Gregg (‚Cavalry Gregg‚ of the Army of the Potomac) in the true spirit of the soldier, declining to occupy it, until his sick and disabled men were first well sheltered and provided for. Himself and staff, as yet, shared the log cabins of the Post proper, through whose open crannies the wind and rain had free course to run and be glorified during every storm. We were there during a wild tempest of rain and hail, as well as for a week or more besides, and learned well how to appreciate their infelicities and miseries. All honor to this chivalrous and gallant Pennsylvanian, for his courtesy and humanity. A Bayard and a

[page 41]

Sydney combined, surely he deserved well of his country; and the Army may justly be proud of such a representative soldier."


Williamson Valley, about twenty miles from Prescott, they found to be one of the best agricultural and grazing districts they had seen in Arizona. There were but two or three settlers there at that time, though "there were apparently several thousands of acres fit for farms." The surrounding hills abounded in scattered cedars and juniper, which could be used for fencing and fuel, and game was more abundant there than at any place they had yet been. ‘‘"Quails,"’’ the writer says, ‘‘"found everywhere in Arizona to some extent, here soon thickened up; the jack rabbits bounded more numerously through the bushes; even pigeons and wild turkeys were heard of; and as we rattled down through a rocky glen, at the western side of the valley, a herd of likely deer cantered leisurely across the road-the first we had seen in Arizona, or indeed elsewhere in the West."’’

From this point the next settlement was Hardyville, where the Mohaves scratched the soil a little so as to plant some corn and barley, and raise a few beans, vegetables, etc., the surplus of which they sold chiefly at Hardyville for Mr. Hardy to resell to the Government again-of course at a profit. It seems, on the whole that they did not raise enough from their broad acres to feed and clothe themselves comfortably; and our travellers were told that they would often go hungry were it not for the gratuitous issues of flour, meal, and other supplies occasionally made to them by the commanding officer

[page 42]

at Fort Mohave. General Rusling estimated their number at about a thousand; he says that down the Colorado at La Paz there was another branch of them, more numerous. These Indians complained, and quite rightly, says the writer, that the government did not furnish them implements, tools, seeds, etc., to enable them to work their lands and support themselves, while the savage Wallapais, Pah-Utes and other hostile tribes were being constantly bribed with presents and annuities. He says: ‘‘"This, however, was only another instance of the stupidity and blundering of our Indian Department at that time, whose policy, or rather impolicy, seemed to be to neglect friendly Indians, and exhaust its money and efforts on hostile ones, under the plea of ‚pacifying‚ them! As if ‚gifts‚ and ‚annuities‚ ever really pacified or civilized a Red Skin yet, or ever will! No; the only true policy with our Indians, then as now, is to encourage and reward the friendly in every right way; while the hostile ones should be turned over to the Army, for chastisement and surveillance, to the uttermost, until they learn the hard lesson, that henceforth they must behave themselves."’’

At Fort Mohave they found a handful of troops and two or three officers, all praying for the day when they might be ordered elsewhere, assured that fortune could send them to no worse post, outside of Alaska. General Rusling says: ‘‘"One officer had his wife along, a lady delicately bred, from Pittsburg, and this was her first experience of Army life. When we first arrived she tried to talk cheerily, and bore up bravely for awhile; but before we left, she broke

[page 43]

down in tears, and confessed to her utter loneliness and misery. No wonder, when she was the only white woman there, no other within a hundred miles or more; and no newspaper or mail even, except once a month or fortnight, as things happened to be."’’

There was a mill at Hardyville, erected to crush the ores from the adjoining mines, but it was idle. W. H. Hardy, the owner and founder of Hardyville, was a most active citizen, holding government contracts, and controlling all the business of the place.

Summing up his experience in Arizona, General Rusling says:


"The great drawback to Arizona then, overshadowing perhaps all others, not excepting the Apaches, was the perfectly frightful and ruinous cost of transportation. To reach any mining district there from California, except those along the Colorado, you had to travel from three to five hundred miles through what are practically deserts; and for every ton of freight carried into or out of the Territory, you were called upon to pay from three to five cents per pound, per hundred miles, in coin. Golconda, itself, could not flourish under such circumstances, much less Arizona-which is scarcely a Golconda. The patent and palpable remedy for all this, was either a railroad or the speedy and regular navigation of the Colorado. It seemed nonsense to say that the Colorado could not be navigated, and that, too, at rates reasonably cheap. It looked no worse than the Ohio and the Missouri, and like western rivers ordinarily; and there appeared

[page 44]

but small hope for Arizona very speedily, until she availed herself to the full of its actual advantages. With the alleged mines along the Colorado, from Ft. Yuma to El Dorado, in good operation, her population, as it increased, would naturally overflow to other districts; and, in the end, arid Arizona would become reasonably prosperous. But, like all other commonwealths, she must have a base to stand on and work from. That base seemed naturally and necessarily the Colorado River, indifferent as it was. And all attempts to develop herself, except from that, in the absence of a railroad, seemed likely to end like the efforts of the man who tried to build a pyramid with the apex downward."


During these years, 1867 and 1868, attempts were made to establish ranches south of Tucson, on the Sonoita and at other places, and some of the adventurous agriculturists and stockmen paid heavily for the experiment. Tom Hughes had his ranch plundered several times, so did Charley Shibell; the Penningtons paid the forfeit of their lives for their daring; Pete Kitchen, although the Indians killed his herder and his adopted son, and filled his pigs with arrows, was the only one who withstood their raids, which were, in many respects, like his description of a trip from his ranch to Sonora; which was: "To-son; "To-bac; To-macacori; To-Hell"; this being the terminus. The only part of the Territory which, from an agricultural standpoint improved during these years, was the Salt River Valley and the valley of the Gila about Florence.


© Arizona Board of Regents