CHAPTER VI. GILA CITY—A FRONTIER HOTEL—TAKING THE CENSUS...


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GILA CITY—A FRONTIER HOTEL—TAKING THE CENSUS—CELESTIAL PHENOMENA—MEDITATION—A SETTING SUN IN ARIZONA.

OUR course to the Santa Rita Mountains lay along the Gila Valley Our start from Yuma not being made until the sun was high in the heavens, only twenty-two miles were made the first day, to Gila City. Gila City! The remnants of an ambition often revived, and as often overthrown; a living skeleton of a miner's hope and fancy, and the scene evidently, in days gone by, of all the vicissitudes of a miner's and prospector's life on the borders of our country. In 1861 the population of this city numbered about twelve hundred persons. To-day it is composed of a stable for the stage company's vehicles and animals, a corral for sheep or stock, a square box-like building, built of mud, one story high, and called the ‘‘Gila Hotel,’’


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and a kennel for the big ferocious dog who keeps suspicious-looking stragglers and Indians away. The census of this city, taken while there was just—let me see—the hotel keeper and his son—two, a man to attend to the stage horses—one, an Indian squaw, boy and papoose—three, three dogs—three. Making in all nine living beings.

Attractive mountains profusely distributed on all sides made an interesting back-ground, while between them and the hotel (or city) scores of sand and gravel hills from three to ten feet high, like humps on a camel's back, gave to the scene an odd appearance. In one of these little knolls, just opposite the hotel, was a ‘‘dug-out,’’ protected from the rains or scorching sunlight by a few cacti barks and frames, in which dwelt a remnant of some roving band of Indians.

Nothing exciting disturbed the quiet of this place at the time of our visit. Only one man had been shot the day before our arrival, and the perpetrator was then off in the mountains looking for more gold heaps. I said there was nothing stirring in town; I had forgotten our own arrival. Imagine what a stir, to increase a town to double its size at one time, would produce. As we drew up in front of the hotel, the


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dogs began to bark; the Indians from across the way crept out from their humble hut and cast their stoic gaze upon us; and the landlord greeted us with a truly thankful smile. The dogs barked; the Indians laughed their chug-a-wa; and the landlord smiled three dollars worth at each one of the party. This is what it costs the traveler to get supper, lodging and breakfast in the land of the Chemehuevis. This is the first intimation I have made of the costs of traveling in Arizona. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear, and don't go to Arizona without first reckoning up the costs; and those who have eyes to see, let them not go it blind.

When the landlord, however, found that we were an ambulance corps and commissary department combined, his lower jaw dropped like the tail of a cat in distress. I do not know whether he had or had not paid for his last bill of goods from Yuma.

As we approached the city (by the way, it seems like a cruel pollution of the English language to call these squatting places, cities, but when you are ‘‘among the Romans you must do as the Romans do’’) we were struck with the peculiar immediate change in the surrounding country. It was our first introduction to


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H.H.NICHOLS. SC AN INDIAN WARRIOR.


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the peculiar mountain and valley scenery of Arizona, and I immediately cherished the idea that upon the instance of the Trans-Continental Railroad through the Territory, a new school for the artist will have been ushered into a practical existence. I shall never forget Gila. ‘‘Fair Gila! on the’’-——Gila River; and the particular impressions made upon me there are all the more fastened upon my mind when I recollect my subsequent travels through the Territory, and I say here, that Arizona is the coming land of the artist, as well as of the miner and farmer. Like Jacob we pitched our tent to the rear of the town near the banks of the flowing Gila. The first entertainment in this initiatory camping scene, was a chorus from frying pans, kettles, etc., etc., and the laughing and cantings of out steadfast friends, the mules. Did you ever hear a mule bray? If not, you certainly want to before you die. It is as essential, and fully as interesting as seeing Mecca.

The table was spread—on the ground. Seats were arranged—on the ground. Our table was the ground, our table cloth was the ground; our seats were the ground. At night our bed was the ground with a goodly supply of blankets. Of course, the


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first thing was supper, and we will leave the reader from his own imagination to supply his own puns, suffer his own vicissitudes; crack his own jokes, etc., as may best accord with his own experience on such occasions. Supper over, and chatting a la picnic we were attracted by a peculiar light and brilliancy in the heavens beyond the mountains, and lining the whole horizon. Its brilliancy and extent would have suggested the reflection of a world's conflagration; but the panoramic and kaleidoscopic effects, with the variegated hues, put far from us in our wonder and admiration, all thoughts of this, and suggested some great celestial panorama. Hues and combinations of colors most charming and new to the most of us, in their arrangement, flitter and change at will. Clouds of brilliant hues would roll gently along the mountains, and in their course, would slowly and almost imperceptibly change in color and outline. Every one of our party sat spell-bound, until some enraptured sense would cause them to whisper in a scarcely audible sound, ‘‘“What a rose tint! What a beautiful crimson! What a beautiful! beautiful!—beautiful!”’’—and then a deep sigh would end their effusions, and they would settle back into a discontented mood


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[From Hinton's Hand book to Arizona.] PRESCOTT, CAPITAL OF ARIZONA.


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at being unable to analyze to themselves what they saw. But in vain did we try to find any known color to convey to the mind what the eye beheld.

These phenomena are frequent in this clime and these latitudes, and are one of the many allurements that will attract the tourist to the Territory It seems to me that in Arizona you meet, in an extended and more extensive form the sunsets of Southern California, so wonderfully described by Bayard Taylor. Italy, I think, can scarce excel them in beauty; and in the various phenomena of their lights, science still finds a work to do in analyzing their causes.

Sunsets of a sublime character are frequent in this land of heat, light and electricity. One seen in the month of October I will give:

A dingy haze of crimson stretched from the horizon and covering a third of the heaven's disc. So dense was the mist that the outline of the Sun which was just approaching the horizon could barely be traced; and yet the light thrown over this third of the heavens seemed as thongh the sun had dissolved, and distributed its rays equally throughout. The heavens were a complete glow from horizon to zenith, and was rapidly changing in colors and densities. Here was


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a deep scarlet patch flickering into a pale pink and as rapidly fading away, and leaving an invisible blue to intervene and play with other rapid transformations. The whole gradually formed into a circular segment, of a more uniform color, and darker, and paler. The elements however, in their restlessness did not suffer this long to remain. Fluttering like a ‘‘ribbon in the wind,’’ the whole finally disintegrated itself into a beautiful mass of fleeting, flickering, fretting mottled patches. The sky was full of electricity. Quivering masses of rose, violet, purple and blue, flittered across the heaven's dome in all the choicest variegations. I stopped and watched in silence. It was just such scenes as this, thought I, that made the beasts of the woods howl and whine at times, at Aurora's caprice. Presently the element settled down its agitated spirit, and the whole sky wore a pale mellow light—like a blazoned background covered with a gauze—the heavier blaze being dimly seen through it. This lasted but a few minutes, when, at the horizon it rolled aside and left, exposed to view, the Sun—first a ball of solid fire, then a three-quarter ball, then a half and a quarter ball, until ‘‘old Sol’’ finally dropped his head from before our gaze, throwing his spears of light out after


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him equal in beauty to any aurora borealis I ever saw. We stopped still and watched it; as we turned away, looked back upon it and finally left with a sigh.

To the atmosphere is due to a large extent these many phenomena. We had not arisen from our supper table. We were all seated on the ground. Darkness stealing over us brought us to our senses and a general rustle was made to clear the supper débris.

Supper cleared, (put your own interpretation on the word ‘‘cleared’’) and we all proceeded down to the corral, a few rods from our camp, to get straw for a comfortable bed. Each grabbed an armful of hay and proceeded back to the scene of dirty frying pans, mutilated biscuit, and broken cups of custard. We spread our beds of straw and retired. Never did the stars seem so bright to me, or to have such a significance. Never was I in better humor, or felt more vigorous. I commenced counting the stars, but like every one else who ever attempted it, I stopped in short metre. Then I commenced muttering over to myself such phrases as these: ‘‘“God's footstool for my bed, and his firmament for my canopy,”’’ ‘‘—but the son of man hath not where to lay his head.’’ ‘‘The heavens declare thy glory, Lord.’’ ‘‘A stone


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for a pillow.’’ But all this was under that anomolous condition that transforms unpleasant conditions into present ones of pleasure. Do not think I was unhappy for all my utterances, for I was the happiest, in my present sphere. I was enjoying myself highly. Perhaps it was the particular culinary conditions of our outfit that offset all others. Our stomachs were full. Yes, full! For the Colonel would never let any one go to bed hungry. Perhaps it was my stomach that magnified the stars on this occasion.

This panorama was supplemented by a ‘‘grey of the morning’’ peculiar to Arizona's light, and interesting. The electric tints of gold and crimson that so gracefully bedecked the mountains the night before, had changed to a peculiar deep greyish-blue; and in this transformation had apparently brought each particular peak or range from a glorious pinnacle of brilliant light, down to the positive and austere condition of something more substantial. The whole range seemed to be transformed from a mission of Aurora to reflect and charm the world broadcast, to a massive wall of some creation's ampitheatre austerely hemming us in. Thay seemed to have come down to half their height, and to have encroached to within half the distance


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[From Hinton's Handbook to Arizona.] TUCSON.


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toward us. The effect was weird and interesting. It was a case of the peculiar and engaging deceptions of atmospheric refraction peculiar to the land of the cacti.

Such effects are constantly presenting themselves to the traveler in Arizona, in all species of mirage and looming. Col. Boyle, a member of the Geological Society of London, remarked in his enchantment at one of these mirages, that ‘‘“It is, in itself, worth a trip all the way from London to see.”’’ Often, scenes, such as those just alluded to will have a controlling effect upon man and beast alike. Frequently, in the dcad of night or at a noon day's sun, when the heavens blaze with a glaring light; or the near firmament, with its billions of atomic lenses make a panorama of of itself for the portraying of the world at large, the wild beasts will suffer the most strange effects. Foxes will leave their holes and howl a requiem mass to all the nation's quadrupeds at once; and the coyote will follow in their wake with no less zeal. At night the scene is often weird, and although the lamentations of the brute creation will strike terror and discomfort to the tender heart; even in these a suggestive interest predominates. At night or day, phantasms, and illusions


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are wrought with interest and admiration; but the mirage of Arizona is destined to be one of the leading features of the attraction to this lower country.

I will give a description of a mirage seen by me on the Maricopa Desert in latitude. 33°, longitude 112°.

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