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The Wild West
Anjali Abraham, Sally Benford, Martin Cizmar, Keridwen Cornelius, Tom Marcinko, M.V. Moorhead
December, 2012, Page 84
Kayenta Trading Post in 1913. Navajo portrait by John Wetherill
It must have been a long, nervous trip for Santiago Ward. He rode 170 miles from Sonoita after hearing that his half-brother, Felix, had turned up – alive! – decades after being kidnapped from the family farm. One can only guess what Santiago expected to find in the town of San Carlos, or whether he was worried about his safety in a land where non-Indians weren’t always welcome.
Marching into San Carlos in 1881, Santiago found Felix alive, but now very much an Indian by custom and dress. The adopted tribesman was unkempt, with a smooth, hairless face and gaunt frame that appeared small and boyish given his age. He looked neither Anglo nor Spanish nor Apache, yet he was all three. “I did not know him at first, but he looked very much like his sister,” Santiago said decades later. “They called him Mickey Free. I do not know why. I tried to get him to come home, but he would never do it.”
As white settlers increasingly moved West, clashes with Native Americans were inevitable. But every inevitability has its impetus, and in some ways, the decades-long series of vengeful hostage-takings and executions that spiraled into a full-on war between white Arizonans and Chiricahua Apaches can be traced to this boy.
Born Felix Telles in Mexico to a Mexican mother and renamed Ward for his Irish stepfather, the future Free spent much of his childhood on a Sonoita Valley ranch, in what’s now Arizona wine country. Who, exactly, took the boy and some oxen from the Ward ranch is still hotly debated. Some sources have said he simply ran away from an abusive stepfather – managing the unlikely feat of herding a dozen head of oxen by himself – to live with friendly natives. The most recent scholarly take on the subject, Victoria Smith’s Captive Arizona, says he was taken by the White Mountain band of Apache, with whom Free chose to live out his later days.
The raid and kidnapping was duly reported to a nearby U.S. Army fort, prompting the dispatch of George Bascom, an ambitious young West Point graduate seeing his real first action in the West. Knowing very little about this land or its peoples, Bascom determined that the raid was conducted by Chiricahua Apache. Like many people then and now, Bascom considered the Apache to be a united group. Rather, they are a loosely-related collection of clans bound by mutually intelligible language and ancient feuds. Apaches had both battled and bartered with Mexican settlers when Arizona was Spanish territory but had traditionally seen whites as uneasy allies seemingly uninterested in taking their land.
Bascom quickly and capriciously apprehended one of the first suspects that crossed his path. Unfortunately for Bascom and thousands of unlucky settlers who ventured into Arizona over the next quarter century, the Indian he grabbed was a proud and vengeful man named Cochise. Cochise knew nothing of the boy when confronted by 50 gun-toting soldiers at what was supposed to be a friendly parley, according to Cochise biographer Edwin R. Sweeney. But complex relations between Apache sounded like lies to the suspicious young lieutenant, who knew Cochise had made public vows to drive away settlers, and took the chief and his family hostage.
Slicing his way out of Bascom’s tent and fleeing the army’s camp with only a minor wound, the chief took white hostages to trade for his family, killing two settlers. A stubborn Bascom refused to release his captives until he had the boy. More soldiers arrived at Bascom’s camp, spooking Cochise, who then killed his prisoners. The white soldiers hung their native captives near the spot the white bodies were found, unleashing two decades of violence.
A gang war of attrition followed, claiming the lives of hundreds of settlers. Apaches tortured American captives in ways previously reserved for the Mexicans they’d been battling for decades. The settlers responded in kind, but many also fled Southern Arizona. The 1975 nonfiction book The Conquest of Apacheria puts the final death toll for the wars between the Apache bands fighting white settlers as high as 5,000: “No traveler, no settler, no miner, no small party of soldiers, no community was safe from the avenging warriors.”
The violence was only beginning to subside in 1881, when Santiago Ward found Free on the San Carlos reservation, where the U.S. government had carelessly interned Apache bands, whose traditional hostilities stretched back for generations. Like Arizona’s other native peoples, the first generation of reservation-dwelling Apache found itself suspended between worlds. Deprived of their nomadic customs, they were also not yet fully adapted to reservation life. Some watched impotently as settlers rooted through their ancestral homeland. Others, like Geronimo, went off the reservation, sneaking away to raid nearby settlements and evading capture. In many cases, some went hungry as profiteers took fat sacks of government coin to deliver the meagerest of rations.
By the time Santiago Ward arrived, Geronimo, the fiercest of the late Apache fighters, was the last major instigator, and Santiago’s brother, a member of a rival Apache band with marketable translation and scouting skills, was employed by the U.S. Army as a scout helping Chief of Scouts Al Sieber track him down. Sieber found the notorious Free, who was trilingual and understood something of both white and native customs, useful but unlikeable, describing him as “half Mexican, half Irish and whole son of a bitch.” Some Native Americans also resented Free, calling him “the coyote whose kidnapping had brought war to the Chiricahuas.”
As a member of a docile band of White Mountain Apache with no love lost for the warring Chiricahua, Free joined the scouts as a “half blood” Indian but was forced out for “disrespectful language to the chief.” The next day, he was allowed to reenlist, but this time as “Mexican-Irish.” Before rubber stamping the order, a bureaucrat asked whether Free was a member of a native tribe. “He was stolen by Indians as a child,” his commanding officer wrote. “Adopted as a member of the tribe, a position he now holds in full fellowship.” Free, a man caught between worlds, had made his choice.
— Martin Cizmar
John Lorenzo Hubbell
John Lorenzo Hubbell
Trading post mogul John Lorenzo Hubbell (1853-1930) is indelibly associated with popularizing Navajo arts and crafts, but his greater role was that of touchstone for the Navajo community following one of its greatest trials.
After being forced to walk from their homeland to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and enduring a miserable four-year internment there, the Navajo returned to Arizona to find their land destroyed. Enter John Lorenzo Hubbell, the New Mexico-born son of a Danish-American father and a Spanish mother. Around 1876, he opened the first and most famous of his trading posts, in Ganado, to do business with the Navajo.
Hubbell sold the locals wool and silver to make their blankets, rugs and jewelry, which the Navajo then sold or bartered for the types of foods and tools they’d been introduced to during their exile. In turn, Hubbell sold the Navajo crafts to the nascent tourist trade. He also brought in outside influences, like Mexican silversmiths, to teach the Navajo artisans new techniques. Later, he became sheriff of Apache County and a Territorial Arizona senator.
Hubbell died in 1930, but his business carried on, run by his family, until 1967, when the Ganado post was purchased by the National Park Service. It’s maintained as a National Historic Site – both as a museum and as an active trading post. Visit nps.gov/hutr/index.htm.
— M.V. Moorhead
Cochise’s son Naiche, last chief of the Chiricahua Apache, and his wife
Cochise had been dead only six years when the Arizona Territory named the county at its far southeastern corner after him in 1881. Such an honor would be an accomplishment for anyone, but it’s especially impressive considering the Apache warrior had been waging bloody rebellion against the territory not even a decade before. The name didn’t pass without notice – Maricopa County representative Nathaniel Sharp protested the “depredation and murderous attacks of that bloodthirsty savage” – but it passed, even as the Apache Wars still smoldered.
Though feared, Cochise was well-regarded for his impeccable honesty and fairness. A tall, straight-backed man with the sharp features of a Roman – his name translates loosely to “oak-like” – Cochise fought bitterly for a decade before settling onto a reservation.
Born to a hardy band of Apache that lived near the Mexican border, Cochise came of age as his band warred against Mexico. He was on good terms with Americans until just before the Civil War, when an arrogant young army officer accused him of kidnapping a white boy during a raid in Sonoita. Taken hostage along with his family, Cochise escaped and took white prisoners to exchange, only to be rebuffed. Through a series of botched negotiations, both sides killed their prisoners, and a full-scale war erupted. The war ended in 1872 when Cochise agreed to live on a reservation in Southeastern Arizona, where he died two years later. His body was buried at one of his favorite mountain camps, a location that remains secret.
— Martin Cizmar
In the long series of wars against Native Americans, Major General George Crook was the U.S. Army’s ace closer. Born to an Ohio farm family, the West Point grad saw his first service in the Pacific Northwest before being called back east to fight Confederates in West Virginia and Virginia. Then, after another stint in the Northwest, he was sent to Arizona.
Crook was known for being fierce but never cruel and remained sympathetic to the plight of the Native Americans he fought as he saw treaties broken again and again. “When they were pushed beyond endurance and would go on the warpath, we had to fight when our sympathies were with the Indians,” Crook said.
Like a middle man parachuting into long-simmering conflict, Crook sought to strike a balance between white settlers’ and natives’ needs. Fearing Arizona land didn’t have the carrying capacity to provide enough wild game for both groups, he set about brokering peace treaties and helping peaceful tribes build canals to farm. This position was unpopular in Tucson, where locals pushed hard for the army to kill off the Apaches. Resisting the pressure, Crook was able to convince Cochise to settle on a reservation. He was then sent to battle the Plains Indians that had killed Custer before being brought back to force the hand of Geronimo. In this he failed. Instead, his rival, General Nelson Miles, made a bargain to disarm the last Apache warrior, then forced him to move to Florida along with the Apache scouts that had helped the U.S. Army track him.
— Martin Cizmar
The U.S. Army opened old wounds when it gave Osama Bin Laden the code name “Geronimo” during the raid that killed the terrorist boss. It’s easy to see why: From the perspective of Native Americans, Bin Laden was a terrorist who killed innocents, while Geronimo fought honorably to stop the conquest of his homeland.
But both men, separated by a hemisphere and a century, certainly shared an ability to avoid capture by a well-funded army. And until Bin Laden, Geronimo may have been the most slippery foe the U.S. Army had faced, evading capture for decades even as he was pursued by 5,000 of the brightest young soldiers the army had.
Born the grandson of a chief in an area that’s now part of New Mexico, Geronimo was called Goyathlay, or “one who yawns,” by his own people. He was jarred awake when he returned from a trading trip in 1858 to find his mother, wife and children had all been murdered by Mexican soldiers. His chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent the unhinged man to attack the Mexicans in revenge. It was while running through a hail of bullets to stab his foes with a knife that Geronimo earned his new name, possibly due to the cries of his victims for Saint Jerome – Jeronimo – to preserve them.
“I have killed many Mexicans; I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them,” Geronimo once wrote. “Some of them were not worth counting.”
Geronimo refused to surrender, even as Cochise, a senior member of the Chiricahua tribe, settled onto a reservation. Geronimo’s decision to keep fighting was reinforced when Cochise died and his band was forced to move from the mountain land they’d been promised to the desolate San Carlos reservation. Eventually captured, Geronimo was also sent to San Carlos, where he lived for four years before escaping to raid the countryside again, a run that ended in 1886 when he became the last Apache to hand himself over.
He became a star in captivity, penning an autobiography and drawing crowds at fairs, but he was never allowed to return to Arizona.
— Martin Cizmar
Plucky and eccentric Lillie Hitchcock spent time in Arizona before becoming a benefactor for San Francisco’s Coit Tower.
There is no denying that the brightest stars of Western folklore are all men. Compared to headliners Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, Arizona’s territorial women seem like extras. When we do think of women in the early West, we tend to view them in a binary fashion: There were good girls (long-suffering pioneer wives) and there were bad girls (prostitutes), and ne’er the twain did meet. But the reality is far more complex. “Women did not stay at home or on the ranch doing just domestic work,” says Heidi Osselaer, professor of history at Arizona State University. Arizona women were entrepreneurs, photographers, lawyers and successful businesswomen – tough cookies and heroes in their own right.
The economy of territorial Arizona was unstable. The most prevalent industries of the time, such as mining, involved significant danger and left families vulnerable to the fluctuating prices of commodities. Women had to take on a variety of trades to supplement the household income, and of course the frontier attracted many bold single women who had to make their way in a harsh world. But local conditions were in some ways rather favorable to women, at least compared to their counterparts in the ostensibly more enlightened East and Midwest. Women found it easier to borrow money in many Western towns because lenders figured that even a woman could make it in a boom-or-bust economy, Osselaer says.
Furthermore, moral lines became blurred because enforcing strict boundaries between good girls and bad girls was an unavailable luxury in the late 19th-century West. According to Osselaer, it was not uncommon for “respectable” women to teach in classrooms located near saloons, run restaurants that attracted miners who drank heavily, or sew dresses for prostitutes in order to bring in extra funds. And women were often partners with men in running businesses, including saloons, restaurants, boardinghouses and shops. One such woman, Nellie Cashman, ran several businesses by herself and in partnership with men, and occasionally enlisted prostitutes to help her nurse sick miners. Cashman’s many enterprises were less rooted in capitalist ambition than practical altruism, a philosophy embodied in her well-known quote, “When I saw something that needed doing, I did it.”
Big Nose Kate
Arizona’s pioneer women demonstrated a knack for business. One of Tombstone’s earliest entrepreneurs was Samantha Fallon. She opened the San Jose Lodging House and drew a steady supply of miners with her affordable rates. Jessie Brown set trends with the Grand Hotel, a structure a local newspaper described as “the most elegant hostelry in Arizona.” Brown outfitted her hotel with stylish furnishings from San Francisco and recruited a famous chef to helm the dining room. Brown also understood her market. French cuisine was very popular at the time and menus were often printed in French, but many patrons were not proficient in the language. So Brown printed her menus in English. Her approach proved so successful many other restaurants followed suit.
C.S. Fly is famous for his photographs of Geronimo and numerous Tombstone residents, but it was his wife, Mollie, who deserves the credit for many portraits attributed to him. A proficient photographer, she was also the savvy, organized complement to his more lackadaisical artistic personality and was responsible for the successful running of their studio and boardinghouse, where Doc Holliday stayed at the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Mollie’s biographical entry in the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame at the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records describes her as “a typical frontierswoman – didn’t know what fear was.”
Even “shady ladies” evinced an admirable entrepreneurial spirit. Big Nose Kate, born to a respectable family in Hungary, had to fend for herself after her family immigrated to the U.S. and she was orphaned. She eventually owned a boardinghouse in Globe and allegedly ran a bordello in Tombstone. Ah Chum, better known as China Mary, ruled the prostitution ring and opium business in 19th-century Tombstone’s Chinatown, as well as running a general store and investing in several businesses. She was also known to lend money to miners and care for the sick and injured, sometimes even paying for their medical bills.
Women in Arizona also used their wits to serve rural areas. Eulalia Elias managed Arizona’s first major cattle-raising operation, a vast setup established in Southeastern Arizona in the late 1820s. Cordelia Adams Crawford ran errands of mercy to ranches in central Arizona and developed a special kinship with local Apache women. These women trusted Crawford so much they brought their sick children to her for treatment and would warn her about impending raids. In her 1943 obituary, family and friends called Crawford “a remarkable woman of courage, tall and straight as an arrow, who was as easy on her horse as she was in a rocking chair.”
Ola Young, meanwhile, was a successful rancher in Pleasant Valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Young was also a problem-solver. Timely distribution of mail was an issue for local ranchers because the nearest post office was in Holbrook, more than 300 miles away. So Young had mail deposited at her family’s ranch and then organized the distribution herself. Ultimately, Young persuaded the U.S. Postal Service to establish a post office in her house. She served as the local postmistress for nearly 50 years. Sallie Davis Hayden, mother of Arizona congressman Carl Hayden, was postmistress of modern-day Tempe in the late 1800s. She also served on the local school board, campaigned for politicians, worked to bring good teachers to the area, and engaged in numerous charitable enterprises. “There was scarcely ever a time when some... unhappy person was not being entertained at the Ranch House throughout the winters, and often without charge,” Carl Hayden said of his mother. “Delicate teachers, poor college professors, any educated person with limited means, and lame ducks of every sort, appealed to her sympathetic, generous heart.”
Many early Arizona women were especially committed to education. Sister Clara Otero was one of the first Arizona women to enter a religious order. Otero’s faith inspired her to perform many charitable works, including teaching Spanish, music, art and needlework at St. Joseph’s Academy in the Southern Arizona territory. Mary Bernard Aguirre led a public school for girls in Tucson. Although enrollment initially suffered because of her consistent disciplinary measures, the school grew from 20 pupils when she started to 85 pupils when she resigned in 1879. Eventually, Aguirre became the first instructor of Spanish at the University of Arizona and also led the university’s Spanish language and English history departments.
And then there was the law. Arizona’s tradition of pioneering female legal eagles, embodied by the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor and Lorna Lockwood, was established even before statehood. In 1892, Sarah Herring Sorin was admitted to practice law in Arizona. Sorin practiced throughout the territory and developed a reputation for her proficiency in mining law; she even represented the Phelps Dodge Corporation before the United States Supreme Court. Appearing before all-male juries and male judges, Sorin became highly regarded for her keen mind, relentless preparation and notable ability to deconstruct complicated legal issues into digestible pieces. Fourteen years after Sorin became Arizona’s first female attorney, she became the first female attorney from Arizona to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1913, Sorin became the first female attorney to ever argue a case before the Court without an accompanying male attorney. She won the case.
Perhaps Arizona’s tradition of tough pioneering women is one reason we voted in suffrage eight years before the rest of the country, and why we’ve had more female governors than any other state. As Arizona continues to celebrate its Centennial, Arizonans must surely acknowledge the invaluable contributions of our many female leaders. Thank you, ladies, and well done.
— Anjali Abraham
Nellie Cashman may have been called the “Angel of Tombstone,” but an ethereal waif she was not: With her blunt manner, stalwart spirit, and repeated tendency to rescue groups of near-dead men, she was quite simply one of the gutsiest good girls who ever lived.
Fleeing Ireland’s Potato Famine as a young girl, Cashman and her family immigrated to America around 1850. She eventually ran boardinghouses in Nevada’s silver fields and British Columbia’s gold-rich Cassiar Mountains, where she spent 77 days rescuing dozens of snowstorm-stranded miners. Following a boomtown trail, she headed to Tombstone, where she ran restaurants and boarding houses; raised funds for a church, school and hospital; prospected and gave most of her earnings to charity; nursed the sick; and became treasurer for two miners associations. Once, she joined a group of miners on a prospecting trip to Baja, Mexico; they became lost and nearly died of thirst, so she ventured on her own to find water and saved them all.
Though most women of the era sought security in marriage, Cashman remained single, telling a reporter, “Why, child, I haven’t had time for marriage. Men are a nuisance, anyhow, now aren’t they?” When Arizona got too civilized, she followed the gold rush to Alaska, where she prospected, ran mining companies, and set a record for dog mushing at age 77.
— Keridwen Cornelius
Photos - From left: Pearl HArt • Pearl Hart’s Merwin & Hulbert .44-.40 caliber pocket army pistol
If your taste in Old West lore leans toward banditry, look no further than feisty Pearl Hart. Born in Canada and saddled with difficult circumstances – an abusive husband, a beloved but ill mother, and abject poverty – Hart took work in 1898 as a cook for miners in Mammoth, Arizona. She met a miner named Joe Boot, and the pair decided to rob a stagecoach in Globe. Hart, dressed in men’s garb, fled into the desert with Boot after relieving the coach of its money and guns.
Soon apprehended by a sheriff’s posse, Hart faced a trial that captured the public’s attention. She charmed many observers with her spirited nature and loved to give interviews. Some media reports even suggested she flirted with the all-male jury. Hart was acquitted, but a guilty verdict in another trial – for interference with U.S. Mail – netted her a five-year prison sentence.
Hart was released three years early, allegedly because she was pregnant – possibly by the very governor who pardoned her – but there was no evidence of a pregnancy and no record of birth. The stories of Hart’s later years, just like those of her early years, are often embellished and difficult to verify. Most likely, Hart ended up back near Globe, married to a cowboy or miner and working the land.
— Anjali Abraham
L.B. Coniphers on Adams Street in 1900
Raise a glass and toast the resource that helped turn the once-sleepy settlement of Phoenix into the populous state capital: water. Cheers to the Salt River, and cheers to a prostitute’s drinking glass.
When South Carolina-born adventurer John “Jack” Swilling arrived in what would become the Valley of the Sun, he could see that someone was here before. The all-but-vanished waterways created by ancient Hohokams encouraged Swilling to dig canals along the same routes to build a modern irrigation system. Perceiving that they were resurrecting a city from the remains of canals, Swilling’s friend and fellow pioneer Phillip Darrell Duppa named the settlement after the mythical bird that rises from ashes to live again.
If Swilling, credited with Phoenix’s 1868 founding, was the city’s father, then it also had a mother: his Sonora-born wife, Trinidad Escalante. In fact, the city has always been a blend of cultures. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half the town’s population in 1870 (240 people) was Hispanic. 1872 saw the arrival of Phoenix’s first Chinese immigrants – three men and two women who opened a laundry between dusty adobe houses, flour mills, bakeries, and blacksmiths.
Meanwhile, Tucson (population 3,000-plus) and Prescott (population 600-plus) were taking turns hosting the territorial capital. There seemed little indication that sleepy Phoenix – a hodgepodge of trailside tents, horse-drawn carts, budding businesses, and farming fed by the Salt River – would become the thriving metropolis it is today.
Phoenix in 1878
The Arizona Canal, constructed to help distribute water from the river, boosted its growth. Completed in 1885, the project was spearheaded by W.J. Murphy, future founder of the city of Glendale, who used the water to plant Phoenix’s first orange groves on 14 acres just south of Camelback Mountain.
In 1889, the 15th Arizona Territorial Legislative Assembly met to discuss a proposal to move the state capital from Prescott. According to state historian Marshall Trimble, the Maricopa County delegates knew their hometown was an underdog, so they employed a bit of chicanery. They arranged for one of the Yavapai County delegates to spend a night with a prostitute named Kissin’ Jenny. Every night, this gentleman took out his glass eye and plopped it in a glass of water. This night, Jenny drank the entire contents of the glass. The next morning, the delegate – too vain to be seen sans eye – refused to show up at the assembly, and the bill to move the capital to Phoenix won by a single vote.
With the capital secured, the population in 1889 grew to 1,708. A map from that year shows mixed land use in the center of town: Along Adams, Monroe, and Washington, feedlots and blacksmiths operated next to restaurants and homes. Around this time, Phoenix got its first meat-packing plant and saw the arrival of California palms, along with enterprising transplants like Julia Crump, a black woman from Denver who opened a popular oyster bar on Washington Street, and upstart institutions like the Valley Bank of Phoenix, which assured customers that it had $100,000 of paid-up capital on hand.
Water continued to shape the city. In 1891, the flood-prone Salt River created the city’s first segregation: The poor and minorities stayed on the floodplain in the southern part of the town, while the affluent moved north to higher ground. In 1911, Roosevelt Dam, dedicated by Teddy himself, finally tamed the Salt River for irrigation and power, helping usher Arizona into statehood and spawning a population boom. Cheers, once again, to water.
— Tom Marcinko
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