Back When The War Began In The Rim Country, Part 1



Abraham Lincoln had declared Arizona a Territory, separate from New Mexico, in February of 1863.

By fall, a detachment of the Army escorted the new officers to set up a government near what would become the capital, Prescott.

Even before the new territorial government was setup, gold had been discovered in the Bradshaw Mountains, bringing prospectors and ranchers to establish new settlements.

Among the new government officials was Judge Joseph Pratt Allyn, who arrived on the scene late in January 1864. He assessed the situation for his readers back East in the Hartford Evening Press. "The Indians immediately about here are Tontos, or fool Apaches, the meanest ... Indians I have seen yet. Soon after my arrival a hundred or more of them came in to hold a council with Major Willis, the commanding officer, and I think I never saw a more miserable set of human beings. In addition to the Tontos, the surrounding country is swept by the war-like Apaches of the country (to the) west. [Note: Yavapai or Mojave were all dubbed Apache in those days.] Stock is not safe anywhere, either in the mines or on the ranches; it has to be watched carefully in the daytime, and corralled at night. These repeated depravations have so thoroughly aroused the animosity of the settlers that a war of extermination has in fact already begun. Indians are shot wherever seen, and quite recently a party of Whites went into the country east on a scout, and failing to find the Indians at a safely accessible place, invited them in to a council, gave them food, and while they were eating, at a given time fired on them, killing some thirty ..." This reference to "a party of Whites" scouting into "the country east" was the first attempt by the new settlers to invade the territory of the Tonto Apache.

The leader of this citizen army was the rancher King S. Woolsey, who had established his ranch near today's Dewey, Ariz. This made him the eastern-most outpost of white settlement, to the delight of the Tonto and Yavapai Indians.

They were able to raid his ranch and yet not have far to drive the stolen livestock to their own land.

On Jan. 4 they had stolen 33 head of cattle from Woolsey's Agua Fria ranch, and other settlers to the west had lost 28 mules and horses. The posse of ranchers and miners followed the Indian trail south as far as today's Glendale, Ariz., and then east along the Salt River.

In the Valley they recruited several dozen Maricopa and Pima Indians to be their guides. These tribes had been victims of Apache raids for generations and were their natural enemies.

However, as the Salt River canyon began to close in (near today's Canyon Lake) the Pimas returned home out of fear. The Maricopas remained, since their chief Juan Chivaria, had been a personal friend of Woolsey when the white man previously ranched in the desert. Still following the trail of their stolen livestock, the citizen army climbed out of the canyon somewhere in the vicinity of Fish Creek. Coming into a small valley just south of Four Peaks in the Mazatzal Mountains, contact was made with a band of Apaches who were lured in for a "peace conference." At Woolsey's signal each white man pulled his gun and shot the Indian sitting next to him. One of them was able to kill one of the whites, a youth.

A running battle with the rest of the warriors ensued, who had been standing about on the brow of the hill. The event came to be called The Bloody Tanks Massacre. It was the beginning of an almost 20-year war that would be waged against the Tonto Apache and Yavapai Indians in the Rim country.

It became clear that this was going to become a long, drawn-out battle to see who would possess the beautiful and fruitful central mountains. Daniel Conner, one of those who had discovered gold near Prescott, exclaimed, "Now it was the rigid rule all over the country to shoot these savages upon sight." The territorial governor John N. Goodwin set the tone for the war. Soon after Woolsey's party returned from their expedition there was a meeting in the store at Walker's Camp. (Walker had led the first prospectors into the Bradshaw Mountains, and the town of Walker is named for him.)

The governor was present, recruiting ranchers and miners to explore the Verde Valley in search of a location for an army outpost, adjacent to Tonto territory. It was Feb. 2, 1864, and Judge Allyn reported on the meeting. "This country is so infested with Apaches that prospecting has been impossible. During the evening, persons were constantly coming in who wished to join the party, one and all believing and talking of nothing but killing Indians. It is difficult to convey ... an adequate idea of the intensity of this feeling. A miner seems to regard an Indian as he would a rattlesnake ... The governor, in a brief speech, took all by storm by advocating the extermination of the Indians ..." Woolsey's Agua Fria ranch became the rendezvous point for the expedition into the Verde Valley. He had been developing this outpost of white occupation, digging wells, plowing the rich bottom soil, constructing stone buildings with stone floors and sod roofs which leaked muddy water during the winter rains. It was a place of open hospitality for any who came that way, except Indians.

Next week, the white men make their first exploration of the Verde Valley.

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