Pioneers Seldom Died Of Old Age

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Chapter 3

Leaving the cemetery in Strawberry we return to the highway and head up the Mogollon Rim on State Routes 87/260. At the top we drive through what I believe to be among the most beautiful forests in the world. This vast stand of ponderosa pine charms us in any season. We pass the junction where Highway 260 turns left toward Camp Verde, and continue on Route 87 for several miles, turning east onto Forest Road 300, "The Rim Road."

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On the slope of Baker's Butte above Strawberry, travelers can find the headstone of Andres Moreno, who helped protect and settle the area.

This gorgeous drive plays tag with the original Crook Military Road that linked Camp Verde with Fort Apache. The general and his troops built it in the summers of 1872 and 1873. In those days it was fine for mules and horses, but it was not ready for a wagon train until 1874. The first wagons to go over this road carried Martha Summerhayes and her cavalry husband. In her book, "Vanishing Arizona," she gives the account of how one wagon containing her china and personal items pitched over the side of the Rim and all was lost.

Today this is a graded road, well maintained except in winter. Crook blazed the route because it was the most direct way between the military posts, it provided a way to cut off the northern escape of renegade Indians, and it followed a series of sinkholes that held water. Frequent watering holes were a necessity for any trail that carried army or civilian travelers. On the trees bordering the road we see white chevrons posted at the height of a man on horseback. These mark the original Crook Trail, and sometimes branch to the left or right from the gravel road. For summer hikes it is a delightful experience to walk those side trails and experience both their beauty and history. Each comes back to the main road.

After driving several miles eastward along the Rim Road, past the road to Milk Ranch Point and little Baker Lake, the road begins to climb toward the summit of Baker Butte. This little mountain on the edge of the Rim is a landmark that can be seen when approaching from every direction. It is the highest point on the Mogollon Rim with a fire watchtower at its top.

Climbing the steep ascent we come to a place on Forest Road 300 where one of the Crook Trail deviations crosses at right angles. Stop the car and get out. Next to a wooden post you will see the large rock beside the road, on which you can find a blaze mark made by Crook's cavalry. Look closely and you will discern a "V34" chiseled in the rock. The soldiers marked each mile from Camp Verde with a "V" (for "Verde") and the number of miles. Many of the marks were blazed into the trees, and since those trees have died, finding one is a very rare occurrence. You can see one of those original blazes in the Rim Country Museum. The historian Eldon Bowman, who traced the original Crook Trail and installed the chevron markers, discovered it. He generously donated it to the museum.

About 200 yards farther up the gravel road, on a curve, you will come upon an isolated grave. The marble military head marker stands under the remnants of a large ponderosa pine, crowning a large pile of basalt rocks. They are mounded over the grave, and the headstone reads, "Andres Moreno, Company E, 1st Battalion, Arizona Infantry, July 1, 1840 - July 16, 1887." This man is especially important because he was one of those of Mexican extraction who helped open up these central mountains and make them safe for white settlement. He and his family later helped to settle Globe City, Arizona Territory.

Moreno was born in Sonora from pure Spanish stock. He had a fair complexion with hazel eyes and stood about five feet, eight inches tall. He was a rancher-cowboy (vaquero), and while still in his teens, his family moved north to Tubac to escape Apache raids on their ranch. When the Gadsden Purchase made that area part of the United States, Moreno automatically became a United States citizen.

In 1865, at age 25, he joined the Arizona Volunteers. The regular Army had left the Territory to fight the Civil War, and the settlers desperately needed troops to protect them from the rampaging Indians. Very few Anglo men joined the Arizona Volunteers, preferring to leave that dangerous job to Mexicans and friendly Indians. Thus Company E was made up entirely of Mexican men, most of whom were recruited in Sonora. This company was assigned to the newly established Camp Lincoln, which later would become Camp Verde. For one year, these men bravely fought Apache and Yavapai bands against terrible odds. They had little food, no shelters, had to make their own shoes out of rawhide, fought malaria, and were given very few supplies, ammunition or guns. They did not even receive all the pay they were promised.

The Arizona Territory was new and broke, and the government could not afford to renew their enlistment. In August 1866, they were unceremoniously mustered out. During the months they worked out of Camp Lincoln, they scouted throughout the central mountains and basins, harassing Indian families and beginning a 10-year war to clear them so the white ranchers and miners could take the land.

NEXT: Why did Andres Moreno end up in this lonely grave above Strawberry?

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