Chapter 4: Pioneers Seldom Died Of Old Age

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In our search for the stories of isolated graves from the Rim Country's pioneer days, we had come upon the military marker for Andres Moreno. It is beside Forest Road 300 on the west slope of Barker's Butte.

Andres Moreno had been a soldier in the Arizona Volunteers, protecting the settlers from Indian attack and pursuing Tonto Apache bands into their homeland.

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The real and unmarked grave of Andres Moreno.

When he was mustered out of the service in August 1866, he went to New Mexico and got a job in the village of Cebolleta.

He met Delfina Mazon, whose family had brought her there from Sonora. The Andres and Delfina were married when she was 15 and he was 26.

While in New Mexico they had four children, and Andres was hired by the well-known freighter and entrepreneur Solomon Barth. Barth enlisted the Moreno family, along with others, to settle land along the Little Colorado River and help him develop it. That area would eventually become the Arizona town of St. Johns.

They farmed for several years and Barth assured them he had filed squatter's rights for them on their plots of land.

The dream was to homestead the land after the government completed a Federal survey. However, Barth cheated them by claiming the squatter's rights for himself and sold the land from under his employees to the Mormons.

Forced to move, the Moreno family settled in the mining boom town of McMillen, north of Globe City. Andres worked out of there as a freighter, and became friends with many of the founding families of Globe.

In 1881 the silver ore in McMillen was on the decline, and the Morenos moved to Globe. By then they had seven children, who attended the Globe schools. They were among the few families with Spanish surnames who went to school in Globe.

Eventually most of the children married bankers and merchants.

Two of the daughters and their husbands owned what would become the Silver Queen Mine and founded the town of Superior.

Moreno's grandchildren attended the best schools, and some of them became business and community leaders in the new state of Arizona.

One of the granddaughters, Ysabel Rennie, became a member of the Sedona City Council. She was a graduate of Stanford University, earned her PhD from Wellesley, and authored a number of books.

One might look at this lonely grave on the Crook Trail, and say, "Andres Moreno, your family did well." As we are hoping to suggest, these isolated graves around our Payson area have fascinating stories to tell about the opening of the Territory we so enjoy today.

In July 1887, freighter Andres Moreno was moving the family of a physician and surgeon from Globe to Flagstaff.

Hitching a ride with the wagon train was an itinerant lawyer from Alabama named Knox Lee, who had come to Arizona for his health and was on his way to Flagstaff to accept a teaching position. Lee and Moreno developed a conflict on the trail, which escalated as the days passed.

Moreno understood his passenger would provide the food for both of them in exchange for his passage.

Lee understood he was to provide food only for himself and pay his way by helping care for the mules, a task at which he was inept.

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Sara Moreno Kellner and son Don lived in Superior while the family developed business interests there. She became a leader in the social life of the town.

The argument grew with intensity as they traveled up the Tonto Basin, through Payson, Pine and Strawberry. On the seventh day they camped at the foot of Baker's Butte.

The doctor's family had gone on ahead, planning to wait at the top of the hill for the others. It was raining, the trail was slick, and Moreno built a fire to dry out their blankets. It was around that fire, while Andres was repairing a harness, that Knox Lee shot and killed him in cold blood.

He would later testify that he feared Moreno was going to abandon him there in the forest, where grizzly bears and Apaches might get him.

An inquest was held on the spot, a jury having been fetched from Strawberry.

Dr. Cook, the physician who en route to Flagstaff performed an autopsy. I doubt if any other Arizona murder in the wilderness benefited from such scientific evidence.

The result was proof that Moreno was not killed in self-defense as Lee protested.

He had been shot from above and behind.

They buried the body of Andres Moreno on the spot, and for more than 60 years the grave was marked only by a mound of stones beside the trail, known only to a few local people.

Years later his grandson visited the place and identified the grave.

He launched a crusade to get the Veteran's Administration to furnish a marker. Others in the Payson area took up the cause, but by the time the military marker was ready to be placed, Frank Moreno, the grandson, was living if Florida and too ill to attend.

As a result the Payson and Forest Service contingent identified the wrong grave, and placed the marker on a grave that probably belongs to a worker on the Crook trail, killed some 13 years earlier than Moreno's death.

The actually Moreno grave remains unmarked, and can be found with some searching just beside a portion of the original Crook Trail (not on Forest Road 300) at the foot of Baker's Butte.

Proof of this comes from court records of the inquest and trial of Knox Lee in Prescott's Yavapai County Court. We do not have room here to explore that mystery.

I have tried to get the Forest Service to exhume the graves, and by examining the bullet holes establish the truth about Moreno's final resting place. I have not been successful in this, even though I have written permission from Mrs. Rennie, his granddaughter.

As you drive on up to the summit of Baker's Butte, you will see a sign on your left describing the General Crook Trail. This is a good place to have a picnic, and hike through the forest along a portion of the original Crook military road.

If it is summertime and the road is open to the top of the butte, drive up from this point to the fire watch tower. The ranger there may welcome you to climb the switchback stairs and enter the cab through the trap door.

There you can see the grand vista in every direction, looking all the way to the Petrified Forest in the north and south across the largest stand of ponderosa pine in the world.

Next time, we visit the ground where the last Indian battle in Arizona took place, and consider the grave of the only white soldier to be killed in that battle.

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