Frontier Teacher In Tonto Basin

Chapter 10: Escape FROM the Apaches


Tonto Basin teacher Angie Mitchell described the torture she and her companions were experiencing at the hands of a renegade band of Apaches. The day was Monday, Oct. 18, 1880, as her diary continues.

“At last my tormentor returned to his charge, wheeled the chair around and caused me to face the others. I saw that one Indian had my trunk open and he turned over some ribbons and things. I knew in a minute he’d reach my bundle of photos and a lot of little keepsakes, and that would be the last I’d see of them. Queer notion, to think of a trifling thing like that when I was positive that in an hour or whenever that fellow got done amusing himself, I’d be killed. But I’m not accountable for the vagary, and the thought put life into me and I sprang from my chair so suddenly that the buck did not have time to stop me if he had wanted to. I rushed to the Indian at the trunk who had just got a photo in his hand, grabbed it from him & dealt him a blow in the face so unexpected that he fairly staggered, flung the pic- ture into the trunk, & the lid down, turned the key, & snapped the catches & put the key down my neck. The Indian whom I struck made a move as if to spring upon me but the chief said a word or two & he slunk back scowling.

“The buck to whom apparently the others had given me stepped forward, gave me a jerk & fling & sat me down so solidly that it took my breath, in the chair I had left. He stood & looked at me awhile & I felt again as if paralyzed & not able to stir. Then he, still regarding me closely, spoke to Jane’s persecu- tor & they talked in Apache a little. Then my demon spoke to the chief, he in turn to the other Indians, & to my horror they all filed out, got on their horses, & rode off leaving those two with us. Then the one I seemed to belong to said something to the other & walked out.

“I sat still for there did not seem to be anything else to do. Suddenly Jane’s possessor grasped me by the arm, jerked me out of the chair, & led me to the third & unoccupied corner of our brush house, stopped me about two feet from it & dropped my arm. I stood as he had left me — head a bit forward, arms by my sides, motionless. A rustle made me raise my head a bit and there within a foot of me & aimed squarely at my head was a Winchester rifle. As I gazed squarely at it I wondered that it had never before occurred to me what a big barrel those guns had. I heard the click of the trigger very close- ly — then, instead of finding myself dead, I was again grasped by Jane’s Indian & dropped into my chair while my Indian, who had had the rifle at my head, came in & up to me & said, “Heap brave squaw. Mucho brave, mucho. Una pocita (that not spelled right, but it sounds like it) muchacha esta much brave.” [Possibly poseyo from posser, to con- trol one’s self, or self control.] Such a funny mixture of Spanish & English! Then they turned to Jane and called her “mucho brave,” “una bravisto mujer” & lots of such phrases. All meaning that they thought we were “brave” & they patted us on the shoulder & kept calling us “brave.” At first I thought they were making game of us, but soon realized they were serious & really thought that it was courage that had prevented us from screaming or fainting or cry- ing when they tormented us, and that while we had been so paralyzed with fear & terror as to be power- less to scream or even speak or to move hardly. Well! That’s good!

“Mrs. Harer says she thinks the manner in which I sprang on that Indian at my trunk & made him leave it, went far toward causing them to think that if I wished to I could cry or scream or struggle, but then Jane & I were both acting on the principle that we would not give them the satisfaction of acting as though they hurt us. She also says that it was an inspiration that seized me to do that as the Apaches are great admirers of courage in anyone, particular- ly white women & that she believes we would have suffered much worse indignities if they had not been forced to respect our stoical courage. It looks to me like a silly piece of extreme idiocy on my part to think of trifles like that with death by torture staring me in the face, for not till they led me to the chair away from the gun did one gleam of hope dawn on me.

“Well, to return to my story, after praising us awhile they said to us (each of them addressing one of us) several rapid sentences in Spanish which I only half understood. But the little I did “sabe” turned me cold. Seeing, I suppose, that we did not comprehend all they said, they made a few rapid & unmistakable gestures and exhibited a certain por- tion of themselves to us that decency usually keeps covered. While we grew fairly frozen with an awful terror, they adjusted their garments again and led us to the doorway where my tormentor pointed to the sun, then towards the west, with this remark, ‘By maybe four o’clock, five o’clock come, we come.’ He waited a minute & said it again more emphatical- ly. ‘Four o’clock come, we come.’ I found my tongue & exclaimed, ‘The dickens you will. Well you won’t find me here,’ but they did not understand. Leading us back, they sat us down in our chairs & left the house, & in a minute were riding rapidly northward to the mountains nearby.

The minute they realized they were alone the women sprang into action. As soon as the recent mother, Janie, got up her strength gave out and she lost consciousness, falling to the floor. Mrs. Harer and Angie cut the thongs that bound her hands and were attempting to remove the handkerchief gag from Janie’s mouth, when Angie also passed out.

“Everything got black, & the rest is a blank as far as my personal knowledge goes for about half an hour ... I found myself lying on Mrs. Harer’s mat- tress with an odor of camphor-ammonia & H.H.H. [an unidentified herb] all about me & considerable dampness of hair & clothes. Mrs. Harer says that I remarked while at work on the knot of the handker- chief, ‘Poor Janie ill,’ and then with some incoherent exclamation, fell to the floor like a dead person. She grabbed a butcher knife from the table, cut the handkerchief loose, dashed a pitcher of water over Jane. Then grabbed the bucket from the kitchen & treated me to its contents after which she got the camphor etc & treated us to alternate applications to our noses & rubbed camphor on our faces & slapped us vigorously & did everything else she could think of but without much success.”

Early in the episode, Alice Harer had slipped into the back room of the pole house with her little broth- er and squeezed through a crack in the loosely con- structed wall. She had raced the half-mile to the Vineyard ranch, where she alerted Mary Vineyard and her children. They had crept through the brush along the creek to get closer to Angie’s house, and then waited, hidden until they observed the Indians leaving. When they were sure there were no more Apaches in the area they came out of hiding and entered the house. Seeing the two young women unconscious, they thought them to be dead.

Angie continued her narrative. “(Mary’s) mother reassured her as regards that and set her to work over us. Alice, whose hands were not numbed (as her mother’s were by the cruel thongs) soon brought Janie to and a little while after, me. But when Jane & I tried to move, oh what torture. Our shoulders, arms, necks, heads, ears, & faces were so sore, & there were black & blue & discolored spots all around. Our hair had been pulled so hard as to pull our heads nearly loose, & we did feel as if it was impossible to move. The Apaches had come at 7 and left about quarter past ten. Unless we desired a worse fate to befall us that afternoon, we had much to do.”

(To be continued) NEXT: Cowboys Confront The Apaches


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