The year was 1964 and I was exploring the old Crook Military Road across the Mogollon Rim. Today’s Forest Road 300 aligns it. Driving up the west side of Baker Butte I spotted an upright military headstone and stopping to examine it I read the inscription, “Andres Moreno, Company E, 1st Battalion, Arizona Infantry, July 1, 1840 – July 16, 1887.”
Who was this fallen service man? The mystery launched research by my wife and me that lasted more than three years and culminated in a book about this Mexican man whose family helped open up Arizona to pioneer settlement.
Andres Moreno was born in Sonora from Spanish forebears, he had a fair complexion with hazel eyes and stood about 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was a vaquero, and while still in his teens he moved with his widowed father to Tubac. When the Gadsden Purchase made that area part of the United States they became naturalized U.S. citizens.
The governor created the Arizona Volunteer Infantry to protect ranchers from raids by the Native Americans and Andres, then age 25, joined. He was assigned to Company E, stationed at the new Camp Lincoln on the Verde River (later named Camp Verde).
The enlistments were for one year, and when he was discharged Andres followed the suggestion of his sergeant who said there was work to be had in the New Mexico frontier town of Cebolleta. He got a job there on a cattle ranch and met 15-year-old Delfina Mazon. The two fell in love, were married and began a family of seven children; six daughters, one son. After four of the children were born they went into the employ of freighter Solomon Barth. He enticed them to settle in Arizona on the Little Colorado River, on land that Barth owned. He promised the Morenos that if they filed squatters rights on the land they could own it after so many years.
After a few years of the Morenos improving the land Barth sold their squatters rights out from under them to Mormon settlers who flocked to the area and established the town of St. Johns. So the Morenos moved to the mining town of McMillan, north of Globe City where Andres developed his own freighting business.
In 1881, the silver boom in that area declined and the Moreno family moved to Globe. They raised their seven children in this town where they were the only Latino names on the school enrollment records, though Globe was nearly 50 percent Mexican. As their children grew they all married bankers, merchants and community leaders, then sent their children to fine schools. One of those granddaughters of Andres and Delfina was a member of the city council of Sedona and a graduate of Stanford University, earned her Ph.D. and authored a number of books. Her name was Ysabel Rennie and she became one of our firsthand sources.
Meanwhile Andres was a respected leader in Globe and continued his freighting business. Frequently he hauled people and freight between Globe and Flagstaff, and in July of 1887 he was moving a physician-surgeon with his family to Flagstaff. Hitching a ride with Moreno was an itinerant lawyer from Alabama who was going to a teaching position in Flagstaff. His name was Knox Lee, and from the first day of the long trip he and Andres argued over a misunderstanding about which of them was to provide the food in exchange for the ride. On July 16 they were camped at the foot of Baker Butte and the argument broke out again. This time Lee shot and killed Andres Moreno. After a cursory autopsy by the physician and a coroner’s jury held on the spot Lee was arrested and Andres was buried beside the trail.
When you explore the old Crook Road, pause at Moreno’s tombstone and give thanks for the many “unsung heroes” who paved the way for us who followed them here.
You may read more about the life and death of Andres Moreno in the following articles and book by Stanley C. Brown.
Murder of an Unsung Hero: The Life of Andres Moreno (The Smoke Signal #63, The Westerners, Spring 1995); The One Year War of Company E, Arizona Volunteer Infantry (The Smoke signal #67, Spring 1997); The 1877 Murder Trial of Knox Lee in Yavapai County: A Look at Nineteenth-Century Politics in Arizona, Journal of Arizona History 1999; From Cebolleta to St. Johns: Early Hispanic Settlement of the Little Colorado River Valley, Journal of Arizona History 2002; Andres and Delfina, America Star Books, 2012.