Christopher Creek came by its name sometime after the mid-1880s. It was well after the last episode of renegades who jumped the reservation and after the final battle atop the Mogollon Rim. Up until then the creek was referred to as one of the east tributaries of Tonto Creek. Mind you, the French trapper had already put down roots and built a home here, but he didn’t have a creek named after him as yet.

It was the summer of 1882 when there were three raids on the homesteads right here in our area. The first was over on what would become Haigler Creek. That attack was directly behind Christopher Mountain, a mere six-and-a-half miles away. At the Sixby Ranch on Haigler both Louie Houdon and Charles Sixby were shot and killed while G.O. Sixby held out. The siege lasted two days. The third attack was 15 miles west-south-west on the East Verde River. The location was the Meadows’ family Diamond Valley ranch near what is now Whispering Pines. Two family members were killed in that attack.

What do we know of the raid on the homestead right here in town? We do not know, for instance, where Isador Christopher was on that day. As his occupation was one of a trapper, would he have been way up the canyon checking on his traps? Was Christopher merely off hunting at the time of the attack? Had he been warned given that there were a large number of women and children traveling with the band and a large number of horses and cattle stolen along the way? It would have been difficult to move those numbers without being detected. Many homesteads around Green Valley (Payson) had received a warning of danger. Perhaps word had reached the remote Isador Christopher homestead.

We do know he was not caught unsuspecting. Some accounts say he was atop Christopher Mountain keeping track of the raiders. That, most likely, was not the case, however, given that the homestead is tucked in right at the base of the ridge and not in view of the mountain.

Other stories say that Isador had a bear carcass hanging at his cabin. The tales got wilder, even having the cavalry troops tasked with burying the bear thinking it was Isador Christopher, himself. One story has Isador traveling all the way to Globe until the threat to homesteaders had been resolved. It was there, they say, that our Frenchman read of his own death and burial in the Globe Miner.

What we do have is an account written in a military report submitted to Fort Apache, A. T. on Aug. 8, 1882. Throughout this uprising there were 14 commands assigned to bring the hostilities to an end. They came from as far as Fort Bowie, Fort Grant, Fort Whipple, Fort Apache as well as other installations. Notable military leaders included Major Chaffee, Colonel Mason, Major Evans and others.

Evans and his command were three to four days behind the hostiles following the attacks at McMillenville on the Salt River and the Middleton ranch. They had cut that to three days by the time they had arrived at Isador Christopher’s cabin.

In a short excerpt of his 2,000-word report submitted some three weeks later, Major Evans wrote:

“The trail on this day, the 16th led still nearer the Black Mesa, and bore to the west, hills rough and steep with some valleys. At the foot of one steep hill, on a fine stream of water, we passed the only evidence of the work of the hostiles that I saw, the house of Mr. Isadore Christopher, burned to the ground, the fire and smoke out but the ashes still warm, probably the work of three days previous. There was some suspicion that the body of the owner might be under the ruin, but search was not made. All along the trail were dead horses, killed by the knife.”- from A. W. Evans, Major Third Cavalry.

Sometime on your walk down the lane between the homestead cabin and the creek, imagine, if you will, the scene of the cabin burning, horses being put to the knife and the women and children trudging their way down the trail headed west. You may see it in your mind just as it happened that hot summer day some years ago ... and that’s another week in the creek.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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