The Story of Arizona
AND CANAL BUILDERS OF THE
DESERT—CLIFF DWELLERS OF THE UPLANDS
THE recorded history of primitive man
begins not with the written word or page, but when he fashions and
leaves behind him weapons, took and utensils of a time-resisting
substance, or protects his dead by interment, so within the
confines of the territory now known as Arizona the earliest people of
whom we have any real knowledge are the builders of canals and adobe
houses in the Salt and Gila valleys, the cave and cliff dwellers and
the stone house builders of the highlands of the State, and while their
history is of necessity largely veiled from the investigator, still by
study the ethnologist has learned much concerning their habits, and
finally has been able to make shrewd conjectures as to what ultimately
became of them.
In spite of the extravagant theories
of imaginative romancers who would have us believe that these folk
possessed a culture comparable to that
of Nineveh or Philae, we must keep in
mind that they were Indians, and although they attained a civilization
that was far above that of the savage tribes surrounding them, yet
theirs were the limited lives necessitated by an existence in an
age of stone.
Nearly all of these ancient people
were farmers. In the lower Salt and Gila River valleys, on account
of the aridity of the climate, they raised their crops by irrigation.
According to surveys made by Herbert R. Patrick, James C. Goodwin and
others, they constructed in the Salt River Valley 150 miles of main
irrigating canals (in one place through solid rock), besides the
necessary lateral ditches. These canals received their water from Salt
River, which was raised to the required height by dams, doubtless built
of brush and rock somewhat like those constructed by the early white
settlers in the same region.
All canals and their laterals, it
must be remembered, were dug by hand without the aid of either
horses or metal implements. Stone hoes and wooden shovels made of the
trunks of ironwood trees were perhaps the tools most employed, and the
dirt was carried away in baskets, probably by the women.
Irrigating thus, these ancient people
raised corn, beans, cotton and squash, also, probably, different native
grasses, not as we would for stock, but for the edible seeds, which
still form part of the Indian's diet The growth of cacti, too, may have
been stimulated by the application of water, for many varieties of
fruit from this thorny plant were highly prized by the aborigines. Nor
must the possibilities of the mesquite bean and the squaw-berry as
articles of diet be forgotten, and the trees and bushes which produce
them were left on the farms to bear valuable crops for the husbandman.
Fields were cultivated by these
primitive farmers and crops planted with the aid of sharpened
sticks fashioned, as were the shovels, with the stone ax, assisted
perhaps with fire. In addition to the more temporal dwellings made of
reeds and brush with thatched roofs which housed some of the farmers on
or near their own fields, they had towns that could almost be called
cities, composed of substantial adobe houses exceedingly well built and
often rising in pyramidal form to three or four stories in height.
While many of them may have been used as communal dwellings or
tenements, some were doubtless designed as storehouses for grain and
various supplies and others were used as citadels or dedicated to
devotional or civic purposes, as there is abundant evidence that
religious and administrative activities occupied no inconsiderable
portion of their time.
In 1887, Frank Hamilton Cushing, a
member of the Hemenway-Southwestern archaeological expedition, explored
the ruins of a community of these early people, which lie five miles
west of the present town of Chandler. Here he found the remains of a
veritable city, which he called "El Pueblo de los Muertos", "The City
of the Dead", in the center of which he uncovered many large
communal houses and beyond them found the remains of more sparsely
settled suburbs extending for the distance of two miles.
The largest of these houses had even
greater dimensions than the famous Casa Grande, and must have, for its
time, made a most imposing appearance. It was surrounded by smaller
edifices, and the entire group was enclosed by an adobe wall,
which, it is evident, was built as protection against marauding
enemies as well as to insure privacy to its occupants.
As further evidence that these people
lived in constant danger from surrounding savage tribes, to whom
pillage was one of the natural occupations of life, it may be
noted that while there were windows and portholes in the outer walls of
their houses, there were no doors. The dwellers and peaceable visitors
entered and made their exit by means of ladders against the outer wall
and trap doors in the roofs leading to the rooms within, which is the
procedure in many of the modern pueblos.
The walls of the houses were made of
adobe, and built not of sun-dried brick, but by piling on more and more
clay until the top was reached. It was always seen to that the wall of
the house was of sufficient thickness to insure at the same time
protection against hostile tribes as well as the fierce summer heat of
the desert In the better finished houses the clay surface of the inner
walls was rubbed by hand until it attained a high polish.
The rafters between the stories were
made of small tree trunks upon which was laid a layer of reeds, which
in turn was covered with a coating of cement-like clay.
In the yards or streets of El Pueblo
de los Muertos, Mr. Gushing found public ovens and large cooking pits
lined with clay or natural cement. The largest of these pits was
fifteen feet across and seven feet deep.
Within the houses were found the
remains of many dishes and utensils of a pottery not unlike that
fashioned by some of the modern Indians; also, there were stones for
grinding corn, stone axes, hammers and hoes, cotton cloth,
skin-dressing implements, bone awls, and a score of other articles of
the chase and of war and of domestic and religious usage, including
various little images, some not over an inch long, carved from
stone—fetishes and what not.
All this, you see, is of the Stone
Age, these people knowing nothing of the refining or smelting of
ores. It is true that a roughly fashioned cutting instrument of copper
was found by Frank Gushing in a small cave near Tempe, but it was
doubtless smelted accidentally from a piece of ore that happened
to line a cooking pit. Also, in a ruin west of Phoenix, William Lossing
discovered three little copper bells, like sleigh bells, with pebbles
inside to serve as clappers. Their appearance shows them to be of
unquestioned Mayan manufacture. One of them, now owned by Dr. E. H.
Parker, of Los Angeles, is of beautiful design and fashioned out of
fine copper wire coiled into shape and fused into one solid piece.
In the corners of certain rooms at El
Pueblo de los Muertos what were taken to be remains of persons of
importance were found buried in vaults. Others of their dead were first
incinerated, and the remaining ash and charred bones were interred in
urns made of pottery with inverted saucer-like lids.
Two of the skeletons found in Los
Muertos were nearly six feet in length. Most of them, however, were
short in stature.
In 1694, Father Eusebio Francisco
Kino, a Jesuit friar, visited the now famous ruin called "Casa Grande",
Big House, which lies about twelve miles from the present city of
Florence and about three miles from the Gila River, and said mass
there. Lieut. Juan Mateo Mange, who accompanied the friar on a
second visit, describes the principal ruin as but little more extensive
than it is today, though at least one of the surrounding buildings, now
nearly obliterated, then had not only walls but remains of ceiling
beams as well.
The number of these aboriginal people
who lived in the Salt and Gila valleys at any one time is largely a
matter of conjecture. The 150 miles or more of irrigating canals which
comprise the Salt River Valley system could have irrigated
approximately 240,000 acres of land, which would have been
sufficient for the support of a hundred thousand people. Besides this
there were canals on the Gila which could have provided sustenance for
the support of a hundred thousand more. However, it is unlikely that
all these canals were in use at any one time or that all of the fields
under them were continually tilled.
The courses of the Salt and Gila
rivers are, to some degree, ever changing. A spring flood might so cut
the channel of the river at the intake of the canal that it may have
taken a year or more to repair it, or it may have led to the
abandonment of the canal in favor of a better location. Continuous
cultivation in one spot might partially exhaust the soil, or in low
lands alkali might rise to the surface.
Also, we do not know that all of the
various centers of population, large and small, were occupied at
the same time. Scientists like Bandelier and Mendeliff remind us that
the modern Pueblan Indians frequently move an entire village.
Speaking of the New Mexican Indians, in his "Final Report,"
Bandelier says, "With the exception of Acoma, there is not a single
pueblo standing where it was at the time of Coronado;" and we read in
Mendeliffs "Aboriginal Remains," "A band of 500 village-building
Indians may leave the ruins of fifty villages in the course of a single
Still we must remember that the Hopi
villages, except for the destruction of Awatabe, were pretty much in
their present location at the time of Coronado, and that like them and
Acoma, the larger aboriginal cities of the Salt and Gila
countries, as things temporal go, were reasonably permanent
At Casa Grande the excavations made
by Dr. J. W. Fewkes showed that in some cases communal houses were
built upon the ruins of one or two earlier buildings. In its present
form Casa Grande has been known since the seventeenth century. For
how many centuries previously was the house as we now see it occupied?
For how many centuries more were the earlier houses used?
One may easily be pardoned for
believing that it would take considerable of an upheaval to induce the
inhabitants of either Casa Grande or the Pueblo de los Muertos to
So to go back to our original theme,
even if the smaller villages could change their locations from time to
time, and there might always be idle land under some of the canals, the
total population of Casa Grande, El Pueblo de los Muertos, Casa Blanca,
Snake Town, the Mesa Ruin, the Cross Cut Ruin and others that we have
not even space to mention, these people who tilled the desert acres,
who worshiped their gods in the sanctuaries, who danced on the hard
earth of their plazas so many years ago—might easily have reached a
very considerable number.
Cliff dwellings are found in all that
portion of Arizona lying east of a longitudinal line bisecting Prescott
and north of the latitude of Phoenix; occasionally, too, they are
found in other parts of the State.
They are especially numerous along
the upper reaches of the Gila and Salt, in the walls of the Canyon de
Chelly, in and about Navajo Mountain, and other places where friable
cliffs with natural recesses could be enlarged and chambers added to
the original niches.
The perfected cliff dwelling
consisted of a house of masonry built within these caves.
The simplest of the habitations might
consist of but one small room, with the original rock forming all
the sides but the front, while the more elaborate would be veritable
castles—communal houses, perhaps five stories in height, and
containing as many as 140 rooms.
These various eyries occur at all
levels, some only a few feet from the base of the cliff, others several
hundred feet up its face, access to which could be had only by means of
rude stairways cut in the rocks or by means of ladders, some of which
are still in existence—well made with rounds tied to the two poles with
stout pieces of bark.
In the better class of buildings the
workmanship is excellent The stones from which the walls were
made, while rarely dressed, were carefully selected and skillfully laid
in mortar, with both outside and inside surfaces regular and even. The
walls were often plastered on the inside and occasionally on the
outside as well. Sometimes the inner surfaces were covered with clay
paint. All of the plastering was done by hand, and frequently the
original finger prints can easily be discerned.
One of the best known cliff dwellings
in Arizona is the one styled "Montezuma's Castle." This ancient
communal dwelling, five stories in height and containing many rooms, is
built in a large recess in the face of a precipitous limestone cliff
facing Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Verde.
The bottom of the building is forty
feet above the base of the cliff, and the natural rock which overhangs
it gives admirable protection from wearing storms. Thus preserved from
the elements and inaccessible to visitors save by means of
ladders, it is in comparatively good repair and presents a sharp
contrast to the buried communal houses of the desert
Ladders were also used as means of
passage from floor to floor, and, as is the case in all aboriginal
dwellings, the doorways are small; this is for excellent reasons. In
the winter a small door admits less cold air than a large one and is
more easily covered by a skin curtain or a stone. Also, it must be
remembered, that the aborigine was ever more or less at war with his
neighbor. If a friend, upon entering the house, must of necessity bow
Kis head, it may be ascribed to courtesy; if an enemy is forced to
assume the same posture in making his entry, he is in an admirable
position for you to crack him over the head with your stone ax.
In addition to those in Arizona,
cliff dwellings in large numbers, many of them most interesting and
elaborate, have been found in New Mexico and Southern Colorado and
Utah, and from them altogether have been taken such a variety of
articles that we have even a better conception of their
inhabitants, perhaps, than in the case of the desert canal builder.
Many of the articles, especially
stone implements, were similar to those found in the Pueblo de los
Muertos. Special mention, however, should be made of some
of the highland pottery, beautiful in color and design, and with a
glaze that has never been equalled by the modern Indian. A curious
feather cloth has been found, in addition to different cotton weaves;
also, fiber mats and sandals, as well as bone awls, beads and the like.
From the cliffs we learn that the leaves of the mescal were used as an
article of food as well as the usual squash, corn and beans.
Dessicated bodies, or mummies, in
good state of preservation have been exhumed from carefully sealed
tombs. The bodies had first been wrapped in cotton cloth of fine
texture, then in a piece of coarser cotton cloth or feather cloth, and
finally all enclosed in matting tied with a cord made of the fiber of
The cliff dwellers, though to a less
extent than the canal builders of the desert, also were farmers.
Leading from "Montezuma's Well," a small, curious basin of very deep
water, ten miles north of Montezuma's Castle, an ancient canal of these
people can easily be followed. The water was and is strongly
impregnated with lime and made a coating of natural cement which
remains to mark the sides and bottom of this waterway of an
In considering these people it must
be remembered that not all of the tribesmen of the cliff dwellers
lived in cliffs. In the famous ruins in the Rito de los Frijoles (Bean
Canyon) in New Mexico, the ancient city of Ty-u-on-yi, all the part of
one tremendous communal dwelling, resting on the canyon floor,
according to Bandolier, was occupied by a portion of the same
people who at the same time were dwelling in the cliffs of the Rito's
sides. There was also a type of small stone house that was built on the
New Mexican plateau whose antiquity is supposed to antedate the cliff
dwellings. The larger communal house of the New Mexican plateau
came later. Stone houses in Arizona, like the one whose ruins now
stands on the brink of Montezuma's Well, were doubtless built and
occupied by the cliff dwellers.
As a little sidelight on the manners
of these people, it is interesting to note that near many of the cliff
dwellings, as well as in different places near the old desert
habitations, aboriginal artists have carved smooth surfaces of the
cliffs and large boulders with a variety of drawings, pricked into the
surface of the rock by means of stone implements.
Some of these, like the pictographs
which adorn the cliff above Apache Springs on the south side of the
Superstition Mountains, are, for the most part, outlines of
animals—mountain sheep, deer, antelope, mountain lions and th£
like. Clearly this was simply an open-air gallery where the artists of
the tribe produced evidences of their skill for the pleasure and
admiration of their fellow tribesmen.
Other drawings, like some of those
found in San Tan Canyon, near the Gila, doubtless have a symbolic
meaning. Here we find the conventional drawings of a deity, the sun
with rays, and various geometrical designs, all of which seem to have
had an esoteric significance.
There is abundant evidence that the
tribes of these ancient people, as is the case with many of the modern
Pueblo Indians of the Southwest, were divided into various clans, each
of which had its own private ceremonies, and it is thought that some of
these drawings were symbolic of their ritual.
Just who the various peoples were—the
canal and the house builder of the desert, and the cave, cliff and
house dweller of the highlands—is a matter of more or less conjecture.
Different groups of them doubtless talked different languages and
in some cases were possibly of different stock, yet all seemed to
be linked together by a similar culture and a similar state of
The accepted theory is that these
people came from the south, but whether their culture was the result of
some connection with other advanced tribes is obscure.
The Mayan bell found by William
Lossing certainly indicates that articles of trade had found their
way up from the Mayan country. In the University of Arizona, Prof.
Byron Cummings has a number of stones found in the Salt River Valley on
which faces and other designs are etched that bear strong resemblance
to Toltec work, and although the contrary has often been stated to be
the case, at least one image bearing the Aztec characteristics has
been found in the Salt River Valley; so it would seem well within the
limits of possibilities that not only did our people have knowledge of
the higher cultural tribes mentioned, but also may have had their
tribal blood enriched by them.
Conservative as they are, Indian
blood changes steadily, if but slowly. Members of friendly tribes
intermarry in the usual way. Male members of hostile tribes steal women
from one another, also in the usual way. Navajos are said to have
learned blanket weaving from stolen Pueblan women—their descendants
inheriting the inclination and aptitude.
As has always been the case since our
knowledge of man commenced, a group of humans, stimulated by new
conditions of environment or changed by some new infusion of blood
suddenly, in this respect or that, rises head and shoulders above its
fellows, and afterwards its descendants, influenced further by
environment or habit as well as heredity, add to and crystallize these
traits into form, and a new people takes its place in evolution's
long march upward. Thus it may have been with the tribes we are
As to when they first made their
appearance in Arizona the question, naturally, is a most
interesting one. In speaking of the cliff dwellers, George A.
Dorsey, curator of anthropology at the Field Museum, says:
"... It must be admitted in regard to
certain ruins, there is no evidence that they were not occupied
several thousand years ago," while Ralph Emerson Twitchel, in his
"Leading Facts of New Mexican History," writes, "Just when the
occupancy of the cliffs began, whether five hundred or five thousand
years ago, will probably always remain a mooted question."
Persistent stories are heard of ruins
found where lava has flowed over built walls or ollas, giving proof of
an antiquity that reaches back to no one can say how many thousands of
years. There is just one thing that keeps us from repeating here
some of the most interesting of these. Prof. Byron Cummings, of the
University of Arizona, who has for years been making scientific
investigations of Arizona ruins, said every time he heard of a ruin
that had been covered by lava he had visited it—but he had never found
Some of the writers are of the
opinion that the ruins in the Salt River Valley are even older than the
cliff dwellings. Frank Cushing was of the opinion that the people who
built "Los Muertos" were there considerably over a thousand years ago.
That the tribes into which these
people were divided lived for a long period in their various places of
abode may be easily deduced from the range of antiquity shown in the
condition of the different ruins. The walls of the present Casa Grande,
for example, both in the upper and lower floors, were in fairly good
condition centuries after other communal houses along the Salt were
reduced to mounds of earth, while with the cliff dwellings, if one
did not know better, an observer might fancy that Montezuma's Castle
was peopled a decade ago, it is in such good repair.
No less interesting than the question
of who these people were is the one, what became of them all? The old,
popular theory was that at a time long ago the desert, canyon and
mountain-top were all teeming with countless multitudes of people when
suddenly, all in a day perhaps, some awful catastrophe, some dire
cataclysm occurred, and to the last man, woman and child they were
wiped from the face of the earth! Dramatic, truly; only it can scarcely
As to just what did happen, while
there was no aboriginal Gibbon to write in graphic sentences of their
decline and exit, let us see if by keeping in mind all we know we can
not place a picture before our eyes that will not be wholly remote from
To begin with, let us turn our mental
calendars back to the time when the Moors ruled Spain and Pepin was
King of the Franks, and conjure a vision of the irrigated farms and
communal dwellings of the desert people of the Salt River Valley.
It is late summer, and in a field our
aboriginal farmer, clad only in sandals and breech clout (additional
clothing is for a cooler season), gathers his rather runty ears of corn
and big pods of beans. Working with him is his broad-backed spouse,
wearing possibly a kilt of antelope skin, with a cotton garment of some
sort covering the upper part of her body. She piles the corn and beans
into her basket, and on her head carries load after load to the family
On an adjoining farm, perhaps, the
woman may be kneeling at the grinding stones making meal of the blue
and white kernels of corn piled beside her, putting quite as much
muscle into her work as do the men near by who are dressing skins or
polishing hand axes.
If we shift our point of view some
eighty miles to the northeast to the Verde River we shall see, on the
same day perhaps, a distant kinsman of our desert rancher, climbing by
means of well built ladders up the face of a precipitous cliff a
hundred feet or more, carrying a basket full of flat stones to
where his waiting spouse, standing on the edge of a niche in the rock,
mortars the stones in the wall that will make the front of their
domicile. Still on the same day, if our mental vision holds out,
we can look down upon a highland village on the Mogollon plateau
and see in front of a house resembling in shape the desert dwelling,
but made of stone, a woman before a primitive loom weaving cotton
cloth, while the men make arrow heads of pieces of obsidian, or, if we
drop in later, and enter one of the ceremonial chambers, we might see
some of the older members of the tribe debating matters of tribal
importance or taking part with the priests in a ceremonial petition to
Those Above" for rain, or success in battle.
Years, even centuries, of such life
go on; there is water for the farmer and game for the hunter. Then
comes a change, and drought follows drought. Down in the desert country
the corn in the granaries is almost exhausted. There comes a day when
the predecessors of the savage Ute or Apache attack the village on the
Salt and carry it by storm. They kill the defenders, fire the roofs and
watch the walls topple over on the bodies of their victims. What corn
there is left they carry away.
Is it difficult to imagine after an
experience like this that the fleeting remnant from the village thus
sacked would go by night, a frightened band of fugitives, to join their
kinsmen who lived in the fastnesses of the rocks? What if the tillage
of the soil would be less fruitful; it was enough if the caverns in the
lofty cliffs would give them sanctuary.
However, we need not imagine that all
of the inhabitants of the desert ranches went at one time or that war
was always the impelling force. We have already seen how such
calamities as pestilence, loss of irrigation water, or
deterioration of the soil might cause a community to move from one spot
to another in the same region. These and similar happenings might
induce a people to leave their former surroundings altogether.
Still more centuries pass and we
witness the final abandonment of the cliffs. Why did they leave?
Perhaps it slowly developed that the eyries were not as impregnable as
first appeared. Certainly it must have been difficult to store water
enough in their caves to withstand a long siege, and always there must
have been auxiliary methods of defense and counter attack.
Presumably wilh the changes in
fighting tactics it appeared that a village on a mesa top fronting a
high escarpment offered as much protection and far more conveniences
than a shallow recess five hundred feet up a precipitous cliff.
Possibly the time came when the dwellers in these retreats felt strong
enough to cope with their enemies on different terms.
Two things we may be positive about:
they did not go because they had to go, and they were not annihilated.
Scourged by pestilence they doubtless were, and ravaged by war, but a
remnant ever remained. The cliff dwellers left their eyries
because they wanted to, and moved to the table-lands because they
thought the change would be an improvement on their former way of
Indeed, as we look at the ruins of
the villages up and down the Little Colorado and throughout Tusayan, we
can see that they did very considerable moving during the many
years before the Spaniards came, and, also, to some extent
Here we arrive at the answer to our
problem. The people we have been considering never were exterminated.
Their descendants are living today, and their relation with the ancient
people is shown not only by the similarity of their building, their
pottery and the patterns in their cloth, but by studying the ruins of
the ancient ceremonial chambers and bits of sacerdotal paraphernalia
found within them and fitting them to what we know of the modern
tribes, the connection between the two is undeniable.
It is not to be expected that the
stock has been kept pure all the centuries from the Pueblo de los
Muertos or Montezuma's Castle to the present, but the characteristics
of the people and much of its culture has been kept intact, and the
Hopi of Arizona, and the inhabitants of such pueblos as Zuni,
Acoma and Cochiti in New Mexico, in all likelihood are the direct
descendants of both the canal builder of the desert and the cliff
dweller of the hills.
THE COMING OF THE SPANIARDS
ALTHOUGH Fray Marcos of Niza was the
first white man, so far as authenticated records go, to enter the land
that is now known as Arizona, there is a possibility that the
distinction should belong to another, who, like De Niza, was also a
member of the Order of St Francis.
Early in 1538 the provincial of the
Franciscans of New Spain sent Juan de la Asuncion and Pedro Nedal on a
mission beyond the borders of New Galicia (Sinaloa), and although it
has never been satisfactorily verified, it is believed by some
authorities that Asuncion, at least, may have reached either the
Gila or Colorado rivers near the confluence of those streams,
though in summing up the matter the careful Bandolier says the evidence
does not come up to the requirements of historical certainty.
The immediate events leading up to
the famous journey of De Niza may be said to have had their genesis
with the arrival of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions in
Culiacan at the end of their perilous trip across the continent
De Vaca, it will be remembered, was
treasurer and "high constable" of the ill-starred expedition of Don
Panfilo Narvaez, who was authorized by the Council of the Indies to
sail for the New World and conquer the country from the Rio de las
Palmas to the Cape of Florida.
From its start the history of the
expedition is a continuous narration of disaster. Landing on the west
coast of Florida, April 14, 1528, the four hundred men that made
up the company decreased in numbers with appalling inevitableness. Two
hundred and forty-seven was the count, when, after losing their
ships and facing starvation in a hostile country, they embarked in
rude boats of their own manufacture. In a stormy voyage along the
northern coast line of the Gulf of Mexico their numbers decreased to
eighty, and later to four by additional disasters. These four, however,
De Vaca, Alonzo del Castillo Maldonado, Andres Dorantes and his negro
slave, Estevan, a native of Morocco, have made enduring names for
themselves in history.
After many attempts they succeeded in
escaping from the natives who held them in semi-captivity near the
coast, when they struck out boldly toward the west through what was to
them an absolutely unknown wilderness, hoping that somehow they would
find the settlements of New Spain.
Doubtless even with their wonderful
endurance and intrepid courage they would have failed had it not been
for the reputation that Castillo and De Vaca achieved as medicine men,
both themselves and the Indians believing that they could cure all
diseases and even raise the dead by supernatural powers.
The first of their countrymen they
met was a small scouting party encountered after many months of arduous
traveling through Texas (possibly New Mexico), Chihuahua and
Sonora. Here, soon after they had crossed the Rio Yaqui, they came up
with Capt. Diego de Alcaraz, who, with his men, was engaged in the
common occupation of Spanish soldiers under the cruel Guzman, of
harrowing and enslaving the natives.
April 1,1536, eight years after they
had landed in Florida, the four refugees arrived in Culiacan, where
"with tears and praising God," they were received by the alcalde,
De Vaca was the historian of the
party, and although his account was in the main temperate and
conservative, it made a profound sensation in New Spain, the more so as
it was coupled with fabulous rumors then current in Mexico
concerning a wonderful country to the north. The most persistent
of these tales, started by stories of Indians and romantically
embellished, concerned the seven wonderful cities of Cibola, which in
the end finally proved to be seven Indian villages in the Zuni country,
New Mexico. In the stories, however, these towns were larger than the
City of Mexico itself, and in the center of a land so rich in gold and
silver that cooking utensils were made of these precious metals.
The year before De Vaca reached
civilization, Antonio de Mendoza, an able and deeply religious man, had
been appointed viceroy, and upon the arrival of the refugees at the
capital he entertained them royally, and determined, upon hearing their
story, that for the glory of the church and emperor, he would add this
country of the north to their dominion.
After consulting with Bishop
Bartolome de las Casas and Francisco Vasquez Coronado, the viceroy
decided that instead of sending at the outset a large force of
soldiers, he would dispatch one or two friars to spy out the land.
Friars were always good travelers,
resourceful, and, where there was a chance of winning souls, wholly
fearless. With their piety and tact they might easily make a better
impression upon the natives of the country than the soldiers, and
having no worldly interests to bias their reports, they could be
At that time Marcos de Niza, a member
of the Franciscan brotherhood, was holding the office of vice
commissioner of New Spain and engaged, under the viceroy's orders, in
instructing a large number of friendly Indians in the tenets of the
church as well as teaching them the Spanish language. He was held
in high esteem by his own order, and had been with Pizarro in Peru.
Impressed with the fitness of the
man, the viceroy selected him to undertake this perilous excursion into
the Northwest With the friar he would send Estevan, the negroid Moor
(whom Mendoza had already purchased from Andres Durantes) and a number
of the Christian Indians that had been with De Vaca and who might be
able to act as interpreters with part at least of the northern tribes.
Thus, without ostentation, the
excursion started, Coronado accompanying it as far as Culiacan. From
that point, on March 7, 1539, Fray Marcos having a companion in a Friar
Onorato, the party journeyed northward.
For a while everything went most
auspiciously, the natives being specially friendly, as word had been
sent out that the viceroy had ordered that the Indians should not
thereafter be enslaved but treated with all kindness. However, when
they reached the Indian village of Petatlan, Onorato was taken ill, and
Fray Marcos was obliged to go on without him.
The expedition followed the line of
the coast for several leagues, but after crossing the Rio Mayo turned
inland, and upon reaching the important village of Vacapa, the
friar decided to remain for a time, sending Estavan ahead to make a
He told the negro to go north fifty
or sixty leagues, and if he made any discoveries of moment, either to
return in person or to send a message and stay where he was until he
As the negro had no knowledge of
writing, the message was to be sent by a cross. One the size of a man's
hand would indicate the discovery to be of small importance, while if
the matter was of very great moment, indeed, one twice that size might
be sent. Imagine the good friar's state of mind when, four days later,
the Indians returned bearing a cross as tall as the friar himself, and
with it came not alone the old story of Cibola, but accounts of three
other magnificent cities which lay beyond them, Marata, Acus and
Totonteac, whose glories even outshone those of Cibola.
It may be said here that such towns
really existed, much as they, or similar Indian pueblos, exist today,
interesting undoubtedly, but scarcely glorious; Marata being, like
Cibola, in the Zuni country, while Acus is the high-perched Acoma, and
Totonteac one of a group of Hopi towns now in ruins.
Glowing as was the report that his
servant sent him, the worthy Fray Marcos does not seem to have been
specially stampeded, for he waited two days longer and then continued
his journey, going up the beautiful Sonora Valley, of which he "took
possession" in the name of the viceroy and the emperor.
The Indians he found here, whom he
called the "Painted Ones," and who may have been the Pimas or Papagos,
received the reverend traveler with all kindness, presenting him with
quail, rabbits and pine nuts. They also told him that the people of
Totonteac wore garments made of stuff like his woolen frock which they
obtained from animals about the size of greyhounds.
When they reached the head of the
valley the friar and his party passed over the divide and descended
into the valley of the San Pedro, where a short journey brought them
into what is now the border of Arizona.
All along the Rio San Pedro, Fray
Marcos reported that he found a most prosperous people who lived in
villages a quarter to a half a league apart, and were well dressed and
wearing many turquoises.
When he reached the mouth of the San
Pedro, he crossed the Gila above the confluence of the two streams,
and, while camping there, received his first word from Estavan since
the message of the cross. The negro, it seemed, was having what may be
described as a tour de luxe through the country, for the Indians
reported that he had decked himself out with feathers about his wrists
and ankles, and, like a field marshal might carry a baton, bore with
him a gourd adorned with two feathers, one of red and one of white,
besides a string of bells.
Certainly he had succeeded in
impressing the natives with his importance, for they had given him as
an escort of honor, three hundred or more men and women. He was not
waiting for orders from his pious master, as he had been instructed.
Quite the contrary. He was the conquering hero going through the
country in state, while his barefoot, brown-gowned master might
follow as he would. He left word that he was on his way to Cibola,
which lay beyond the mountains.
On May 9, 1539, Fray Marcos again set
out on his journey, following the path Estavan had taken, selecting
only thirty men of the large number of natives who wanted to accompany
him. After they had left the camp, to his great surprise, his guides
soon led him into a well-beaten trail which they followed for much of
their journey, and each night he found a shelter which had been
prepared by members of his own party who had gone ahead.
For twelve days they journeyed
through the White and Mogollon mountains, whose peaks were covered with
snow, living well on the deer, rabbit and quail with which his
hospitable guides provided him; then, when near the Continental
divide, they were met by an Indian who had been with Estavan, and who
brought the direful information that while the negro had indeed reached
Cibola, instead of meeting with the cordial welcome he had hoped for,
he had been slain.
At this, naturally, the friar's
escort was much alarmed, but with the aid of gifts, De Niza induced
them to proceed with him. The next day they came across two more of
Estavan's escort who gave him the details of his servant's murder.
It seems that when Estavan had come
in sight of Cibola he had sent his much adorned gourd ahead to the
chiefs of the town, and doubtless remembering what prestige the claim
had given De Vaca, instructed his envoys to say that he was a great
Whether the Cibolans may have thought
that Estavan's "medicine" was bad, and that he practiced an art as
black as his skin, or whether, as some commentators suggest, the gourd
was a symbol of a people with whom the city was at enmity, or
whether it was simply the arrogance of the man, in any event the chiefs
received the deputation with every indication of enmity, and
throwing the gourd to the ground, told their visitors to say to their
chief that he must leave at once or "not one of them would be left
However, no matter how much Estavan
may have lacked in tact and obedience, he seems to have had no want of
courage, for, decked with feathers and bells, he advanced confidently
to the town, which was the usual pueblan community made up of adobe
pyramidal houses—anything but the magnificent city of the Cibolan
When the negro reached the edge of
the village, which was situated on a sharp rise of ground, the
chiefs would allow neither him nor his escort to enter, but stripped
the negro of his trappings and robbed him of his possessions.
The discomfited visitors spent the
night outside of the walls, and in the morning, while trying to
escape, the Cibolans pursued and killed not only Estavan but some of
It may be noted here that Cibola was,
in all probability, Hawaikuh, one of the cities of the Zunis just
across the border from Arizona in New Mexico. A tradition is still
current there that a long time ago a very bad "Black Mexican" from the
south visited them, and they killed him with stones and buried him
under them. A variation of the tale is that the "Wise Men" of the
pueblo escorted him to its edge and gave him a kick so powerful that he
never struck earth again until he reached the country from whence he
The possibilities of what the
Cibolans in their present state of mind might do to a second
foreigner might well have daunted even Fray Marcos' strong heart,
but instead of retreating, with gifts and brave words to encourage his
escort, he went resolutely forward, determined to have a look, at
least, at the city of his dreams, no matter what the cost
When he came in sight of the pueblo
he was much affected. From a distance the several stories of its
perhaps two hundred dwellings did make something of an appearance,
especially when an observer had an imagination strong enough to supply
what vision failed to record.
With due solemnity and deliberation,
though every minute must have been fraught with danger, Fray Marcos of
Niza raised a mound of stones, planted a cross on it and in due form
"took possession" of all the country he could see, in the name of
the viceroy and the emperor.
However, when the ceremony was over,
"with more fright than food,0 as he frankly put it, he hastily started
on his return journey to New Spain.
When several months later he reached
the City of Mexico and had audience with Mendosa, he had a great tale
to unfold. Coronado afterwards very flatly said that the most he
told was not so at all, and the little that was so was extremely
highly colored, but we must remember that when the gallant captain said
that he was a greatly disappointed man.
It is far more likely that the good
Fray Marcos, whose excellent reputation covered many years—was
simply a glorious and unreliable optimist. Much of his
conversation with Arizona Indians had doubtless been confined to signs,
and he translated what they really did mean into what he wanted them to
mean. Other enthusiasts have done the same thing. In any event, he spun
a great yarn. The buildings were not only many stories in height and
built of stone, but the walls were set with turquoises. The women wore
strings of gold beads, and the men girdles of gold and white woolen
dresses, and they had sheep and cows and partridges and
slaughterhouses and iron forges. And as if this were not enough,
he added, 'They use vessels of gold and silver, for they have no other
metal, whereof there is greater use and more abundant than in Peru."
It is wholly possible that de Niza
did not tell the viceroy all the things that are attributed to him, but
what he did tell was enough to make
Mendosa immediately decide upon the
conquest of the country.
Although he enjoined the greatest
secrecy upon the friar, the story was too sensational to keep, and
within a few days the capital was aflame with excitement. Here was a
chance for such captains as Cortez, Guzman and Alvarado to conquer more
worlds; here was an opportunity for the scores of young nobles lounging
about the plazas of the city to gain both gold and glory.
The captains took the first ship for
Spain, where they hoped to get permits for exploration from the Emperor
Charles, while the young blades daily besieged Mendoza for commissions.
The viceroy was a man of quick
action, and while his rivals were still across the sea petitioning
their monarch, Mendoza completed his plans. Don Francisco Vasquez de
Coronado, a young Spanish nobleman, and for a short time governor of
New Galicia, was to be captain general, and Pedro de Castaneda de
Nacera, also of good birth, historian.
The army of conquest, which was to be
of sufficient size to absolutely insure success, was
mobilized at Compostella, on the Pacific Coast, and on the morning
of February 23, 1540, the most splendid body of troops ever
brought together in New Spain passed out of the city before the
admiring eyes of Mendoza and his staff.
First came three hundred cavaliers,
young men of the best blood of Spain, mounted on the pick of the horses
of the country, with Coronado, clad from head to foot in a glittering
coat of mail, at their head. Other cavaliers, too, wore armor, and all
had their heads protected with iron helmets or vizored head-pieces of
bullhide. Each carried a lance in his right hand, whil?< a sword
clattered at his belt. To add a finishing note to the magnificence
of these young gallants, bright-colored blankets hung gorgeously from
shoulder to ground.
The cavalry was only the first
battalion, and back of them walked footmen with crossbow or arquebus,
or with sword and shield, and still behind them came the light
artillery with wicked-looking field pieces strapped to the backs of
The final division of all was
composed of servants and slaves leading extra horses and pack animals
loaded with the belongings of the elegant young horsemen, and driving
before them herds of oxen, cows and sheep. No wonder the people cheered
and the viceroy was congratulated upon the country of gold that would
be added to his domain.
The distance to Culiacan, their first
objective, was eighty leagues, but so impeded were the movements
of the army by the herds and pack animals that they did not arrive at
their destination until March 28th.
The November before, Melchior Diaz,
with a small escort, had been sent north on a reconnaissance to
verify, if possible, de Niza's report. He had gone forward as far as
the Gila River country, and upon his return had met Coronado before the
captain general had arrived at Culiacan.
His reports verified many of the
details Fray Marcos had given of the early part of his journey, and as
he had not penetrated far enough into the country to prick the Cibola
bubble, Coronado completed his energetic plans for continuing his
At Culiacan, influenced doubtless by
what Diaz had said regarding the difficulties of traveling through the
land to the north, Coronado now divided his forces. The first
section was to consist of seventy-five or eighty cavaliers, thirty foot
soldiers and four priests, one of which would be de Niza. The
second division would include the pack animals and the herds.
Two weeks were consumed in
reorganizing the forces, and at the end of that time Coronado
advanced with the lighter battalion, leaving the others to follow
To further insure the success of the
great enterprise, the viceroy meanwhile was outfitting two supply
ships which ultimately sailed from Nativi-dad on May 9th under the
command of Hernando de Alarcon. These ships were joined by a third, and
with great difficulties sailed up the Gulf of California, which had
already been explored by Ulloa. At the mouth of the Colorado, Alarcon
left the ships and with two small boats made two different trips
up the river in search of some tidings from Coronado. On the second
trip he went a considerable distance above the mouth of the Gila River
where he erected a great cross and buried letters for Coronado, with a
notice on a conspicuous tree telling where they could be found.
However, they heard nothing of the expedition, and sailed for home.
In the meanwhile Coronado and his
men, in spite of rough going, advanced along a route not greatly
different from that taken by Fray Marcos, and on July 7th finally came
in sight of Hawaikuh.
Alas for the golden stories of the
friar! These soldiers of fortune, in their present state of mind, had
no rosy spectacles of romance through which to view the Indian village
that lay before them. Castanada said, "It looked as though it had been
all crumpled up together."
When they saw the advancing company
of Spaniards a number of the Indians came out of their houses to meet
them. Coronado sent forward part of his cavalry and two of the
priests to parley with them, but the Indians greeted their visitors
with a volley of arrows. At this the Spaniards raised their battle
cry of "Santiago," and charged, and the Indians, dismayed at the steel
swords and the hoofs of the horses, fled back to their walls. The
invaders then advanced in force up a steep pathway leading to the
village, which was perched upon the mesa. As the white men came up, the
Indians stood on the terraces of their pyramidal houses and hurled
stones and shot arrows at them.
On came the Spaniards, with Coronado
at their head. His shining armor made a conspicuous target for the
missiles of the Indians, and a few minutes later he was felled to the
earth. His followers quickly rallied to his aid, and soon took the
place by storm, with none of their men killed and but few injured.
They immediately possessed themselves
of the town, searching vainly for jewels and precious metals. But even
if there proved to be no stew pots of gold, no frying pans of silver or
pieces of turquoise set in the walls, there was plenty of corn and a
place to rest, which after all was what they most needed
Had they not been expecting so much,
both the people and the town ought to have been full of interest for
the soldiers. The Indians, culturally, were far ahead of any others
they had seen since leaving Mexico. Their houses were built
of stone and the people themselves were clothed in beautifully
dressed skins and cotton cloth. Besides corn, they raised on their
primitive farms squash and beans.
Coronado remained at Cibola, making
it his headquarters for some considerable time. Shortly after his
arrival he sent Don Pedro de Tovar, with an escort of cavalry, on into
the Hopi country, of which he had heard much from the Cibolans.
When Tovar arrived at one of the
principal Hopi towns, the inhabitants refused to allow him to enter,
when Friar Juan de Padilla urged the Spaniards to attack. One charge
with the horses and guns thoroughly cowed the Hopis, who thereupon
sued for peace, and loaded their conquerors with pine nuts, turkeys and
When the expedition returned to
Cibola, Coronado took a number of semi-precious stones they had
collected, and with a painted deer skin, made up a package for the
viceroy, which he dispatched, together with a letter, by Juan de
Gallego. With Gallego went Fray Marcos, now decidedly unpopular as
well as unhappy in the camp. Melchior Diaz, who was to send forward the
second division of the army, also accompanied them.
After an uneventful journey the three
returning travelers found the army in a comfortable camp on the Sonora
River, reaching there about the middle of September.
Soon the army went north, when Diaz,
who had been left in command of the camp, which was to be made
permanent, decided to try to find the supply fleet and Alarcon.
With twenty-five men he traveled
northwest until he reached the Colorado River, but though he found the
letters Alarcon had left, the fleet had already departed. The
expedition came to an abrupt end when, upon an inauspicious day,
Diaz was accidentally transfixed with a lance and died. His followers
immediately returned to the military camp on the Sonora River.
When Tovar had returned from the Hopi
country he told Coronado that the natives had told him of a great
river that lay to the northwest, whose banks were peopled with a race
of giants. The captain general thereupon sent Don Garcia Lopez de
Cardenas and twelve cavaliers to explore it
At the Hopi villages Cardenas found
guides, and from thence proceeded over the plateau country, which
they found cold in spite of the summer season, and after several days
were rewarded by seeing the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
Coming unexpectedly upon this
tremendous marvel of Nature, it is no wonder that they were filled with
amazement at its magnitude and majestic beauty. For several days
they explored the rim, trying vainly to find a trail leading to the
river, which to them looked like a silver thread, and which the Indians
insisted was half a league wide. Three of the most active of the men
did make one effort to climb down the sides, but hours after returned
to say that they had attempted the impossible, for "rocks which from
the tops had appeared to be no taller than a man, were found upon
reaching them to be taller than the tower of the cathedral at Seville."
The discovery of the Grand Canyon of
the Colorado practically ended the explorations of Coronado in
After the return of Cardenas, the
captain general marched eastward into New Mexico, where the record
of his explorations was sadly marred by the bad faith and cruelty shown
by the Spaniards to the Indians.
Ever lured on by the will-of-the-wisp
stories of gold told them by the Indians, who soon discovered the
white man's madness for the yellow metal, they journeyed into Texas,
Oklahoma and even Kansas, where their farthermost point seems to have
been reached somewhere beyond the Arkansas River.
Finally, following many disasters,
two years from the time they had started so auspiciously from
Compostella, Coronado led his army back to Mexico. With the ranks of
his army depleted by death, his men dressed in tattered skins of
animals, worn by hardships and privations, their leader entered the
capital of New Spain, "very sad and very weary, completely worn out and
shamefaced," feeling that he was held responsible not only for
their failure to find gold, but also for the fate of those who had died
on the inhospitable deserts of the north. Nevertheless, though the
viceroy received him with coldness, and though his name is tarnished
with the treatment his men showed the natives, yet by reason of his
splendid courage and dogged persistence in continuing his explorations
in the face of constant perils, Coronado and such captains as Melchior
Diaz have won for themselves enduring and justly earned fame.
The inability of Coronado to find any
trace of gold in the country to the north effectively ended all efforts
at exploration in that direction until in 1582 (forty years after
Coronado's return), when Antonio de Espejo led a small expedition into
New Mexico with the double purpose of looking for two missing
Franciscans and searching for precious minerals. They made one trip
into what is now Arizona, Espejo with nine followers going west to the
Hopi villages and afterwards prospecting for metals in a section that
probably included Yavapai County.
In 1598 Don Juan de Onate organized a
large expedition, consisting of 400 men, 130 of which were accompanied
by their families, 10 Franciscan friars, 83 wagons and 7,000 head of
cattle, with a view of permanently colonizing the fertile country along
the upper Rio Grande. Like Espejo, he made one exploring trip into
Arizona, where, after visiting the Hopi and other Indian villages, he
did some fruitless searching for minerals. At a later time Onate went
as far west as the Colorado River down which he journeyed to its mouth.
The battles with the Indians of this
really remarkable commander, his troubles with members of his
army, his success in establishing colonies, belong to the annals of New
Mexico rather than to those of Arizona, still it should be mentioned
that Onate's expedition marked the beginning of the settlement of New
Mexico by the Spaniards, and with the exception of a brief period
following the revolt of the natives in 1680, its occupation by the
white race was thereafter continuous.
SPANISH MISSIONS IN ARIZONA AND
SPANISH MISSION DAYS
SPANISH mission activities among the
Indians of Arizona began early in the seventeenth century when friars
from the colonies on the Rio Grande first visited and later took
residence among the Hopis in the pueblos east of the Painted
Desert. However, at the time of the New Mexican Revolt in 1680, four
Franciscans, who were ministering in five of the towns of Tusayan, were
killed by their parishioners and thereafter all through the Spanish
rule the Hopis refused to have anything to do with the white man's
Among the Indians to the south the
Spaniards were much more successful. The work here began with the
arrival of the Jesuits in 1690. The padres of this order continued in
charge of the field for seventy-seven years, when, in 1767, they were
succeeded by the Franciscans, who for sixty years more, like their
predecessors, labored diligently and unselfishly for the salvation of
their charges, until, in 1827, Mexico becoming independent of Spain,
the Franciscans were banished from the country.
The southern missionary field covered
all of what was then known as Pimeria Alta, which, roughly, was bounded
on the north by the Gila and on the east by the San Pedro. On the south
it ran well into Sonora, and on the west extended to the Rio Colorado
and the Gulf of California. Although both Jesuits and Franciscans in
this district tried to reach the northern tribes, their efforts
were barren of success. Even in Pimeria Alta north of the present
Mexican line but two missions of any permanency were established by the
Jesuits and but two more were added by the Franciscans.
The first and greatest of the Jesuit
missionaries was Father Eucebio Kino. He was a native of Trent in the
Austrian Tyrol, and believing that he owed his recovery from a serious
illness to the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, resigned a
professorship at the College of Ingolstadt in Bavaria to devote
his life to the salvation of the Indians in the New World.
In February, 1687, we find him near
the present town of Ures in Sonora, where he founded his first mission,
Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, which place he made his headquarters up
to the time of his death, and from which he made his many
missionary journeys to Arizona.
In December, 1690, Father Juan Maria
de Sal-vatierra, superior and visitador, came to Dolores, and as he and
Father Kino were inspecting the different missions and visitas which
the latter had established in the district, they were met at Tucu-babai
on the Rio Altar by a delegation of Sobai-puris Indians. These natives
had journeyed southward from about the locality of San Xavier to
ask if missionaries could not be sent to their own country.
Gladly acceding to their request,
shortly afterwards the two Jesuits journeyed northward,
crossing the border at or near the Santa Cruz River, being the
first white men to enter what is now Arizona from the south since
Coronado's visit one hundred and fifty years before.
Salvatierra immediately returned to
Mexico, leaving Kino, who remained a little while longer, investigating
the possibilities of the country as a missionary field.
Although he had little encouragement
from the superiors of his order, Father Kino took a great interest in
the Papagos, Pimas and other friendly tribes of Indians living in that
part of Pimeria Alta, now known as Arizona, and during the
remaining sixteen years of his administration of missionary
affairs from Dolores, made no less than fourteen journeys through
different parts of that country.
At this time the most northerly of
the precidios or garrisons of the Spaniards was at Fronteras, situated
near the San Pedro River, in northern Sonora. From this presidio there
operated a flying squadron whose purpose it was to defend the
missions and missionaries from hostile Indians, particularly the
Apaches, who about a half century before first appeared in Arizona,
coming from the north, and from the time of their arrival gave
evidences of the predatory and murderous characteristics which
later turned Arizona into a veritable charnel house.
However, in spite of manifold
dangers, sometimes guarded by an escort of soldiers, sometimes only
accompanied by a companion friar or Indian guides, and often traveling
alone, Father Kino journeyed up and down the Santa Cruz, the San
Pedro and Gila rivers, preaching and ministering to Papagos, Pimas,
Sobas, Coco-Maricopas and Yumas who lived in that district. The good
father must have possessed a wonderful personality and adaptability as
well as great courage, for nearly everywhere the Indians seem to have
received him gladly, listened to his teachings and given him their
children to be baptized.
Knowing of the missions farther to
the south, the natives were anxious to have like communities
established in their own country, and although Father Kino's greatest
desire was to see this accomplished, he was unable to get the
support to carry out the plan. Nevertheless, at many of the villages
the natives built little adobe churches where Father Kino and his few
associates might hold mass on their all too infrequent visits.
The padres, besides ministering to
their charges spiritually, also looked after their temporal well being.
These people were semi-agricultural, living in villages and having
little fields of maize, beans, squash and cotton. The padres gave them
seeds of new varieties of grain and vegetables, and even helped them
make a start raising horses, sheep and cattle. The success thus gained
may be gathered by a letter written by Father Kino himself:
"The greater the means, the greater
our obligation to seek the salvation of so many souls in the very
fertile lands and valleys of these new conquests and conversions.
There are already rich and abundant fields, plantings and crops of
wheat, maize, frijoles, chickpeas, beans, lentils ... in them
vineyards, . . . reed brakes of sweet cane for syrup and panoche. . . .
There are many fruit trees, as figs, quinces, oranges, . . . with all
sorts of garden stuff, . . . garlic, lettuce,
. . . Castilian roses, white
Mining in Arizona, too, had its first
slight beginning in early Jesuit times, for our diligent and
practical father mentions more than once veins of minerals which he had
seen in various parts of the country.
In 1694, acting on information he
received from the Indians, our Padre Kino visited the since famous
pre-historic ruins on the Gila, now known as the Casa Grande, being
doubtless the first white man to see them. It is also interesting to
note that, although the present church building at the mission of
San Xavier del Bac was not commenced until many years afterwards, it is
recorded that in 1701 Father Kino laid the foundation for a large
church at that place.
In 1710, at the age of seventy, while
still actively engaged in this work, this intrepid old soldier of the
cross passed to his reward. It is told that during his mission
work he baptized no less than forty-eight thousand Indians. Of him
Calvijero says: "In all of his journeys he carried no other food than
roasted corn; he never omitted to celebrate Holy Mass and never slept
on a mattress. As he wandered about he prayed incessantly or sang hymns
or songs. He died as saintly as he lived."
At the time of Father Kino's death
the only permanent mission existing in what is now Arizona was at
Guevavi, and what with the hostility of the Apaches and the weakness of
the garrisons, the padres were unable to do missionary work north of
that place for the next twenty years. Indeed, it is quite likely that
no Spaniards whatever entered the district unless it was an
occasional expedition of the soldiers from Fronteras. By 1732,
however, conditions had so changed that the Jesuits were able to make
San Xavier del Bac a permanent mission, placing Father Felipe Seges-ser
in charge, while Juan Bautista Grasshoffer was made the resident priest
at Guevavi. From that time on there were gathered at these two places
Indian neophytes who received spiritual instruction from the
padres and labored under their direction.
As we know, the Spaniards were ever
in search of the precious metals. An attempt, at least, at mining in
Pimeria Alta was made early in 1726, and ten years later, at Arizonac,
southwest of Guevavi and just south of the Arizona line, the
famous Planchas de Plata were discovered. Here great plates or balls of
native silver were found; one immense lump, it is said, weighed nearly
three thousand pounds. In fact, the mine was so rich that when the fame
of the strike reached Spain the king promptly appropriated it for
In the meantime affairs at the
missions, both in Arizona and Sonora, were going in a way not at all
idealistic The Pima and Papago Indians, from which tribes were gathered
most of the neophytes, although comparatively tractable and
peace-loving, were wholly unused to discipline and the white man's
standard of labor. The zealous fathers seemed to have pushed them
rather far, for on November 21, 1751, through the entire district of
Pimeria Alta, the Pimas and Papagos joined the Ceres in a bloody
revolt. The two priests in charge of San Xavier and Guevavi fled to
Suamca in Sonora, which was protected by a nearby presidio. Two other
of the padres were killed at their missions in Sonora, as were
about a hundred other Spaniards. Smelting furnaces that had been
erected were destroyed by the Indians, and mine shafts filled in
By some means, within the next two
years, priests and parishioners were reconciled; possibly the presidio,
or garrison, which was established at Tubac in the Santa Cruz Valley,
1752, may have been a potent influence to that end. In any event the
friars returned to Guevavi and San Xavier, and in 1754 established an
important visita at Tumacacori, conveniently near the soldiers of the
We now read of Spanish colonists
beginning to come up from the south, and see mentioned the name of
Tucson, which is spoken of as an Indian village the fathers visited
from San Xavier.
The friars seemed to have attained
some success in regaining the confidence of their charges when
suddenly, in 1767, King Charles HI expelled all of the Jesuits from his
kingdom. Several reasons are given for this act: that it was the
influence of the Freemasons in the Spanish court; that the Pima
uprising showed incompetency on the part of the fathers in charge; that
the enemies of the order had showed the king a forged letter purporting
to be from the Jesuit superior general and containing allegations that
seriously affected the monarch's title to the crown. In any event a
devoted and zealous body of earnest workers who, whatever mistakes they
may have made, labored unselfishly in the face of grave dangers, were
abruptly discharged with no, thanks from the country whose
frontier they had tried so hard to civilize. The church records
show that altogether there were nineteen of the order who worked in
Immediately upon their removal the
mission property was turned over to the royal comisario, and the
Marquis de Croix, then viceroy of Mexico, sent an urgent appeal to the
Franciscan college at Queretero, Mexico, asking for at least twelve
priests of that order.
In response to this request fourteen
Franciscans were sent to Sonora and there assigned to the
different missions throughout the district. The church property was
formally turned over to the order, and each friar was allowed by the
crown the meager stipend of $300 a year towards defraying the
expenses of his work.
A year had elapsed since the Jesuits
had gone, and the two missions in Arizona, Guevavi and San Xavier, were
in a deplorable condition. Not only had the property been sadly
neglected by the civil custodians, but also the year of freedom from
restraint enjoyed by the neophytes made the discipline imposed
upon them seem very irksome. Gradually, however, some of the Indians
returned; some, who were wholly under the care of the padres, were
furnished food and clothing for themselves and families; others
simply worked for pay by the day.
Of all of the Franciscans in Pimeria
by far the most conspicuous figure was Father Francisco Garces, who was
assigned to San Xavier with the Indian village of Tucson as a visita.
He was a younger man on entering his work than Father Kino, but no one
could have been more zealous in his labors, more unmindful of the
dangers of a hostile frontier, or more undaunted by the poverty of the
missions. His faith and courage lifted him to a plane where failure
could not reach him.
So great were his zeal and piety that
it was felt even by the Indians, who venerated him as an oracle and a
holy man. However, he could be as stern with those who were hostile to
his teachings as he was patient and kindly to those who listened.
As an object lesson, he had a servant
carry before him a large banner, which on one side portrayed the
likeness of the Virgin Mary, and on the other a picture of a lost soul,
writhing in the flames of hell. If, on visiting a new community, the
natives were hospitable, he turned to them the picture of the mother of
Jesus; if unfriendly, the lost soul was exhibited as a warning of their
own inevitable fate.
The first missionary journey of
Father Garces was made to the Gila country within a few months of his
arrival at San Xavier. The young padre kept a very complete diary, and
what he tells of the various tribes is full of interest. The Pimas and
Coco-Maricopas lived in much the same country they do now, and
Father Garces was especially impressed with the amount of cotton they
grew, which they wove into blankets for both their men and women. The
men also wore a cotton breech-cloth, while the women clad themselves in
a short skirt made of the same material.
While the Pimas, Papagos and
Coco-Maricopas treated the priests with uniform kindness, the Apaches
continued to be a perpetual menace, raiding the missions whenever
the opportunity offered and ready at all times for both thievery and
Early in his ministry Father Garces
became ill, and Fray Gil, who was in charge of Guevavi, came to assist
him. In Gil's absence, the Apaches sacked Guevavi, damaged the mission
building and killed all but two of the little band of soldiers that was
Later the same year the Apaches
attacked San Xavier, destroying the mission buildings, but under
Garces' direction it was quickly repaired.
In spite of continuous obstacles and
dangers, the mission showed steady improvement In 1772
there was at San Xavier a fairly capacious adobe church building with,
including men, women and children, two hundred parishioners. They had
cultivated fields and cared for considerable live stock. At the
visita of San Jose del Tucson there were about two hundred people, but
no place of worship, so some time during the year the zealous Fray
Francisco Garces built at the foot of a hill, called "El Cerro del
Tucson," a stone church, a mission house with a wall of adobe around
it, as a protection against the Apaches. The pueblo stood about half a
mile west of the present city of Tucson.
At this time Guevavi had eighty-six
people, the Indians there doing a little farming. Tumacacori had a
population of ninety-three, but though there were both church and
priest house, there was no minister in charge. There was also a small
unfinished church at San Ignacio, just east of Guevavi. Calabasas,
in the same district, was a visita with sixty-four people but no
church. Add to this a little military post at Tubac, with less than
fifty soldiers, and we have practically all of the mission communities
As early as Father Kino's time it had
been the ambition of both the padre and the military authorities
to establish an overland route between the missions of Pimeria Alta and
those of California. Finally, to this end, in 1774, Captain Juan
Bautista de Anza, comandante of the presidio at Tubac, undertook the
establishment of a trail. On January 8th he left Tubac with thirty-four
soldiers, going by the way of Caborca on the River Altar, then
northwest to the junction of the Gila and Colorado, and then, after a
difficult march across the desert, on to San Gabriel, near Los Angeles.
On this expedition the church was represented by Padres Garces and Juan
Diaz, both of whom were interested in the Yuma and other Indian tribes
living on the Colorado, and among whom there had been much talk of
establishing a mission.
In September, 1775, De Anza led a
second party into California, starting from Horcasitas, and going
through San Xavier down the Gila. This expedition journeyed as far
as the Golden Gate in California, where they founded a settlement,
which in time became San Francisco.
Early in the year of 1776, while
Adams, Hancock and their associates on the Atlantic Coast were
occupied with events leading up to a famous Declaration of Independence
concerning one King George, Father Garces, with his banner borne before
him, thinking of very different matters indeed, was journeying
northward up the west bank of the Colorado River into unknown country,
hoping to reach the Hopis, to whom he was especially anxious to
preach the gospel. He encountered the Mohave and Chemehuevi Indians,
probably near the present town of Parker, who received him
cordially. After making a casual side trip of a hundred miles
or so to south central California, he returned to Arizona and journeyed
trails heretofore untrodden by white men into central Arizona.
Somewhere near Prescott he met the Yavapai tribe, and induced five of
them to act as his guides to Hopi land.
En route to the pueblos they visited
the Havasu Indians, who lived then as they do now, down in the depths
of the picturesque and beautiful Cataract Canyon, and marveled
much over the charm of the spot
When he reached Oraibe, the cliff
city of the Hopis, he found the natives still most antagonistic to the
religion of the Spaniards. While offering the sorely disappointed
Father Garces no violence, they would neither receive the simple gifts
he had brought them, nor allow him to remain. They had no objection to
the friar as a man, and permitted him to take his burros to the sheep
corral and wander through the town, which he did with much curiosity,
recording what he did and saw most minutely in his diary.
The people gave every evidence not
only of superior intelligence, but of considerable material prosperity.
The houses, he said, were of more than one story in height, with doors
closed by bolts and keys of wood.
They had sheep, which, of course,
came from the Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande, and Father Garces
notes with interest that the ewes were larger than those of Sonora.
Also, he said, they raised chickens, had gardens in which grew all of
the common vegetables, and besides that, little orchards of peach
trees. Their clothing was both picturesque and well made, the women
wearing woolen smocks made of blanketing, sleeveless and reaching
to the heels. Over this was worn a second smock of black or white with
a girdle of various colors. Some of the men wore leathern jackets
fitted with sleeves, and they completed their apparel with trousers and
That night, evidently believing that
the friar's presence would make "bad medicine," the Pueb-lans would not
allow Father Garces to enter their houses, so, forced to sleep in the
street, he writes that his rest was disturbed by the harangues of
different local orators and the playing of a flute.
After remaining at the Hopi villages
for three days, he was told definitely that it was time for him to
depart. With crucifix raised before him, he made a final appeal, but
the Indians would have nothing of his teaching, and gently but firmly
escorted him to the edge of the town.
Sadly disheartened by his failure, he
returned to the Colorado River, journeying southward through the land
of the Mojaves, and then eastward, again visiting the
Coco-Maricopas and Pimas.
He reached San Xavier September 17th,
after a journey of over twenty-five hundred miles, in the course of
which he visited nine tribes and met some twenty-five thousand Indians.
Since the establishment of the church
at the "Pueblito del Tucson" four years earlier, this settlement
seems to have steadily grown in importance. Spanish settlers came
there and the same year that Father Garces made his long journey to the
Hopi country military quarters were erected there, and the soldiers
moved north from Tubac to occupy them. About this time the settlement
seems to have taken unto itself a new patron saint, for hereafter,
instead of being known as San Jose del Tucson, it was called San
Agustin del Pueblito del Tucson. Fancy a Southern Pacific brakeman
announcing such a name to a car of passengers!
Naturally the settlers at Tubac made
a vigorous protest against the abandonment of their military post, but
they seem to have received scant satisfaction from the
authorities, who not only did not return the soldiers, but insisted
that certain settlers who wished to leave for Mexico must stay
where they were.
The Franciscans were ever desirous of
reaching farther into the frontier with their missions, and the crown
administrators appreciated thoroughly that no other pioneers could, at
so little cost to the State, so successfully enlarge their country's
borders. So it was that when Padre Garces and accompanying friars
had, with Captain de Anza, visited the rich delta country of the
Colorado where the Yuma Indians had their productive fields, both the
representatives of the church and the military had been impressed with
the thought that this would make an ideal spot for a new religious
However, both Captain de Anza and
Father Garces were of the opinion that it would be dangerous to
establish a mission unless it could be strongly guarded by soldiers,
for while the Yumas were agricultural, they were far more warlike than
either the Pimas or Papagos, and the uprising of 1751 had not been
forgotten. The powers higher up finally gave orders for the
establishment of such a mission, but there were many things that made
for delays, and it was not until early in 1779 that Father Garces and
Father Juan Diaz were given orders to hold themselves in readiness to
proceed to the country of the Yumas as soon as the necessary military
force and supplies could be obtained. Then came more waiting when,
finally, an army of twelve privates and a sergeant were furnished as
the military equipment of the perilous undertaking and the
intrepid dozen and one, together with the two priests, made the journey
to the Colorado.
The executive head of the Indians at
that time was one Chief Palma, a dignitary of no mean station, for
he had not only received a military decoration from Captain de
Anza, but had been to the City of Mexico and been baptized in the
The loaves and fishes of the religion
of the Spaniards had been very attractive to this Indian warrior.
Coincident with the establishment of the proposed mission, Palma had
been promised an unlimited amount of smoking tobacco, which he very
much enjoyed; and a fine suit of clothes, entirely superfluous,
considering the climate of Yuma and the sartorial habits of his tribe,
but adding greatly to his dignity and standing. Therefore he was
very anxious for the mission to be established.
Naturally, the amount of gratuities
which the two priests were able to bring with them was very small, and
the disgruntled aboriginal executive received the ecclesiastical
arrivals with tempered cordiality. Nevertheless, the tact of Father
Garces seems to have tided things over pretty well until a year later,
when twenty-one soldiers, twelve laborers and twenty colonists
journeyed over the deserts to the new settlement, each bringing with
him a wife and a family of children.
To make their welcome at the hands of
the expectant savages doubly sure, these new colonists calmly took
possession of what Indian fields they wanted, and asked the natives the
old question, "What are you going to do about it?" For the time being
it seemed nothing was done about it, and a pueblo was established on
the west side of the river at the mouth of the Gila, which was called
Concepcion, and a second village was laid out three leagues farther
south and christened the unassuming name of San Pedro y San Pablo de
For nearly two years the colonies
maintained a precarious existence. The Yumas, next to the Apaches, were
considered the most dangerous Indians of the Southwest; add to
that fact that the soldiers were brutal and licentious and we find a
condition that made disaster a little less than inevitable.
The padres, who realized fully the
harvest that all this was leading to, did all they could to restrain
their countrymen and placate the Indians, but the trouble was past
The proverbial last straw was laid
upon the none too patient camel's back in June of 1781 through the
aggressions of a new arrival of soldiers. Captain Fernando Rivers,
lieutenant-governor of Lower California, with a party of soldiers
and emigrants, stopped at Concepcion on his way to Santa Barbara. Part
of his expedition he sent on to California, part back to Sonora, while,
with a handful of soldiers, he remained, camping on the east side of
the Colorado, where he pastured his horses and cattle—nearly a thousand
head— upon the mesquite beans on which the Yumas largely depended for
On Tuesday, June 17,1781, the
lightning struck! At Concepcion, while in the very act of celebrating
mass, Father Garces was clubbed to death by the natives for whom he had
labored so earnestly. The comandante of the village, who was also in
the church at the time, was killed in trying to reach his command, as
was the corporal who followed him. It is recorded that the heroic
Garces gave the dying soldier absolution even though he was at the
point of death himself.
At Bicuner, the two priests, Diaz and
Moreno, were killed, and, after having desecrated the images and altar,
the savages destroyed the church.
They next attacked the force of
Captain Rivera, and although the Spaniards entrenched themselves and
made a valiant defense, within a few hours the last man was killed.
Two friars, through the aid of Chief
Palma, who it seems was not wholly in accord with his bloody tribesmen,
succeeded in getting clear of the settlement, but were finally pursued
When the news of the massacre reached
the comandante of the military forces, General de Croix, he at once
began plans for the severest retributive measures. Though chafing under
the delay, it was a year before he could spare the necessary
force, but in September, 1782, he sent a hundred and sixty soldiers,
who, combining with a company of Spaniards and allied friendly
Indians from California, engaged the Yumas to deadly purpose. They
did thorough work, one hundred and ten of the Yumas were killed, with
eighty-five captured and ten Christian prisoners recovered.
The story was told by the liberated
captives that after the massacre the Yumas would not live in the
vicinity of Concepcion, for every night a ghostly procession of the
slain would wend its way about the mission, each carrying a candle,
while a tall figure in white walked at its head, bearing a cross.
It must be remembered that, however
much the Spaniards suffered from the Yumas, there had been provocation
for their ghastly work. No such extenuation could be credited to the
Apaches. With them raids upon weaker people, either red men or white,
for the purpose of plunder, was part of the plain matter of living, and
the murders which accompanied these predatory acts were often committed
in pure wantonness. So persistent were they in their attacks upon the
settlements in the Santa Cruz Valley and other parts of Pimeria Alta
that, in 1786, General Ugarte, the comandante, began a vigorous
campaign against them in whicli work he was gladly aided by organized
companies of Pima and Opata allies.
Diplomacy as well as military prowess
seems to have had a part in these operations, for at the end of an
energetic campaign a treaty was made wherein the Indians were to be
furnished rations which cost the crown from $18,000 to $30,000 a year,
and a policy adopted thereafter which surely should meet with the
approval of those who consider that the gentle Apaches would never
have given Arizona any trouble had it not been for the unkind treatment
afforded them by the whites. The old chronicle says that they were
furnished with supplies, encouraged to form settlements near the
presidios, and as a crowning consideration, taught to drink
Still, even with all this
thoughtfulness, occasionally not only the Apaches, but even
independent groups of the younger Pimas and Papagos went raiding.
However, the military forces seem to have been strong enough to
promptly bring them back to the paths of peace and mescal, and so quiet
was the time in comparison with what went both before and after that
from 1787 to 1815 may be considered almost the golden period of mission
history, or at least gilded well enough so in looking back through
the vista of a century it reflects a golden glamour not wholly
unpleasant. Not only were the missions prosperous, but settlers came in
from Mexico, and stock raising and farming were engaged in in favored
localities. Trade was carried on with Sonora by means of pack
trains. Strongly guarded by armed escorts, the arieros would load their
pack mules with hides, wool, buckskin and rich ore, and take the long
journey over hills and deserts to Hermosillo or Guaymas and bring back
zarapes, mantillas, cloth, sugar, imported wines, jewels and silver
Cattle and horses were raised along
the Santa Cruz and the San Pedro, and in such ranchos as the San
Bernardino, and driven down to the port of Guaymas and turned into
It was probably just prior to this
time that a beginning was made on the present beautiful mission of
San Xavier. Padre Baltasar Carillo was in charge of the mission from
1780 to 1794, and it is fairly well established that the work was
started early in his administration.
There is a date, "1797," cut on one
of the inner doors of the church, which very likely records the year of
the structure's completion. This was during the administration of
Padre Carillo's former assistant, Padre Narciso Gutierres, who in turn
was assisted at different times by Mariano Bardoy, Ramon Lopes and
Angel Alonzo de Prado.
It will be noticed that all, with
perhaps one exception, are very characteristic Spanish names, and it is
to these men who built for the glory of God rather than for their own
aggrandizement that the honor of making possible this beautiful
structure erected in the midst of the desert is due.
Under the administration of these
devoted fathers we may picture Arizona mission life at its best. We can
hear the mellow tones of the bells in the tower of San Xavier filling
the little valley of the Santa Cruz with their music We can see in the
early morning the Indian neophytes, stolid, but wholly devout, with
uncovered heads and sandaled feet, assemble for matutinal prayers,
and the rite once over, watch them with clear conscience shuffling
off to breakfast of corn cakes and frijoles to discuss the cock-fight
scheduled for the following Sunday afternoon.
As the day proceeds we witness an
animated picture. At a brickyard a vigorous padre, with his gown tucked
up out of the way of his feet, is directing the firing of a kiln;
at the smithy, a friar blacksmith is cunningly fashioning hinges for a
door to the church or putting a bolt in an ox bow, which, by the way,
will be tied to the beast's horns. Woodworkers are making boards with
hand saws from timbers brought down from the Santa Cata-lina Moimtains
on the backs of mules or burros, and in the fields are Indians
irrigating or weeding the mission gardens. At noon there are more corn
cakes, prayers and frijoles; in the afternoon, more work; in the
evening, mission bells again bring in the tired workers to spiritual
and material nourishment. The day, especially if it is Saturday,
may be closed by a baile where the Indians dance on the hard ground to
the music of the harp and the guitar. Yet we hear that some of the
neophytes, preferring paganism with indolence to piety coupled
with labor, would occasionally run away!
At Guevavi, the oldest mission of
Arizona, there never seems to have been more than a small adobe churchy
but at Tumacacori a very beautiful mission building was erected. Fray
Beltasar Carillo was at Tumacacori from 1794 to 1798, and Fray
Gutier-res from that time until 1820, and it is likely to these men,
who did the building at San Xavier, should be given the credit for
Tumacacori as well.
The mission of San Xavier del Bac,
beyond all question the most beautiful edifice in the Southwest,
is kept in fairly good repair. On the other hand, Tumacacori, which was
not only more beautiful but far more ambitious than many of the
California missions of nation-wide fame, is now, through most
deplorable neglect, in sad decay.
Beginning with the Mexican wars of
independence against Spanish rule, the short years of the
prosperity of the missions of Pimeria Alta came swiftly to an end. From
1811 on, money and food were inadequately and irregularly supplied the
soldiers at the garrisons, and the military force became thoroughly
disorganized. Rations to the Apaches also were cut down, and in
consequence the redskins promptly resumed their old habits of stealing
stock, raiding ranches and murdering settlers.
The padres did the best they could to
hold their neophytes together, but on September 2,1827, came the end of
mission days. With the independence of Mexico achieved, orders were
given at the capital for the expulsion of the Franciscans, and
they soon left the country.
San Xavier was placed under the
charge of the secular parish priest at Magdalena, but that was miles
away, and naturally visits could be made but rarely.
In a letter written in 1835, Don
Ignacio Zuniga, former commander of the northern presidios, stated that
since 1820 no less than five thousand lives had been lost in Pimeria,
and that at least a hundred ranchos, haciendas, mining camps and other
settlements had been destroyed, and from three thousand to four
thousand settlers had been obliged to quit the northern frontiers. He
also speaks of the hostility of the Pimas and Papagos, who had
doubtless suffered at the hands of the military, as well as from the
usual raids of the Apaches.
A melancholy ending, surely, for a
period that had promised so much—Guevavi, Tumacacori and San Ignacio
deserted, a squalid town at Tubac, another but little better at Tucson,
where the inhabitants depended more on the adobe wall for
protection than on the soldiers, and San Xavier with priestless altar
and silent bells.
But the one bright ray perhaps in all
this depressing cloud was the fact that the Papago neophytes did not
forget—but hid securely the altar furniture for the time when their
simple faith told them the fathers would return, and kept the affection
for them in their hearts.
We shall see later that this faith
was not unrewarded.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE
THE efforts of Mexico to free herself
from the rule of Spain had their beginning in 1810 with the revolution
inspired by Hidalgo, the fearless, liberty-loving curate of Durango.
Although after brief successes Hidalgo suffered death at the hands of
the king's soldiers, the cause triumphed, and in 1822, with the treaty
signed by General Iturbide for Mexico and Viceroy O'Donoju for Spain,
the independence of the country was achieved.
However, even independence does not
solve all of a nation's civil problems. In 1822, with great acclaim,
Iturbide was crowned emperor; in 1823 he was compelled to give back his
crown; in 1824 he was executed by the new republic. What makes this of
special interest to the Arizonan is that his state within those three
years was a colony of the king of Spain, an outlying district of a New
World monarch and a territory of the Republic of Mexico.
In 1824 the new constituent congress
joined New Mexico to Chihuahua and Durango in one "Estado Interno del
Norte." As the capital was to be located in Chihuahua, Durango
objected to the arrangement, whereupon the obliging law-makers made a
territory of New Mexico and formed Chihuahua and Durango into states.
The capital of New Mexico was, of
course, Santa Fe, which then contained a population of about forty-five
hundred people, and while the houses were of adobe, they were
comfortable and picturesque, being built around a central court or
patio. They were furnished simply, and brightened with Navajo
Altogether that part of New Mexico
had a population of over twenty thousand whites and eight thousand
friendly Pueblo Indians. Along the upper Rio Grande were irrigated
ranchos, rich in horses, cattle, grains, sheep and fruit A good wine
was made and there was a steady commerce between the territory and
In contrast to this prosperity, in
the western part of the territory—the present Arizona—by reason of
the constant menace of the Apaches, things were in a sad condition. All
the ranches had been abandoned, and the only Spanish settlements were
the villages of Tubac and Tucson, whose existence was made possible by
small garrisons of soldiers. At Tucson there was the additional
protection of a surrounding adobe wall.
The only mines that were worked to
any extent in this section under Spanish or Mexican rule were the
Planchas de Plata already mentioned and the Santa Rita del Cobre copper
mines, which were located at the foot of Ben Moore Mountain, nine miles
from the modern Silver City.
The Santa Rita was worked as early as
1804, and the ore extracted was so rich that it was sent by pack
animals to Chihuahua, where it was converted into the copper
coinage of the country.
Three mines were included in the
Planchas de Plata group, the Las Cruces, the Tupustetes, and the
Arizona or Arizuma, from which great chunks of pure silver were taken,
one mass alone weighing 2,700 pounds! Both the Santa Rita and the
Planchas de Plata mines had to be deserted from time to time on account
of attacks by the Apaches.
The first citizen of note from the
United States to penetrate into the Southwest was Lieut Zebulon M.
Pike, who, in 1806, with twenty-two men, was sent by his superiors to
explore the country of the Arkansas and Red rivers. In January of 1807
he built a small fort on the upper waters of the Rio Grande, in Spanish
territory, believing, as he afterwards explained, that he was on
the American side of the Red River.
He was arrested by Spanish dragoons
and taken to Governor Alencaster at Santa Fe, who treated him as a
guest rather than a prisoner, but nevertheless took him on to
Chihuahua to explain matters to the military chief, General
When Pike returned to the States his
account of the richness of the Spanish settlements in New Mexico
created much excitement not only among the adventurers, but also among
the enterprising frontier merchants who were always ready to send
argosies into danger where there was a chance for large profit
The romantic story of the "Trail"
that was made from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe and the great
caravans of mule and ox teams that went over it is well known.
From 1822 to 1844 were the halcyon
days of dangers braved, adventures encountered and fortunes won.
The amount of merchandise carried over the trail the first year was
$15,000; the last, $450,000.
Naturally, many of the bolder spirits
among those who went to Santa Fe ultimately made their way yet farther
west. As a result, early in 1824, while the Franciscans were still
holding mass at San Xavier and Tumacacori, American trappers and
hunters were exploring the Gila, Salt, Colorado and other rivers,
finding in favorable localities plenty of beaver and an abundance
of game almost everywhere they went.
There were at that time fourteen or
more tribes of Indians in Arizona, which were scattered pretty much all
over the state. Many of these tribes, like the Pimas, were uniformly
hospitable to the newcomers; others, like the Mojaves, were
friendly enough if treated with tact, but quick to resent ill
treatment; and still a third class, as was the case with the Yumas,
were almost always either suspicious or actively hostile.
The Apaches were divided into a
number of small clans, including the Chiricahuas, Mimbres, Pinalenos,
Coyoteros, Aravaipas, Tontos, San Carlos, the Mojave Apaches and
the Yuma Apaches.
To understand the Apache one must get
his point of view. To him life was a perpetual warfare. If
a neighboring tribe had something that he wanted, and he was strong or
cunning enough to get it, there was no reason why he should not take
it; and, as we have seen before, the slaying of an antagonist on a raid
was simply an incident of the business in hand—a sort of Frederick the
Great or Napoleon point of view. Add to this that the Apache was ever
ready to avenge a wrong tenfold, and one can begin to understand
why, down to as late as 1886, he was the perpetual Sword of Damocles
that hung over the Arizona pioneer.
In justice to the Indian, however, it
must be said that in his trouble with the whites he was not always the
aggressor. Sometimes the white man was as bad as the Apache with less
excuse for his depravity.
There is an old story, the scene of
which is laid at the Santa Rita copper mine, of which many variations
are told, and in which there is probably enough truth to be an
illuminating commentary on conditions in the Southwest at that time.
During 1838, so one account gives the date, the Mim-bres Apaches,
under their chief, Juan Jose, who lived along the present Arizona-New
Mexico boundary, were giving so much trouble to the trappers and
the Mexicans who were working the Santa Rita mines that drastic
retaliatory measures were decided upon. At this time there were
several parties of trappers on the headwaters of the Gila. The
captain of one of these was an Englishman by the name of James
Johnson, who suggested a plan whereby the Mimbres would be
"settled" for all time. After arranging the matter with the managers of
the Santa Rita, he invited Juan Jose and his people to come to the mine
for a big feed. Within a hundred yards of the place selected for the
feast, and pointing directly at the spot, Johnson concealed a six-pound
howitzer, loaded to the muzzle with slugs, musket balls and nails,
under a pile of pack saddles. A sack of flour was given the Indians to
divide, and while the Indians crowded about it Johnson touched his
lighted cigar to the vent of the gun, killing and wounding a score or
more, among them Juan Jose. The massacre, so the stories go, was
completed by other trappers and Mexicans.
The surviving members fled, but only
to plot a fearful revenge. The copper mines were wholly dependent on
Chihuahua for supplies, which were brought in guarded pack trains.
After the massacre the time for the train came and passed with no
word concerning it. Finally, the provisions were all but exhausted. The
only hope the miners and their families had of escaping starvation was
to cross the deserts that lay between the mines and the settlements.
They started, but the Apaches, who had destroyed the train, attacked
and killed them all but four or five, who, after suffering incredible
hardships, finally reached Chihuahua.
Many stories, differing wholly in
detail, but agreeing in essential parts, are told of John Glan-ton,
another candidate for perpetuation in the halls of infamy. About 1845
depredations by the Apaches became so continuous that the Mexican
authorities, joined by wealthy rancheros, offered $100 for the scalp of
every Apache warrior, $50 for the scalp of a squaw and $25 for that of
a child. Glanton became covetous for some of this blood money, but
disliking the dangers incident to tracking the wary Apache,
decided that the hair covering the peaceful Pima did not greatly
differ from that of the quarry upon whom the reward had been set, so
took to pot-shooting not only friendly Indians, but even Mexicans
themselves, exchanging the scalps for money at Chihuahua. However, it
was a business that any conservative life insurance company would have
classed as extra hazardous, and finally Glanton and his accomplices
were caught red-handed while scalping Mexicans they had murdered.
Glanton escaped to New Mexico, but was later killed by the Yuma
Indians, who took his worthless life in payment for gold he had stolen
Prominent among the early trail
makers of the state were Sylvester Pattie and his son, James, who
entered the country in 1824. In an account afterwards written by James
their adventures are graphically set forth and include many battles
with the Indians, suffering from heat and thirst on the desert, perils
by tidal waves on the Colorado, and finally the death of the elder
Pattie in a California Spanish prison.
The most picturesque of the pioneer
adventurers was undoubtedly Bill Williams, for whom Bill Williams
Mountain and Bill Williams Fork were named. We hear of him
in 1825, in the Far Northwest, from which point he trapped and fought
Indians as far south as Sonora. Long, sinewy and bony, with nose and
chin almost meeting, he was the typical plainsman of the dime
novel. He always rode an Indian pony, and his Mexican stirrups were as
big as coal scuttles. His buckskin suit was bedaubed with grease until
it had the appearance of polished leather; his feet were never incased
in anything but moccasins, and his buckskin trousers had the
traditional fringe on the outer seam. Naturally, Indian signs were an
open book to him, and he was even readier to take a scalp than an
Apache, who preferred to crush the heads of his victims and let the
hair stay. At the age of sixty he died a natural death caused by a
bullet from a Ute Indian.
A far different type of man was Kit
Carson, who was the ablest plainsman of them all, and more than once
rendered valuable aid to the nation. He was Fremont's guide throughout
his explorations, and to him rather than to his chief should have been
given the title of "Pathfinder."
He was a boy of seventeen when we
first hear of him with a party of trappers on the Gila, and soon
thereafter was a member of Ewing Young's party, where he gave a good
account of himself in a battle with the Apaches. Originally from
Kentucky, after 1832 he made his home in New Mexico, but was often
in Arizona, where the Indians respected his character as well as
his daring and skill with the rifle. Withal he was the most
unassuming of men, never boasting, and with a voice as soft as a
woman's. In appearance he was rather below the average in height, but
muscular and of almost incredible endurance.
Source: The Story of
Arizona By William Henry Robinson Published by The Berryhill Co., 1919