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By Anthony Cooley Special to the White Mountain Independent

On May 3, 1870, Colonel George Stoneman was named Commander of the newly created Department of Arizona with a brevetted rank of General.

Arizona had previously been part of the department of California with its headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco. Many Arizonans and the local newspapers in Tucson and Prescott welcomed the change and expected the new commander to be “The Savior of Arizona who would deal sternly with Apaches and free the settlers from constant dread of fire, mutilation, and death.”

Later in the summer General Stoneman began a tour of Arizona inspecting the military posts under his command; on Sept. 11, 1870 he arrived at the newly created post on the White Mountain River then called Camp Mogollon. It had taken 14 days to travel the 300 plus miles from Prescott along the top of the Mogollon rim to the Little Colorado Valley and then south to the new post.

John H. Marion who was the editor of the Prescott newspaper, the Weekly Arizona Miner, traveled with the general and wrote stories detailing their travels through Arizona. He described the condition of the country, the available grass and water at locations they traveled through and what the new Camp Mogollon was like when they arrived. According to his description the officers and men were still living in tents; the only buildings that had been erected were those of the quartermaster and the post trader.

“The Latter Gentlemen had a fine house nearly completed, for a store and lager beer brewery, and was brewing the first lager beer ever brewed in that region, when we arrived.” He described the three local Apache leaders that had come in to the post to meet the general and had some faith in their peaceful intentions if they were treated squarely and properly and by keeping a respectable number of troops in their country. Assisting them to raise crops, furnishing them with medicines, and seeing that they stayed home and didn’t steal away on expeditions. The editor offered the opinion “that most Arizonans” believed Apaches could not be tamed, but proper measures for doing so had never before been taken. He hoped the approach now being taken would be successful “As it was cheaper and better for the country to feed them than it was to fight them, which latter mode of dealing with them has so far proved an expensive, ineffectual way of subduing them.” A remarkably progressive point of view for the press in Arizona at the time, especially for John Marion who was known as a true “frontier” editor with a combative and racist perspective. He intended his weekly Arizona Miner to be a paper for the white people of Arizona.

On the 12th of September the name of the post was changed from Camp Mogollon to Camp Thomas. The following day General Stoneman met with the local chiefs and listened to their requests. He promised to do all he could for the Indians who would live at peace with the whites. Later in the day he left for the next military post on his tour, Camp Goodwin.

Camp Goodwin had been established by California volunteers in June 1864 during the Civil War. It was intended to provide protection for settlers who were coming into the Gila Valley. It was located a couple of miles South of the Gila River near a permanent fresh water spring that unfortunately ran thru a large marshy area with swarms of Malaria carrying mosquitoes before it reached the camp.

When General Stoneman’s group reached there on the 15th of September they found nearly every man, woman and child in the garrison was sick with fever. General Stoneman ordered the post to be abandoned as soon as the public property could be moved to the new Camp Thomas. It wasn’t until the following March that it was totally abandoned.

In Addition to Camp Goodwin General Stoneman decided to close an additional six of the 15 military posts in Arizona. This decision infuriated many of the people in Arizona. Not only were they continuing to suffer from attacks by hostile Apaches but they would lose the income from providing goods and services to the closed military post and the troops who served in them. Some believed they should take matters into their own hands.

On April 28, 1871 a group of Tucson citizens led by Williams S. Ourly, 47 Mexican-Americans under Jesus Maria Elias, and 92 Papago Indians met along Rillito River North of Tucson and set off towards Arivaipa Canyon some 50 miles to the northeast.

Several hundred Apaches had come in to Camp Grant seeking to make peace and get a reservation, where they could be safe. Lt. Royal Whitman Commander at Camp Grant told them he didn’t have authority to do that but they could settle near by and he would do what he could for them. Feeling at least somewhat secure they camped about five miles up stream from the military post.

At daylight on the morning of April 30, 1871 the group from Tucson attacked the Apache camp. They killed everyone.

Most of the men were gone hunting in the mountains. The body count was determined to be between 120 to 144 dead. Eight of them were men. The rest were all women and children. The attackers also took 27 children captive. Five of the infants were adopted by families in Tucson the other 22 were sold as slaves across the border, in Mexico. None were ever found again. The money was “used to defray the cost of the expedition.”

On June 4, 1871 General Stoneman was replaced by Lt. Colonel George Crook of the 23rd Infantry as Commander of the Department of Arizona.

Anthony Cooley is a local historian and retired employee of the White Mountain Independent. He is a descendent of Show Low’s founder Corydon Cooley.

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