Within a few weeks of the arrival of the 21st Infantry under command of Major Henry E. Smith at the site for Camp ORD and while it was little more than a collection of tents, the Territorial Governor came to visit, Anson P.K. Safford had been nominated for his position by President Grant and sworn into office on July 9, 1869.
The Governor was supportive of the military’s efforts and appreciated the cooperative attitude of the local Apache people but he realized that the military couldn’t continue to do it alone. They were providing rations to the local Apaches but they didn’t have farm implements or seeds, nor could they be expected to provide winter clothing from the military’s budget. They would need help from the Interior Department and money funded by Congress to be successful. He wrote a letter to Ely Parker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in strong support of what the military was doing and requesting his help.
Later in the Summer of 1870, a woman came into the newly renamed Camp Mogollon and asked to speak to Post Commander Colonel Green. She was the wife of Cochise, Chief of the Chiricahua Apache band known as the Tsoka-ne-nde. She asked if the colonel would allow her husband to come in for a talk. Colonel Green agreed and on Sept. 4, 1870 the two men met.
Cochise had been at war with all white people since a confrontation with a Lt. Bascom just before the Civil War started that resulted in several of his relatives being hung by the lieutenant. Cochise told his side of the Bascom affair but also said that he had been at war for almost 10 years and there had been enough killing to avenge the murder of his relatives and he wanted to make peace. He didn’t want to stay in the White Mountains country but would return to his own and stop all violence against all anglos and Mexicans. He kept his word and a little over two years later, following another meeting with General O.O. Howard, a reservation was created in southeastern Arizona that encompassed much of his people’s ancestral home land.
Only a week after Cochise left General Stoneman, the commander of the newly created Department of Arizona came to visit. He stayed a few days during which he gave his approval for the site that Colonel Green had chosen for the new post.
On Oct. 28, 1870 the post surgeon Dr. John C. Handy shot the post trader, Aaron Huey, over some insulting comments the trader made. Huey lived on for a couple of weeks before dying from his wound. Before he died he signed an affidavit in which he exonerated the doctor of all censure in the matter and requested that no proceedings be taken against him.
The following spring, on March 8, 1871, a local Apache man known as Handsome Charlie walked into the Post Traders Store and stuck a lance clear through Aaron Huey’s partner Pierce Redmond, killing him. Although a brief investigation identified Handsome Charlie as the one guilty of the murder, he had disappeared into the mountains and wouldn’t be heard from again for a couple of years.
Eventually in December 1873 word came into the post that he had been seen in a camp a few miles upstream from the post. Corydon Cooley, who was then working with the Apache scouts as guide and interpreter along with two local Apache leaders, Petone and Miguel, went to arrest him. They found him asleep in a brush enclosure a few miles from the post. When he awoke Handsome Charlie jumped up with a pistol, pointed it at Cooley and at point blank range pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. Petone and Miguel instantly shot and killed him. Everyone in the area was relieved that Handsome Charlie was no longer among the living.
About a month after Handsome Charlie had killed Pierce Redmond another murder took place at the post. On April 11, 1871 Mary Doyle, a laundress at the post, was shot and killed by Private August Riebel of the 1st Cavalry. It seems he was actually shooting at her husband Corporal Doyle but missed and killed her by mistake. Private Riebel later committed suicide.
With the exception of the occasional violence taking place within the post and the Handsome Charlie incident, relations between the military and the local Apache people remained peaceful, even cordial. Supplies were arriving on a semi-regular basis. Always late.
All in all the first year had gone surprisingly well.
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.