One hundred and fifty two years ago this summer the modern history of the White Mountains began with the arrival of the American military. Of course this isn’t the beginning of the history of the area.
There is archeological evidence of human occupation from 11,000 years ago with a spear point from a Mammoth kill site near Concho. Remains of Pit Houses date to about 600 to 900 A.D. And many local Pueblos weren’t abandoned until about 1400 A.D. The arrival of the local Apache groups who still live here cannot be accurately dated but there is evidence that they have been here since at least 1600 A.D.
On July 13, 1869 the Commander of Camp Grant Breuet, Lt. Col. John Green, Major 1st Cavalry left that post with 25 men of Company “J” 32nd infantry, 30 enlisted men of Troop “K” 1st Cavalry, Army Surgeon W. Dorn, Guides, Scouts and a pack train. For the next seven days he scouted the area between Camp Grant and Camp Goodwin on the Gila River arriving there on July 19.
At Camp Goodwin he added more officers and men to his command including 45 men of Troop “L” 1st cavalry and 40 men of companies “B” and “F” of the 32nd infantry plus a pack train for their supplies.
On the morning of July 21, the cavalry moved out leaving the pack trains escorted by the infantry of their respective commands to follow as soon as they were packed. They moved down the Gila River about 12 miles and went into camp early in the afternoon. The Camp Grant pack train arrived later that day but because of some “unaccountable mismanagement” the Camp Goodwin pack train didn’t arrive until the next day. Along the way they had lost five mules and their essential supplies. They were never found. As a result, the officer in command was sent back to his post under arrest. Due to the lost supplies, 15 infantry enlisted men had to be sent back as well.
While waiting for the Camp Goodwin pack train to arrive Lt. Col. Green sent Chief Scout Manuel Duran, Guide Jose Maria and six scouts to see if they could find any fresh Indian signs.
He captured three women and a child near a recently abandoned rancheria. The Indians had left so quickly they had left all of their possessions and food behind which were destroyed. The Indians had fled up into such rugged mountains that men on horseback were unable to follow.
On the 27th of July they discovered and destroyed a corn field of about four acres on a small tributary of the San Carlos River. Continuing to move north they arrived at Black River on the 28th. Due to the roughness of the trail the Command remained in Camp on the 29th so that many of the horses and mules could be reshod. On the 30th they moved on about 18 miles to the White River and made camp. A lieutenant and 20 mounted men and some scouts were sent out to look for corn fields. Before dark they reported back saying they had found many and the fields became larger as they moved up stream. The fields they discovered belonged to the western White Mountain band led by a Chief known as “Pedro.” His Apache name was unpronounceable to English speakers.
About sunset a party approached the camp. It consisted of two white men (Corydon E. Cooley and Henry Wood Dodd), the Chief of the Carrizo apache (Miguel), his brother known as Diablo, and a Mexican man (Saveriano) who acted as interpreter of Apache to Spanish Saveriano has been captured as a child but was now an accepted and influential member of the BAND.
The white men stated that they had come with Miguel from Ft. Wingate by way of Zuni to prospect for gold. Miguel carried letters with him from the Commander of Fort Wingate, Colorado. Evans and Gen. Carleton the former Commander of New Mexico during the Civil War, as well as others.
All attesting to his good character and peaceful behavior. Lt. Col. Green informed him that he belonged to Arizona not New Mexico and he would have to go to Camp McDowell on the Verde River and see the District Commander there to make any kind of arrangements with the military. He would also send some officers and men back with him to his village and see if things were really as he said. He placed the entire group under guard for the night. The next morning, July 31st., Capt. Barry, two Lieutenants and 50 mounted men went to Carrizo Creek, Lt. Colonel Green instructed him to “exterminate the entire village if possible.” But gave him leeway to react as circumstances dictated. After Capt. Barry left Lt. Col. Green moved the command about five miles up stream to a location he believed to be in the middle of the larger cornfields and camped. He left a small guard around the camp and set the rest to destroying the cornfields. Over the next couple of days they destroyed about 100 acres of corn, just in silk.
On the night of August 1 Capt. Barry returned with his command and reported that when they approached Miguel’s Village there were white flags flying for every hut and prominent point. It seemed that every man, woman and child in the village was coming out to meet them and showed such delight in their arrival that the officers all agreed it would be cold blooded murder to attach them and they couldn’t do it. Also he found that the white men, along with Albert Banta, who had remained in the village, had only prospecting implements as they had said. Miguel again asked for a reservation where his people could be protected from attack by outsiders and was again told that he must go to Camp McDowell and see the district commander. He began to make preparations for the trip. Cooley, Dodd, and Banta accompanied him there.
On August 2 the Command left the White River Valley going to the Southeast past the Nantanes Mountains. On the 6th of August they discovered and destroyed another rancheria, killing one man and capturing several women and children. They arrived back at Camp Goodwin on Aug. 7, 1869.
Lt. Col. Green filed a report from his headquarters at Camp Grant on Aug. 20, 1869 detailing the actions of his command. Most of this story is taken from that report which was sent by him to the Commander of the Dept. of California in San Francisco. In that report he stated his opinion that if Miguel’s people were given a reservation that was properly managed and a military post in the area to protect them they would be self-supporting at very little cost to the Government. They would also be better able to resist the influence of other hostile tribes. Miguel had offered his men to assist the military if they were needed.
Green’s report was favorably received by the Commander of the Dept. of California and forwarded on to Washington D.C. on Oct. 2nd. He received instructions to return to his White River area and find a location for a military post as well as the best route for a wagon road to supply it. Accordingly he left Camp Grant on Nov. 1, 1869.
To Be Continued ….