CHAPTER III. EXPEDITIONS INTO INDIAN COUNTRY.
Banta's Discovery of “Meteoric Crater”— Banta, Cooley and Dodd Organize Expedition to Hunt “Doc Thorn, Mines”— Banks of Little Colorado Used as Neutral Ground by Indians for Trading Purposes—Arrival of Expedition in Apacheland—Objection of Pinals to Progress of Expedition—Expedition Retreats—Approach of the Military—Feats of Indian Foot Runners—Organization of Peace Party to Talk With Military—Peace Party Arrested by Military—Release of Peace Party—Military Officers Entertained by Apaches.
A. F. Banta figured as prominently in the early history of Arizona as any other American. As we have seen, he came into the Territory with the Gubernatorial Party, and his activities thereafter cover almost every line of work. In 1866 he was adopted into the Zuni tribe. He was a scout for General Crook, and in 1871 discovered what is now known as Meteoric Crater, in Crater Canyon, while carrying dispatches from Fort Whipple. Banta's own story of the discovery follows:‘‘
“In 1871 I was acting as scout and guide for Lieutenant Wheeler, who was at the head of an expedition exploring the Canyon Diablo. I was always scouting out around whenever the expedition was in camp, and one day I came to the edge of a great saucer-shaped hole in the
In Volume 2 of this History, on page 241, a short biography of Mr. Banta is given, in which it is stated that he was a member of the 10th Legislature, from Apache County. This is an error, for Apache County was not then created. During the session of the 11th Legislature, Mr. Banta was a member of the “Third House,” and was instrumental to a large degree in the formation of Apache County, in which county he was appointed Probate Judge. He was a member of the 12th Legislature, under the name of C. A. Franklin. His name was afterward changed to A. F. Banta.
In July, 1869, Banta, with C. E. Cooley and Henry Wood Dodd, organized an expedition to look for the Doc Thorn Mines. They had with them a few Coyotero Indians for protection and guidance. Before they left the Indian village, Captain Cressy, of the 3rd U. S. Cavalry, stationed at new Fort Wingate, with a detachment of soldiers and a guide, was sent over to inspect the outfits of the three prospectors, which he did on the morning of their departure, July 12th, 1869. The purpose of this inspection was to prevent illicit traffic in arms and ammunition with hostile Indians.
Says Mr. Banta: ‘‘“Of our three selves, each one had his pet object in the consummation of this most remarkable expedition and wild goose chase, viz.: Cooley was for seeking the Doc Thorn placers, in the existence of which he was a firm believer; Dodd to escape, for a time at least, his oldtime and implacable enemy, John Barleycorn; the writer, at that time being young and full of the Quixote spirit for adventure, and not caring a tinker's wink where he went or didn't went, simply went along as a matter of course; anything for adventure and the glad, free life in the open.’’‘‘
“In the great extent of territory which has been subdivided into the counties of Coconino, Navajo, Apache, Greenlee, Gila, and a part of Graham, any one of which is much larger than is many an eastern state, all segregated from old Yavapai county, mother of counties, since the year 1869, and which was an almost unknown and unexplored region of mountainous country, not a single habitation of civilization
“Notwithstanding the peaceful nature of these ‘trading trips’ it was necessary at all times to be prepared to fight a hostile party if met while en route to the neutral ground. Every precaution was adopted to guard against surprise, and, if a small party, to deceive the enemy as to numbers. At night a good watch was kept. Do you know how Indians ‘stand guard’? Never like the fool white man who goes stumbling about in the darkness, making more or less racket, thus enabling a skulking foe to hand him a bunch of lead, or an arrow, the silent messenger of death. No, the Indians never do these fool stunts; on the contrary, all lie down in a circle, and the more warriors, the larger the circle, and vice versa. In this position most any noise can be heard, and at a much greater distance: than in an upright position. Lying within reach of one another, the watch-time divided so as to cover all for that duty, the watch starts on its round; one lies there awake, listening, and when his time is up, he touches the one next, and No. 1 goes to sleep while ‘next’ listens, and so on around the circle, and when the last in the circle has completed his watch, it is time to move. In case of an alarm the touch goes around the circle almost instantly and every warrior is wide awake and listening. If necessary, the chief gives his orders, and likely a few scouts are sent out, while the others slip to cover like silent shadows or noiseless spectres. The writer has, at divers times, formed one of the units in the circle above described.
“Following the old Apache-Zuni trail, at noon the third day out from Zuni, we reached the Little Colorado river, at the point of rocks which juts out into the river perhaps a mile to the east of where Colonel Hunt's old ranch was subsequently located. After crossing the river into Apacheland, noon camp was made, and Cooley caught a mess of bonytails for our dinner. That night we made camp about the middle of Concho wash, which was thickly covered with grass and willows, the grass being more than knee high. Among the willows I found an Apache wickiup, and a heavy storm of rain coming on, I slept the night in the Apache house. Without further incident deserving of mention, our party arrived at the home of the Coyotero Apaches on the Carizo Creek, late in the afternoon of July 18th, 1869.
“Coming with the chief and some of his best and most trusty braves, we were most cordially received by the people in the rancheria. By a system of signals used by all Apaches, our coming was known at the Coyotero camp two days before we arrived there, and was known by tribes farther to the westward, so on the morning following our arrival at the Carizo, several Pinal and White Mountain Apaches came into camp to ‘size us up,’ having been sent to do so by their respective chiefs. By this system of signalling, news is transmitted to all parts of the Apacheria inside of twenty-four hours.
“My outside clothing consisted of a suit of buckskin and moccasins in which I slept every night. My saddle animal was tethered close to me at night, and on my saddle, which I used for a pillow, I had a canteen of fresh water and a small buckskin sack, holding nearly a quart, filled with pinole (parched cracked corn or wheat), on which I was good for three or four hundred miles of travel. Being always ready for an emergency, ever watchful and alert, the Apaches named me Bah-dah-cleshy, the Gray Fox, and I was pretty well known to many of the old-timers as ‘Buckskin Charlie.’ In the old days it was never considered good form to ask anyone his name; as a matter of fact, to do so, was a piece of blankety-blank impertinence. Wherefore, I have known many men for more than twenty years, without once hearing their names spoken.
“The simple life of the Apache, as he was in his native element before contamination and utter degradation by the noble (?) white man, was one of proud manhood and independence. He was not, as now with schools and civilization (?) the dirty, immoral vagabond that he is today. Had Alexander Pope witnessed, as the writer has witnessed, the degrading evolution of the Indian trying to imitate civilization in his nondescript habiliments, the great poet would have said more than: ‘Lo, the poor Indian
“Having gained the confidence and consequent friendship of the Coyoteros, we secured a party of warriors, including the chief and his brother, El Diablo, also the interpreter, Miguel, and one middle-aged woman, to accompany us on our phantasmal expedition in search of a more than El Dorado, the ‘Doc Thorn gold placers.’
“Cooley had obtained from Doctor Thorn, before leaving the Rio Grande, all necessary data as to ‘landmarks,’ etc., which included the ‘Sombrero Butte,’ the Sierra ‘Pintados’ and the ‘Stone Corral.’ As Doc Thorn was a captive among the Apaches in the late fifties, by whom and for what purpose was the ‘stone corral’ built? It was an old structure in Thorn's time. A legend of the Santa Catalina mountains, eastward of Tucson, says that at one time the Jesuit priests worked a very rich mine in those mountains. Thirty-nine years ago Johnny Hart and the writer, on a prospecting trip into the Santa Catalinas, found an old stone house and stone corral in a deep canyon, but at the time knew nothing of the ‘legend’; it simply excited our wonder and no more.
“The day set for our departure arrived. We bade our Coyotero friends goodby, and hit the trail leading over the range to the eastward. On the afternoon of the second day out from the Coyotero camp on the Carizo, we made camp in the shade of a large cottonwood tree, near
“Prior to the Kit Carson campaign against the Navahos, and for some years thereafter, it was no uncommon sight to see a party of Navahos encamped on the north bank of the Little Colorado River, and a similar party of Apaches on the south bank, having met on this ‘neutral’ strip to exchange commodities; although at the time the bitterest hatred existed between the two camps. There are other reasons for these ‘neutrality grounds’ but I have said enough, and will not go further into the details in this matter.
“The following morning our semi-war party were in no rush to break camp at the Cibicu, as, before leaving this neutral strip, it was necessary to have some definite plan of action in case of war before we crossed the Rubicon and plunged into, as it was afterwards proved, a hostile
“After the swift departure of the Pinal warrior, our Apache allies had a war talk among themselves, and immediately at its close, through the interpreter Miguel, we were informed of their decision. The chief said: ‘Our visitor was a Pinal brave and his mission from his chief, Bah-dah-clah-nah, Black Wolf, was to warn us that further progress westward into Pinal territory was prohibited; that if we persisted it involved war; that his people knew our object was pesh-la-chi, yellow metal, which they did not want us to find; that if you people found gold, your people, meaning Americans, would cover the whole country and take possession as they did of the lands of the Hualapais.’
“Here was a dilemma, though not wholly unexpected to be sure, but a real situation confronted us, and it was no theory by any means and it necessitated another, or supplemental ‘war-talk’ by our little party. This we proceeded to do in the usual manner, sitting in a circle, with a small fire in the center of the ring. The customary smoking having been indulged in, the Apaches;talked over the situation for perhaps a half hour, in which they decided on a plan of action. The chief did about all the talking, as he discussed the predicament, and the only signs occasionally made by the other members of the tribe were evidently those of approval. Having finished his talk to his people, the chief turned to us three Americans and, through the interpreter, said: ‘The question of going on in defiance of the Pinals would be left to our decision; if we said go, they were willing to go; that the Coyoteros (referring to themselves), were all true warriors, accustomed to following the war trail, and were not like timid fawns, afraid of their own shadows, and if the Pinals had decided for war, then let it be war to the death, for they did not possess any more skill, endurance or bravery, man for man, than the Coyoteros; but,’ said the chief, ‘I leave the matter to you; I have spoken and you have heard and understand my words.’
“The situation presented itself this wise: There were three of us in the Apacheria, surrounded, on all sides, for a distance of from one to two hundred miles, by hostile foes who, at that very moment, were fighting to the death for their hereditary rights, and for their lives and for their liberties, and that, too, with our own nationality, the ‘white skins.’ However, Webster truthfully defines the so-called American savage when he says: ‘The savages of America, when uncorrupted by the vices of the civilized man, are remarkable for their hospitality to strangers, and for their truth, fidelity; and gratitude to their friends, but implacably cruel and revengeful toward their enemies.’ But, in this matter of cruelty and savagery, the civilized Christian man, with his inquisitional instruments of torture, and his witch tortures and burnings, and other methods of cruelty, is so far ahead of the so-called savage in devilishness, that he can give the red man cards and spades in the game, and then win out, thumbs down. This is a bitter pill for the ‘civilized’ egotist to swallow; nevertheless it is the gospel truth, and cannot be truthfully contradicted.
“Whether or not it was the prospect of avoiding a fight with the Pinals, or the returning to the rancheria and their women and children, I cannot say, but I do say they seemed pleased with our decision to take the back trail. The pack animals were immediately loaded and the ‘retreat’ began, with more or less precipitancy. Still, I don't wish to insinuate that our party was at all timorous, and the haste made at the beginning of the return march may have been caused by the burros being anxious to return home and be relieved of their packs. This seems to be the most plausible reason for the fast time made in returning.
“In due time we were again occupying our wickiup in the rancheria on the Carizo. The day following our inglorious skiddoo back from the Cibicu, reports of a big military expedition penetrating the Apacheria from the south began to reach us by Apache runners. The character of this military expedition was, of course, wholly unknown to us, we being at that time at least six days' march to the southward of our Carizo camp. The first runner came into
“The evening of the 24th, another runner came in and reported the soldiers were still advancing, and that they were numerous enough to cover the whole country. On the evening of the 25th, another messenger arrived, who reported ‘the soldiers are many, and when breaking camp this morning many of them were already on the top of a high mesa before all had left their camp.’ Of course four troops of cavalry with their Indian allies and a big train of pack-mules, all strung out in single file along an Indian trail, must naturally make a very long and picturesque line of blue coats, their
“I have gone into detail in the matter of the daily movements of the military in order to show how utterly impossible it was for the troops to surprise or capture our camp. Had our people known the falsity lying behind the white flag displayed by the interpreter, and that his words were ‘forked like a snake's tongue,’ the troops could not have found a living soul in our rancheria had we any reason or desire to escape from them. It can readily be seen that our camp was daily informed of the movements of the troops, fully five days prior to their encampment at the junction of the east and west forks of the White river, on the 27th day of July, 1869, thirty-five or forty miles from our rancheria on the Carizo.
“In the old days of the Colorado Steam Navigation Company at Yuma, it was the custom of the company agent at Yuma, Captain Polhamus, after the river steamer had been gone two days, three days were usually required, to dispatch a message to the agent at Port Ysabel, at the head of the Gulf of California. This message was given to a Yuma, who carried it afoot across a sandy desert a distance of ninety miles, reaching his destination the same day the river steamer was due to arrive, but invariably in advance of the boat. The Indian always covered the distance between sunrise and sunset, performing the same feat on his return. Another celebrated Yuma runner cleared his 121 miles between sunup and sundown, and the following day repeated the same feat. This was done under a prearranged test case made by Americans at Yuma.
“Chief Es-cah-pah came to our wickiup and requested Cooley and the writer to accompany him to the camp of the soldiers, to have a ‘peacetalk’ with the ‘big chief of the soldiers.’ We promised the chief that we would go, but Dodd objected to the plan and declared that he would not remain behind in the Indian encampment. Dodd did not care to be left alone with the Apaches for the reason, as he said, ‘the soldiers had been killing the Indians at every opportunity, and destroying their corn and other crops, and the Indians might retaliate by killing me.’ It was necessary that one of us should remain in camp to look after our common and personal
“The chief accepted the change and smilingly said: ‘I did want my younger brother with me, but he is without suspicion or fear, and shall remain with my people.’ All matters being satisfactorily arranged, the ‘peace party,’ consisting of Chief Es-cah-pah, El Diablo (the chief's oldest brother), the cautivo, Miguel, as interpreter, C. E. Cooley, and Henry Wood Dodd, started for the camp of the unknown soldiery, forty miles away to the southwest.
“Our ‘peace party’ reached the soldiers' camp in the afternoon of the same day, but instead of being received with open arms and crowned with white blossoms, they were immediately surrounded and disarmed by the troops and a strong guard placed over them, with orders to shoot down anyone or all of them should any move be made to escape.
“Here was a dilemma of which our Apaches in the rancheria and myself were in total ignorance. Huero, the sub-chief, left in charge of our rancheria on the Carizo, sent out scouts to take note of all movements in and about the encampment of the soldiers. The scouts, returning at intervals, reported that our peace party had undoubtedly been shot as not one of them could be seen in the soldiers' camp, and that the soldiers continued to fire upon any Apaches who exposed themselves. This situation of affairs naturally placed me in a very embarrassing position, to say the least, alone in the camp of
“A little while before the sun set behind the range which bordered our rancheria on the west, and the third day after the departure of our peace party, Huero came to me and said: ‘A large body of soldiers and some Apaches are now about two miles away;’ that he did not see any one of our people with the troops, and, therefore, they must have been killed. I argued that it was unreasonable to suppose them to be murdered; that undoubtedly our friends were along with the approaching troops, but he had failed to distinguish them, owing to distance and they being mixed up with so many people. We discussed the situation; Huero was for leaving the rancheria at once, saying: ‘We can easily get away from the soldiers,’ and asked my advice about the matter. I argued with Huero against his plan of running away; that to do so
“Seeing the troops yet a quarter of a mile away, Huero took my towel, which hung on the corner of our wickiup, and fastened one end of it to a stick, and the other end of the stick he tied with twisted bow strings into the top of a dwarf cedar near the south end of the little mesa, upon which was situate the rancheria, and perhaps fifty yards from our camp. When the troops were within about three hundred yards I walked out towards the south end of the mesa, where lay an oak log upon which I stood that I might have a better view of the approaching troops. All the Apaches, men, women, and children, followed me and stood about the log, the sub-chief by my side on the log. It was about sunset when the troops filed past us at a distance of perhaps forty yards. As they passed I looked for the members of our party but could not see them, nor did Huero see them, and when the last man had passed, Huero said, ‘Where are our people?’ I replied, ‘Damfino, we must have overlooked them.’ The troops made camp about a hundred and fifty yards north of and
“The officers with this troop of horse were Captain Barry in command, Lieut. Frank Upham, since retired as Major, who died a few years ago at Santa Monica, California, and Lieut. Calhoun. Also with the troops were two civilians, one acting as interpreter, and the other one was George Cooler, for many years a resident of Tucson, but who recently died at the Soldiers Home, Santa Monica, California. The twelve (tame) Apaches, including their chief Manuel, were along to do the trailing and murdering stunts.
“That evening the officers came down to our camp and had an Indian supper with us, the Apache women and girls, all of whom were more or less scantily clad, doing the culinary act. The guilelessness and wholesouled hospitality of the females, in their simple endeavor to entertain and to please the strangers, were unsuspicious of the fact that they and their little ones were to be most foully murdered on the morrow. When I looked on this, and that night learned of the intended massacre to take place early on the following
“There was one man in our rancheria that was suspicious and who did not like the looks of things; it was Huero, the sub-chief. Several times during the evening and before the people went to sleep, he came to where I was sitting apart from the officers and taking no part in the general conversation, and asked what I thought about it, and if I thought the soldiers were all right. I answered him in the affirmative, and that so far as I could see or knew at the time, ‘everything seems to be all right, and I see or know of no cause for apprehension on our part.’ Finally he appeared to be satisfied, as I saw him no more that night.
“In the early days a story was current throughout New Mexico and Arizona that the Apaches used the precious metals in lieu of lead, which they made bullets of. I never gave much credence to the story, deeming it mythical and on a par with the numerous legends of ‘lost mines’ and ‘buried treasures.’
“One day I was away from the rancheria in company with an Apache who was about my own age. We had sat down on a point overlooking the rancheria, and while we sat down, talking as best we could, a mixed jargon of Apache, English and Spanish, he pulled out his pouch, a pouch similar to those used by frontiersmen in the old days of the muzzle-loading rifle, a chunk of white metal, and, handing it to me, asked what it was. I was not a bit wiser than he, as I had never seen any but coined silver.