1885 Bisbee wants help with Apaches

I was at Burger King recently, my second office, researching the 1918 trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, head of the Industrial Workers of the World, when Larry Thomas came in. He’s been researching John Williams, the father of Ben and Lewis Williams, who ran the Phelps, Dodge mines in Bisbee from the early 1880s through the end of the century.

His research was aimed at learning more about the elder Williams’ time in Michigan, where he had been involved in developing and running copper smelters. By the 1870s, Williams had made his way to California, where he formed a partnership with D.W.F. Bisbee, the namesake of our town.

Happily forsaking the research I had been tied to for hours, I made a few checks on Williams. One of the items I encountered wasn’t about John, but Lewis, who was in Bisbee and who from his leadership position in the new community was busy imploring the federal government to “do something” about the Apache problem.

San Jose range

A rancher in the southern end of the Huachucas, in the foreground, watched a day-long battle play out between the Apaches and a force of soldiers and civilians in the San Jose range south of Naco, in the distance.

The Sacramento Daily Record-Union kept close track of what was going on in other parts of the West in a column titled “Pacific Slope.” It apparently had a regular correspondent down in Tombstone, then a boom town and the seat of Cochise County.

Problem at Lochiel

It wasn’t just Bisbee that was having problems with the Apaches. In a story datelined Tucson, June 12 (in the July 13, 1885 issue of the paper), was a report that Judge Harrison had telegraphed from La Noria the day before to the Arizona Pioneers (more research needed on that group) that 15 stands of arms were required for protection from the Indians.

(La Noria was a border town in what would become Santa Cruz County, between the Huachuca Mountains and Nogales. It was a supply center for mines in the Patagonia Mountains to the north. Today it is known as Lochiel.)

(A “stand of arms” is a complete set, including musket, bayonet, cartridge box and belt.)

The arms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition were gotten by the Pioneers as a loan from the army at Fort Lowell in Tucson and were sent to La Noria, the article said.

Because the Indians (apparently Apaches) were likely to come near La Noria, “the arms may be required for use almost at once.”

Problems south of Fort Bowie

The same Tucson-datelined article reported that a letter sent June 11 had been received from Price’s ranch, about 15 miles south of Fort Bowie, saying that a band of about 75 Apaches, all men, had passed through the area “on Sunday last.” Their presence became known when they attacked the ranches of Bridger and Frye.

The ranchers were able to hold off the Indians, and a man named Williams (probably not Lewis), “who happened to be there with a buckboard, took Frye’s wife and children in safety to Rigg’s ranch.

“Mrs. Bridger, who remained, had a narrow escape while attempting to join her husband and Frye behind the rocks near the house. The bullets cut her dress in several places, and ploughed up the ground about her.

“At one time six Indians rose from behind a bank, and at short range fired at Frye while he was running, but missed. Not being able to dislodge them, the Indians withdrew, taking with them Frye’s mule.”

The dispatch told of several other encounters with ranchers in the area. A posse was soon organized to intercept them, but the Apaches had left the area.

“No troops followed these hostiles, nor have the military made any effort to intercept them. The Indians when attacking Frye and Bridger used Government cartridges.”

Wild rumors in Tombstone

Another item in the “Pacific Slope,” was from Tombstone, datelined June 12. “This city is wild with rumors tonight of all kinds. The fact that citizen soldiers have united with regular troops of cavalry from Huachuca, and are pressing on the Indians in earnest, keeps the public interest strained to the highest pitch of excitement.”

The item included a message to D.F. Cooper, editor of the Record-Epitaph in Tombstone, from Fort Huachuca stating that rancher A.H. Emanuel, at the south end of the Huachucas, had seen through a telescope some action that morning between the Huachucas and the San Jose mountains, south of Naco.

“[A]pparently a large party of Indians between a large body of soldiers and citizens, being pursued toward the line about a mile from it. The troops were heading them off from the San Jose mountains. The hostiles then headed for the Cavaneas [Cananeas?], and were being turned by their pursuers toward the southwest end of the Huachuca mountains.”

There were over 100 persons in the three parties, “supposed to be Richards’ command with the citizens.”

The Tombstone correspondent said this was confirmed “via the private line of the T.W. Blinn Lumber Company at Fairbank. The report says a courier arrived at Fort Huachuca with intelligence that the united forces of citizens and soldiers had been fighting continuously all day in the north end of the San Jose mountains, near the Mexican line.”

No particulars were given, the report to the Record-Union said. “The wildest rumors are current, worthy of no credence.”

Confusion in Bisbee

The news item also included a report from Lewis Williams of Bisbee. “All is excitement and confusion now. Our volunteers sent runners in this morning with a report that no hostiles are seen in the Dixie canyon or Mule mountains north of us.”

Postmaster John Clum, who is an ex-San Carlos Indian agent, accompanied the Tombstone citizen company to Bisbee and returned with the information that the company of regular cavalry from Huachuca are all volunteers, including Lt. Richards.

“The troop,” the report said, “includes musicians and artisans, and it is stated here that there are but 13 men at Huachuca now, five of whom are sick. This gallant action, together with the quick march of Lt. Richards’ company from Huachuca to Bisbee, added to the vigorous measures since joined by citizens, in an instance of good work by the regular troops which the people here appreciate. Lt. Richard is a young man heretofore known in Tombstone as a society light.”

The California newspaper’s Tombstone correspondent also included a message sent from Bisbee on June 12.

“To Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, Washington:

“On account of no protection being afforded us from the murderous wards of the Government, viz., the Apache Indians of the San Carlos reservation in this Territory, we do hereby petition that you either send us more soldiers or furnish us means, as citizens and taxpayers, to protect ourselves.

“Signed — F.W. Heyne, H.C. Stillman, Lewis Williams, committee appointed by the citizens of Bisbee in mass meeting assembled, June 1, 1885.”


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