April 9, 2017

1868-71: The Last Indian Raids on Kirkland Valley


One method used by Native Americans during the Indian Wars could be described as "guerrilla attrition"--sudden, stealthy strikes aimed at absconding with the very things the settlers needed to survive.

Kirkland Valley was not immune.

One example occurred in the summer of 1868. A couple of farmer / ranchers named Jackson and Bores suffered the slaughtering of their hogs. According to the newspaper correspondent, the Indians "were amusing themselves (by killing) them out of pure meanness, as they neither ate nor packed off the meat." (*1)

Also that summer seven horses were taken. The Indians "paid a visit to Kirkland Valley...and gobbled up four horses belonging to William Gilkison; two of Moses Langley's and one belonging to another man." (*2)

However, this time the Indians were spotted and the alarm went out.

"They were pursued by a detatchment of mounted infantry, from Camp McPherson, and overtaken somewhere near Bell's Canyon. It seems that...after stealing the horses, (the Indians) went south a considerable distance, and then turned back towards the valley." (*2)

When the troops caught up with them again, the Indians were ready to ambush. While "traveling along on the trail...near some big rocks, the troops were fired into by the Indians," killing two animals. (*2)

"The Indians then...ran off and were pursued by the troops, who, once more, came upon them while they were roasting one of the stolen horses. The Indians, on seeing the troops, got up and travelled towards this town, and were tracked to Miller's Valley, about one mile from Prescott." (*2)

The story of the harsh winter of 1864 and how the Miller brothers saved the settlement of Prescott from starvation.

These raids caused the ranchers and farmers around Kirkland to keep their livestock close to their houses for added protection. However, this did not stop the raiding.

In what was called a "bold break" by the Indians, two horses that were "picketed near the house" of one Mr. White were taken. As the Indians were leading the equines away, White spied them. (*3)

"He gave chase and was fired at four times by the Indians who, in the excitement, let go their hold upon one of the horses which was recaptured by White. The Indians got away with the other horse." (*3)

During the height of these raids farmers would often stay outside to guard their grain overnight. However, if they did not stay vigilant, it could prove fatal. 

In one such incident the Arizona Miner reported: "Wesley Finherty was shot and killed by an Indian at Kirkland Valley...on the night of (December 13th, 1869). He and another man were asleep alongside a pile of corn, when the savages opened fire upon them, hitting Finherty in the head with a bullet, and killing him almost instantly." (*4)

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, a reevaluation of how to deal with the Indian situation was being made at the federal level.

President Grant decided to adopt a new policy regarding the Indians. Many back east believed the Indians were raiding simply because they were beginning to starve. Native Americans needed a new source of subsistence and the federal government decided to take and treat them as wards.

This policy made most Arizonans (particularly those who had suffered depredations,) incredulous and irate. They considered it tantamount to aiding and abetting the enemy.

The new policy did reduce the raiding, but a series of misunderstandings would bring one last Indian attack to Kirkland Valley in 1871.



The story of one of the first Indian conflicts in Yavapai county. A group of miners unjustly murder 20 Yavapai Indians for a crime they did not commit.



The situation began when "a citizen of Peeples Valley kill(ed) an Indian, supposed to be the murderer of Abraham Henning." The dead Indian was pointed out as the murderer by another Indian, but he was incorrect. This caused the "dead Indian's friends" to seek some revenge for themselves. (*5)

Unfortunately, the man who killed the Indian was thought by "his friends" to live in Kirkland and not Peeples Valley. So the Indian reprisal was directed upon the wrong location.

A lightning-bolt of fear struck the unsuspecting residents as the Indian attack commenced.

"After a well armed party of (Indians) had fired upon the citizens and chased them to Tom Roddick's house, Roddick and others opened fire upon them, and caused them to leave in hot haste." (*5)

"Then, fearing an attack by a big band of savages in the vicinity, the women and children were sent off in the stage that (also) carried Vincent Colyer (a man who supported the new federal Indian policy,) out of the country and the men repaired to a house at the lower end of the valley and prepared for the worst." (*5)

"Upon arriving at Camp Date Creek the fugitive women informed the Commander of the post of what had taken place and of what might take place unless succor were speedily sent to their husbands and friends. But no aid was sent them, as Vincent Colyer told a different tale and (the newspaper) believed, forbade the commander to send troops to relieve the settlers." (*5)

Fortunately, the expected larger attack did not materialize.

Still, "upon learning this, 60 citizens declared themselves in readiness to follow Mr. Roddick to the Indian village and kill the last brave they might find there. But after having reflected that an act such as this would give Colyer & (his fellow believers) another chance to shout 'Massacre!' they very wisely decided to let General Crook settle the matter." (*5)

In a broader sense, Crook did. From that point on there was little to no more conflict in Kirkland Valley.

Tourist Tip:

When in Kirkland, visit the historic Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse. The building used to be the stage stop and was registered in October of 1998 as a National Historic Site.

CLICK HERE for the Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse website. It includes history, hours and a menu!


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(*1) Arizona Miner; 7/11/1868.  Pg. 3 Col. 3.
(*2) Arizona Miner; 6/13/1868. Pg. 3, Col. 1.
(*3) Arizona Miner; 8/7/1869. Pg. 3, Col. 1.
(*4) Arizona Miner; 12/25/1869. Pg. 3 Col. 2.
(*5) Arizona Miner; 10/14/1871. Pg. 3 Col. 2.

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