September 25, 2016

1863: Hot-Head Miners Murder 20 Yavapai

The earliest episodes of Indian conflicts in Yavapai country were not recorded in newspapers, at first. Quite simply, there weren't enough readers around to publish one.

When newsmen did arrive, however, they were keen to make a record of these early events through accounts of oral history, while these "early birds" were still alive.

"Some of the tales told...seem almost incredible, but they are substantiated by fact and require no 'affidavit;' they are epitomized from the general tone of the many who relate such."

This particular tale includes one of the most gut-wrenching twists in the history of the county...

"The starting of Indian troubles in this section (was) due to mining and the first 'war whoop' occurred at Antelope hill in (1863.)"

It started with a group of miners from California who were some of the lucky ones to arrive in this virgin territory to placer mine for gold. Things were generally going well for them, until one morning, when they could not find their four burrows.

Without these beasts of burden, the miners activities came to an immediate halt. There was nothing they could do but begin to look for them. They spiraled around their camp searching for the lost animals.

Where could they be? What happened to them? Why aren't they nearby? It made no sense.

The Battle of Turret Peak, which Bloody Basin, AZ is named after, was not a victory over hostile Apaches; it was a massacre of friendly Yavapais.

As they spent the better part of the day searching, the miner's thoughts began to wonder if the burrows had been stolen by the Indians. The longer their fruitless search continued, the more they became convinced of their theft.

The aggravated miners turned away from searching for the burrows, to searching for the Indians they were sure stole them.

When they found a group of Yavapai close by, they angrily confronted the Native Americans, demanding the return of the four beasts.

The Yavapai denied taking them, but the miners were sure they were lying. The latter warned the Native Americans that if the burrows weren't returned immediately, they all would pay.

Again, the Yavapai insisted that they knew nothing about the animals.

Frustrated and angry, the miners drew their guns and poured their fury into the rapid fire of their weapons, while the Yavapai attempted to flee in terror.

The blood, the screams; the crying, the dying; it was a massacre.

When the smoke cleared, twenty Yavapai Indians lay dead--a ghastly retribution of five human beings for each burrow!

See how Native Americans successfully used the tactic of "guerrilla attrition" to keep a prosperous gold mine from operating.

The miners headed back to camp proud of themselves. They thought that they taught those ignorant savages a lesson they would never forget!

But as they made their way back, they came upon their answer. Before them were their four burrows "grazing leisurely within one mile of camp!"

The epiphany of utter guilt was crushing. Their "valiant vigilanteism" quickly melted into a panicked paranoia. They were sure that they were now marked men.

What if one of them followed us? They'll know where we camp!

They don't need to follow us, you fool, they can easily track us here come first light...

The murderers immediately dropped everything but their gold, and absconded the area forever.

"For ten years after, hades popped on account of this unjust act," the newspaper observed, "while the principles, of course, escaped (unpunished.)"

For the complete list of "Indian Conflict" articles,

Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner; 12/25/1895, Pg. 2 col. 3.


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