April 23, 2017

1872: The Gruesome Fate of the Young Braggart

It was 1872 when the John Sturns family was making its way from Arkansas to Del Rio Springs. On the way they picked up a young man heading in the same direction.

It was prudent for the family of five (as well as the lone traveller) to join together as they headed deeper into Indian country and the lawless wilderness. An extra gun could mean safety and survival.

The young man told the family not to worry. He wasn't afraid of any injuns. He boasted that he was going to shoot the first Indian that he laid his eyes on!

Perhaps he thought doing so would mark a passage into manhood. Perhaps he wanted to amass a fearless reputation in his new haunts. Whatever his motivation, it would all end up horribly wrong.

Seeing an Indian in the middle of the wilderness was not a common thing--unless the Indians wanted to be seen. Some pioneers never saw an Indian as they made their way west. In spite of this, this young man did get his chance.

As they traveled an unsuspecting, lone Indian woman was spotted washing in the stream. Without giving it a second thought, the young man took careful aim and shot and killed her.

Story of how Yavapai county sat helpless in the midst of raids during the Indian Wars.

The Sturns party continued on their way, yet they couldn't escape a nagging feeling of unease over the cold blooded killing.

Of course the dead woman's tribe found her and tracking the guilty party was elementary for the Native Americans. It was early that evening when the Indians caught up to the Sturns family demanding to know who killed the chief's wife.

The chief's wife? At first the family remained silent, but when the Indians started making preparations to kill them all, they reluctantly had to relent and point the finger at the young man.

The Indians grabbed him firmly and led him to a small hill in plain sight of the family. There they pinned him down, stripped off his clothes.....and began to skin him alive.

Skinning was something Native Americans were well skilled at and in this case, they were very careful not to cut anything vital to make sure the young victim stayed alive during the entire process.

It is times like these when even the strongest and bravest young men cry out for their mothers.

The squirms and the screams forced the family to turn their heads away. The image seared itself on their minds.

Indeed, the young man did survive the skinning and when the Indians finished, they let him go. The man instantly started running toward the only oasis he could see in the wicked wilderness; back toward the Sturns family with a hundred seeping muscles laid bare to the biting wind.

He only got a short distance before he was overcome with shock and fell head-long onto the harsh, desert dirt dead.

The Indians, satisfied that justice had been mete, went on their way. The Sturns Family, horrified, went their way also. Particularly for the children, the name of the young man was soon forgotten, but his grizzly fate would be forever remembered.

Tourist Tip:
The proud citizens of Chino Valley would admit that the first territorial capital of Arizona was Prescott, but only after the temporary first capital was established at Del Rio Springs.

Del Rio Springs is east of Arizona Highway 89 between East Road 6 North and the intersection of old Highway 89.

CLICK HERE for Del Rio Springs on Google Maps


"Cowchips and Calluses: A Documentary History of Chino Valley 1864-1976" Compiled by Ellen Ginn. (c) 1977. Pg. 45.
(Available through the Yavapai County Library Network.)

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