November 19, 2017

Indians Save Lost Anglos

Thomas Ward and Alex Douglas couldn't be more relieved. They were finally on a train completing their trip from the Colorado River to Jerome Junction. They had been caught in a heavy snow storm and had become hopelessly lost.

Both men were now eager to tell anyone who'd listen how their lives were saved by several Indians.

It was late January, 1918. The two men, miners by trade, conducted some business at the Colorado and were now each in possession of large sums of money as they started back towards Jerome Junction (now a part of Chino Valley,) on horseback.

They were still in the northern section of the Navajo nation when a blinding blizzard hit. They tried their best to follow the trail, but the deepening snow soon caused it to disappear. They rode on hoping they were heading in the right direction, but unfortunately, they were not.

They had no idea how lost they had become. They were 20 miles off the trail by now and could do nothing but press on. The two had not prepared for the severe delay that the blizzard was causing and the snow had covered the grasses that the horses would normally graze.

Eventually their food ran out and the horses became spent. Both man and beast were tired, cold and hungry. Survival itself was now the first concern, yet there was little they could do but stop and hope.

Indian ambushes on Bell's Canyon in Yavapai County, AZ were so notorious that whites eventually allowed it to return to wilderness. It was here that Superintendent of Indian Affairs George W Leihy was murdered November 10, 1866.

Fortunately a Navajo woman who was gathering wood spotted them, but she was too apprehensive to approach the white men by herself. Instead she went back to camp and informed the men of the situation.

"Five of the later mounted ponies and went in the direction given." Eventually the two were spotted. Although none of the Navajo men spoke english, communication in such base and dire circumstances was quickly understood.

Soon the two whites were following the Indians. They knew not where they were going, but they were left with little choice.

When they arrived at the Navajo camp, they were met with a benevolent welcome. Their hosts "providing (them) shelter and giving what little food they possessed consisting primarily of jerked venison."

Ward and Douglas "endeavored to compensate the Indians with two $10 gold pieces, but the aversion of the Navajo to taking this yellow money was manifested in no unmistakable way owing to a traditional belief of this tribe that this metal is tainted in evil."

When the two whites instead offered the Navajo all the silver money they had, $7.55, it "was accepted with a profusion of gestures and other expressions of goodwill."

"The day following they continued on to Flagstaff without trouble," where they sold their horses and boarded the train for the final leg of their misadventure. "The miners (then) continued to Jerome to work in the copper mines and expressed themselves to many on the train as grateful to the Indians, who were so kindly disposed in offering open-handed assistance."

The story of the last of the Indian raids on Kirkland Valley, Arizona from 1868-1871.

However, the goodwill of the two miners only went so far. When told the story, one passenger, a businessman from Denver, cleverly inquired: "But what about the greenbacks, didn't you boys have any of this collateral aboard?" Douglas replied: "We had a few hundred each in paper, but to be candid, it was all sewed to our underclothes, and we were afraid to show down and tip off the game; we went to the limit in the coin route and all hands were pleased. Do you get me?"

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Weekly Journal-Miner 2/6/1918, Pg. 7, Col. 4.

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