January 21, 2018

The Indian Raid That Gave Fort Rock Its Name

Fort Rock stage stop.
It was Saturday, November 19, 1866 when a force of 50-100 brave Hualapai warriors descended upon a stage stop near Mt. Hope on the road between Prescott and Hardyville (now Bullhead City). The epic battle would be remembered for generations and the name of the locale would change forever.
The stage stop was run by JJ Buckman. Living with him was his son Thad, who had just constructed a stone playhouse about a foot high near their cabin. Later that evening the mail carrier, a man named WG Poindexter, arrived with an escort of three soldiers. At first light they prepared to continue on their journey to Prescott. However, as they made things ready, they came under surprise attack.

The Hualapai meant to destroy the stage stop once and for all. "At the first fire Mr. Buckman was wounded in the right side just above the hip." Immediately seven at the stage stop "succeeded in getting into the house, [while] others hastily took refuge behind rocks, [including the foot-high playhouse] and the battle commenced in earnest.

"[Thad] Buckman was, while firing upon the Indians, shot through both legs, but continued to fight and killed two Indians after receiving his wound. A young soldier boy fought from behind a rock bravely. While in the act of firing, he received a severe wound in the cheek, but continued firing with good effect..."

The only protection two of the men could find quickly was the foot-high playhouse Thad had constructed. They would fight the duration of the battle from there.

Two dogs, owned by the anglos also entered the battle. The younger of the two went headlong toward the Indians to attack, but turned back when he got an arrow in his hindquarters. The older dog, seeing the younger one suffering, "deliberately walked up to his distressed companion and applying his teeth to the piercing end of the arrow carefully extracted it from the wound."

True episode of a raid in the Indian Wars near Prescott, AZ where a woman and a hired hand fended off 20 Indians in September, 1867.

"[The attackers] only exposed their heads while firing, but well aimed rifles [by the anglos] made that extremely hazardous." Finally, after several hours, the Hualapai withdrew around 2pm. The anglos held off an attacking force roughly ten times larger than they.

"[The Haulapai] drove off six head of cattle with them as they retired. The attacked party were pent up not daring to expose themselves," fearing that lurking Indians might still "send them their death warrant, until the arrival of Col. Carter and party on Monday morning."

Upon investigation, much blood from the attackers was spotted amongst the breastworks. It was thought that "many of them bit the dust." Later, other Indians reported that 15-20 Hualapai were killed.

A.E. Davis and William Hardy (for whom Hardyville was named,) arrived at the stage stop later Monday night. "We found the camp in not a little excitement," they reported, "eight head of horses and mules lay in front of the house, dead"--most belonging to the mail carrier.

The soldier shot in the cheek as well as JJ Buckman were reported to be "recovering rapidly."

Davis and Hardy left with some 60 persons, thinking that was a large enough party to ensure immunity from Indian hostilities. But after they had passed dangerous points and thought they were safe, "the Indians attacked the rear of the train, fired several arrows and 13 rifle shots, but without effect." The Indians were quickly chased off into "impassable canyons."

"The Indians are moving in strong bands and are evidently bent on prosecuting a vigorous war," the newspaper reported. "Several of the western tribes are believed to be acting with the Apaches, and it will require a greatly increased force to make life and property safe in this part of Arizona. At present, at Fort Whipple, Camp Lincoln, and Date Creek, there are barely enough men to hold the posts. But for Col. Sanford's expedition...no movement would have been made by the troops, and the Indians must have concluded that they were not to be held to account for their depredations."

Indeed, November of 1866 saw one of the largest offensive movements by the Native Americans in the history of the Indian Conflicts around Yavapai County. "The Indians have been on the warpath with unusual activity, and in large force," the paper reported. Leroy Jay, Linton and Graham were massacred near Big Bug. "The murder of [US Indian Affairs] superintendent George W. Leihy [at Bell's Canyon], the capture of a pack train near Date Creek, and other attacks have caused much excitement."

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.

The people of Prescott reacted with consternation. "At a meeting held in Prescott...there was a large attendance and an evident determination to organize an expedition of citizens to act at once in this country. Thos. Hodges was requested to raise a company of 30 men in 90 days. A liberal sum was subscribed for the outfit, and also for Indian scalps."

Regardless, due to its surrounding rock breastworks and the protecting role the playhouse played, the Buckman Stage Station, near Mount Hope, would from then on be known as Fort Rock.

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Fort Rock photo courtesy of Tim Gronek

Arizona's Names: X Marks the Place, by Byrd Howell Granger; 1983; Falconer Publishing Co. ISBN# 0-91-8080-18-5

Arizona Miner; 11/30/1866, Pg. 2, Col. 4. 

IBID; Page 2, Col. 2.

IBID; Page 2, Col. 1.

Arizona Miner; 12/15/1866, Pg. 2 Col. 2. (Note: It's under 11/30/1866 on the Google archive.)

Thanks to Kathy Lopez for her input.

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