February 18, 2018

The First Prescottonians Killed in the Indian Conflicts

As Prescott began to develope into a small, isolated bastion of anglo civilization, conflicts with Native Americans were immediate and regular.

Although trappers and miners were killed in the area prior, here are the accounts of the first Fort Whipple soldier and the first citizen of Prescott to be killed in the Indian Conflicts.

First Ft. Whipple Soldier Lost:

In February 1864, Governor Goodwyn along with Judge Allyn and a group of soldiers, mountain men and prospectors were exploring the Verde Valley. One of the soldiers was Private Joseph Fisher who enlisted at Marysville, California in 1861.

Before the expedition started, Fisher had some disturbing premonitions. "Fisher started from the post...with a presentiment he was to die; he dreamed about it and talked wildly about it," a comrade recalled.

On the 27th, they finally found "the Indians on the river bank, surprising a rancheria of about 15 of them." Five Apaches were killed and one or two were wounded.

"An arrow took Major Willis' horse right through the ear," Judge Allyn wrote, "and I saw a large stalwart Indian just falling back from the bank of the stream facing us, and discharging his arrows. Chavez had fired his rifle and was down in the willows firing his pistols. When they first came up, (one) Indian was on the side of the river, and his squaw with an infant on the other side. The Indian made a brave noble fight to give her time to get away."

"By this time others came up and the scene beggars description," the judge continued. "Chavez and Willis crossed the river, followed by half a dozen soldiers. Everybody saw Indians, shot(s) were flying fast. Just then someone on the other side hallooed for some men to follow up the west bank as the Indians were on the west side. A half dozen of us galloped for a mile up without seeing anything. Then there came a cry for more horsemen to cross, and three of us crossed the river. Riding a half mile toward the voice, we found Private Fisher of the California cavalry badly wounded with an arrow under his arm. He was very much excited, and the wound bled copiously."

It was decided not to even open the Private's coat for fear that the mere sight of his wound would cause him to faint. Finally, he was returned by a party to King Woolsey's ranch, where, according to the Miner: "the unfortunate man died, it being impossible to remove the arrowhead from his side without surgical aid, which was not at hand. Quartermaster Nelson, who had gone to Woolsey's, brought the body to the post on Saturday, and on Sunday it was buried with military honors."

He was 24 years-old. Rev. Read gave the eulogy saying: "He will be remembered as a good soldier, and his death as the first at this post."

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First Prescott Citizen Lost:

“On the 16th day of March, 1864, while in charge of a herd of stock, Joseph Cosgrove was attacked by Indians...and killed" with the herd being driven off. It was both a brazen and brave attack as it took place within earshot of Robert Groom's survey crew that was laying out the townsite!

The alarm spread quickly. "Twenty-five men under Lt. Taylor hastily dispatched from (Whipple Barracks). (They) visited Lynx Creek and other points, but saw no Indians."

"Robert Groom, Esq., of the upper Hesiampa (sic), was furnished provisions from this post for a company of miners and others with which he started in pursuit of the Indians immediately after their visit to Sheldon's; but...the party did not go further than to Woolsey's ranch." It was believed that by then the Indians had so much of a head-start "that pursuit would be of no avail."

"Familiarity with the country and an expertness in driving cattle, give the Apaches an immense advantage if they have the least headway. They will keep animals upon the run where the whites find it difficult to keep them upon their legs," the newspaper complained. Despite this, half the herd was eventually recovered.

In "The History of Arizona," Thomas Edwin Farish wrote: "This was the first attack made by the Indians in the vicinity of Prescott, and signalized the uprising of a vicious and powerful foe and the beginning of a lasting, cruel and brutal war. The cloud of anxiety, uncertainty, and apprehended dangers which overhung the town for so many long and gloomy years cannot be told.”

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Founding a Wilderness Capital: Prescott A.T. 1864. By Henson, Pauline. 1965 by Northland Press, Flagstaff, AZ. Library of Congress Catalogue No. 65-17578. Pages 137-139.

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