March 25, 2018

Fort Whipple's Faithful Dog "Abe"

Shortly after moving closer to Prescott, Fort Whipple had a camp dog owned by Indian Scout Willard Rice. His name was Abe.

One day, this faithful, large greyhound used his keen senses to protect his "pack," and he would be happily credited with preventing an Indian raid.

In the early days of the Indian conflicts, military expeditions to locate Native Americans were mostly fruitless. Occasionally a rancheria was surprised, but the Indians had the tremendous advantage of knowing the ground intimately. Many anglo pioneers stated they would rarely see an Indian. For the most part, Native Americans were only seen by anglos when the Indians wanted to be seen.

Enter Abe, "whose instinct and cunning on Indian trails was as keen is that of his master." If necessary, Abe could use his exceptional speed. He was a welcomed and trusted member of the camp.

Abe's brightest hour was unearthed by Phillip D. Yoder as he compiled his Master's Thesis in 1951, (pp. 57-58).

One day Rice and Abe had been visiting the camp's sutler store. (A sutler store was a mercantile establishment that was owned and operated by a civilian proprietor. It was located just outside the fort.) As the canine and his master walked back to the fort, Abe "stopped short." When Abe froze, he fixed his eyes on a point in the rocks high across Granite Creek. At first, "Rice saw nothing in the distant rocks, but he knew that Abe's evaluation of Indian danger was such that some imminent danger was pending."

Biography of the man for whom Groom Creek was named. Robert Groom also surveyed and plotted-out the towns of Prescott and Wickenburg, AZ.

Immediately Rice and Abe ran back to the fort's headquarters to tell Lieut. Curtis, "who was in command of the few soldiers garrisoned there at the time." A pair of field glasses were employed and "proved the presence of Indians among the rocks working their way toward the stock kept in the corrals." It was one of the very rare times that Indians attempted a raid on Fort Whipple in broad daylight.

19th Century Howitzer
The soldiers responded quickly and decisively. They positioned the camp's one and only howitzer toward the sighting. The deadly cannon was fired, but the Indians stood fast and "no results were perceived." So the soldiers reloaded, fired a second round, and the desired effect was achieved.

"It was like stoning a hornet's nest," one soldier recalled. "The Indians came swarming from among and over the rocks, and like a flock of alarmed mountain quail, scattered; flying back over to the rocky point into the rocks and brush beyond."

It was Abe who was the hero of the day. He and his master Willard Rice would later go on to play a role in the discovery of the unknown, hidden Apache stronghold at Castle Hot Springs.

When it came to daytime Indian raids, the Native Americans both relented and repented. From then on, raids would be conducted under the cover of darkness.

These raids were successful in producing irritations and even temporary hardships, but they would never be crippling. No matter how much the Indians raided, there would always be more pack animals and cattle--just as there would always be more anglos.

The true accounts of the deaths of the first Prescott, AZ citizen and the first Fort Whipple soldier killed in the Indian Wars in 1864.

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"History of Fort Whipple" by Phillip D. Yoder, 1951. (His Master's Thesis for the University of Arizona.) pp. 57-58. Also available at the Prescott Public Library, pg. 26.

An essay headed "Background: Discovery"; author and year unknown. Located at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives. Vertical File--Places: Castle Hot Springs.

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