March 10, 2019

1863: The Indian Raid on Peeples Valley

Abraham Harlow Peeples was one of the true early settlers of Central Arizona. He first arrived at Ft. Yuma in 1863 in order to prospect in the virgin wilderness of what would become Yavapai County. 

Leaving Yuma on April 1st with a party of other renowned pioneers, both their journey and their results were epic and will be the subject of a future article here.

Peeples not only made mining claims, but he also quickly made a homesteading claim in a valley, 35 miles southwest of Prescott, which now bears his name. However, that winter the Peeples’ ranch would suffer the crippling theft of 29 horses and mules.

Immediately a party was organized to hunt for both the animals and the culprits—thought to be Apaches. An experienced and well-respected Indian fighter named King Woolsey was selected to be captain of the force. Woolsey’s experiences with the Native Americans were both negative and raw, as was his attitude toward them. Today he’s largely considered to be a controversial figure. 

The party began to follow the trail of the stolen stock as it led down the Hassayampa River, but it proved difficult for the whites to catch up. “Men were on foot with provisions and blankets,” Peeples later related, “having only stock enough to pack same.” 

They continued through Cave Creek country, nearly all the way to Fort McDowell on the Verde River. By now, the men were exhausted and the supply of food was low, so Peeples and several others left the party with pack horses and crossed the Salt River and the Gila valleys to reach Maricopa Station for resupply.

While there, they found the Chief of the Maricopa people, Juan Chivari, and told him of their plight. Chivari suggested that he and 16 other Maricopa warriors join Peeples for reinforcement. The offer was gladly accepted and when they got back to the Verde, the trial was taken up anew. It led around the base of Superstition Mountain, all the way to Devils Canyon, 9 miles southwest of Globe.

The Story of the Fight at Battle Flat, June 3rd, 1864, in Yavapai county, AZ. Five prospectors faced several dozen Apaches.

It was early daylight when the Apaches were finally spotted at some natural tanks at the bottom of the mountain valley. “Not a horse was to be seen,” Peeples later said, “but the hills swarmed with Apaches.” 

Among the pursuing party was an Apache boy who had been captured and had “learned many ways of white people.” The party decided to send him to speak with their foe. Before long, he returned to camp with a large number of Apaches who requested “peace talk.”

However, the Apache boy suspected a trap and warned Peeples and the others that the Indians were only waiting for a chance to kill the entire party. "Blankets were spread on the ground and on them all squatted for an informal treaty," Peeples said. 

It is unknown exactly what happened next, but the anglos, on high alert, noticed “a movement of treachery…and the fight began in earnest.” 

The whites and Maricopas were far outnumbered, but had the advantage of firearms. “Only a few Apaches had guns,” Peeples related, “the rest had bows and arrows and spears.” The fight was “long and fierce, (while) the Indian boy and the Maricopas fought like fiends and took 24 Apache scalps.”

Then a large number of additional Apache warriors joined the fight. Despite having guns, the whites and Maricopas were about to be over-run by sheer numbers.

Chief Chivari took charge of the withdrawal. They made a fighting retreat and all escaped except one man named Allan, who had joined them at Maricopa Station. He was instantly killed by a spear thrust through his heart.

To slow the advancing Apaches, Chivari employed the brilliant tactic of setting campfires and quickly moving on. Wary of the guns, each time the Apaches came upon a campfire, they would stop to prepare a surprise attack. When the assault was finally sprung, they would find no one there. Chivari kept the march going all night and the small party managed to escape certain death.

“Allan's body was…buried under the bank of the Salt River locally known today as Bloody Tanks,” Peeples said. “The Apaches used to hold feasts in that locality, but ever since that episode (have) shunned it.”

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

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“Copy of Sharlot Hall’s Notes on AH Peeples” Sharlot HallMuseum Archives, Vertical File-Biography-Peeples.

“Peeples, Abraham Harlow” Sharlot Hall Museum Archives, Vertical File-Biography-Peeples.

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