June 6, 2021

Constant Indian Raids, Spring 1870

1870 dawned with the usual optimism of a new year in Prescott, but underneath laid a sense of anxiety. The first edition of the 1870 Weekly Arizona Miner wrote: “Our inveterate foes—the Indians— have been on their good behavior for a number of weeks past, and have not recommenced hostilities, hereabouts. But judging from the fact that they have commenced swarming around many settlements, we fear that, ere long, they will commence anew their business of killing and plundering, and we advise our people to be on the lookout for them.”

The newspaper would have done well to tell its readers not to travel alone and double their herders. For it was the Indians' strategy to begin a campaign of ambushing lone travelers and lightly guarded stock.

People reported seeing Indians and their tracks around the head of both Lynx and Wolf Creeks, as well as in Kirkland, Skull, and Ferguson Valleys. “They are around, sure,” the paper observed, “and there is no telling when or where they will strike the first blow.”

The Indians would come even closer. After being declared a “friendly” tribe by the government, “Prescott was “‘honored’ with the presence of several Indians of the Moquis family,” the paper reported. They traded some dry peaches for some second-hand clothing. “Many of our citizens looked cross-eyed at the Moquis, believing that their principle object in coming here was to spy for the Apaches, if not for themselves.”

The first attack came in February and took the life of Matthew Sax. He and “a Mr. Peterson” started from Prescott in a wagon, headed for Camp Toll-Gate. Shortly out of town, between Lee’s Ranch and Williamson Valley, they were ambushed.

“At the report of the guns, the team turned quickly around and made for Lee’s ranch,” the paper explained. Peterson was behind the wagon “some distance,” and sprinted to get aboard as soon as the shots were fired. “Sax then gave up the reins to Peterson, telling him that he was badly wounded and unable to drive.”

The chase was on, but the Indians pulled-up when they came too close to the ranch. Sax was quickly taken to town for medical attention, but died two days later.

The day Sax died, the Superintendent of the Sterling Mine Works, CV Beseler, left Prescott alone headed to his mill. “When near the ranch of Johnson & Zimmerman, his horse saw or heard the [Indians], who were hiding [among] some rocks near the road, a short distance ahead,” the paper described. His horse became frightened and “jumped out of the road. Beseler drew his pistol—the only weapon he had—cocked it and put spurs to his horse” to run the gauntlet. “Upon entering the rocks, the Indians let loose upon him, and came very [close] to shooting him from his horse.”

The horse continued to gallop ahead until he could run no more. He started to stagger from a mortal wound. Beseler jumped off and started sprinting for his life with the Indians in close pursuit, but again they stopped when their intended victim came within close range of a ranch. Upon arrival there, Beseler found “several arrow and bullet holes had passed through his clothing,” but he was only exhausted. The Indians doubled-back and butchered the horse for meat.

The raiding campaign continued as the calendar turned to March. On lower Lynx Creek an attempt to drive off Joseph Revoir’s horse was made, but after being chased for “a long distance,” the horse broke away and headed for home. Indians also drove off several head of stock in Ferguson Valley.

Closer to Prescott, another killing occurred. Jacob “Oregon Jake” Smith had only been in the territory for several months when he was ambushed going home from Prescott to Williamson Valley. It occurred near the summit, and it appeared he had been killed instantly when an arrow went through his heart. When arrows and blood was found on the road the next day, it was reported to Col. SBM Young commanding at Camp Tollgate. Young immediately took 20 men with him to the scene and found the body of the unfortunate man. It had been dragged a few yards from the road, stripped, with the throat cut. It was then turned over and "the back [filled] with arrows and left… This is the third man killed at that place within a few months,” the paper stated.

That same week, a man named Jackson McCraken who lived by himself in a log cabin on upper Lynx Creek, heard sounds outside around twilight. He “got out of bed, took hold of his rifle, and waited further developments.” His cabin was soon surrounded by Indians; one of which yanked out an “unmentionable” piece of clothing from a defensive porthole in the cabin to see what was inside. His face was immediately greeted by the barrel of the rifle and “was burst wide open by a bullet from Mac’s rifle… Giving the customary death yell, [he] fell down and died.” The other Indians immediately fled.

After Ferguson Valley had been “cleaned of its stock,” eighteen citizens, from Skull, Kirkland and Ferguson Valleys, started out with hopes of finding the ‘bucks’ at home.” Finding a rancherita down in a canyon, they opened fire. Investigating the following morning, the men found pools of blood, but no bodies. They immediately torched everything manmade, and “the village was in ashes.”

On March 18th, a band of about a half-dozen Indians raided the lightly guarded stock at the Big Bug Mining Co.’s mill. After wounding the herder, every animal was driven-off including seven mules and three horses. One horse named George was described by the paper as being “famous and well-known.” George had gone through this experience before. The first time, he broke away and returned to camp. This second time he did not.

Thirteen of the mine workers and ten or eleven calvary-men took up the chase, but were unsuccessful. Work at the mill was suspended for several days until a new team was procured to haul the quartz.

At this point, blame was placed on the Indians even when it was questionable if they were the cause. After a house and stable “constructed of very combustible material” burned to the ground with the loss of two animals, the newspaper was quick to blame Apaches in the area even though an investigation “in every direction” discovered no tracks. Such was the anxiety, fear, and mistrust held by the anglos. 

The same edition of the paper reported that a hunter in Williamson Valley spotted “a great deal of Indian sign.”

Meanwhile, a group of 30 enlisted men and a few citizens went after the Indians after several stock animals were run off in the vicinity of Date Creek. One evening a fire was spotted “at the bottom of a deep and tortuous canyon near Sol’s Wash.” The soldiers spent the night in great anticipation. There was no telling how many Indians were down there, but it could be many. The weather was freezing that night, and several troops would quietly retreat back from the rocks, exercising to keep warm.

When daylight came, the order was given to attack. The small force scaled down the canyon and were disappointed, when only two Indians were found. The paper wrote: “Short work was made of the two savages, and the command returned to camp.”

Still in mid-March, a prospecting party in the Bradshaw Mountains were raided in the middle of the night. Two horses, a mule and a burro were lost. The prospectors did find a group of nine Indians close by, but while “discussing what to do and how to act, the Indians discovered them, and retreated as quickly as possible,” the paper revealed.

Vulture Mine today
In early April, the Indians carried out a most successful raid down at the Vulture Mine. A herd of mules were grazing a mile and a half from the Vulture Mill and were lightly guarded by two herders. The Indians swooped down upon the herd, killing one herder and wounding the other, before driving 75 mules into the mountains. A pursuing party could not catch-up with them. “The Indians drove the mules up the Eastside of the Hassayampa, to a point near the mouth of the canyon when they crossed the river and took an easterly course.” This made around 140 mules that this owner had lost to the Indians in less than a year.

In mid-April,  Williamson Valley was targeted. “They first went to the ranch of Eli Puntney, and gobbled ‘Bourbon,’ a fine blooded horse.” Their next stop was the Davis ranch where his best horse was taken. They also started to take a mare from Davis, “but for some reason, let her go again.” Next stop was the ranch of CC Bean “at the mouth of Mint Valley Wash.” However, when they tried to rob the stable, they were driven off by the men of the place; “who, after firing nearly all of their ammunition, took the animals and went to Simmons ranch.” Yet when the Indians saw the men leave, they entered Bean’s house, took whatever was useful to them, and ransacked the rest.

Lastly they went to West’s ranch, but the men there, after hearing the nearby gunfire, were on guard and ready. When the Indians made their appearance, the anglos immediately opened fire. One Indian fell dead and the rest fled.

According to the newspaper the man who shot the Indian found the body the next morning “and ‘dressed him up’ so that the coyotes would have little difficulty devouring him.” Whether true or not, word spread among the anglos that the Indians who caused these Williamson Valley depredations were of a tribe that was supposed to be “friendly” and had buried the hatchet. 

Later that same day, around 4pm, Indians attacked and killed William Pearson of Mint Valley while he was plowing. “It appears that Pearson had left his team” to get a drink of water, when two Indians made a dash to take his team. Pearson saw them and starting running toward his team trying to cut the Indians off. However, Pearson was unarmed and was soon killed.

Shortly thereafter, another Date Creek prospector was attacked and wounded severely, but was able to make a dash to the military camp and safety.

Early April 23rd, Williamson Valley suffered another tragedy. A herder started toward grazing land with 400 sheep and some cattle. When the cattle separated from the sheep, the herder followed the bovines and lost sight of the sheep. He led the cattle into the valley where he informed a Mr. Seebright about the sheep. When Seebright could not find them nearby, it was feared that they may have fell into the hands of the Indians. Seebright returned to the herder and procured a Henry Rifle and told him that “he intended to stay out until he found them.”

Two days later, Seebright had not yet returned and his neighbors, “fearing the worst,” began to search for him. It took an additional day to find his lifeless body a short distance from the valley. As many as 400 sheep were driven away.

Of course a flock that size is easily tracked and a detachment from Ft. Whipple set out to do just that. They followed the tracks all the way to present day Sedona where they found all of the sheep butchered. “The troops went on to the Moquis villages, and seeing nothing there to give rise to suspicion, started back again,” the paper reported, with the belief that the Navajo were responsible.

A large group of Indians were stalking around the Walker District where some additional animals were lost. 

All of this activity finally brought a larger response from the military in late April. The Third Calvalry was sent in from New Mexico and were immediately put into the field to find Indians. “One small party was sent out to Williamson Valley” because of all the activity there.

This did provide a deterrence, as the Indians were avoiding the military at all costs at this point, but there was only enough troops to cover the more populated areas. The numerous raids, ambushes, and guerrilla attacks would spill into the summer, and the outskirts of Prescott sat virtually helpless.

NEXT ENJOY: 1870 Indian Conflicts: Outskirts of Prescott Sit Helpless

Story of how Yavapai county sat helpless in the midst of Native American raids during the Indian Wars in the summer of 1870.



Drew's book is now available!

Available in paperback and Kindle!


Paperback: $21.99

Kindle ebook $12.99 

CLICK HERE for Amazon (PB or Kindle)


Also available at:

Western Heritage Center, 156.5 Montezuma (Whiskey Row)


And everywhere Prescott history books are sold!


#PrescottAZHistory publishes a new article on Sundays. Follow the blog in one of the following social media to be sure you get the latest article!

Want more Prescott history? Join the "Celebrating Historic Prescott" group.
(Daily pics and featured articles.)
Drew Desmond is on Facebook (For the latest article and posts about Drew's writing.)

(Daily pic featured at 7 am or and featured articles.)

(For the latest article.)

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram


Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/8/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/15/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/15/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/12/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/12/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/5/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/5/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/12/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/5/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/12/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/25/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/26/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/26/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/9/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/14/1870; Pg. 2, Col. 3

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/16/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/23/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/30/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/30/1870; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment