Barnard Shipp.

The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

. (page 16 of 75)
Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 16 of 75)
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the lines of drawing, is all the difference to be perceived between
the hieroglyphic inscriptions of savages of our days, and those of
their ancestors.*

* " Deserts of. North America," by Abt^ E. M. Domeneoh.



136 THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES.



III.

THE GILA AND THE CASAS GEANDES OF THE GILA, AND THE CASAS
GRANDES OF SAN MIGUEL.

To illustrate a portion of the account of Alvarez Nunez, and
especially of that of Coronado, I have extracted the following from
" Notes of a Military Eeconnoissance," from Fort Leavenworth to
San Diego, made in 1846-7, by W. H, Emory, brevet major (now-
general), U. S. A., in which extracts will be found an account of
the Gila from the mouth of Night Creek' to its junction with the
Colorado, including notices of the Apaches, Pimos, and Maricopa
Indians, the Casa Grande or Casa Montezuma, the interesting an-
cient ruins and remains along the route, and a general view of the
regions bordering on both sides of the Gila.

" Oct. 19th, 1846. Three miles from the camp last night we had
reached the divide, and from that point the descent was regular and
continuous to Night Creek.

" 20th. The broad, level valley we had been travelling the last
few^ miles was narrowing rapidly by the intrusion of high precipices,
and the proximity of great mountains in confused masses, indi-
cated some remarkable change in the face of the countrjr. We
were in truth but a few miles from the Gila.

" The general sent word to the Apaches he would not start till
nine or tei). This gave them time to come in, headed by their
chief. Red Sleeve. A large number of Indians liad collected about
us, all differently dressed-, and some in the most fantastical style.
The Mexican dress and saddles predominated, showing wliere they
had chiefly made up their wardrobe. Several wore beautiful hel-
mets decked with black feathers, which, with the short shirt, waist-
belt, bare legs, and buskins, gave them the look of pictures of an-
tique Grecian warriors.

" These men have no fixed homes. Their houses are of twigs.
They hover around the beautiful hills that overhang the Del Norte,
between the thirty-first and thirty-second parallels of latitude.
These hills are covered with luxuriant gramina. The light and grace-
ful manner in which they mounted and dismounted, always upon
the right side, was the admiration of all Their children are on
horseback from infancy. There was among them a poor deformed
woman, with legs and arms no longer than an infant's. She was
well mounted, and the gallant manner in which some of the plumed



THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES. 13t

Apaches waited on her, for she was perfectly helpless when dis-
mounted, made it hard for me to believe the tales of blood and vice
told of these people.

" We wended our way through the narrow valley of Night Creek.
On each side were huge stone buttes shooting up to the skies. At
one place we were compelled to mount one of these spurs almost
perpendicularly. A good road was subsequently found, turning
the spur and following the creek until it debouched into the Gila,
which was only a mile distant.

"Some hundred yards before reaching this river, the roar of its
waters iriade us understand that we were to see something different
from the Del Norte. Its section where we struck it, four thousand
three hundred and forty-seven feet above the sea, was fifty feet
wide, and an average of two feet deep. Clear and swift, it came
bouncing from the great mountains which appeared to the north,
about sixty miles distant. We crossed the river ; its large, round
pebbles and swift current caused the mules to tread warily. We
followed its course and encamped under a high range of symmetri-
cally formed hills overhanging the river.

" Oct. 21st. After going a few miles, crossing and re-crossing the
river a dozen times, it was necessary to leave its bed to avoid a
canon. This led us over a very broken country.

" Oct. 22d. We were now fast approaching the ground where rumor
and the maps of the day place the ruins of the so-called Aztec towns.
We encamped on a bluff, high above the river.

"Oct. 23d. The table-land, one hundred and fifty feet above the
river, was covered so thick with large paving pebbles as to make it
diflScult to get a smooth place to lie upon. The growth to-day and
yesterday on the hills, and in the valleys, very much resembles that
on the Del Norte ; the only exception being a few new and beautiful
varieties of cactus. After leaving our last night's camp, for a mile,
tlje general appearance, width of the valley, and soil much resembled
the most fertile parts of that river.

" To-day we passed one of the long-sought ruins. T examined it
minutely, and the only evidences of handicraft remaining were im-
mense quantities of broken pottery, extending for two miles along
the river. There were a great many stones, rounded by attrition of
the water, scattered about ; and if they had not occasionally been
deposited in lines forming rectangles with each other, the supposi-
tion would be that they had been deposited there by natural causes.

" Oct. 24th. To-day we lay by to recruit.

" Oct. 25th. We were now approaching the region made famous in
olden times by the fables of Friar Marcos, and eagerly did we as-



138 THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES.

cend every mound, expecting to see in the distance what I feai' is
the fabulous " Casa Montezuma." The Indians here do not know
the name Aztec ; Montezuma is the outward point in their chrono-
logy. The name at this moment is as familiar to every Indian,
Puebla, Apache, and Navajoe, as that of our Saviour or Washing-
ton is to us. In the person of Montezuma they united both quali-
ties of divinity and patriot.

" We to-day passed the ruins of two more villages, similar to those
of yesterday. The foundation of the largest house seen yesterday
was sixtj;^ by twentj' feet ; to-day forty by thirty. About none did we
find any vestiges of the mechanical art, except the pottery ; the stone
forming the supposed foundation was round and unhewn, and some
cedar logs were also found about the houses, much decayed, bearing
no. marks of an edged tool. Except tliese ruins, of which not one
stone remains upon another, no marks of human hands or footsteps
have been visible for many days, until to-day we came upon a place
where there had been an extensive fire.

" Oct. 26. The mountains, on the north side, swept in something
like a regular curve from our camp of last night to the mouth of
the San Carlos, deeply indented in two places by the ingress into
the Gila of the Prieto and Azul rivers.

" Oct. 27. After a day's work we were obliged to lie by to-da}'.
I strolled a mile or two up the San Carlos, and found the whole
distance, it has its way in a narrow canon, worn from the solid
basalt. On either side in the limestone, under the basalt, were im-
mense cavities, and near its mouth we found the foundation of a
rectangular house, and a mound adjacent that of a circular building
a few feet in diameter. Both of these ruins were of round unhewn
stones, and the first was surrounded by pieces of broken potteiy.

" Our camp was near an old Apache camp. The Gila at tliis place
is much swollen by the affluence of the three streams just mentioned,
and its cross section here is about seventy feet by four.

" Oct. 28th. One or two miles' ride and we were clear of the Black
Mountains, and again in the valley of the Gila, which widened out
gradually to the base of Mount Graham, abreast of which we en-
camped. Almost for the whole distance, twenty miles, were found
at intervals the remains of houses like those before described. Just
before reaching the base of Mount Graham, a wide valley, smooth
and level, comes in from the southeast. Up this valley are trails
leading to St. Bernardino, Fronteras, and Tucson.

"At the junction of this valley with the Gila, are the ruins of a
large settlement. I found traces of a circular wall two hundred and
seventy feet in circumference. Here, also, was one circular inclosure



THE GILA AND THE OASAS QRANDES.



139



of four hundred yards. This must have been for defence. Large
mezquites now grow in it, attesting its antiquity. Most of the houses
are rectangular, varying from twenty to one hundred feet front;
many were in the form of the present Spanish houses, thus —





COURT











Red cedar posts were found in manj' places, which seemed to de-
tract, from their antiquity, but for the peculiarity of this climate
where vegetable matter seems never to decay. No mark of an edged
tool could be found, and no remnant of any household or family
utensils, except the fragments of pottery, which were everywhere
strewn on the plain, and the rude corn-grinder still used by the In-
dians. So great was the quantity of this pottery, and the extent of
ground covered by it, that I have formed the idea it must have been
used for pipes to convey water. There were about the ruins quan-
tities of the fragments of agate and obsidian. This valley was
evidently the abode of busy, hard-working people.

" Oct. 29th. A subterraneous stream flowed at the foot of Mount
Graham, and fringed its base with evergreen. Ever3'where there
were marks of flowing water, yet vegetation was so scarce and crisp
that it would be dilHcult to imagine a drop of water had fallen since
last winter. The whole plain, from three to six miles wide, is with-
in the level of the waters of the Gila, and might easily be irrigated,
as it no doubt was by the former tenants of these ruined houses.
The crimson tinted Sierra Carlos skirted the river on the north side
the whole day.

" Oct. 30th. Mt. Turnbull, terminating in a sharp cone, had been
in view down the valley of the river for three days. To-day, about
three o'clock P. M., we turned its base, forming the northern ter-
minus of the same chain in which is Mt. Graham.

" Half a mile from our camp of last night were other very large
ruins, which appeared, as well as I could judge (my view being
obstructed by the thick growth of mezquite;, to have been the abode
of five or ten thousand souls. The outline of the buildings and the
pottery presented no essential difference from those already de-
scribed. But about eleven miles from the camp, on a knoll over-



140 THE GILA AND THE OASAS GRANDES.

looked in a measure by a tongue of land, I found the trace of a
solitary house somewhat resembling that of a field-work en cremal-
liere. The inclosure was complete, and the faces varied from ten
to thirty feet. The accompanying cut will give a more accurate idea
than words.



" Last night, about dusk, one of our men discovered a drove of
wild hogs. The average weight of these animals is one hundred
pounds, and their color invariably light pepper-and-salt. Their
flesh is said to be palatable, if the musk which lies near the back
part of the spine is carefully removed.

"Oct. 31st. To-day, reaching the San Francisco about noon, we
unsaddled to refresh our horses, and to allow time to look up a
trail by which we could pass the formidable range of mountains
througti which the Gila cuts its way, making a deep canon im-
passable for the howitzers.

" Nov. 1st. No alternative seemed to oflEer but to pursue Carson's
old trail, sixty miles over a rough country without water, and two,
if not three, days' journey. I took advantage of an early halt to
ascend with the barometer a very high peak overhanging the camp,
which I took to be the loftiest in the Pinon Lano range on the north
side of the Gila. Its approximate height was only 5t24 feet above
the sea.

" Nov. 4th. Six miles from our camp of last night we reached a
summit, and then commenced descending again rapidly towards the
Gila.

" Nov. 5th. The Gila now presented an inhospitable look. The
valley, not more than three hundred feet from base to base of these
perpendicular mountains, is deep. In the course of six miles we
had to cross and recross the river twice as many times, when we



THE GILA AND THE OASAS GRANDES. 141

left it by turning abruptly up a dry ravine to tbe south. This we
followed for three miles, and crossed a ridge at the base of Saddle-
Back Mountain, and descended by another dry creek to the St.
Pedro, running nearly north,

" The dry creek by which we crossed to the St. Pedro River is
the great highway leading from the mountain fastnesses into the
plains of Santa Cruz, Santa Anna, and Tucson, frontier towns of
Sonora. Since the 1st of November we have been traversing with
incredible labor the stronghold of these mountain robbers (Apaches).

"Nov. 6th. It is decided this should be a day of rest. In the
sandj' arroyos where our fires burn, were broken pottery and the
remains of a large building similar in form, substance, and apparent
antiquity to those so often described.

"Nov. "Tth. About two miles from our camp the San Pedro joins
the Gila, just as the latter leaps from the mouth of a canon. The
place of meeting is a bottom three miles wide, seeming a continua-
tion of that of the Gila. Flights of geese and myriads of blue quail
were seen, and a flock of wild turkeys. The river-bed at the junc-
tion of the San Pedro was seamed with tracks of deer and turkey,
some signs of beaver, and one trail of wild hogs.

" Our camp was on a flat sandy plain of small extent, at the
mouth of a dry creek. At the junction a clear, pure stream flowed
from under the sand. From the many indications of gold and
copper ore at this place, I have named it Mineral Creek. There
was a great deal of pottery about our camp, and just above us were
the supposed remains, of a large Indian settlement, difiering very
slightly from those already described.

"Nov. 8th. The whole day's journey was through a canon. The
latitude of this camp, which is within a mile of the spot where we
take a final leave of the mountains, is 33° 05' 40", its longitude
111° 13' 10" west of Greenwich, and the height of the river above
the sea, as indicated by the barometer, ItSl feet.

"Nov. 9th. We started in advance of the command. The first
thing we noticed in the gorge was a promontory of pitch-stone,
against which the river impinged with fearful force. Mounting to
the top of the rock, on a beautiful table we found sunk six or eight
perfectly symmetrical and well-turned holes, about ten inches deep
and six or eight wide at the top ; near one in a remote place was a
pitch-stone, well turned, and fashioned like a pestle. These could
be nothing else than the corn-mills of long-extinct races.

"The Gila at this point, released from its mountain barrier, fiows
off quietly, at the rate of three miles an liour, into a wide plain,
which extends south almost as far as the eye can reach. Upon this



142 THE GILA AND THE CASAS GBANDES.

plain mezquite, chamiza, the green acacia, prosopis, artemisia,
obione, canescens, and pitahaya were the only vegetation. In one
spot, only, we found a few bunches of grass ; more than four-fifths of
the plain was destitute of vegetation ; the soil a light-brown, loose
sandy earth. We made our noon halt at the grass patch. At this
place were the remains of an immense Indian settlement ; pottery
was everywliere to be found, but the remains of foundations of the
houses were imbedded in dust. Outlines of the zequias, by whicli
the soil was irrigated, were sometimes quite distinct.

" Nov. 10th. The valley on the south side of the Gila still grows
wider. Away off in that direction the peaks of the Sonora moun-
tains just peep above the horizon. On the north side of the river,
and a few miles from it, runs a low chain of serrated hills. Near
our encampment a corresponding range draws in from the south-
east, giving the river a bend to the north. At the base of this
chain is a long meadow, reaching many miles south, in which the
Pimos graze their cattle ; and along the whole day's march were
remains of zequias, pottery, and other evidences of a once densely
populated country. About the time of the noon halt, a large pile,
which seemed the work of human hands, was seen to the left. It
was the remains of a three-story mud house, sixty feet square,
pierced for doors and windows. The walls were four feet thick,
and formed of layers of mud two feet thick. We made a long and
careful search for some specimens of household furniture, or imple-
ments of art, but nothing was found but a corn-grinder, always
met with among the ruins, and on the plains. The marine shell
cut into various ornaments was also found here. No traces of
hewn timber were discovered ; on the contrary, the sleepers of the
ground floor were sound and unhewn. They were burnt out of
their seats in the wall to the depth of six inches. The whole in-
terior of the house, had been burnt out, and the walls much defaced.
What was left bore marks of having been glazed, and on the walls
in the north room of the second story were traced hieroglyphics.*

" Where we camped, eight or nine miles from the Pimos village,
we met a Maricopo Indian looking for his cattle. The fraTik, con-
fident manner in which he approached us was in strange contrast
with that of the suspicious Apache. The camp of my party was
pitched on the side nearest the town, and we saw the first of these
people and their mode of approach. It was perfectly frank and
unsuspicious. Many would leave their packs in our camp and be
absent for hours ; theft seemed to be unknown among them.

* See end of this article for a description of this building.



THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES. 143

"Nov. 11th. Leaving the column, a few of us struck to the
north side of the river to visit the ruins of another Casa Monte-
zuma. The casa was in complete ruins, one pile of broken pottery
and foundation stone making a mound about ten feet above the
ground. The outline of the ground plan was distinct enough. We
found the description of pottery the same as ever ; and among the
ruins the same sea-shells ; one worked into ornaments ; also a large
bead an inch and a quarter in length, of bluish marble, exquisitely
turned.

" Turning from the ruins towards the Pimos village, we came in
at the back of the settlement of the Pimos Indians, and found our
troops encamped in a corn-field from which the grain .Jiad been
gathered. We were at once impressed with the beauty, order, and
disposition of arrangements for irrigating and draining the land.
Corn, wheat, and cotton are the crops of this peaceful and intelli-
gent race of people. Tlie fields are subdivided, by ridges of earth,
into rectangles of about two hundred by one hundred feet, for the
convenience of irrigating. The fences are of sticks wattled witli
willow and mezquite. The houses of the people are mere sheds
thatched with willow and cornstalks.

" The dress of the men consisted of a cotton serape of domestic
manufacture, and a breech cloth. Their hair was very long and
clubbed up. The women wore nothing but the serape, pinned about
the loins.

" Nov. 12th. They have but few cattle, which are used in tillage,
and apparently all steers, procured from the Mexicans. Their
horses and mules were not plenty, and those they possessed wei'e
prized extravagantly high.

" To us it was a rare sight to be thrown in the midst of a large
nation, of what was termed wild Indians, surpassing many of the
Christian nations in agriculture; little behind them in the useful
arts, and immeasurably before them in honesty and virtue. During
the whole of yesterday our camp was full of men, women, and
children, who sauntered amongst our packs unwatched, and not a
single instance of theft was reported;

" Each abode consists of a dome-shaped wicker work, about six
feet high, and from twenty to fifty feet in diameter, thatched with
straw or cornstalks. In front is usually a large arbor, on the top
of which is piled the cotton in the pod, for drying. In the houses
are stowed watermelons, pumpkins, beans, corn, and wheat ; the
three last articles are generally in large baskets. A few cliickens
and dogs were seen, but no other domestic animals except horses,
mules, and oxen. Their implements of husbandry were steel axes,



144 THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES.

wooden hoes, shovels, and barrows. Their molasses, put up in
large jars, hermetically sealed, of which they had quantities, is ex-
pressed from the fruit of the Oereus giganteus.

" A woman was seated on the ground under the shade of one of
the cotton sheds. Her left leg was tucked under her seat, and her
■foot turned sole upwards ; between her big toe and the next, was a
spindle about eighteen inches long, with a single fly of four or six
inches. Ever and anon she gave it a twist in a dexterous manner,
and at its end was drawn a coarse cotton thread. This was their
spinning-jenney. I asked for the loom by pointing to the thread
and then to the blanket girded about the woman's loins. A fellow
stretched in the dust sunning himself, rose up leisurely and untied
a bundle which I had supposed to be a bow and arrow. This little
package, with four stakes in the ground, was the loom. He
stretched his cloth and commenced the process of weaving.

" We travelled fifteen and a half miles, and encamped on the divid-
ing ground between the Pimos and Maricopas. For the whole dis-
tance we passed through cultivated grounds, over a luxuriantly
rich soil. The plain appeared to extend in every direction fifteen or
twenty miles, except in one place about five miles before reaching
camp, where a low chain of hills comes in from the southeast, and
terminates some miles from the river. The bed of the Gila opposite
the village, is said to be dry, the whole water being drawn off by
the zequias of the Pimos for irrigation; but the ditches are larger
than necessary for this purpose, and the water which is not used re-
turns to the bed of the river with little apparent diminution in its
volume.

"Looking from our camp north 30° west, you see a great plain
with mountains rising in the distance on each side. In almost an
opposite direction, north 50° east, there is a gap in the mountains
through which the Salt River ilows to meet the Gila, making with
it an acute angle, at a point ten or fifteen miles from our camp,
bearing northwest. A little north of east another gap, twenty or
thirty miles distant, shows where the Rio San Francisco flows into
the Salt River.* Near the junction of the Gila and Salt Rivers,
there is a chain of low serrated hills coming in from both sides,
contracting the valley considerably. Around the South Spur the
Gila turns, making its course in a more southerly direction. To the
east, except where the Spurs, already mentioned, protrude, the
plain extends as far as the eye can reach.

"The population of the Pimos and Maricopas together is estimated

* Salt or Saliua.



THE GILA AND THE CASAS GRANDES. 145

variously at from three to ten thousand. The first is evidently too low.
They are without other religion than a belief in one great and ovei"-
ruling spirit. Their peaceful disposition is not the result of incapa-
city for war, for they are at all times enabled to meet and vanquish
the Apaches in battle. The prisoners are sold as slaves to the
Mexicans.

" The Maricopas occupy that part of the basin lying between
Camp 9t [Rio San Pedro?] and the mouth of the Salt River [Rio
Salina], and all that has been said of the Pimos is applicable to
them. They live in cordial amity, and their habits, agriculture, reli-
gion, and manufactures are the same. In stature, the Maricopas
are taller; their noses more aquiline, and the3r have a much readier
manner of speaking and acting. Most of the interpreters of the
Pimos were of this tribe. Though fewer in number, they appear to
be superior in intelligence and personal appearance.

"Nov. 13th and 14th. We were notified that a long journey was
to be made without water (to cut off an elbow in the river). The
interpreter who guided us to the Casa Montezuma on the north side
of the Gila, said that on the Salt River, about a day's journey and
a half, there was one of those buildings standing, complete in all
respects, except the floors and roof. He said it was very large,
with beautiful glazed walls, that the footsteps of the men employed
in building the house could yet be seen in the adobe, and that the
impression was that of a naked foot. Whenever a rain comes In-
dians resort to these old houses to look for trinkets of shells, and a
peculiar green stone.*

" At twelve o'clock, after giving our horses a last watering, we
started off in a southwest direction to turn the southern foot of the
range of hills pointing to the Salt River. We travelled till long after
dark, and dropped down in a dust hole near two large green-barked



Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 16 of 75)