Raphael Pumpelly.

Travels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer online

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where the road crossed a low spur of the valley terrace
when suddenly several heads were visible for an instant
over the brow of the hill, and as quickly disappeared.
Instantly guessing that we were cut off by another band
of Indians, and knowing that our only course was to run
the gantlet, we rode slowly to near the top of the hill to
rest our animals, and then spurred the horses onward,
determined if possible to break the ambush. We were
on the point of firing into a party of men who came in
full view as we galloped over the brow of the hill, but
instead of Apaches they were soldiers and Mexicans.
They had been burying an American who had been killed
that morning. It was the impression of this man's body
which we had seen near the creek. He had been to the
fort to give notice of the massacre of a family living
further down the river, and on his return had met the
same fate, about an hour before we passed the spot. An
arrow, shot from above, had entered his left shoulder and
penetrated to the ribs of the other side, and in pulling
this shaft out a terrible feature of these weapons was
illustrated. The flint-head, fastened to the shaft with a
thong of deer-sinew, remained firmly attached while this
binding was dry ; but as soon as it was moistened by the
blood, the head became loose, and remained in the body
after the arrow was withdrawn. The Apaches had sev-
eral ways of producing terrible wounds; among others
by firing bullets chipped from the half-oxidized mats of
old furnace heaps, containing copper and lead combined
with sulphur and arsenic. But perhaps the worst, at
short range, were produced by bullets made from the
fiber of the aloe root, which were almost always fatal,
since it was impossible to clear the wound.


On reaching the fort and seeing the commandant, I
was told that he could not take the responsibility of
weakening his force. As the troops from Fort Breck-
enridge were expected in a few days, I was led to believe
that after their arrival I might obtain a small number of
soldiers. But when, after several days had passed with-
out bringing these troops, the commandant told me that
not only would it be impossible to give us any protection
at the Santa Rita, but that he could not even give me an es-
cort thither, I resolved to return immediately with only
the boy Juan. In the meantime a rumor reached the fort
that a large body of Apaches had passed through the
Santa Rita valley, and probably massacred our people,
and were menacing Tubac. I was certainly never under
a stronger temptation than I felt then to accept the
warmly-pressed invitation of the officers to leave the
country with the military, and give up all idea of return-
ing to what they represented as certain death. But I felt
forced to go back, and Juan and I mounted our horses.
I had hardly bid the officers good-by when Robert Ward,
an old frontiersman, joined us, and declared his intention
of trying to reach his wife, who was in Tubac. As we left
the fort a fine pointer belonging to the commandant fol-
lowed us, and, as he had become attached to me, we had
no difficulty and few scruples in enticing him away to
swell our party. We took the hill trail, it being both
shorter and safer, and had reached a point within three
miles of the Santa Rita without meeting any fresh signs
of Indians when the dog, which kept always on the trail
ahead of us, after disappearing in the brush by an arroyo,
came back growling, and with his tail between his legs.
We were then two or three hundred yards from the
thicket, and quickening our horses we left the trail and


crossed the arroyo a hundred yards or more above the
ambush; for such the dry tracks in the sand, where we
did cross, showed it probably to be.

We reached our mines safely, and found that, although
they had been almost constantly surrounded by Apaches,
who had cut off all communications with Tubac, there
had been no direct attack. Our entire Mexican force
was well armed, a fact which, while it kept off the In-
dians, rendered it necessary that our guard over the
peons should never cease. Nor did we once, during the
long weeks that followed, place ourselves in a position
to be caught at a disadvantage. Under penalty of death
no Mexican was allowed to pass certain limits, and in
turn our party of four kept an unceasing guard, while
our revolvers, day and night, were rarely off our persons.



WE had now to cut wood for charcoal, and to haul it in,
stick by stick, not having enough animals to draw the
six-horse wagons. This and burning the charcoal kept
us nearly three weeks before we could begin to smelt.
Our furnaces stood in the open air about one hundred
yards from the main house, and on a tongue of land at
the junction of two ravines. The brilliant light illum-
inating every object near the furnace exposed the work-
men every night, and all night, to the aim of the Apaches.
The whole Mexican force slept on their arms around
the furnace, taking turns at working, sleeping, and pa-
trolling, receiving rations of whiskey which were be-
lieved sufficient to increase their courage without making
them drunk. In order to obtain timely notice of the
approach of the Indians, we picketed our watch-dogs at
points within a hundred yards of the works; and these
faithful guards, which the enemy never succeeded in
killing, probably more than once saved us from a general

During the long weeks we were isolated only rare word
came from Tubac, and none from the East. One day
there came a letter from Fort Buchanan containing news
which showed how completely we were shut off from
the world.

After repeated destructions of stations along the long



route through Texas and Arizona, the Indians had caused
the abandonment of the Overland Mail, by destroying
the stations and the superintendent. The end was tragic.
The superintendent was making the last trip to close up
the route. He had with him a guard of fifteen mounted
Texas rangers. The coach carried, I think, $20,000 in
gold, and was filled with passengers. At Steen's Pass
they were attacked by a large band of Apaches. Not a
soul escaped. When the spot was visited later, by a
military party, it was seen that the whites must have held
out long; lying flat behind stones and firing at the In-
dians, who used the same tactics, as was shown by the
lead-battered stones.

More than one attempt was made by the Apaches to
attack us, being always discovered in time, and failing
to surprise us, they contented themselves with firing into
the force at the furnace from a distance. In the condi-
tion to which we all, and especially I, had been brought
by weeks of sleepless anxiety, nothing could sound more
awful than the sudden discharge of a volley of rifles,
accompanied by unearthly yells, that at times broke in
upon the silence of the night.

The troops were still at the fort twenty miles away.
The commandant made no move to protect the few
Americans who were all within twenty or thirty miles of
his post.

As already intimated, we were now four, Robinson,
Stickney, the German cook, and I. While one stood
guard at night, the others slept in their clothes. The first
of those nights was one of those critical moments when,
in darkness and danger, one is face to face with one's
inmost soul. I was sleeping, dressed excepting shoes.
A quick succession of shots and yells brought me to my
feet and standing on the cold earthern floor. My knees


were knocking together. Afraid to show myself in such
condition before my men, I sat down on my cot to recover
a balance, and rolled a cigarette and smoked a whiff or
two. The mental struggle was over ; it had lasted hardly
a minute, and I went out to the others, who never knew.

A young Mexican woman had told one of us that the
peons had planned to kill us as soon as the silver should
be refined. So I arranged to concentrate this work into
the last two or three days, and to leave the mine as soon
as the refining was finished, though it would probably
mean a considerable loss of silver.

Despatching a messenger, who succeeded in reaching
Tubac, I engaged a number of wagons and men, and on
their arrival everything that could be spared was loaded
and sent off. The train was attacked and the mules
stolen, but the owner and men escaped, and, bringing
fresh animals, succeeded in carrying the property into

At last the result of six weeks* smelting lay before us
in a pile of lead planchas containing the silver, and there
only remained the separating of these metals to be gone
through with. During this process, which I was obliged
to conduct myself, and which lasted some fifty or sixty
hours, I scarcely closed my eyes; and the three other
Americans, revolver or shotgun in hand, kept an un-
ceasing guard over the Mexicans, whose manner plainly
showed their thoughts. Before the silver was cool, we
loaded it. We had the remaining property of the com-
pany, even to the wooden machine for working the blast,
in the returned wagons, and were on the way to Tubac,
which we reached the same day, the I5th of June. Here,
while the last wagon was being unloaded, a rifle was ac-
cidentally discharged and, the ball passing through my
hair above the ear, deafened me for the whole afternoon.


Thus ended my experience of eight months of mining
operations in an Apache stronghold. It was none too
soon. Indeed I am the only one of at least five successive
managers of the Santa Rita who was not killed by Mexi-
cans or Indians.



WHEN we deposited the movable property of our com-
pany at Tubac, we did so under the supposition that
that village would be a point where, until the fresh troops
whose coming was rumored should arrive, a large part
of the white and Mexican population would concentrate
for the mutual defense. As soon as the contents of the
wagons were stored away, the silver assayed, and our
debts paid, I determined to make a journey for recreation
into the Papagoria the land of the friendly Papago
tribe. In company with Colonel C. I. Poston and Mr.
J. Washburn, I reached the Cerro Colorado or Heintzel-
man mine, then being worked by the first-named gentle-
man. Here we took a Mexican guide, and laid in our
provisions, consisting of pinole powdered parched corn
and sugar and coffee.

Early the next morning we left the mine, and, follow-
ing the Indian trail westward for several miles, came
onto the great Baboquiveri plain. This broad stretch of
wild grassland being one of the main thoroughfares of
the Apaches, we were obliged to keep a good lookout all
day. But notwithstanding the great heat, and the danger
from Indians, the combined effect of the grand scenery
and the prospect of reaching a country where compara-
tive safety would allow a few nights of unguarded sleep
filled me with new life, and I gave myself up again to the


fascinating influence of Nature in the Rocky Mountains.

Taking a diagonal course over the plain, we reached
the foothills of the Baboquiveri range at the approach
to Aliza Pass. It was late at night before we had wound
through the rocky defile, and by the light of the full
moon ascended to the spring near the top. After water-
ing the horses from our hats, and drinking a supper of
pinole in water ourselves, we took turns at watching
and sleeping.

Early the next morning we reached the summit of the
pass. The Baboquiveri range formed the boundary be-
tween the Papagoes and Apaches, two tribes differing
widely in appearance, character, and habits, and between
whom there has ever been enmity.

The Papagoes carefully guarded the approaches to
their country, and these passes have been the scenes of
many desperate battles. But the desert character of
the Papagoria is its best defense, since, in view of the
great scarcity of water over an immense area, it would
be also certain death to a party of Apaches to penetrate
far into it. At the summit of the pass stands a large
pile of stones literally bristling with arrows, both old
and new. Whether this was a landmark or battle monu-
ment, I did not learn.

A ride of twenty miles over a gravelly plain, which
reflected the intense heat of the sun, brought us to Ca-
huabi, a Papago village on the skirt of the desert.

Most of the Papago villages on the desert were several
miles from any water, and one of the chief occupations
of the women was the obtaining of it, and bringing it
home. I say obtaining, for getting water there was
often a labor of patience, skill, and danger. In many
places it was to be had only by digging. A spot was
chosen where the rock dips under a deposit of sand, and


an opening like a quarry was sunk in the latter, exposing
the rocky surface. The little water that trickles slowly,
drop by drop, along the plane of contact between sand
and stone, was collected with the greatest care till the
labor was rewarded by a few quarts in the earthern vessel
which the woman then bore off on her head, perhaps six
or nine miles.

After an excursion into the desert to visit a mine being
opened by some Mexicans, we began our homeward jour-
ney, intending to reach Arivacca by a trail crossing the
mountains south of the Baboquiveri peak. We encamped
for the night near the western foothills of the range, and
from our elevated position the vast plains, stretching
away toward the Pacific, were spread out before us. To
this grand landscape the brilliant light of the full moon
lent enchantment, rendering more weird the unfamiliar
plant forms, silvering the distant ridges of barren granite
and the surface of the boundless desert. Not a sound,
not even a breath of air, broke the silence of the night.

Soon there came the doleful bark of the red wolf, grow-
ing louder and nearer as the animals approached and
hovered about the camp.

In the morning I found that the rawhide thongs had
been gnawed off my saddle, although it had served me
for a pillow all night.

Before noon we reached Fresnal, a Papago village.
Near this we encamped by a spring of good water, sur-
rounded by fine ash and mesquit trees, and lying in a
ravine descending from the Baboquiveri peak. Our in-
tention was to leave Fresnal the next morning, but an
accident occurred by which all our plans were changed.
While we were eating our pinole, a sandstorm was seen
whirling rapidly toward us from the desert, and we all
hastened to wrap our firearms in the blankets, to protect


them from the penetrating dust. In doing this Wash-
burn let his revolver fall. It went off and drove a ball
into the inner side of his right thigh. An examination
showed that the ball had not come out, and it seemed
almost certain that it had entered the abdomen, and that
death must soon follow. A hasty consultation resulted
in sending a Papago on Washburn's horse to Tucson,
about sixty miles distant, for a doctor, while Colonel
Poston, with the guide, started by the trail over the
mountain to bring an ambulance from Arivacca, about
forty miles off, and I remained to nurse our wounded
companion. Washburn complained of pain in his back
between the shoulders and along the spine. An exam-
ination showed something hard, below the neck, which
might be the ball. Being entirely ignorant of everything
relating to surgery, I did not venture to cut it out, but
decided to wait for the doctor, in the meantime keeping
the wound constantly washed. After an absence of less
than two days and a half, the Papago returned, having
nearly killed the fine horse he rode, and bringing a letter,
in which the doctor regretted the impossibility of under-
taking a journey in the existing condition of the country.
He sent some medicines but forgot to give directions.
Among the things was some gum camphor. This I
rubbed up in water and with it washed his wound.

The days passed without bringing any news from
Colonel Poston, and, concluding that another friend had
swelled the long list of victims to the Apaches, I awaited
the time when I should either help my companion into his
saddle or dig his grave. Recovery seemed almost im-
possible, with the thermometer ranging from 116 to
126 F. in the shade, and when night brought only a
parching desert wind.

Day after day passed without bringing any change in


our prospects, or in the condition of the wounded man.
The Papagos of the neighboring village, from whom I
bought milk and boiled wheat, were at first friendly.
Their frequent visits to our camp relieved the tedious
monotony of the long days, and I occupied my time in
learning their language. But gradually these visits to
our camp became rarer, and finally ceased altogether.
The old chief raised the price of milk from one string
of beads per quart to two strings, and the smallness of
my supply of this currency rendering it necessary to raise
their value in the same proportion, our relations became
daily less and less friendly. Our isolated position thus
grew every day more unpleasant, surrounded as we were
by Indians who were nominally friendly, but who had
murdered more than one helpless traveler.

Many days had passed since the accident when )a
Mexican arrived from Colonel Poston, bringing pro-
visions and a letter. He had been unable to secure an
ambulance to send for Mr. Washburn and suggested
that I have the wounded man brought in on a litter by
Papagoes or mules.

I immediately made the proposition to the chief, be-
ginning by offering a horse, and ending with the offer of
horses and arms. It was useless. The old man was
tempted; but most of the warriors being away for the
summer, he would not venture to expose the village to
a raid from the Apaches by sending the young men
with us.

The Mexican left the welcome provisions and returned
to Arivacca, with a note saying that I might try to get to
Haric when Washburn should be able to travel or should
have died. Again the same tedious routine of watching
and waiting was resumed. Nearly all my time during
the day, and much of the night, was occupied in keeping


camphorated water on Washburn's wound. By this
means, together with the dryness of the climate, it was
kept free from gangrene, and the condition of my pa-
tient was apparently improving.

One day the unexpected but welcome sound of a creak-
ing wheel was followed by the appearance of a wagon
drawn by mules, and escorted by eleven Mexicans. It
was a party that had gone from Sonora, over the desert,
to open a mine, and was now returning with a load of
ore. The scarcity of water on the desert had caused
them to take the route along the foot of the mountains,
and, fortunately for us, the first wagon that had ever
passed this way came in time to give us relief. A bar-
gain was immediately made the Mexicans, who were
on foot, agreeing to take Washburn to Saric, in Sonora,
for five dollars. Making as comfortable a bed for the
wounded man as was possible, over the rough load of ore,
we began this new stage of our journey.

The mules made slow progress, rarely over ten or
twelve miles a day, and now and then losing a day alto-
gether; still it was a great relief to be again on horseback.
At Poso- Verde we reached the border of the Papagoria.
Here the Indians had taken advantage of the existence of
a spring and abundant grass. The spring was a small
pool, in which stood, during the heat of the day, all the
cattle that could find room, and in it the Indians bathed
every morning. Already from a distance we smelt the
water, and when we reached it, it seemed more like a
barnyard pool than a reservoir of drinkable water. Still
we were forced to use it there, and to lay in a supply.

Leaving Poso-Verde we turned from the mountains
onto a broad plain, bearing scarcely any other vegetation
than scattered tufts of grass. As we were now ex-
posed to the Apaches, we were obliged to keep a constant


lookout. The Mexicans had no ammunition, and ours
was useless to them. In two or three days it was sud-
denly discovered that we were out of provisions and to-
bacco. A Mexican was sent ahead on our extra horse to
get supplies at the nearest village in Sonora, and it was
hoped he might meet us on the second or third day, at
least in time to prevent any deaths from starvation.

But when the third day passed without his return, it
was evident that hunger was telling fearfully on us. The
Mexicans became, all of them, more or less deranged, as
much from want of tobacco as from hunger. For-
tunately there was a kind of cactus from which we could
get a thirst-satisfying liquid and this removed the worst
of dangers. We could make but little progress, as our
companions wandered away from our course, and my
time was divided between guiding the mules and keeping
the men near the wagon. I was entirely ignorant of
the route, and, not being able to rely on the random talk
of the crazy guides, could only keep a southerly course,
and trust to accident for rinding water.

The Mexicans tore open my saddle-bags in search of
tobacco, an action I had neither the strength nor the
heart to resist. I began to feel that my own reason was
leaving me.

Fortunately, before night overtook us we reached a
low range of hills, and my heart beat fast as I saw a
number of petaihya cacti growing from the rocks. It
was the season for their fruit, and enough of it was
found to supply a scanty meal all around.

The next day, fearing to go on, we remained quiet,
and I stood guard till the following morning, to prevent
the starving men from killing one of the mules, knowing
well that it must inevitably cause the death of Washburn.
Toward noon of the fifth day a horseman was seen com-


ing from the north, who proved to be our Mexican bring-
ing provisions. He had passed us in the night, and had
gone a long day's journey beyond us, before cutting our
trail. Our deliverer was torn from his horse by the men,
in their impatience to get at the supplies, but, before tak-
ing a mouthful of food, we all quickly rolled cigarettes,
and each inhaled one long draught, and then fell to eat-
ing. Fortunately, the man had been wise enough to
hide most of his load, to prevent the effects of overeat-
ing in our condition. By the next morning we were
nearly recovered from the effects of starvation, as was
shown by the returned sanity and straightened forms
of all.

Two or three days more brought us to Saric, where
the sympathies of the entire female population were im-
mediately enlisted in behalf of Washburn, and we were
soon furnished with as comfortable quarters as the poor
frontier village could supply. This was not much, how-
ever, consisting of a room, in which we spread our blan-
kets on some fresh cornstalks.

Here I found awaiting me the following letter from
Poston :

Arivacca, 27 June, 1861.
My dear Sir:

I avail myself of a passenger to send you some late news-

The Civil War in the States seems to have begun in earnest
and we may hear of an important battle at Harpers Ferry or
Washington by the next mail.

I have advices from Col. Colt that an agent will be here
to relieve me in all the present month and I now look for
him daily.

The Apaches have made two attacks at Fort Buchanan,
each time carrying off the stock and killing two soldiers.

Bill Ake shot a neighbor on the Sonoita named Davis the


other day and some thirty regulators are after him sworn to
take him dead or alive.

No other news of consequence.
The messenger waits.
Come up soon.

Yours truly,

Charles D. Poston.

The Apaches had made a raid on the place that day,
and the village was in a state of excitement. An old
Spaniard was found whom we both knew, and who, hav-
ing some knowledge of surgery, proceeded to cut out the

This was done successfully, the lead coming out in
two pieces. The pure air of the desert, and careful
treatment and constant nursing on the part of the kind-
hearted Mexican women, finished the cure, and Wash-
burn in less than two weeks was on the road to certain
recovery, and I prepared to leave him, to return to Ari-
zona. When on the point of starting I was seized with
chills and fever, and for a week was the patient, in turn,
of every woman, young and old, in the village. But kind

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Online LibraryRaphael PumpellyTravels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer → online text (page 10 of 23)