Raphael Pumpelly.

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

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The light of the just rising moon showed one of the
horses standing asleep in front of my window.

Looking out at daybreak the first thing we saw was a
thin layer of snow covering the ground. Then we saw
the tracks of several Apaches. Not a horse. A fine
watch dog lay chained in his kennel at the gate of the
corral, not fifty feet from the house. He was still there
and alive.

The dead skunk lay at the very door of the kennel;
it had landed under the nose of the dog, obliterating the
odor peculiar to the Apache.


Snow was still falling very gently, and we saw that the
tracks could be hardly an hour old.

The Indians had all our horses, except two or three
that were away, so we set out on foot in pursuit. The
horse tracks were plain, and we followed them easily for
several miles, but they showed that the Indians were now
mounted, and going rapidly. My heavy rifle grew heavier
and heavier till I lay down exhausted. The rest of the
party returned soon, with an old horse that had given
out and been abandoned.

The skunk had had his revenge ; the Apaches had our


THE incidents I have given were mere omens of what
was to come.

Soon after the loss of our horses, there came word
that the troops were ordered to abandon the country and
go to the East to be employed in the war.

There were two bodies of these, one of infantry at
Fort Buchanan, about twenty miles from us, and one of
dragoons sixty or seventy miles away. These troops
were the only protection that stood between us and the

The news of the impending withdrawal caused great
excitement among the small number of settlers who were
scattered over the country.

To make the matter worse, the military began an un-
called-for war with the Apaches. In April, I believe,
some Indians, of what tribe was not known, carried off
a cow and a child belonging to a Mexican woman living
with an American. Upon the application of the latter,
the commandant at Fort Buchanan despatched a force of
seventy-five men to the nearest Apache tribe. The only
interpreter attached to the expedition was the American
who was directly interested in the result.

Arriving at Apache Pass, the home of the tribe, the
lieutenant in command raised a white flag over his tent,
under the protection of which six of the principal chiefs,



including Cochese, great chief of the Apache nation, came
to the camp, and were invited into the tent.

A demand was made for the child and cow, to which
the Indians replied, truly or falsely, that they had not
been stolen by their tribe.

After a long parley they were seized. One of the num-
ber, in trying to escape, was knocked down and pinned
to the ground with a bayonet. Four others were bound,
but Cochese, seizing a knife from a cot, slashed his way
through the canvas and escaped, with three bullets in his
body, fired by the outside guard.

And this happened under a United States flag of truce !

At this time three of the most powerful tribes of the
nation were concentrated at Apache Pass, and, when
Cochese arrived among them, a war of extermination was
immediately declared against the whites.

The next day they killed some Mexican prisoners, and
in retaliation the five chiefs were hanged in sight of their
people. Our troops, after being badly beaten, were
obliged to return to the fort.

In the meantime orders came for the abandonment of
the territory by the soldiers. The country was thrown
into consternation. The Apaches began to ride through
it rough-shod, succeeding in all their attacks. The set-
tlers, mostly farmers, abandoned their crops, and with
their families concentrated for mutual protection at Tuc-
son, Tubac, and at one or two ranches, and at a distant

When, in addition to this, the news came of the be-
ginning of the rebellion in the East, we decided that, as
it would be impossible to hold our mines, our only
course was to remove the portable property of the com-
pany to Tubac. We were entirely out of money, owing
back pay to a considerable force of Mexican workmen,


and to two or three Americans, and we needed means for
paying for the transportation of the property, and for
getting ourselves out of the country.

Our stock of ore was far too small to furnish the
amount of silver needed to meet these demands, and our
main hope lay in the possibility of collecting debts due
to the company. In pursuance of this plan I started
alone, but well armed, to visit the Heintzelman mine, one
of our principal debtors. The ride of forty miles was
made in safety, and in the afternoon I reached the house
of the superintendent, Mr. J. Poston. Not being able
to obtain money (for no one could afford to part with
bullion, even to pay debts) I took payment in ore worth
nearly $2,000 per ton, together with a little flour and
bolts of cotton cloth. In the course of the afternoon
this was despatched in charge of two of the most fear-
less Mexicans at the mine in Poston's service.

The next morning, April 24, 1861, I started homeward
alone, riding a horse I had bought, and driving before
me the one that brought me over. I had so much trouble
with the loose animal that night found me several miles
from our hacienda.

Only those who have traveled in a country of hostile
Indians know what it can be to journey by night. The
uncertain light of the stars, or even of the moon, left
open the widest field for the imagination. Fancy gave
life to the blackened yucca, and transformed the tall stem
of the century plant into the lance of an Apache. The
ear of the traveler listened anxiously to the breathing of
his horse; his eye ever on the alert, before and behind,
watched the motions of the horse's ears, and looked for
the lurking place of an Indian.

Still, night was the less dangerous time to travel, for
one was not as easily seen at a distance as by day. But


after a few night journeys I found the nervous tension so
unbearable that I always chose the daytime, preferring
to run a far greater risk of death to being made the prey
of an overstrained imagination. Then, too, in such a
state of society as then existed, the traveler in the dead
of night approached a solitary house, perhaps his own,
with much anxiety; it was uncertain whether he might
not find only dead bodies.

About three miles from the hacienda, in the most rocky
part of the valley, the horse in front stopped short, and
both animals began to snort and show signs of fear.
This may have been due to Indians or to a mountain lion.
Both horses started off at a runaway speed, leaving all
control over either one out of the question. Fortunately,
the free horse, followed by my own, first made a long
circuit, and then bounded off toward the hacienda.
After a breakneck course over stony ground, leaping
rocks and cacti, down and up steep hills, and tearing
through thorny bushes, with clothing torn and with
legs pierced by the Spanish bayonet, I reached the

The wagon with the ore, although due that morning,
had not arrived, and this was the more remarkable as I
had not seen it on the road. When noon came, and the
ore still had not arrived, we concluded that the Mexicans,
who well knew its value, had stolen it, packed it on the
mules, and taken the road to Sonora.

Acting upon this supposition, Grosvenor and I mounted
our horses, and, armed and provisioned for a ten days'
absence, started in pursuit. Each of us carried a carbine
and two revolvers, and a blanket rolled behind the saddle.
Our provisions were simple. Each had a bag of penole
powdered parched corn mixed with nearly half its
weight of Mexican brown sugar; coffee, and a tin cup


completed our outfit. We rode two miles to a point
where the road turned to the right to set an easy grade
over a spur of the mesa. To avoid this bend we rode
straight ahead on a trail over the spur and descended
to cross the narrow valley beyond. The wagon road
crossed a few hundred yards further up, and then by an
easy ascent joined our trail at the top of the mesa.

We were just crossing the bottom of the valley to
climb the opposite hill when, looking up, we saw the
missing wagon just coming in sight and beginning the
opposite descent. One of the Mexicans rode a wheel
mule, while the other was walking ahead of the leaders.
I noticed that neither of them carried their guns, which
were probably left in the wagon. We had evidently
judged our men wrongly, and when Grosvenor proposed
that we should go on and come back with them I objected,
on the ground that the Mexicans, seeing us prepared for
a journey, would know at once that we had suspected
them. We therefore decided to turn back, but taking
another way homeward we quickly lost sight of the
wagon. After riding a few hundred yards we dis-
mounted at a spring, rolled a cigarette, and then rode

As the afternoon passed away without the arrival of
the wagon, we supposed it had broken down, and at twi-
light Grosvenor proposed that we should walk out and
see what had caused the delay. Taking down my hat, I
answered : " All right, but to-morrow I've got to begin
the smelting, and I want to finish to-night the map and
record of the property needed for future use. After all,
the Mexicans will send up if they need any help." My
friend said : " You're quite right. I'll only go a little
way for a walk." It was soon dark, and Robinson and
I sat down to tea. By the time we left the table Gros-


venor had been out half an hour, and we concluded to
go after him.

I will diverge here to tell of a remarkable dream of
Grosvenor's which recurred to us after the events which
follow this point in my narrative. Grosvenor had told
it early in the winter. He had been born in Ohio, and
had never seen the sea. When he was a child he dreamed
that he stood on the edge of the ocean. He saw a small
black line rise on the horizon. He watched it and saw
it rise slowly. A small black spot appeared under it.
He said the thing then looked like an exclamation point.
Then he saw that it was moving up and down. It held
him fascinated. Days and weeks seemed to pass as the
thing slowly rose and fell. It rose higher each time
than the time before, and grew ever longer and longer
till it reached high toward the sky; and this continued
till he knew that with the next descent the thing would
crush him, but just before it could strike him he awoke.

Grosvenor said that after this the dream came back
so often that he grew thin, and his health was affected
by it. This lasted for years, the dream coming more
rarely till it stopped its torments when he was in his

Grosvenor told this so dramatically that it made a
strong impression on us ; the " exclamation point " be-
came a household word with us.

About the beginning of April Grosvenor went alone to
Tubac for the mail. When he returned he said :

" Pumpelly, I wish you would send some Mexicans to
the Point of Rocks to look for tracks. When I got there
I heard ' ha ! ha ! ha ! ' I couldn't see any one, but there
must be Indians near."

The trackers returned without having found fresh


The next week Grosvenor went again alone for the
mail. When he returned he said :

" Pumpelly, I wish you would take the trackers and
look yourself. When I came near the Point of Rocks,
I heard it again : ' ha ! ha ! ha ! ' There must be Indians
around there."

So I went with the Mexicans. We found no fresh

The next week Grosvenor went again for the mail. I
met him as he returned in the afternoon. He said:

" Pumpelly, I want to take the Mexicans and search
the place myself. I heard clearly the same shout : ' ha !
ha! ha!'"

When Grosvenor came back before dusk, and I held
his horse while he got off, he seemed downcast. As he
passed to go into the house he turned to me :

" Pumpelly, / have HEARD the exclamation" evidently
referring to his dream.

Now I will resume my narrative after the delay of the

Accompanied by Robinson, and leaving the cook to
take care of the house, I walked along the Tubac road.
We were both well armed; and the full moon, just rising
above the horizon behind us, brilliantly lighted the whole
country. We had gone about two miles, and were just
beginning to ascend the grade over the spur mentioned
above when, hearing the mewing of our house-cat, I
stopped, and, as she came running toward us, stooped,
and took her in my arms.

As I did so, my attention was attracted by her sniffing
the air and fixing her eyes on some object ahead of us.
Looking in the direction thus indicated, we could dis-
tinguish near the roadside on the top of the hill the
crouching figure of a man, his form for a moment just


defined against the starlit sky, and then disappearing be-
hind a cactus. I dropped the cat, which bounded on
ahead of us, and we cocked our pistols and walked briskly
up the hill. But when we reached the cactus the man
was gone. Of Grosvenor we as yet saw nothing. Con-
tinuing our way at a rapid pace and full of anxiety, we
began the long descent toward the arroyo, from which we
had seen the wagon at noon. Turning a bend about
half-way down, we caught sight of the wagon drawn off
from the road on the further side of the arroyo. The
deep silence that always reigns in those mountains was
unbroken, and neither mules nor men were visible. Ob-
serving something very white near the wagon, we at first
took it for the reflected light of a camp-fire, and con-
cluded that the Mexicans were encamped behind some
rocks, and that with them we should find our friend.
But it was soon evident that what we saw was a heap of
flour reflecting the moonlight. Anxiously watching this
and the wagon, we came around a slight bend in the
road, and had approached within about twenty yards of
the wagon when we both started back we had nearly
trodden on a man lying in the road. My first thought
was that it was a strange place to sleep in, but he was
naked. The first idea had barely time to flash through
my mind, when another followed it was not sleep but

As we stooped down and looked closer, the truth we
had both instinctively felt was evident the murdered
man was Grosvenor.

For the first time I stood an actor in a scene of death,
the victim a dear friend, the murderers and the deed itself
buried in mystery.

His head lay in a pool of blood; two lance wounds
through the throat had nearly severed the head from the


body, which was pierced by a dozen other thrusts. A
bullet hole in the left breast had probably caused death
before he was mutilated with lances. Evidently he had
not moved since he fell by the shot that took his life.
He lay face down, and as the feet had been stretched out
in stripping the corpse so they remained stretched out
when we found him. The body was still warm; indeed,
he could not have reached the spot when we left the house.

Grosvenor died at the place where he had heard, or
thought he heard, the exclamation that he connected with
his dream.

I have seen death since, and repeatedly under circum-
stances almost equally awful, but never with so intense a
shock. For a minute that seemed an age we were so un-
nerved that I doubt whether we could have resisted an at-
tack, but fortunately our own situation soon brought us to
our senses. We were on foot, two miles from the house,
and the murderers, whoever they might be, could not be
far off, if indeed the spy we had seen had not already
started them after us. Looking toward the wagon, I
thought I could discover other bodies ; but we knew that
every instant was of great importance, and, without ven-
turing to examine closer, we started homeward, the cat
going ahead of us. There was only one white man at the
hacienda, and a large number of peons, and we did not
yet know whether the murderers were Indians, or the
two Mexicans, who might be in collusion with our own

If they were Indians, we might escape by reaching the
house before they could overtake us ; but if they were our
Mexicans, we could hardly avoid the fate the cook at the
house must already have met with.

Uncertain whether we were going away from danger or
into it, we walked rapidly on constantly on the alert. In


this manner we went on till we reached a place where
the road lay for some distance through a dense thicket
the very spot for an ambush. We had now to decide
whether to take this, the shorter way, or another which,
by detaining us a little while longer, would lead us over
an open country, where we could in the bright moonlight
see every object within a long distance. The idea of
being able to defend ourselves tempted us strongly to-
ward the open plain, but the consciousness of the value of
every minute made us decide quickly to take the shorter
way. Nothing happened until, within a short distance
of the hacienda, we began to hear Apache signals given
and answered, and looking back we saw several Indians
coming into view; but we gained the door safely, and
found all as we had left it. The American, unaware of
danger, was making bread ; and the Mexicans were asleep
in their quarters. We kept guard all night, but were
not attacked.

Before daylight we despatched a Mexican courier
across the mountains to the fort, and another to Tubac,
and then went after Grosvenor's body. We found it as
we had left it, while near the wagon lay the bodies of the
two Mexican teamsters. Poston came in the forenoon
with fifteen Papago Indians who were able to read the
history of the whole murderous affair. The wagon must
have been attacked within less than five minutes after we
had seen it at noon, indeed while we were resting and
smoking at the spring not four hundred yards from the
spot. A party of Indians, fifteen in number, as we
found by the tracks, had sprung upon the unarmed Mexi-
cans ; the sand showed the marks of a desperate hand to
hand struggle. When they had killed the men, the
Apaches cut the animals loose, packed the empty bags
and cotton cloth, and went to a spring a mile or two dis-


tant, where they feasted on a mule. A party was left
behind to waylay such of us as might come out to meet
the team. When Grosvenor neared the spot, he was shot
by an Indian, who, crouching behind a cactus about ten
feet distant, had left the impression of his gunstock in
the sand. At the same instant two others lanced him
through the throat. Knowing well that their victim
would be sought by others, they had left the spy we had
seen; and had not the cat directed our attention to him
at the moment when he was moving stealthily away,
thereby causing us to walk rapidly to the scene of the
murder, and faster back, we could hardly have escaped
the fate of our friend. We remembered that our dogs
had barked all the afternoon with their noses pointed
west. Both they and the cat had scented the Indians or
the carnage.

During the day, April 26, 1861, Lieutenant Evans ar-
rived with a force of nineteen soldiers, having with dif-
ficulty obtained the consent of his commandant, and soon
after Colonel Poston reached the mines with a party of
Americans. Graves had been dug, and, after reading
the burial service and throwing in the earth, we fired a
volley and turned away, no one knowing how soon his
time might come.


I NOW foresaw a long and dangerous work before us
in extracting the silver from the ore. We could, indeed,
have abandoned the mines, and have escaped by accom-
panying the military, who were to leave in two weeks.
But both Mr. Robinson and myself considered that we
were in duty bound to place the movable property of the
company in safety at Tubac, and to pay in bullion the
money owing to the men. To accomplish this would re-
quire six weeks' work at the furnace, crippled as were
all operations by the loss of our horses and mules.

It was of the first importance that we should increase
our force of Americans, not only for protection against
the Apaches, but more especially against the possible
treachery of our Mexican workmen, for at almost every
mine in the country a part or all of the whites had been
murdered by their peons. A man named Stickney, one of
the party which had come that day from Tubac, was
engaged on the spot. Partly in the hope of getting a
small force of soldiers who should remain till the aban-
donment began, and partly to persuade two Americans
who lived on the road to the fort to join us, I resolved
to accompany Lieutenant Evans, who was obliged to
return the next day.

Taking with me a young Apache who had been cap-
tured while a child, and had no sympathy with his tribe,
I rode away with Lieutenant Evans, intending to return



the next day. The wagon road lay for ten miles along
a tributary of the Sonoita valley, then ascended the Son-
oita for twelve miles to the fort, where a bridle-path
across the hills shortened the distance some two or three
miles, by leaving the road before the junction of the two
valleys. To reach the house of the Titus brothers, whom
I wished to see, we should have to follow the wagon road
all the way; and as more than a mile of it before the
junction of the valleys lay through a narrow and dan-
gerous defile, on an Apache war trail that was constantly
frequented by the Indians, Lieutenant Evans would not
assume the responsibility of risking the lives of his men
in a place where they would be at such disadvantage.
While I felt obliged to acknowledge that it would be im-
prudent to take infantry mounted on mules through the
defile, it was of the first necessity that I should see the
Americans living near the junction of the valleys. At
the point where the hill trail left the road, bidding good-by
to Lieutenant Evans, who, could he have left his men,
would have accompanied me himself, I was soon alone
with Juan, my Apache boy. As we neared the gorge I
observed that Juan, who was galloping ahead, suddenly
stopped and hesitated. As I came up he pointed to the
sand, which was covered with fresh foot-tracks.

It was evident that a considerable party of Indians had
been here within half an hour, and had suddenly dis-
persed in different directions in the hills. Our safest
course seemed to be to press forward and reach Titus's
house, now about two miles off. We were on good
horses, and these animals, not less alarmed than our-
selves, soon brought us through the defile to the Sonoita
creek. We slipped our horses' bridles without dismount-
ing, and refreshed them with one long swallow. We had
barely left the creek when we passed the full-length im-


pression of a man's form in the sand, with a pool of
blood, and at the same instant an unearthly yell from the
hills behind us showed that the Apaches, although not
visible, were after us, and felt sure of bringing us down.
Our horses, however, fearing nothing so much as an In-
dian, almost flew over the ground and quickly brought us
in sight of Titus's hacienda. This lay about two hundred
yards off from the road in a broad valley shaded by mag-
nificent live-oaks.

As we rode rapidly toward the houses I was struck
with the quietness of a place generally full of life, and
said so to Juan.

"It's all right," he replied. " I saw three men just
now near the house."

But as we passed the first building, a smith's shop, both
horses shied, and as we came to the principal house a
scene of destruction met our eyes. The doors had been
forced in, and the whole contents of the house lay on the
ground outside, in heaps of broken rubbish. As I started
to dismount, to look for the bodies of the Americans,
Juan begged of me not to stop.

" They are all killed," he said, " and we shall have
hardly time to reach the road before the Indians come
up. Promise me," he continued, "that you will fight
when the devils close with us; if not I will save myself

Assuring the boy, whom I knew to be brave, that I had
no idea of being scalped and burned without a struggle, I
put spurs to my horse, and we were soon on the main
road, but not a moment too soon, for a large party of
Apaches, fortunately for us on foot, were just coming
down the hill, and entered the trail close behind us. A
volley of arrows flew by our heads, but in a few seconds
our horses carried us out of reach, and the enemy turned


back. Slackening our speed, we were nearing a point

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Online LibraryRaphael PumpellyTravels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer → online text (page 9 of 23)