By Mick Woodcock

When Anglos first came to the Prescott area, initial contact with the indigenous people was peaceful enough, but as more miners arrived who shot the Yavapai’s main food supply, the mule deer, things became tense. With an invasion of their homeland and assaults on their families, they fought back in the only way they could. Raids on small groups of men, freight teams and isolated ranches accelerated until no one felt safe, anywhere.

Yavapai raiding was constant, but a few instances are worthy of note. A raid on the horse herd at Sheldon’s Ranch March 16, 1864 left herder Joseph Cosgrove dead and half the animals stolen. This was in the vicinity of the Prescott town site as the survey crew was at work. They managed to rescue half the herd.

Summer brought an attack on a pack train bringing goods to store owners Wormser and Wertheimer, who had ordered a wedding dress for Nettie Osburn plus other millinery items for the growing female population of the town. The packers were killed and the Indians were seen by several miners riding across the back of the Bradshaw Mountains with ribbons in their hair trailing behind them.

The “Bully Bueno” mine, owned by the Walnut Grove Mining Company, was the first to have its own steam-powered mill. It was under constant harassment by the Yavapai, with the mill building eventually being burned and the mill never actually being used to crush ore.

In the spring of 1866, Thomas Simmons was herding cattle up Miller Creek from the Sanders cabin. He was attacked by Indians who stampeded his cattle, with a few remaining on the ground to see if they could kill him. Celia Sanders, hearing the shooting, ran towards town and met a rider who she told to go to town and get some men to come to Simmons relief. This was done and they recovered the cattle. In the half hour it took to get help, Simmons had killed seven of his attackers.

On November 16, 1866 George W. Leihy, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and his clerk, H. C. Everts, were killed at Bell’s Canyon while traveling from Prescott to La Paz with an Indian prisoner. Leihy had insisted that the residents of Prescott stop killing Indians and instead take them prisoner. When a prisoner was actually taken, Leihy came to get him.

Miners failing to take the necessary precautions while camping in Indian country were easy targets, as five men camped on Turkey Creek found out one morning when they awoke to find themselves surrounded by Yavapai. The ensuing fight lasted from dawn until two in the afternoon when the Indians left. The miners were all severely wounded with one later dying. This became known as the fight at Battle Flats.

With the military providing little protection against Yavapai raids, the general civilian population took matters into their own hands. Local rancher King S. Woolsey led three different expeditions to punish the perpetrators. All left from his ranch on the Agua Fria River.

The first expedition ended with Woolsey’s men finding themselves outnumbered by their foe. The Indians were invited into the camp to eat and talk and while there the miners opened fire on them, killing upwards of two dozen with the loss of one man killed. This became known as the fight at Bloody Tanks.

The second expedition was made possible with the issuance of Army rations. Nearly one hundred men went out in search of Yavapai rancherias, finding three inhabited. The third expedition explored the headwaters of the Gila and Salt Rivers without finding any Indians.

John Townsend owned a ranch on the Agua Fria and was known to have a great dislike for Indians of any type. This showed itself in his interest in going out “Indian hunting.” When he did not return from one of these trips on September 16, 1873, a group went out to find him and encountered his lifeless body, his horse tied a short distance away.

The Army was kept busy responding to reports of wagon trains being attacked, men killed and livestock stolen. The winter of 1865-1866 saw Fort Whipple garrisoned with two companies of cavalry and four companies of infantry. It was originally designed to accommodate two companies.

The Army had a hand in starting part of the Indian conflict with either the Hualapai or Yavapai, no one is sure. Peaceful Indians were invited to Fort Whipple to make a treaty with Major Willis. There were about one hundred of them. After being fed, they were returning to their camp at Rattlesnake Canyon when they encountered Captain Rafael Chacon and some of his men riding in advance of the governor’s party. When ordered to return with Chacon to camp, they refused and then ran. Chacon’s men fired after them, thus ending the one-day peace treaty and beginning years of conflict.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.