By Mick Woodcock

The first of our noteworthy travelers was Canadian-born Francois Xavier Aubry, who was well known in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as a fearless traveler of the Great Plains by the time he became acquainted with what is now northern Arizona.

Born in the province of Quebec in 1824, he was making trading ventures from Missouri to New Mexico by 1847.  In 1852, Aubry took a herd of sheep down the Gila River route to California and, the following year, drove another herd over the 35th parallel route.  Upon returning from this crossing of Arizona, he engaged in an argument with Richard Hanson Weightman.  In the ensuing fight, Aubry received knife wounds that proved fatal.  He died at age 29.

A native of Pennsylvania, Lorenzo Sitgreaves graduated from West Point in 1832.  He was assigned to the artillery, but resigned soon after and became a civil engineer.  In 1840, he rejoined the army as a lieutenant in the topographical engineers.  It was in this capacity he commanded the army’s first exploring expedition along the 35th parallel.

The mission was to see if the Zuni River, Little Colorado River and Colorado River were navigable.  Starting at the Zuni villages in September 1851, with Antoine Leroux as guide, they modified the plan and headed west to intersect the Colorado River below the Grand Canyon.  This would become the route for the Santa Fe Railroad in years to come.

Leroux received two arrow wounds before reaching the Colorado River, and Dr. S. W. Woodhouse, the expedition’s physician and naturalist, was wounded by a Mohave arrow at the river.  The trip down the Colorado proved harrowing as attacks from both the Mohave and Yuma tribes put the expedition in peril.  Fort Yuma was reached after much suffering.

Woodhouse wrote: “Since we left Bill William’s Fork there have been clouds seen every day, and anxiously did we watch for rain; but this seemed a thing impossible, to rain in this miserable country, where everything appears to be an enemy, and is armed with a thorn or a poisonous sting.”

Amiel Weeks Whipple was born in Massachusetts in 1817.  He entered West Point after one year at Amherst College and graduated fifth in a class of 41 cadets in 1841.  Following assignment to the Corps of Topographical Engineers, he acted as a surveyor for public works projects, a military reconnaissance in Louisiana, and the boundary surveys of Canada and Mexico.

In 1853-1854, Whipple commanded the Pacific Railroad Survey through northern Arizona along the 35th parallel.  With him were his guide Antoine Leroux, artist-naturalist Heinrich Baldwin Mollhausen and assistant Lieutenant Joseph Ives.  The collections and reports from the survey provided the most complete description of the landscape, plants, and wildlife that had ever been gathered in northern Arizona.

Whipple returned to Washington at the outbreak of the Civil War, serving in the force defending the capital and as a mapmaker for the Army of the Potomac.  By then a brigadier general, he died on May 7, 1863 of wounds received at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Born in 1828 in New York City, Joseph Christmas Ives graduated from West Point in 1852.  Assigned to the corps of topographical engineers, his first duty was to accompany Whipple on his railroad survey.  This assured his next assignment, which was a hydrologic and geologic survey of the Colorado River, the largest river not yet surveyed by the army.

Ives spent part of 1857 and 1858 traveling 530 miles up the river on the steamboat “Explorer” to determine the head of navigation.  He then returned to the Mohave Valley, where he prepared for a land expedition that would survey along the edge of the Grand Canyon, and then on to Fort Defiance.  Heinrich Mollhausen accompanied him.  Ives had to return to Fort Yuma to dispose of the “Explorer,” while the rest of the expedition returned to Fort Leavenworth.  Promoted to captain in 1861, Ives resigned his commission to accept one in the Confederate army.

In 1857, Edward Fitzgerald Beale was appointed to survey a wagon road across the 35th parallel, using camels to transport his equipment.  The camel experiment proved that the animals were capable of doing the work, but the project was lost in the shuffle of the nation preparing for war.

In two weeks, Days Past examines Edward Fitzgerald Beale and Arizona’s Legendary “Ghost Camels.”

“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 ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.