Prospecting Tombstone, and Our Arrival at Geronimo’s Camp
(From Life of Tom Horn, originally published1904)
BY TOM HORN
I went back to the Indian camp and told the old [Apache] Chief [Pedro] all about the whole business [that no white man not in the employ of the government was allowed on the reservation, and that the government had no money to pay me], and that I must go. We had a big feast and dance that night and my [Apache] friends each gave me a present of some kind, consisting principally of hair ropes, raw-ride ropes, hackamores, moccasins, buckskin bags and all kinds of stuff such as Indians make. The Apache women and some of the bucks were very skillful in making raw-hide and hair work of all kinds, and I had, during my residence with them, picked up a good deal of the work, but it is something that takes years of practice to become perfect in. Before I left the Apache and Mexican country I, myself, had become an expert in all work of that kind, as I learned all that the Indians and Mexicans both knew. And many an hour and day and week have I passed here in jail [in Cheyenne, accused of murder] making rawhide ropes, hair ropes, hackamores, bridles and quirts.
Well, the work was over for most of us and we had to drift; and as Tucson was the Mecca of every border man in that country, to Tucson we went.
I had seven or eight good horses and a fine outfit, as did others of the [cavalry] scouts. Sieber was our leader, of course, then there were Archie McIntosh, Sam Bowman, Frank Monic, Charley Mitchell, Long Jim Cook, (six feet eight inches in height), Frank Leslie, Frank Bennett, Sage, Merijilda Grijola, Jose Maria Yescus, and Big Ed Clark. All of these were scouts or interpreters, and then there were a good many packers. I think there were twenty-one of us in the bunch.
We stayed around Tucson for a while that summer till Ed Scheflin came in from California and was getting an outfit at Tucson to go to where he had found some rich mineral a few years before that time. Scheflin and Sieber were well acquainted, and they had a talk. So we all concluded we would go to this place as we had nothing else to do. Most all of the packers had gone to work “skinning” mules for some of the freighters, so that when we did finally pull out with Scheflin there were only about five or six of our original crowd. Scheflin described the country to Sieber, and Sieber told me it was the “Cochise” country, as Sieber and I called it, for Cochise, a Chiricahua Chief of great fame, had been born there, and two of his grandsons, Chihuahua and Natchez still lived there a good deal of the time. Scheflin’s party were all well armed, but they were like all pioneer miners, seemed to care not in the least when Sieber told them, when we were ready to start, that we were going into the very heart of the country where the worst In-dians in the world lived; that we would have to fight and fight hard if the Indians happened to be in there, and that there never was a time when there were not Indians there; that we would not be there long till every hostile Indian in the South would know of it.
“Scheflin assures us that there is mineral there, and lots of it,” said one big prospector, “and if there are any bad Indians there they will have to look out for themselves.” Sieber said, “Come on boys!” and we pulled out.
There were about sixty men in the party, and as I was talking to Sieber that night at Pantano, he told me about those prospectors of whom I knew very little. Scheflin had found silver there, and was run out by the Indians and one of his partners had been killed and he had gone to California and got these men, and every one of them was a frontiersman, a miner, and a warrior, and no Indians could keep them out of that country now that they were sure there was mineral there, for nothing has ever yet stopped people of that kind. If they found the mineral there as Scheflin assured them, it would be as that big fellow had said in Tucson, the Indians would have to look out for themselves.
Six days after we left Tucson we camped on the ground where Tombstone now stands, and after we made camp, Ed Scheflin said, “Boys, we have arrived; for right here is where I was camped when Lenox was killed, and now come on and I will show you where I was digging.”
We all followed him up in the hills about a mile, and sure enough there was a hole twenty-three feet deep, just as Scheflin had said there would be. The entire exposure was all ore and good ore at that, and those miners went as crazy as bats over it. Scheflin had this claim all staked out and all the men had made some kind of a contract with Scheflin before he brought them there. Scheflin told all of them to go back to camp and that he would hold a council that night.
That night all these prospectors got together and Scheflin made them a talk, and reminded them of some agreement entered into before they left California and Nevada, which, as I afterwards understood, was for Scheflin to get a quarter interest in all claims staked by the party; but Scheflin did not say in this talk what their agreement was. He told them there were millions of dollars there to be had for the digging, and he made a motion to call the camp Tombstone, as the initial monument of his claim was right at the grave of Lenox, who had been killed by the Indians on the first trip to that country.
“Tombstone shall be the name of the new camp,” said every one, and then the meeting broke up.
Next morning by daylight every man was ready to go to look for mines. Sieber and I went way up toward the divide and staked out a claim that day. And I will say here, that though the claim was not worth a dollar, we sold out that fall for $2,800.00.
Scheflin’s claim, that he had previously worked, turned out to be a bonanza, and was known as the “Grand Central.” Scheflin left the camp in three years, a very rich man. Many others of the party also made fortunes there, as Tombstone turned out to be one of the big silver camps of the Southwest.
I made plenty of money by hunting, as I could get $2.50 apiece for deer, and I kept the camp pretty well supplied. The news went broadcast that a new mining camp was struck, and by October there were 1,500 men there and plenty of stores and saloons.
Such was the starting of Tombstone, that in one year had a population of 7,000 souls.
In October of that year a detachment of soldiers, with Micky Free as guide, came to the new camp, or Tombstone, as we will now call it, and made inquiry for Sieber and myself. Sieber and I were up in the middle pass after deer when the soldiers came in. Lieutenant Von Shroder was with them, and had a letter from General Wilcox, Department Commander, wanting Sieber and me to go to Fort Whipple at once, and to consider ourselves under pay and orders from the time we received the communication.
When we got back to Tombstone, Von Shroder was waiting for us. So, as we both had enough of mines and mining, we hunted up a man named Charley Leach, and he gave us $2,800.00 for our claim, and on the 16th of October we pulled out for Fort Whipple.
General Wilcox told us, when we got to Whipple, that everything was in bad shape, and that the Indians were “raising Cain,” and he wanted Sieber to take up his work where he had left off early in the summer, and see if something could not be done to quiet the Indians. Some of the Indians were making whiskey; all of them were drinking it, and they were robbing and raiding and killing, and the soldiers could never come up with them.
The Sixth Cavalry had come into Arizona the year before and relieved the Fifth Cavalry. The Sixth had never been in the mountains, and while General Wilcox said the Sixth was one of the best regiments in the army, they could never get at the Indians.
Under Sieber’s directions, a scouting force was again organized, Sieber as Chief of Scouts and I as interpreter. I was now to get $100.00 per month; but it did not take an old hand to see that we were going to have trouble, and a lot of it.
San Carlos, of course, was to be our headquarters, and it was very little of the time that we were to put in there. Sieber himself was a tireless worker, and any one to hold a job under him, when there was work to do, had to go day and night; for in a case of emergency Sieber would entirely forget to sleep, and he could live on what a hungry wolf would leave.
I was sent to old Pedro’s camp to get some Indians Sieber wanted as scouts and police, and as it took a week to get the ones I was sent after, I had a good visit with my old friends. Many of the young bucks of about twenty years of age wanted to go and fight their own people, but Sieber and Pedro were of one mind about them, for it was the work of able and experienced warriors to get the Indians back where they were eight months before. The tamest and best of the Indians needed a strong hand to control them, like Pedro, for instance, and the wild and bad ones were as Pedro had previously said to Major Chaffee uncontrollable.
“You will have years of hard work, and many of them will have to be killed,” said the old counselor, proud that he did, indeed, know the Apaches.
Nana at this time (Spring of ’78) sent in word by an old squaw that he and Geronimo, who were living in Mexico, wanted to come and live on the Reservation, and that he wanted to see Sieber and have a talk with him. He sent word that he did not know any of the officers in the Department, and he said they didn’t know anything about what an Indian wanted, anyhow, and for Sieber to come to the Terras Mountains and make certain signs, and some of Geronimo’s men would come to him. We were to be at a certain place at the full of the May moon. That was just what Sieber wanted; so he sent the old squaw back to tell these two chiefs that Sieber, Merijilda and I would be there. (Merijilda Grijola was a Mexican captive raised by the Nana and Geronimo bands of Chiricahuas.)
We started from San Carlos so as to reach the designated place by the full of the moon. We followed the San Bernardino Creek from its head down to where it runs into the Bavispe River, in Mexico. Just as we were crossing the Bavispe River we saw an Indian coming down a ridge on foot from towards the Terras Mountains. While our horses and mules were drinking in the river, the Indian came and stood on the bank and leaned on his gun and looked at us, but did not speak a word till our animals were through drinking, and we rode out on the side he was on. Sieber and Merijilda spoke to him, and I did the same. He said to me: “Who are you? I know these two men, but I never saw you before.”
Merijilda then told him who I was, and told me, also, who the Indian was. In talking to an Apache you may never ask his name, for no Apache buck ever pronounces his own name, and when once you know the custom you will never ask his name. You may ask who he is, and he will tell you what band he belongs to, but his own name he never speaks.
Well, this man turned out to be the one sent by Nana and Geronimo to meet us, and his name was Hal-zay. He was the first hostile Indian I had ever seen, and he sure looked the brave that he was. Tall, slender and smiling, he stood there looking as unconcerned as you please. He was dressed in a low-cut breech clout and a handsome pair of moccasins. For ornaments he wore a belt full of cartridges, with a long Mexican knife. Sieber said he was a half brother to Natchez, and that he was one of the worst Indians there was in the entire tribe. As he appeared then, now smiling good-naturedly and now laughing, he did not seem to be the bad man Sieber said he was. I will write later on of his death at the hands of an old man in Pedro’s band.
Hal-zay said Nana and Geronimo were waiting for us up on the top of the Terras Mountains, and he told Merijilda to go to a place in the Terras Mountains called by the Indians Tu-Slaw. We asked him if he were not going back with us, and he said no. We then started on to where he had directed us to go. Sieber and Merijilda said that this fellow would watch to see that no soldiers were following us to trap the rest of the hostiles.
Geronimo at the Height of His Power
It was about 10 a. m. when we saw the first Indian, and it was night when we got up on top of the mountain to the main Indian camp. There must have been 1,000 or 1,200 Indians in camp. Camp fires were burning everywhere. Just when we got to the edge of the camp an Indian boy about ten or twelve years old spoke to us, and told us to follow him and he would take us to a camping place. We followed him to the place he indicated, then made camp and turned our animals loose, and the boy said he would take care of them. We got to work and straightened things around a little, and four or five women came with wood and built a fire for us, bringing cooked meat. We had some bread, and as we were very hungry we enjoyed a good meal.
When we were through eating, an Indian buck came up and began to talk to us, and asked us did we want anything more to eat, and we told him we had had enough. He said we would be looked for at the council at sunup next morning, and we told him we would be there. The old squaw came up then, the one that had come to San Carlos with the message that took us to the place we then were. Quite a lot of squaws had gathered around by this time, and were laughing and talking to us as if we belonged to them.
Merijilda had been raised with these Indians, and he asked Sieber if he might go and visit around a while, and Sieber said yes, that he might, and that I might go, also, if I wanted to. Sieber spoke to Merijilda in Spanish, and many of the Indian women understood what he said, and we were invited by the women to go with any and all of them. I went one way and Merijilda another, for the camp was very large. Merijilda didn’t get back to camp that night, and it was nearly morning when I got back. I did not see half a dozen men that night, but there were women and children by the hundreds.
The old woman who had brought the message to us at San Carlos wanted me to stay at her lodge all the time I was in the Indian camp, but I excused myself by saying I had to stay where my chief could find me any time. This old woman gave me a good send-off among the Indians by telling them how well I had treated her, and had given her all she could eat, fed her mule, and given her a lot of flour and sugar and meat when she left. Of course, she did not know that I did this because Sieber and Major Chaffee ordered me to do so, and I would not spoil a good thing by telling her!
At daylight the women were at camp to give us some more meat, I made some coffee and we had breakfast.
Just as it was ready, Merijilda came in, and after we got through, he led the way to the council. The sun was just coming up. Now all the women and kids were out of sight, and only warriors were around the place selected for the council. Then Geronimo got up out of a crowd of Indians and came over and shook hands with Sieber, and for the first time in my life I saw this man of whom I had heard so much from both Indians and white men.
Certainly a grand looking war chief he was that morning as he stood there talking to Sieber; six feet high and magnificently proportioned, and his motions as easy and graceful as a panther’s. He had an intelligent looking face, but when he turned and looked at a person, his eyes were so sharp and piercing that they seemed fairly to stick into him. Anyhow, that was how they looked to me; but I was a little shaky, anyhow.
“How are you, young man?” said he to me in Apache.
I told him I was all right. I might as well have told him I was a little shaky, for he knew it anyhow. He asked us to come over into the center of the circle, where we had the talk, and then he said to Sieber: “Who will interpret for you?” Sieber told him I would do it.
While Sieber could talk Apache very well and understand it very well, still he could not talk anyways near well enough to take in all that a man like Geronimo said. Geronimo then said to me: “I speak very fast, sometimes. Can you undertake to interpret as fast as I talk?”
I told him he had but one mouth and tongue, that I could see, and for him to let loose. “Well spoken!” said he; and then he asked Sieber what he had come down there for, and Sieber said to hear what he (Geronimo) had to say. “I want to hear you talk,” said Sieber.
Well, the big talk was on; and how that old renegade did talk! Of the wrongs done him by the agent, and by the soldiers, and by the White Mountain Apaches, and by the Mexicans and settlers, and he had more grievances than a railroad switchman, and he wanted to go back to live on the Reservation. He wanted to be allowed to have a couple of Mexicans to make muscal for him, and he wanted the Government to give him new guns and all the ammunition he could use. He wanted calico for the women, and shoes for the children when there was snow on the ground, and any and everything he ever saw or heard of he wanted. Geronimo was the biggest chief, the best talker and the biggest liar in the world, I guess, and no one knew this better than Sieber.
Geronimo must have talked an hour or two, and Sieber never said a word in reply. At last Geronimo stopped talking, for he had asked for everything he could think of, and he was a natural born genius at thinking of things.
Sieber sat perfectly still for some time, and then arose and looked around him, and it was sure a beautiful spot we were camped, and Sieber looked around as though he was admiring the view and the camp.
“Tom, tell Geronimo just what I say, no more and no less,” said he. “You have asked for everything that I know anything about,” continued Sieber, “except to have these mountains moved up into the American country for you to live in, and I will give you till sundown to talk to your people and see if you don’t want these mountains moved up there to live in. If you are entitled, by your former conduct, to what you have asked for, then you should have these mountains too.” That was all. Sieber turned and walked out of the council.
Not an Indian stirred nor spoke for a long time, and then Geronimo arose and said: “Anybody’s business that is in that man’s hands will be handled as he says, or it won’t be handled at all. We will meet here again at sundown.”
Everybody then went his own way. I went back to our camp and Sieber was lying down on his back on his blankets looking up at the sky, and he did not move for a long time. At last he got up and said to me: “Tom, did you ever know of another such man as Geronimo?” Of course I never did, and I told him so.
“Well, go on away now, for I want to think today of all the mean things I can say to that old wolf to-night.
Come about noon and make me some coffee, and tell those women that feed us to bring me some meat then, and tell them to keep away from me today.”
I went away and visited and got acquainted during the day, and was welcomed in every camp. Sieber had bought some calico and a few presents for the women that he knew from former experience would have to wait on us, and he told me to give them to the women who seemed to have the business in charge. I did so, and they were received by the women with great apparent joy. And then I learned that it was considered quite a privilege to be allowed to cook for us, as those who did so were sure to get nice presents in the shape of calico, beads, needles, thread and pearl buttons.
When sundown came, Sieber and I again went to the place where the council was held, and saw a good big fire had been built, and there was a lot of dry wood piled up, and two women were there to keep the fire in proper shape. I guess there must have been three or four hundred warriors there, and most of them had on a blanket of some kind or other.
Sieber stood and looked all over the crowd, and then said to Geronimo:
“This morning you asked for many things, and you knew I could not give you many of the things you asked for, and I do think that you asked for the most of them because you love to talk, and not because I could or would do as you asked me. Anything I do promise, you know full well you will get; for you have ever found me as I said I would be. I am not the fluent orator that you are, neither do I put in my time asking for or trying to get that which I know I can never obtain.
“Now, this I do say to you: Go to the Reservation, and do as you will be advised to do by the Government, and you will get all that the Government can give you.
“You know what the Government can give you, for you have lived there and drawn your rations, as many Indians are doing now. You will also be given a blanket for each of you, and other things just as you have before received; but I can promise you no more, for it is spoken by my Government that you shall get no more.
“Geronimo, I have no idea you will do as I say, for you do not love peace. You are a man of war and battle, else you would not be war chief of the Chiricahua tribe.
“You could go to the Reservation and stay maybe one season, and maybe only one moon. But within this camp may be some who do really want to come up and settle down to a peaceful life. Any and all such I will take back safely, and most of your people know what you will get. Twice already have I taken you there, and twice have you become uneasy and left. Never did a complaint come to the Government that you were not fed.
“Never did you complain of not having clothing and blankets enough. But there would be a row between this tribe and some of the other tribes, or some one would sell you a lot of whiskey and you would all, or a great many of you, get drunk and away you would go; and until now you have not complained of not getting what the Government promised you.
“This thing can not last. The white men are as the leaves upon the trees. There are hundreds and hundreds of white men to every Apache. It is true many and many of the white men can not protect themselves from such warriors as there are here, for it is my opinion in the world there are none better. Still, all the Chiricahua and Aqua Caliente in existence, or nearly all, are within hearing of the words I am saying now, and they can not stay on the war path and not be exterminated. Slowly, of course; but one by one you will be killed or captured, and how will you ever replace them?
“True, you can say the Americans can not and will not be allowed to come armed and in force into this, a Mexican country, to fight you.
“Such have been the conditions so far, and I know that you have no fear of the Mexican soldiers, and many a time have I heard your women say they could whip the Mexican army, and that the Mexicans were poorer than the Apaches. And to that I will say that within a short time, a year or two, or maybe three, that a peace talk will be held by the Mexican and American Governments, and arrangements will be made to allow American soldiers and scouts to enter these mountains in force and in pursuit of you, and then you will be doomed to capture, or will be all exterminated; for, as I said before, the American troops are without number. I have ever spoken words of advice to you in council. Never have I told you one lie, and not a warrior here now will say he thinks I talk two ways.
“Consider well what I have said to you. I leave in four days for San Carlos.” Sieber then turned and went back to our camp.
His talk had, as I could see, made a deep impression on the Indians. Merijilda was left there with me.
Presently Geronimo spoke to one of the sub-chiefs, and he came over to where we were standing, and said that the Apaches would be alone; or, in other words, for us to leave the council. We left, of course, and went back to camp.
All night long did the council fire burn, and at daylight, when I got up and looked around, I could see bucks returning to their camps. They had talked among themselves all night!
Goodbye to Geronimo
During the rest of our stay a good many Indians came and told us they were going back with us.
There was a camp or troop of soldiers at old Fort Tony Rucky, and as that was not far from where we would cross the Mexican line going back, we knew we could get rations there for the Indians that returned to the Reservation with us.
I traded two fine Mexican blankets for two good horses and two mules. They were all splendid animals.
The blankets cost me $12.00 in Tucson; so I made a good trade. The Indian I traded with did well, also, for he of course stole the stock from the Mexicans!
There was no more council, for Sieber had said his say.
When we were ready to start to San Carlos, at the time set by Sieber, sixty-two Indians were ready to go with us, among them being the chiefs Nana and old Loco, a once famous chief, but at this time he must have been eighty years old, or maybe more.
Geronimo came to us when all was ready to start, and said he was glad that these Indians were going back, as they were mostly widows (whose men had been killed) and children, and a few very old bucks. Geronimo told me to come to his camp at any time that I had any word to bring him from the Government officials, and not to be afraid, as I would always be well treated and perfectly safe.
“You are a young man,” he said, “and will always be at war with me and mine; but war is one thing, and talking business is another; and I will be just as pleased to meet you in battle as in council.”
We then pulled out for San Carlos Agency.
At night, after we had camped on the Bavispe River, Merijilda left us to go on ahead with dispatches to General Wilcox and Major Chaffee. We had to have troops to escort us as soon as we crossed the Mexican line into the United States.
When we got up close to the line we swung off toward the Bonito Canyon to wait for this escort, which arrived in a few days, and we then proceeded toward San Carlos.
We finally got to the Agency all right with our Indians and made them camp in the forks of the San Carlos and Gila Rivers.
We had not been back a great while till another squaw came in and told us more of the same Indians we had the talk with in Mexico were ready to come to the Reservation. Sieber was then laid up with the rheumatism, so I was ordered to go with some troops, and escort them in. I then saw what their game was, that is, to raid and kill in Mexico and bring the stock to San Carlos.
There were about fifty, or, to be accurate, forty-nine in this second bunch, and they had about 500 head of horses and mules. Trouble was sure just beginning for us! There was a duty on horses and mules coming from Mexico into the United States, and at San Bernardino, on the line, was a bunch of custom house men from El Paso, Texas, to collect duty on this stock. Not a soul of us knew what to do. We could not pay this duty, and these officers would not let us bring in this stock without it, and the Indians told us that the Mexican troops were following them and would perhaps overtake them in a day or two.
The renegades, of course, could not and would not understand the condition of affairs. There were about fifty warriors with this last bunch of Indians, but they had not shown up to us. They were in the rear to head off the Mexicans.
Luckily, the Mexicans turned back after getting within about twenty miles of the line. The custom house men counted the horses and mules and finally let us go on; the officer in charge of our escort promising to do what was required by the custom department later on.
All that year I was going back and forth between the Mexican line and San Carlos bringing in bunches of Indians and big bunches of stock.
The Mexican Government was just “raising Cain” because we were doing as we did. There was no mistake but that it was wrong, and very wrong; but we were powerless, and it did look to the Mexicans as though our troops were upholding the Apaches and protecting them in their raiding.
To be continued…