by Newell Searle
edited for the Connection by Mary N. Kasulaitis
Herman and Ella Searle were the kind of pioneers every historian loves. Educated and articulate, they kept diaries and wrote letters. With these in hand, territorial Arizona comes to life.
Herman Searle came to Arizona during the silver boom in the late 1870s. Newspaper stories reported fabulous mines. Everyone expected to get rich, Herman among them. He arrived in the Oro Blanco district in 1878, then bought or filed his first claims in January, 1879. One claim caught his attention. With money from savings and Philadelphia investors, he set up the Arizona Southern Mining and Milling Company in 1881. Herman got $151,000 of capital stock. Wealth and position seemed close at hand.
Herman was born in Cattaragus County, New York, in 1848. Hungry for a grander life, he left his family’s farm in 1866, lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. When he finished soldiering , Herman went to business college in Rochester, New York, found work and married his employer’s eldest daughter, Ella Newell. Thirteen months later they had a son, George Samuel Searle. Four years later, with Ella again pregnant, Herman left his family to buy silver claims in Mexico and Arizona. Ella, George and Herman Jr. did not see Herman for five years.
In the Oro Blanco Mining District, Herman teamed up with Don and Will Picket, Nat Crocomb and Tom Tonkin to develop his silver claim. His mine was in a remote site (in Mexico, actually, but then believed to be Pima County) reached only on horseback and mules. The men lived in a camp, known as Searleton, until the mine was opened, then set up quarters in the tunnel.
Herman met Ella, George and Hermie Searle at the Tucson train station in October, 1881. They had left a comfortable life in New York for an Arizona silver camp. For 10 year-old George, this was a boy’s paradise. Within months, he paired up with Arthur Noon and the two became friends for life. Life in the wild among miners and teamsters left a deep impression on George. When he wrote his memoirs, 40 years later, he recalled events and people with exact details of time and place.
Like all miners, Herman gloried in the potential of his claim. However, crude frontier life might be, it must have felt like the threshold of success. His letters reflected optimism. In newspaper reports, he made buoyant, expansive statements. In December, 1883, miners in the district elected him justice of the peace. He held court in the lean-to room at the back of his adobe house.
But silver prices began to fall in 1884. The pockets of silver near the surface didn’t lead to a mother lode below. There was silver enough to entice investors, but not enough to pay off their loans. The mine was a hole that swallowed Herman’s money, ambition and pride.
Gone. Everything he had worked for. His life’s savings and the money of Philadelphia backers. Herman closed his mine in August, 1885, and took a three week buckboard trip to Cananea, Mexico, to look for work. Down and back, he dodged Apaches that raided in Mexico. He returned, empty-handed. Two weeks later, he and Ella left for Calabasas. They packed their belongings into Herman’s buckboard and a wagon borrowed from Adolphus Noon. He hoped to land a job on the railroad but didn’t. They moved to Nogales in 1887, then to Bisbee a year later where Herman ran the railway express office. Three years later, the Searle family returned to Rochester, New York. All except George, who left in 1895. Arizona mining remained a bitter memory for Herman. He seldom spoke of it. Failure meant shame and both were hard to bear. After his wife died in 1918, he bought a printing company that made money. Herman died in 1928.
Ella Newell was born to a middle class family and grew up in Rochester, New York. Her self-educated, successful father was a man of generous public spirit who made civic betterment his cause–an impulse that Ella inherited. A year after she graduated from Rochester Free Academy, in 1870, she married Herman Searle. For five years, Herman worked hard and built up a picture frame business. Ella kept house, raised their first son, George, and took an active role in the Sunday School movement. She and Herman had reached the threshold of a comfortable, respectable middle-class life. But silver fever hit Herman. He sold out his business, moved her to his parents house and left for Mexico before the birth of his second son. Ella didn’t see her husband for five years.
Reunited with Herman, Ella and her boys reached Oro Blanco by stage coach in October, 1881. They moved into a two-room adobe house with a plank lean-to on the back. A far cry from her father’s house in Rochester, New York! But she had spirit. Before long she and Emma Noon, Genoviva Crocomb, Bee Noon and other women in camp organized a Sunday School for all the children, American and Mexican. Children called her “the boss Jesus lady.” The women of Oro Blanco made the camp a community, a place of such fond memories that children, like George, recalled the tiniest details 40 years later. Working together, the women put on Christmas parties. They put up a community Christmas tree. The women made paper cornucopias for the children and filled them with treats.
Ella took a more realistic view of mines than Herman or the other men. She had her doubts, perhaps. In July, 1883, already three months pregnant, she rode to Herman’s mine. Her only visit. Then, as now, it was a hard, hot ride to the border across low mountains and deep canyons through cactus and ocotillo to the place where Herman and the men worked so hard. For this, the men went to great trouble to entertain her in as much style as they could. Ten days later, Ella boarded a train in Tucson to pay a long visit to family in New York.
Raising children proved difficult. Mining camp temptations lured George outside and away from his mother’s rein. He spent his days among miners and teamsters instead of books. And those wild Noon boys! When Ella bore William in 1884, twelve-year old George ran to Dr. Noon’s ranch to fetch him to deliver the baby. Sadly, Herman Jr. died of typhoid at the age of five. Ella taught school in Oro Blanco in 1884-5 and 1886-87 to support the family when Herman’s mine failed.
Ella and William left Oro Blanco in 1887, following Herman to Bisbee where they all lived in a box car for 10 months until a house could be built. Ella didn’t leave the cramped quarters for seven weeks while she nursed William and then George through scarlet fever.
When the family returned to Rochester in 1894, Ella settled back into Rochester society, re-established old friendships and took an active part in the growing suffrage movement. She lectured women’s groups on frontier life in Arizona, and took a protective interest in the WCTU chapters of Arizona until the end of her life. Ella Searle wrote letters to Emma Noon and other Arizona friends until her death in 1918. In later life, George Searle wrote a memoir of his Oro Blanco experiences. His last letter to Arthur Noon was in 1938, the year before George died. William Searle, born in Oro Blanco in 1884, told the Arizona stories to his sons and grandson. And when they were able, they visited Arizona, and met the descendants of the Noon family. They took a hike over the hills to Searleton and the site of Herman Searle’s mine.
Newell Searle is William Searle’s grandson. Thanks to the Searle family, who wrote memoirs, told stories, and didn’t throw out their old letters, we have a wonderful picture of life in this part of territorial Arizona.
by Mary Kasulaitis
The early years of the 20th century were busy with the activities of homesteaders in the Arivaca valley. Up at the headwaters of Arivaca Creek, William M. Marteny and his family settled on arable land and he traded cattle and horses.
Marteny, not to be confused with any of the Martinez folks, was born in Philippi, West Virginia, in 1869 and was left an orphan at a young age, whereupon he was sent to live with an aunt in Texas. His interest in cattle and horses developed early and remained with him for life. Reportedly he drove cattle on the Chisholm trail. It would be interesting to know how he came to arrive in the Arivaca-Oro Blanco area. He was here as early as 1889 and became associated with N.W. Bernard, who had a large cattle and horse ranch in the area. They partnered in several ventures including the Tres Bellotas Ranch. They purchased part of the late John Moloney’s homestead from Bee L. Noon (McNamara) in 1899. Over time, Marteny also bought the John Lyle homestead that adjoins Oro Blanco, the Bernardo (Bartolo) Caviglia homestead that is now under Arivaca Lake and the William Tonkin homestead just south of Arivaca lake road. (I think also the Perry homestead). Marteny homesteaded his own property and proved up on it in 1910, followed by an additional homestead which he acquired in 1918. Billy recorded several brands, prominent of which was the 800, the T+, and the 3-B which referred to Tres Bellotas. Later he recorded the 15 (and the branded cattle) which had belonged to Alonzo Noon and family, after Alonzo died. He acquired a National Forest grazing lease. After twenty years of developing his quite-extensive ranch, Marteny sold his homestead and other properties to Phil Clarke in 1919. Nowadays, that land is now owned by the Buenos Aires Refuge (Quail facility) and the Chilton Ranch. With the proceeds, Marteny purchased the Robles ranch in the Altar Valley. He and his family lived there and in Tucson until his death in 1930. In his diary he does not say why he sold the ranch, but it may have had to do with the Mexican Revolution or the fact that his children were growing up and he wanted to be closer to city life in Tucson.
Like many of the new Westerners, Billy Marteny had gone home to find a wife. He married Della Talbot in 1898 in Philippi and brought her back here. They had a daughter, Elizabeth (b. 1907), who is mentioned below and a son, William Wesley (b 1914). The family owned apartments in Tucson, where they were active in civic affairs. Billy was interested in politics, was reportedly Deputy Sheriff of Pima County at one time and also ran for the Board of Supervisors. Elizabeth never married, but lived out her life in Tucson. William Wesley moved to the Midwest, married, and had a family there. He is buried in Tucson with his parents and sister.
Billy Marteny might have gone the way of many homesteaders, with just a few bits and pieces of his life’s story remaining in the documents but for one thing: he kept an extensive diary, including business dealings, weather, a little poetry and general comments, which his family saw fit to leave to the Arizona Historical Society. You can get a feel for what it was like living here from the following selected entries:
Work January 1st to August 6, 1904–7 mo. and 6 days– $40.00 (per month) $288.00
March 3 Start for Tucson with Bartolo (Caviglia) in buggy and Porfirio’s mules. Got in Tucson 10 p.m. Had lunch at Smiths.*
March 4 Loaded wagon in afternoon, began to rain
March 5 Rainy day in Tucson
March 7 Mrs M, Elizabeth and myself start for home at 8 a.m. Pretty day. At Smiths 3 p.m. George Atkinson also at Smiths.
March 8 Left Smiths at 8 a.m.– house at 2 p.m. Elizabeth was a very good baby. Carmen (Zepeda) had 3 turkey eggs and 22 chicken eggs. We now have 4 Plymouth Rock roosters, 32 hens, 2 turkeys–7 ducks.
March 13–moved into John Lyle house (in Oro Blanco), brought the furniture, 24 hens–3 roosters–2 turkeys–4 ducks. Have carpets down and painted inside.
March 17–go to Rita’s (Mora) for washing and via Arivaca, home at 2:30 p.m. Gumercinda (?) for dinner, bought of her one colt for $15.00, paid $10.00 in cash down.
March 26–went to Arivaca. Got new 800 brand. Mrs Andrews visited today.
April 1–Finished new reservoir and wire corral at my ranch, turned water on Tonkin’s garden. Very warm, cloudy and some rain. Ordered pair boots from Montgomery Ward and Co. Arthur Noon and Miss Clayton married a few days ago.
April 17–Received of Brady Levin Cow. Co, Nogales, 386 steer calves–10 steer yearling calves cash delivered at house $9.20 Yearlings $10.75. A good bunch of calves. Left Nogales, branded at Walker ranch and home on the 22nd. Porfirio and Quate and Guero with me. Paid Guero $4.00 and Porfirio $15.00
March 23–Porfirio and myself fixed windmill–took bath–
–Mrs. M got word her father died Saturday night at 8:30
March 26–planted corn and beans–garden truck. Irrigating wheat. Quate hauling wood. Mrs Andrews visiting–windy weather.
May 1–bought of Antonio Madril one gray horse. His name is Tajon– for $18.00. Made out tax list for Roman Rodriguez.
May 2–Rode into Bear Valley–branded one red heifer T+ , caught her asleep. Recorded in name of Elizabeth A. Marteny.
May –Finished putting up windmill April 16 at cost of $250 for mill, tank and troughs. Very dry spring. No weeds of any kind. Cattle in good shape. Put up fence at Tonkin’s ranch –15 spools new wire. Got lease on 160 acres from Forest Service.
May 19–Returned from Calabasas where I sold to J.E. Wise for Cox Hall Cow Co. 314 steers. Arthur Noon and George Sayers had 96 steers in hand–only 4 steers cut back out of 412 head.
Dry, no rain since Jan 3. No cattle dying yet. No barley raised this year. We are thinking of starting to West Virginia.
June 4–visited at the Andrews–Mr and Mrs Fraser also; chicken dinner. Home at 8 p.m. Gave Mr. A check for $100 to pay men while I am on trip east. Hired boy of Trinidad’s to draw water, Guero to go tomorrow for hay at Dr. Ball’s. I go to Bear Valley to brand. Halley’s comet very fine in evening. Was visible in morning from May 1st to May 17th now visible in evening after sundown.
November 13–Thundered and lightning, big rain, the first good rain of the season. gathering beef for F.C. Weber of Tucson, this is the third bunch for him, sold at steers .04¢ per pound, cows at .03¢ per pound
Go to Nogales the 27th to cut cattle bought in Sonora of Pinson and Donadieu Bros at $10.00 per head for heifer calves–$11.00 for steer calves. The outlook is good for cattle. Built up the Bartolo ranch at cost of $600. 34 spools of wire $119, windmill $100, tank and troughs $40. Patent is now issued for my homestead will soon have it recorded. Pima County taxes for 1910 –$84.27, Santa Cruz Co taxes for 1910– $163.92. Forest Service charges for 1910–$100
Sept 1–One of the worst and dryest seasons ever witnessed up to date Cedar Canyon has not run, wells very low, grass brown and no crops. Grasshoppers ate up everything. Planted 300# of sorghum and 300# of millet. None of it came up–too dry. Yesterday we took over 200 of my and Arthur Noon’ cattle to Bear Valley, branded 35 calves. Took all day to drive cattle from Bartolo ranch. (where Arivaca Lake is now) A little rain today. Grass is fairly good in mountains. Got Bell Mare in mountains now, will keep her there until next year.
Oct 3–Rain began during night and rained all the 4th and night of the 4th and 5th until 11 a.m.
Billy Marteny’s diary goes from 1904 to 1930, more or less. This is a reminder to everyone–keeping a diary is a wonderful thing for your descendants, and anyone else privileged enough to read it. If we don’t remember how things were, it’s almost as if they never happened.
*Smith’s is the Halfway Station–that is, the white building about a mile north of the Cow Palace on the I19 west Frontage Road.
by Mary Kasulaitis
On the news we often see horrific crimes that have been committed by people who could have been stopped, we think, if only we had known. Many think this kind of thing didn’t happen in the “good old days.” I invite you to read a few old newspapers. There is nothing new under the sun. Evaluating our neighbors’ mental health is an old if not honorable activity. A certain man who lived in the Oro Blanco mining district was alleged by the neighbors to be insane. But in 1892 they didn’t use the words allege or insane. They said he was crazy and that was that!
It seems there was a man who had immigrated from China and came to Southern Arizona to work in the early 1880s. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882, so it must have been before that date. He was known simply as Charley, a Chinaman. Perhaps he worked on the railroad but he was in Oro Blanco Mining District quite early. Chinese could not work in the mines, after a law was passed in 1878, but they could cook or do other jobs. He apparently learned English. Charley would have left China for many reasons: famine or wars, or just because the U.S. offered opportunity. Apparently he had relatives in Tucson, but preferred to stay in the Arivaca area.
In 1891 a charge of insanity was brought against him and he was examined by a physician in Tucson. He had claimed that a certain family owed him money, which they denied. He claimed that he was the true owner of the Montana and other mines in the area and that he had been robbed of their ore. This too, could be refuted. He customarily carried a big knife and talked to everyone about the injustices against him. As a result, many people in the area considered him crazy and were afraid he might actually try to use the knife. The physician found him to be insane, and felt that he was homicidal. However, Judge Wood did not think he was dangerous to property, himself or others, and released him into the custody of a cousin in Tucson in August of 1891. Charley told someone that the Judge let him out of jail after only a day or two, and after that he came back to Oro Blanco.
In January of 1892, another charge was brought against him, supported by members of the community of Oro Blanco. One person wrote to the Judge: “I have known the Chinaman for twelve years and have considered him (Charley) crazy all that time.” Nine other members of the community petitioned: “We the undersigned residents of Oro Blanco have known this Chinaman named Charley for a number of years and from his actions have always considered him crazy and unsafe to be at large and his removal from this district is in our opinion absolutely necessary as he is a dangerous nuisance here and liable to try to kill someone at any time as he is reported to be carrying a large concealed knife and to have threatened to commit murder.” Another letter said, “I thought you would be up to take charge of that crazy Chinaman before this time. . .Is it necessary to wait for a crazy man to try to kill someone before arresting him? Suppose he accomplishes the deed, where would the responsibility lay, the officers being notified before and requested to take charge of him?. . . Now, Judge, I wish you to arrest him right away. Be careful as he packs a big knife. You will have to keep a good watch on him on the road.”
Well, needless to say, times were different then. As a result of these petitions and a somewhat cursory questioning given Charley by a Doctor, he was indeed committed to the Territorial Mental Hospital in Phoenix. I don’t know what happened to him after that, or how long he stayed there. There were 5 Chinese men living in the hospital in 1900, but since we don’t know his Chinese name we don’t know which one he was, or if he was still there. The question is, How did he come to be the way he was? It might be interesting to look into the experiences people from China were having in Southern Arizona in the 1880s and 90s. The kind that might drive you nuts.
Chinese gold seekers began arriving in the California gold fields as soon as the word was out. After they had exhausted the possibilities there, they turned to other sources of employment such as working in laboring jobs or for the railroad. Anti-Chinese sentiment grew gradually. Beginning in the early 1850s, the U.S. and local governments began to enact legislation that limited foreign labor, such as the California Foreign Miners’ Tax. In times of economic difficulty, Non-Asians blamed Chinese immigration for their troubles, resulting in legislation that limited immigration. According to Lawrence Michael Fong, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 provided for the rejection of laborers–‘skilled and unskilled and those engaged in mining’–over the next ten years… The Geary Act of 1892 extended the Exclusion Law for another ten years and required certificates of residency with detailed particulars about the person…Regulations called for the arrest of any Chinese without one. So even Chinese who had lived here in the U.S. for years, if they had not become citizens, found themselves unable to be naturalized. These laws underscored the discrimination practiced against the Chinese immigrants. In fact, there were Anti-Chinese Leagues in most major towns in the Territory, although not in Tucson. Charley must have arrived before the Chinese Exclusion Act, but he found himself in a hotbed of prejudice.
There were about 300 Chinese people in the Tucson area in 1900. There were few Chinese women and Chinese men had little opportunity to marry. Laws were passed that denied marriage with non-Chinese. They tended to be shunned socially by the predominant Anglos and Hispanics, and if they did not have a colony of other Chinese with which to socialize, they had few opportunities to make friends. Charley had relatives in Tucson, where there was a sizeable Chinese community, but apparently he didn’t want to stay in Tucson.
In (new) Oro Blanco in the early 1890s, the Kempton family had Chinese domestic servants, but they were not the only Asians in the district. Arthur Noon told this story: “In 1895 there was a Chinese cook at the Old Glory Mine south of Oro Blanco. (Perhaps Charley?) One of the miners thought to have some fun, so after catching a rat in one of the tunnels, he placed it in his lunch box. When the box was opened in the kitchen, the rat crawled to the top of the Chinaman’s head before he was able to knock it off. The cook, recognizing the box and realizing who the joker was, burst into the dining room wielding a cleaver. The guilty miner, not taking any chances, jumped for the door and was last seen scampering down a hillside trail.” This scene reappeared in the dreams of Arthur’s son Fred for years.
There may have been other Chinese besides Charley working in the camps and they definitely had minority status. Since we do not have the 1890 census we don’t know the ethnic makeup of the area in those years, particularly when it comes to counting the people who didn’t own a business. There was a Japanese man who had a cabin on the Warsaw road, date unknown, which was unofficially called “Jap’s Cabin.” Nearby was a water tank for cattle. Now that has been changed to “Japanese” Tank.
I was reminded of Charley’s story while recently reading an article about Betty Lee Sung, a Chinese American scholar. She was determined to go to college in the 1940s, but was told by her diplomat father that she must do what he said and marry, or he would disown her. She went ahead with her college plans, graduated in 1948, and he did disown her. Betty went on to become a college professor and write numerous books on the Chinese American experience. And she married the man of her own choosing and raised eight children in a very organized household. Now 94 years old, Betty continues to educate the country about her ancestral culture.
We must all keep in mind the struggles of our ancestors, no matter what their ethnicity or country of origin, as we read about the struggles of the current immigrants.
References: “The Chinese Experience in Arizona and Northern Mexico”
by Lawrence Michael Fong, Journal of Arizona History reprint, 1980.
“Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans” by Ronald Takaki.
Mountain of Gold: the story of the Chinese in America, by Betty Lee Sung
Newspaper articles accessed on newspapers.com
by Mary Kasulaitis
Stories of the old days in Arivaca and Oro Blanco are remembered by the families of the relatively few people who settled in this area in the 1800s. The Tonkin family arrived in new Oro Blanco in about 1880, probably following William’s younger brother, Thomas. William S. Tonkin had been doing some mining in California and had heard about the Oro Blanco area. He was from England, probably from the county of Cornwall, known for its tin mines. His wife Ella was born in Missouri but come to the West Coast with her family, where she met William. When they arrived here in the Oro Blanco area they had a baby, also named William. They settled first in the Warsaw Camp and William did some prospecting. In September of 1881 their second son, Jesse, was born, delivered by Dr. A. H. Noon. They went on to have several more children. They became good friends with the few other families who were living in or near Oro Blanco, joining in community programs and inviting folks over to eat turkey and other homegrown food.
In the late 1880s, homesteads were opened up in the Oro Blanco area. William Tonkin took advantage of the opportunity to get 160 acres of land and filed on land near Alaska Hill. This area is where the Tonkin Well is located and some of us know it as the place where the Cobre Ridge Endurance Horse Race used to be staged, off the road to Arivaca Lake. Adobe ruins of their home still remain there, under Alaska Hill, on Oro Blanco Wash. William filed for a brand and began raising cattle.
Growing up in Oro Blanco, son Jesse collected stories, which in his later years he related to Fred Noon, whose father was about ten years older than Jesse. Some of these were tales of the Apache raids that took place in 1886. Many of us have heard about the murder in Bear Valley at Yank Bartlett’s ranch of Phil Shanahan and his horse, and the daring run of Johnny Bartlett to get help. Less well known is the murder of Jack Smith near the Ruby Mine and also that of Dutch Moore near Arivaca. 1886: Jesse remembered being warned by Dolf Noon that Apaches were raiding: “The folks hustled us kids, Will, me and Ruth out of bed and after dressing took off for town. I had dressed in such a hurry I hadn’t laced my shoes and kept stepping on the laces while on that pitch dark night trip to town. The group consisted of us kids, Mother carrying sister Ruth and father some bedding and clothes and his 45-60 Winchester. We arrived without incident and took up lodging in the Graddicaps Hotel on Main Street (new Oro Blanco)… My father made daily trips to the ranch to water the cattle and feed the horses and look things over. On one of these trips Father noticed a man on horseback traveling along a ridge when suddenly the rider disappeared from view. Father mounted his horse and with his 45-60 carbine took chase. Arriving at the ridge he spied the rider, an Indian, riding like mad and kicking up the dust about a mile away. The Indians didn’t bother a thing during that raid and we always believed it was on account of the following incident: One bitter cold night while we were huddled around the wood range there was a knock at the kitchen door. Father opened the door and admitted a girl about 17 years old. Through her broken English she told us she was Mexican. She was dressed sort of gypsy fashion with long very full skirt. My parents treated her kindly, made her a hot meal and coffee and bedded her down on the kitchen floor. Father had his suspicious that she was Apache. To verify this he rode to the Noon home (about 2 miles south) and asked your Uncle Alonzo to come with him and ascertain if she could speak Spanish. Alonzo wasn’t what you could call a Spanish linguist but said she didn’t speak Spanish as he did. During the morning, while Father was at the Noon home, this girl coaxed me and my brother Will to accompany her to the top of the Alaska Hill. Arriving at the top she pulled from the folds of her dress a white cloth about two feet wide and five feet long and began waving it in an odd manner. She would repeat this every minute or so. Then she did sort of a wig-wag signal, waited a few seconds, then (with) one long sweep she cast the cloth down and returned it to its place of concealment. She left that afternoon, after another meal. She was evidently giving her people the ‘lay off’ signal.” The Tonkin family was never bothered by Apaches after that, except that they did go to stay at the Hotel in Oro Blanco when danger threatened. Ella Searle, in her letters home, remarked that she didn’t like being so cramped up in the hotel room. Over time, the fears lessened until the day that the Apaches were back on the reservation.
The Tonkins proved up on their homestead in 1892 and subsequently sold it to William Marteny. He farmed the area, as it was bottom land, and maintained the well. He sold the homestead to Phil Clarke in 1919 along with several other homesteads that he had acquired. The Tonkins moved to Tucson where William passed away in 1910. Ella moved to California and lived many more years.
References: Letters from Jess Tonkin to Fred C. Noon, Ella Searle letters, U.S. Census records
by Mary Kasulaitis
After alluding to the Shanahan murder in the last article, I thought I should tell the whole sad story. Apaches had been the biggest deterrent to settlement in Southern Arizona up until the early 1870s when they were subdued and put on a reservation, but the last ditch effort in 1886 by Geronimo and his band to maintain a free life brought tragedy to the local settlers.
A little background: for decades, both Mexican and American settlers had been moving into country that the Apache considered theirs. Being nomadic, they had no farms or towns, and actually had only been in Arizona, south of the Little Colorado River, since the 1600s. They tried to maintain their traditional hunting way of life in spite of the growing number of settlers on both sides of the border. A warlike mentality prevailed, especially among the Chiricahua Apaches. Treaties were made and broken. Apaches tended to live in small bands and each was autonomous. For a long time this confused the American military, which would consider the whole tribe responsible whenever one band attacked.
American settlers realized the value of military protection during the U.S. Civil War when troops were removed to points east and Apache attacks escalated. After the war, the military returned to the Southwest and attempted to “pacify” the Indians. Reservations were set up. The Chiricahua Apache were to go to the San Carlos reservation. This included one of their leaders, Geronimo, who would not stay put. Geronimo was on and off the reservation several times between 1878 and 1886. In 1885, thinking they planned to hang him, he left with forty-two followers. General Crook, premier Indian fighter, took chase. When they had gone into Mexico, he tried to keep them there. In March 1886, Crook thought he had Geronimo again. But that didn’t last long. Geronimo, Naiche, and thirty-five other Chiricahuas including women and children escaped again. In the wake of this colossal failure, Crook was reassigned. General Nelson A. Miles took his place.
Up till this time, most of the Apache action had been in Mexico, New Mexico and eastern Arizona. Now both Mexican and American armies chased the small group, pushing it from here to there. The band split into two small groups. Roberts says, “Geronimo took six men and four women and slipped once more through the intensive border patrol, then raided north all the way to Ojo Caliente. Along the way, he killed his last white Americans, raising the pitch of terror among the settlers.” Some of those last unfortunate Americans were Mrs. A.L. Peck and her baby in the Santa Cruz valley near Calabasas, and Phil Shanahan at the Bartlett-Hewett ranch in Bear Valley, southeast of Arivaca.
The Arizona Daily Star recounted the murders:
“At A.L. Peck’s ranch on Tuesday, Mrs. Peck and her eleven month old baby were brutally murdered. Mr. Peck and his assistant, Charles Owen…were about two miles up the canyon above the house at the time and were themselves surprised by the assassins. Both were unarmed. Mr. Peck’s horse was shot under him at the first fire and he was captured, tied and kept under guard for half an hour or more. Young Owen made a dash for his life, being mounted on a fine animal. Turning into a side ravine he met a shower of bullets…a shot broke the young man’s neck and another broke an arm. . . At the house with Mrs. Peck, was her little niece, Jenny, twelve years of age. She was taken into captivity. Old Geronimo finally came up and had a brief conversation with the Mr. Peck, saying he (Peck) was a good man and he could not kill him. He then released the prisoner, took his boots away from him, gave him thirty-five cents in money and told him to go, but not to go to the house. Mr. Peck asked permission to talk to the little girl, who was on a horse behind a buck, and crying bitterly, but they were not permitted to speak to each other. Mr. Peck went directly to his house and there found his wife and child lying dead by the door.” It is unknown why Peck was spared but his wife and child were slaughtered. Perhaps it is because Geronimo’s family was killed by Mexican soldiers and he retaliated by killing families, leaving the bereaved husbands alive.
However, Geronimo may not have been with this band. The leader was supposedly young and spoke good English, possibly the younger, English-speaking Naiche. About six weeks later Jenny was rescued from the Indians by some Mexican cowboys at a point about forty miles from Magdalena, where she was delivered to Mr. Peck, who had gone after her.
The day following the killing of Mrs. Peck and her baby, Phil Shanahan left John “Yank” Bartlett’s ranch in Bear Valley at the entrance to Sycamore Canyon, and headed for his own home a few miles away. His ten-year-old son Phil was staying back with his friend Johnny Bartlett, Yank’s son. A few minutes later the boys heard shots, then a yell, and Phil staggered into the yard, saying he had been shot by Indians. Yank saw he was badly wounded and would need a doctor, so he told Johnny to run to Oro Blanco to fetch Dr. Noon and warn the folks there. He directed Little Phil to go home and warn his mother and two little sisters of the danger. Phil made it there successfully and they concealed themselves in the mountains until the following day.
Johnny set off on horseback for Oro Blanco but within a few miles he saw three men ahead of him dressed in black and acting as if they were drunk. He came back quickly, finding the Indians firing on the house. He reached the house safely, but his horse and another were shot. One horse followed them into the house and fell dead in the doorway. Yank himself received a wound of which he later recovered.
When night came, Yank sent Johnny off to get help again. For the first two miles he went barefoot to move more quietly. At the Smith house, south of Oro Blanco, he found E.W. Smith, whose home had been broken into and black clothes, guns and a bottle of brandy taken. They went on to Oro Blanco, arriving at 2 in the morning, where the settlers were raised and armed. Johnny was put to bed. Early the next morning he and the men, including Dr Noon and Yank’s partner Hank Hewitt, set off for Bear Valley. Arriving back at the ranch, they found Shanahan on his deathbed and Mrs. Shanahan and the children newly emerged from hiding. At the Shanahan ranch the Apaches had taken all their food and clothing, killed several head of horses and run off many others. Perhaps Mrs. Shanahan would have been killed had it not been for little Phil’s warning.
For their bravery, Johnny Bartlett and young Phil Shanahan were rewarded with rifles and money. However, the Oro Blanco settlers were still uneasy. Women in particular were nervous and fearful in the wake of Mrs. Peck’s death. The Tonkins had been spared, but no one knew what would happen next. All summer long, Ella and Herman Searle wrote worried letters to their family members back East. The attacks had been so unexpected. Apaches could move so fast and so far that no one knew exactly where they might be and speculation was rampant. So it was with considerable relief that the settlers heard the news in September, 1886, that Geronimo had surrendered for the last time.
References: Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo and the Apache Wars, by David Roberts; The Arizona Daily Star; unpublished Peck family manuscript; Searle family letters; No Place for Angels by Roscoe Willson
by Mary N. Kasulaitis
John “Yank” Bartlett was the one person responsible for the initial development of the town of new Oro Blanco and the mining district of the same name. (He probably got the name from old Oro Blanco, several miles south, which had been mined and named by Mexicans long before) His name comes up again and again from the time he arrived in 1873 until his death more than 30 years later.
John Bartlett was born in New Hampshire in 1827 and was a freighter by trade. He came to Arizona with the Army under General George Crook in 1871 and stayed. He and his friend Henry “Hank” Hewitt were well known as Indian fighters and scouts as well as proficient packers. In the early 1870s, the Apaches were subdued, so he and Hank went looking for a ranch. Allegedly it was Pete Kitchen who suggested Bear Valley. This is the valley on the west side of the Atascosas that feeds into Sycamore Canyon, west of Nogales. There is a spring and good grass for cattle. It also has a trail from Mexico, used in old times by the Yaqui.
Just over Mule Ridge to the west of their homestead was a rugged mineralized area of canyons and gulches which had been mined during Spanish and Mexican times. Now called California Gulch. Yank Bartlett and some Tucsonans began prospecting in the old abandoned locations. Large oak trees had grown in the cuts where previous work had been done, leading the prospectors to think that it must have been many years ago, perhaps as far back as the Spanish period. Called “Oro Blanco,” this gold mine was about three miles from the border. At the time no one was very sure exactly where the border was, since at this rugged location it had never been officially marked, and both Americans and Mexicans were somewhat excited over the prospects. Bartlett and some others did a survey and determined that the mine was on this side of the line. In April of 1873 they filed a location notice on the Oro Blanco mine and set up some arrastras.* As time went on, the partners disappeared, but John Bartlett held on to his Oro Blanco white gold. He also located, with other partners, the “Old Mine” which was a few miles west of the Oro Blanco.
In 1873 Bartlett married a widow, Gertrudes Marques Ward, who had two children, and they had seventeen more children, raising 10 to adulthood. The eldest, John Giles “Johnny” Bartlett, became famous in his own right. But that is another story.
In 1875, Yank decided to get involved with the Ostrich mill operation, which they located on a flat mesa, with arroyos on each side, several miles north of the Oro Blanco mine. This mill was affiliated with the Ostrich Mine, which was about three miles west in the hills of Cobre Ridge. According to the Tucson Citizen newspaper: “The gold ore brought in from there was so rich that it excited people to go out of town who have not done so for years.” The Ostrich mill, owned by Bartlett, Hewitt, Dr. Handy and Robert Leatherwood of Tucson, was centrally located to the mining districts, so that ore could be brought there and processed, then transported to Tucson or El Paso. And of course, Bartlett was doing the freighting. As one newspaper said about Yank, “Doing his regular amount of work daily—48 hours out of the twenty-four without turning a hair.” Next on the list was the Yellow Jacket Mine, near the Ostrich lode. The Yellow Jacket became one of the more successful mines in the district.
At the site of the Ostrich Mill, “new” Oro Blanco grew up. Bartlett built an adobe house for his family, an office for his freighting business with Hewitt and a stable and other such buildings as might be necessary to a town. A store went in, later a hotel, Chinese laundry, butcher shop, and other buildings. Dr Noon had his office nearby. Bartlett and Hewett were still raising cattle over in Bear Valley, but when homesteading was allowed in the 1880s, Bartlett filed on a homestead at the New Oro Blanco location. New Oro Blanco became a hub for the area, and many mining men brought their families to live in the more accessible town, which was already well populated with the Bartlett family. This included the A.H. Noon family, the Searles, the Tonkins, the Encinas’, Rodriguez’ and the Orozcos, among others. For all the children, a school was constructed in 1882. After a time, more mills were constructed at the Warsaw and Arivaca, and the Ostrich mill went out of business.
It was in 1886 that an Apache band left the reservation and began raiding again in Southern Arizona. They attacked Bartlett’s ranch in Bear Valley, while Bartlett and Johnny were there. A visiting neighbor, Phil Shanahan, was killed, along with his horse. But that is another story.
Yank Bartlett was nothing if not a hard worker. He was still working hard at the time of his death at the age of 70 in 1905, having outlived his partner Hank Hewitt by 15 years. The story merited the front page, column one, of the May 20 issue of the Nogales paper. With his son George, Yank was hauling a load to Oro Blanco, going down a steep grade near the Tres Amigos mine. (It was to have been the last load.) The brakes gave way and Yank was thrown under the wagon and crushed. At his funeral he was eulogized as being “one of the old timers who had earned with their rifles the right to live in Arizona, in the days when that was vigorously contested by the various tribes of Indians. In those days Mr. Bartlett was known as a man of mettle. Since the Indians gave up the struggle, John Bartlett has been one of the peaceful, highly respected citizens of the territory who numbered his friends by the hundreds.” And his children and their descendants as well.
After 1893 and the devaluation of silver, many mines closed and new Oro Blanco began to lose population, with the Bartlett’s and other nearby homesteads being purchased by A.H. Noon, who never lost hope. He turned it into his ranch headquarters. Since is still owned by the Noon family, it has never been a ghost town. Old Oro Blanco is another story, with mining operations having been worked over the years since that time by various companies up to almost the present day. No buildings are left, however.
*Arrastras are primitive ore mills, powered by donkeys or horses, which were commonly used in this country when a more sophisticated ore crusher was unavailable.
References: Nogales and Tucson newspapers, “Arizona Days and Ways” article by Roscoe Willson in the Arizona Republic newspaper.
by Mary Kasulaitis
On the west side of town going towards Sasabe, a dirt road takes off to the north. “The Old Ruggles Road,” the sign says. It’s named for C.B. and Etta Ruggles, who spent their retirement years enlivening Arivaca with activity and stories.
Some people still remember C.B. and his bout with something like Alzheimers. He was in decline for several years and was kept going through the sheer force of Etta’s will and caretaking ability. However, up to that time he had had a very interesting life, albeit not now politically correct. May I point out that in those days trapping and hunting were perfectly acceptable occupations.
C.B. and Etta moved to Arivaca in the late 30s and took up residence on some mining claims a few miles north of town. Bob Marshall described their place as he first saw it in 1956: “The camp was small, located in a draw. There were two good wells on the property, which consisted of about twenty mining claims. Besides the mail house, there were three small guest cabins. The yard was a hodge-podge of Indian artifacts, mineral specimens, deer racks, javelina skull, and other souvenirs of the surrounding country. Several varieties of prickly-pear cactus grew about the yard. A huge bear trap, one of a kind in use a century ago to trap the big grizzly of the Rockies, hung from an iron pole in one corner of the yard. A number of Gambel’s quail were feeding about the place.
The Ruggleses asked me in and showed me about the little house. It was a veritable museum inside, as the yard was outside. More mineral specimens, hunting trophies, guns and tanned hides were everywhere. I took a seat while the Ruggleses showed me their scrapbooks.
They had spent three years together trapping in Alaska. (They met in Anchorage) They had written two articles on their adventures in the north for The Saturday Evening Post. There were also pictures Ruggles had taken of Indians in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. He was, I found, mentioned several times in the Report of the Game and Fish Warden for New Mexico, 1912, and was pictured with bear and mountain lions he had killed. He had once been an intimate friend of J. Frank Dobie (read Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver for a story about C.B.). The two of them had once traveled together in the Sierra Madre. He had not done any lion hunting for a number of years. They had been living in this place about sixteen years on their Social Security.
Little by little, as we looked through the old scrapbooks and talked, C.B. Ruggles’ colorful life took shape. Now eighty years old (in 1956), he had certainly lived adventurously. His very start in life was unusual. He was named C.B. having been born on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy train while the train was some hours out of Quincy…
The son of a physician turned Indian agent and rancher, Ruggles had been reared on an Oregon ranch among Modoc Indians. In his earlier days, he had punched cows, mustanged, trapped for fur, and spent considerable time guiding hunting parties in the Rockies and Old Mexico. In the early 1900s Ruggles was chief guide for the Cliff Cities Pack Outfitters, a concern specializing in pack trips into the Four Corners country. For many years his headquarters was in Taos, New Mexico. Yes, he did have another family before Etta.
From professional hunting Ruggles turned to prospecting and mining, searching for the Lost Tayopa Mine in Mexico. Possessed of considerable medical knowledge picked up from his father, Ruggles was often in a position to administer medical aid to natives in the back country of Mexico. His status as El doctor saved his life many times.”* When C.B. started to slow down they came to Arivaca to retire and do a little prospecting. And a little story telling.
C.B. was a great storyteller. Robert Marshall reprinted his tale of the shooting of an onza in his book on those elusive big cats. He was also a great one for lost mine stories. He’d sit outside the store and entertain anyone who came by.
Etta was just as adventurous as C.B. in her own way. Born in Sweden in 1897, she came to the U.S. when she was 17 years old with a group of Mormons and settled with them in Salt Lake City. Somehow she ended up in Alaska, where she was known to trap, hunt and drive a dog sled with the best of them. When she came to Arivaca with C.B. she helped build their cabins. Some would say that she probably built them all by herself. It was her “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” For years she was the den mother of Arivaca. She had no children of her own, but all the kids in town had wooden toys or doll furniture that she had made. She started a 4-H club and taught crafts in Emma Mae Townsend’s class at Arivaca school. Every year she made sure all the children had something to take to the Pima County Fair. These kids also remember her little wire haired fox terriers, and especially her herd of goats and the experience of having to drink goat milk whenever you made a trip to her house. Etta organized activities and took care of everyone in town. One of the most exciting things she did was to get Santa Claus to make a trip to Arivaca! Besides that, she frequently worked at Hack’s store or for Stockwell’s Honey Company. Etta was nothing if not hard working, and always with enthusiasm and a big smile.
When C.B.’s health declined, they moved to Tucson. He died in 1962 and on his headstone in Evergreen Cemetery is a miner and burro that he drew himself. Etta moved to Prescott. She passed away in 1969 and is buried next to C.B. in Tucson. I would hate for people to forget the folks behind the name on the road sign. Its easy for me to remember Etta: she’s in one of our old home movies, taken on my first birthday. And of course, she brought the cake.
*The Onza, by Robert E. Marshall, New York : Exposition Press, c1961. (Bob was Barbara Stockwell’s father) Thanks to Haclene Townsend Culling and Alice Allen for their remembrances of Etta.
by Mary Kasulaitis
The first Arizonan to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City was Arivaca’s own Ramón Ahumada. Although he had no children of his own, a generation of young men, too numerous to mention, proudly bear the name of Ramón, Ray or Raymond, in honor of the gentleman who managed the Arivaca Ranch for forty years.
Ramón Ahumada was born in Batuc in the Altar District of Sonora in 1868, the son of Jose Ahumada. His uncle, Jose Vega, was mayordomo on the Arivaca Ranch in its earliest years. Vega brought Ramón to Arivaca when he was just a young boy, and raised him to follow in his footsteps. Ramon became mayordomo before he was 21 years old. When the Arivaca Land and Cattle Company was incorporated in 1909 by Noah C. Bernard, John Bogan, George Pusch, John Zellweger and Ramón Ahumada, the principals were blessed with business savvy, personality, ambition, and in the case of Ahumada, the ability to manage cattle on a large scale. Thus the company was able to expand until it was one of the biggest operations in Southern Arizona.
In those days there were few fences and cattle roamed at will. As Phil Clarke said, “Cattle roamed from hell to breakfast before barbed wire came into general use. The cattle were wild and so were the cowboys.” The annual roundup was a community affair in which all the ranchers and cowboys gathered the cattle, separated and branded the calves. According to an extensive article in the Arizona Cattlelog, Ramón was frequently chosen to boss these roundups, because of his ability to manage cattle and men as well. “Sometimes as many as 5,000 cattle would be sorted in one day, with a crew of from 70 to 80 men. Ahumada would break his crew down into four wagons, assigning one group to work certain valleys of the Baboquivari foothills, another towards the east in the Atascosas, and so on, covering an up-country sweep 40 miles wide over countless hills, arroyos, flats and mountains. As the sorted and gathered bunches were driven in to the day’s campsite, the confusion to almost everybody would seem complete. But as the sun went down, order would gradually emerge, the calves being driven off in one direction, various bunches of 2 and 3-year old steers being merged into one driving herd, the mother cows, minus their calves, trailing off for their more familiar ranges, and other bunches going off under a little guidance from the cowboys to just where their owners wanted them. Old-timers still marvel at Ahumada’s timing…. Ahumada had a knack for handling men, assigning jobs to the various owners and cowboys alike with such courteous tact that they seldom realized they were being ‘bossed.'” Phil Clarke, who, along with Jack McVey, Luis Romero and probably many others, looked upon Ramón as his mentor, said that “Ramón was a genius at organization. Every man was assigned to a job, which included roping, branding, cutting out the strays, wrangling the remuda and collecting the beef herd. It looked like all dust and confusion, but Ramón’s men got the job done.”
“The knowledge displayed by Ahumada in the identification of cattle brands was regarded as little short of marvelous by cattlemen and cattle inspectors. The man had an uncanny instinct for correctly tracing a badly blurred brand, an instinct that was of inestimable value to owners and inspectors when the mystery of an animal’s marking required unraveling. He knew all the brands of the southwest range and would frequently sit at the elbow of a cattle inspector correctly identifying brands when there were as many as 40 or 50 different marks on a mixed herd of livestock. His identification in this respect was never questioned.” (Tucson Citizen, 1/13/26)
“Like most Mexican vaqueros, Ramón Ahumada’s horsemanship was superb. He rode with that easy grace and effortless dash which somehow inspires an alert horse to extra effort. And he frequently rode the same horse all day. The Texans who had ‘invaded’ the Altar Valley after 1914 or so, would express their disapproval of riding the same horse 60 or 80 miles in one day when others were available, But Ahumada and his Mexican cowboys’ horsemanship, compared with the stiffly erect, somewhat strained, I-am-the-boss Texas style, left each Arivaca man’s horse fresher after a day’s work than those used by the Tejanos, relay fashion.” (Arizona Cattlelog)
The Arivaca Ranch horses were of excellent stock, Standardbred-Thoroughbred crosses, imported from out of state. Ramón knew them all by name, and was responsible for training them so that they could be used on the ranch or sold to be polo ponies.
Ramón was married to the beautiful Virginia Zepeda, a member of the Moraga family, whose ancestors had included the co-founder of San Francisco and the captain of the Presidio at Tucson during Spanish times. She was the great-aunt of baseball pitcher Alex Kellner. She died in Tucson in 1954 at the age of 86.
Everyone seemed to have a story to tell about Ramón. Fred Noon was always impressed with his silver mounted saddle and bridle, which was once prominently displayed in the window of a store in Tucson and now reposes in the Arizona Historical Society Museum. One possibly apocryphal story said that when Gabriel Angulo praised this set, Ramón gave it to him, but perhaps this was only an illustration of his fabled generosity.
Phil Clarke admired his ability to talk his way out of bad situations, telling how he once mediated a difficult encounter with some Yaqui Indians who had been found butchering a company calf. Not sure of his welcome, and noting a number of Yaquis in the trees surrounding the illegal activity, Ramon went down to have a talk. A few minutes later they had given him the loin, but he had left the Yaquis with dinner and enough jerky to keep going. No one shot him in the back and they even left the hide so it could be counted, as he had requested.
As Ramón Ahumada had lived by the horse, so he died. Luis Romero, Arivaca Ranch cowboy who was as close to Ramón as a son, told of an accident, the results of which eventually claimed his life. They were riding in the Jalisco country near Clifford Well when Luis’ horse threw him. Ramón roped it, using his 60 foot reata, but in the process was thrown off his own horse and hit his head on a rock. Six months later, he had apparently recovered from this accident when he suddenly became ill and was taken to Tucson to the hospital. The Spanish language paper reported daily on his progress, but sadly he succumbed, an untimely death at the age of 56 on January 13, 1926. Not forgotten, however, so that when the National Cowboy Hall of Fame was created in 1958, Ramón Ahumada’s name was enthusiastically submitted with the first group of inductees. And I’m sure that somewhere in Southern Arizona, someone sang a corrido in honor of Arivaca’s most famous vaquero.
By Mary Kasulaitis
In 2009 we suffered through the murder of Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul. These murders tend to stand out in the history of a small place where everyone knows everyone else. However, the memory of those deeds eventually tends to get lost, and over the decades a story that seemed horrific at the time can just disappear. In times past two other murders shocked our town.
There may still be folks around (quite old, or family members) who remember very clearly the murder of Santiago Padilla. It happened on Christmas Day in 1931. It seems that Santiago was estranged from his wife, Francisca (Pancha), who had gone home to live with her mother, Dona Placida Aros. Frank Cortez, a relative of Mrs. Aros’, had come back to Arivaca after an absence of twelve years, and was staying with her, too. Santiago took offence at the interest Cortez apparently showed in Francisca. According to the Citizen: “Padilla, the evidence showed, resented the presence of Cortez at his wife’s home. He protested and is said to have threatened to kill his wife. He was asked to leave. On Sunday before Christmas, Francisca Padilla, her mother and Frank Cortez went to Ruby to see the officers there and register a protest against Padilla’s threats. Upon their return to Arivaca, Padilla stood in the road with a loaded rifle and without warning began shooting at the three. Cortez, to protect the women, leaped from the car and returned fire. Nine shots were exchanged with no damage but several dents in the body of the car. Padilla disappeared and the following day the trio came to Tucson and obtained a warrant for Padilla, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon. The warrant was never served.” Sheriff Bailey had apparently talked to Santiago and had reason to know that there are always two sides to every story. “Trouble over a woman” didn’t seem to him to merit an immediate arrest.
On Christmas Day the two men met and began to talk together as they walked towards Arivaca creek. Frank Cortez apparently took out his gun and shot Santiago Padilla once in the back, then again in the mouth. There were witnesses who would later testify at the trial that Padilla did not have a gun or knife, which contradicted Cortez’ testimony that it was “either him or me.”
Cortez ran away across the cienaga and hid in a shack south of town. By and by, he decided to give himself up to Frank Edgells, the local border patrol officer, mostly because he was afraid the friends and brothers of Padilla might find him first. Some say he was persuaded to give himself up. Cortez freely admitted he shot Padilla, but with reason. Assisting in the search for Cortez were George Smith and Fred Pyatt, customs officers stationed at Ruby. (Yes, there was local law enforcement in those days.)
The coroner’s inquest was held in Arivaca. The Arizona Daily Star reported: “The little school house was packed with the neighborhood of Arivaca, for the most part friends of the slain man and enemies of Cortez.” According to the Citizen, “The jury sat in the small and uncomfortable school seats while the judge and county attorney used kitchen chairs hurriedly brought from a nearby ranch house.” As the inquest began, one could hear in the distance, the hammering together of a coffin and “the clink of the pick and shovel of the friends of the dead cowboy who were preparing his last resting place in the cemetery adjacent to the school. The digging of the grave kept up monotonously and as the sun was slowly sinking behind the purple hills, a brother of the dead man asked the judge to excuse him in order that he might drive 60 miles across the desert and hills to secure a priest to officiate at the last rites.” The Star patronizingly considered this a “primitive setting,” to which the Coroner and Sheriff brought law and order. Frank Cortez pleaded not guilty.
The wheels of justice moved more swiftly in those days, and in February, 1932, the trial was held, lasting only a few days. Although charged with murder, the jury found Cortez guilty of manslaughter, and recommended the full punishment of 9-10 years in the State prison. Apparently Cortez served at least eight years. They say he came back to Arivaca at some point, but of course, he didn’t stay.
Vaquero friends composed and sang a corrido in memory of Santiago Padilla and the day on which he was killed.
The second murder recounted here took place some thirty years prior, in 1893. Frank Oury, the victim, was an exceptional, good looking young man whose parents, William S. Oury and Inez Garcia Oury were well-known Tucson pioneers. Frank was born in Tucson in 1864. He grew up there and later graduated from Berkeley. His parents had passed away some years before and he had returned to stay in Tucson. In 1893 he was just beginning the profession of mining engineer, and was in Arivaca to meet with General R.H. Manning who had mining interests here.
On September 19, the two men were in the hotel (the white house across the street from the Merc), along with Pedro Miranda, the owner, and Ignacio Ortiz. According to the Citizen: Three masked men entered the place and demanded money. Frank chose to grapple with the knife-wielding bandit nearest to him and seemed to be getting the better of the struggle when one of the others ran over to Frank, placed a gun against his ribs, and pulled the trigger. Frank continued to fight, following the bandit out the door, whereupon he was shot again, and this time the wound was mortal. A number of other shots were fired, but no one else was hurt. The bandits made their escape.
One of the outlaws apparently had ties to someone in Arivaca. The search for them extended into Mexico. Eventually, four men were implicated in the murder.
Tucson mourned the passing of its golden boy with an extensive funeral and daily articles in the newspapers, lamenting the loss of such a fine young man. Arivaca’s image slipped: it became known as the place where Frank Oury was killed.
References: Pima County public records; The Arizona Daily Star; Tucson Daily Citizen; William Sanders Oury: History-maker of the Southwest by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr. In regards to the Padilla murder, thanks also to the excellent memories of several former Arivacans who were there at the time of the shooting, but who have since passed on.
by Mary Kasulaitis
This is a tale of two murders that happened near Old Oro Blanco, down near the border south of Ruby. In those days there was local law enforcement: Justice of the Peace McClenahan presided. There were Arizona Rangers, Deputy Sheriffs and line riders. But in neither crime was the perpetrator caught. Here’s what happened:
Jasper Scrivner was a miner of the old school who had lived in The Lower Country for a number of years. He was best known for his unusual methods of gold extraction. In a certain spot on his mine the gold was bound up in some hard clay deposits. Scrivner would break up the clay by beating it till it became a fine powder, then pan it. A.H. Noon reported that this was the first time he’d ever seen gold thrashed out with a stick.
A.C. (Alf) Lamb was also a miner who had come to Tombstone in 1888 and worked there for a time before moving to Tucson. He was employed by Wells Fargo as a driver, but maintained his interests in mining. In 1905 he was prospecting in the Old Oro Blanco and Tres Amigos area and had interests in several mines there. Apparently he also had enemies. On the night of April 2 he was blown up as he slept in his bed. The Arizona Daily Star reported: “Some persons having a grudge against Lamb, as is conjectured, on the night of April 2, placed a stick of giant powder, connected by a fuse far removed. The explosion that followed blew out the side of the cabin where Lamb slept. Lamb’s body was found to be terribly disfigured with part of his head being torn away.”
A.C. Lamb was known to have had some disagreements with Jasper Scrivner. In a memoir published in 1959, Jack Ganzhorn, nephew of Lamb, told of a story in which Lamb and Scrivner both claimed the same mine. In 1896 Lamb had allegedly inherited a mine called the Beehive from an old man named Silvernail. Scrivner claimed Silvernail owed him money and thought the mine should belong to him. In Tucson, one night in 1896, as Ganzhorn related, “three strange men were heard to say they were leaving on the morning Oro Blanco stage to run Alf Lamb off the property and take possession.” Only 15 at the time, Ganzhorn was enlisted to ride out ahead of the stage and warn Uncle Alf. He started out on horseback, early in the morning, carrying with him a quantity of extra ammunition for his uncle. Alf and Jack barricaded themselves in the mine tunnel with their dutch oven, supplies, blankets and a barrel of water. The men arrived the next day, carrying plenty of fire power. Not realizing that Alf had been warned, they were surprised when they found themselves facing a couple of rifle muzzles pointing out of the mine tunnel. They backed down quickly, but not before they had mentioned Scrivner’s interest in the mine. Jack always felt Scrivner had some connection with the murder. In addition, just before Lamb’s murder, he and Scrivner had allegedly quarreled, so when Lamb was found dead, the first person accused was Jasper Scrivner.
A couple of weeks after the murder, Scrivner was in Montana Camp (Ruby) when he was arrested by two Arizona Rangers, who shackled him and set a guard. Justice McClenahan, who was living in Old Oro Blanco and was acquainted with Scrivner, held a preliminary hearing and charged him with the crime. Other than the known bad blood, there was really no evidence to charge him with the crime, as the Star reported. “There are those who say that there is undeveloped evidence which points to other parties.” This did not surface, but neither did any evidence against Scrivner that was conclusive. Everything presented was circumstantial.
After a few months in jail in Nogales, Scrivner was cleared. But as the Oasis reported: “Scrivner did not enjoy his freedom long enough to take a stroll around town, however as Deputy Sheriff Cook was on hand with a warrant sworn out of the Justice Court of Oro Blanco, charging him with a misdemeanor. The charge was based on the accusation made by a woman of Oro Blanco that Scrivner had threatened her. This was in regard to other evidence provided in the former hearing. In a second indictment, he was charged with rape, the victim being her 14 year old daughter. Apparently he had argued with Lamb over the girl too. This information had come out in the hearing, complicating the whole affair. Scrivner’s attorney asked for a change of venue, but Justice McClenahan declined to grant the change, stating that “he was running his own court.”
After some more time in the Nogales jail and several lawyers later, Scrivner was again exonerated of any crime, a physician asserting that there was a physical condition rendering guilt impossible on such a charge. No other evidence had come to light.
Scrivner went back to mining and later ran a store in Old Oro Blanco. Years went by. Then, on the night of March 5, 1914, Scrivner was seated in his room, by an open window. He had closed his store for the night. The Citizen reported: “Benito Carrizoza heard shots at the store and ran to the Warsaw for help. On reaching the store, all was quiet. They went around the house to see what had happened and they saw Mr. Scrivner through the back window. He was lying on the floor and apparently had been murdered…Mr Scrivner had been sitting at a table reading a mining journal. They shot him twice through the window, the bullets entering the back of his head and neck. He just fell over sideways, but remained in the chair, his glasses and book falling on the floor. The house was ransacked for money and gold. They found some, but missed a pint beer bottle almost full of gold which he had hidden among some quilts…the robbers did not find it but after searching for it they tried to set fire to the house by pouring oil around and laid the lamp down and covered it over with quilts, but in their rush, they smothered the flame. Mr Scrivner always showed his gold to everyone that came in and no doubt that was the only motive for the crime as nothing else was disturbed. Mr. Scrivner was over and had Mr. Dillon melt some gold for him into a bar on the third of the month. That was gone. Mr. Dillon thinks about $400 was gone according to what Mr. Scrivner told him on Tuesday that had been there.” (Tucson Daily Citizen, March 10, 1914.)
The criminals were never found, but Scrivner’s wife believed that Mexican bandits were to blame, the border only being two miles away and similar murders having subsequently happened at Ruby. Scrivner left behind a wife and sons. A.C. Lamb left a wife and four children. Neither murder was solved.
Nowadays, topographic maps show a canyon named in Jasper Scrivner’s honor. At least, I feel certain that his must be the name on the canyon that lies near Warsaw Canyon in the area where he used to mine. The only trouble is, they spelled it Scribner.
References: Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, Nogales Oasis newspapers. I’ve Killed Men: an epic of early Arizona by Jack Ganzhorn. Thanks to Al Ring for his help.
Note: these murders happened near Old Oro Blanco, which is about two miles from the border, not the Oro Blanco on the Arivaca-Ruby road.