WHEN THE WEST WAS YOUNG
WHEN THE WEST WAS YOUNG
FREDERICK R. BECHDOLT
D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY
Copyright, 1922, by
The Century Co.
All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher.
To My Father
Dr. A. F. BECHDOLT
The writer is indebted for the material in this book to a goodly number of the old-timers, from whose lips came much of which is written in the following pages, and to numerous printed works which he consulted, sometimes to authenticate data and sometimes to get additional facts.
Among the former to whom he wishes to make acknowledgment are: Former Sheriff John Ralphs, San Bernardino, California; Captain Harry C. Wheeler, Douglas, Arizona; A. M. Franklin, Tucson, Arizona; Colonel William Breckenbridge, Tucson, Arizona; Dr. D. T. MacDougal, Carnegie Institution; William Lutley, Tombstone, Arizona; Judge Duncan, Tombstone, Arizona; A. H. Gardner, Tombstone, Arizona; C. M. Cummings, Tombstone, Arizona; Andy Smith, Tucson, Arizona; Guy C. Welch, Tombstone, Arizona; Mr. and Mrs. John Slaughter, Douglas, Arizona; James East, Douglas, Arizona; Horace Stillman, Douglas, Arizona; D. F. McCarthy, Lipscomb, Texas; and the Arizona Pioneers' Association.
Among the latter are old files of the "Tombstone Epitaph" and other Arizona newspapers; Manley's "Death Valley in '49"; Upton's "Pioneers of Eldorado"; Ridge's "Life of Joaquin Murieta"; Dukes' "Famous Criminal Cases"; Farish's "History of Arizona"; McClintock's "History of Arizona"; Hittel's "History of California"; Bancroft's Works; Visscher's "Pony Express"; G. D. Bradley's "Story of the Pony Express"; "Overland Stage to California," by F. A. Root and W. E. Connely; Inman's "Santa Fe Trail"; Humphreyville's "Twenty Years Among Our Hostile Indians"; Richardson's "Beyond the Mississippi"; Bourke's "On the Border With Crook"; J. Ross Brown's "Adventures in the Apache Country"; Charles Siringo's "History of Billy the Kid"; Bard's "Life of Billy Dixon, Scout and Plainsman"; Brown's "History of Texas."
PAGE HOW DEATH VALLEY WAS NAMED 3 JOAQUIN MURIETA 25 TOMBSTONE 54 TOMBSTONE'S WILD OATS 80 THE SHOW-DOWN 105 THE PASSING OF JOHN RINGO 132 JOHN SLAUGHTER'S WAY 160 COCHISE 190 ONE AGAINST MANY 218 THE OVERLAND MAIL 248 BOOT-HILL 277
WHEN THE WEST WAS YOUNG
HOW DEATH VALLEY WAS NAMED
There were three of us sitting on a pile of lumber in a sun-baked little mining town down near the Arizona border. One of my companions was the sheriff of the county and the other was an old man with snowy beard and sky-blue eyes whom every one called "Mac." To look at him was to behold a vision of the past.
As we were whiling away the time with idle talk something was said which aroused the spirit of reminiscence within this survivor of the unfenced West. He closed his jack-knife with a snap, threw away a pine stick from which he had been peeling shavings, and turning his sky-blue eyes on the sheriff, "I remember—" he began.
After which he told of cheating Death in quicksand fords, of day-long battles with naked Apaches in the malapi, of fighting off bandits from the stage while the driver kept the horses on a run up Dragoon Pass, of grim old ranchmen stalking cattle-thieves by night, of frontier sheriffs and desperadoes and a wilderness that was more savage than the wild riders who sought sanctuary within its arid solitudes. He did not talk for more than forty-five minutes at the most and the words came slowly from his lips, but when he had done my head was spinning from more visions of bold men and large deeds than it had held since the Christmas night when I reeled off to bed after bolting a full half of the "Boy's Froissart."
And after that old man had sauntered away in the hot-white Arizona sunshine I thought of other grizzled chroniclers to whom I had listened in other parts of the West. Some of their tales came back to me, straightforward simple stories of the days before the farmers, barbed-wire fences, and branch railroad lines; and I marveled at the richness of a lore whose plain unvarnished narratives of fact stand out with values exceeding those of most adventure fiction, more vivid and colorful than the anecdotes of the Middle Ages which the French chronicler set down for all the world to read.
Every State between the Mississippi and the Pacific has its own stories of deeds that took place during an era when even the lawbreakers attained a certain harsh nobility, and when plain men must prove themselves heroic if they would survive. The names of many heroes in these tales have become like household words all over the United States, and what they did in many places is printed on the maps of school geographies; but there is a vanished legion of those old-timers who are remembered only in the immediate neighborhoods where they lived swiftly and died hard. Emigrant and prospector, pioneer and Indian chief, cow-boy and cattle-thief, sheriff, stage-robber, and pony express rider—only the old men can tell their stories now.
All of those men, whether they be famous or forgotten, owned a common virtue which still survives among the people who came after them. That pioneer spirit which makes the average American eager to try what no one else has done is the common motive in the tales of their exploits. It stands out strongly in this story which tells how Death Valley got its name.
One evening early in November, 1849, a party of emigrants was encamped near Mountain Meadows down in southern Utah close to the Nevada line. It was a glorious night of the intermountain autumn; the stars burned large and yellow overhead. In their faint radiance the white tops of more than one hundred prairie-schooners gleamed at the base of the hillside which rose into the west. Here and there one of the canvas covers glowed incandescent from a candlelight within, where some mother was tucking her children into their beds. Out on the long slope the feeding oxen moved like shadows through the sage-brush, and beyond them coyotes shrieked incessantly.
Fairly in the middle of the camp a leaping flame shone on the faces of a crowd of men. For the world-old question of a short cut had arisen to divide opinions in this company and they had gathered around a large fire to try to settle the matter.
They were on their way to California and the placer fields. In Salt Lake City they had learned that the season was too far advanced to permit their crossing the Sierras by the northern passes and they had organized into what they called the Sand Walking Company, with John Hunt, a bearded Mormon elder, as their captain and their guide. He was to conduct them by a trail, unmarked as yet by any wagon track, over which some of his people had traveled to the old Spanish grant recently acquired by their church at San Bernardino. This route to the gold-fields followed the Colorado watershed southward taking advantage of such few streams as flowed into the basin, to turn northward again at the pueblo of Los Angeles. Thus it described a great loop nearly parallel with what is now Nevada's southern boundary.
But before the Sand Walking Company left Salt Lake City a man named Williams drew a map for one of its number showing what he claimed was a shorter pathway to the Land of Gold. This Williams Short Route, as it came to be called during many a heated discussion, struck off straight into the west bearing to the San Bernardino road the relation of a cord to its arc; until it reached a snow-clad peak. This peak, according to the map, was visible for many miles, a clear landmark during-nearly half the journey. Reaching it the trail turned sharply north to cross the range by an easy pass and traverse a long rich valley to the gold-fields. There were many legends of good feed and water-holes on the drawing. The promise of time saved was an important consideration, for all of the company were getting impatient to reach the placer diggings lest they be too late.
The trail forked near this place where they were encamped to-night. John Hunt had halted the party here for two days while scouts crossed the long divide to the west and looked over the country beyond the summit to see if wagons could travel that way. And now his pathfinders were giving their reports. They stood in the open space by the fire, three lean and sunburned men dressed in semi-Indian costume with their powder-horns slung from their shoulders and long sheath-knives in their beaded belts. One after the other they addressed the crowd and each gave it as his opinion that the short cut was impractical. The country was too rough, they said.
The murmur of many voices arose among the audience. Most of the men there were nearing middle age and doubt showed on the bearded faces of the great majority; doubt and disappointment, for they were eager to see their journey's end and that Williams map had aroused high hopes. Here and there a woman stood beside her husband, listening anxiously to what he said, watching his eyes as he harkened to the talk of those about.
But there was one portion of the circle which stood out in marked contrast to the rest. The men here were for the most part in their early twenties; their faces were serene, their eyes untroubled by any doubt; and there were no women with them. While the others stood weighed down by uncertainty, they lounged full length on the ground basking in the heat of the flames, or sat in groups on near-by wagon-tongues, laughing and whispering jests among themselves. Several of them were wearing bits of Indian finery, after the manner of the guides, and this sprinkling of buckskin shirts, fringed leggings, and beaded moccasins, together with an occasional crop of thick hair that reached to a pair of broad young shoulders, gave a dash of savage picturesqueness to their section of the audience. They were a company of bachelors from Illinois and called themselves the Jayhawkers. Their end of the camp had been the scene of wrestling matches and frolic every night since the train had left Salt Lake City; and, as one might expect, it was one of their number who had gotten that map of the Williams Short Route. They were unanimous in advocating it.
Now Ed Doty, their captain, stepped forward into the open space by the fire. Fixing his bold young eyes on John Hunt, whom he addressed rather than the audience, "We haven't found the country yet," he said, "that could stop us and we're not afraid of that over there." He pointed out into the darkness where the summit of the divide showed black against the western sky. "We're going to try the Williams Short Route."
Hunt nodded. "All right," he answered quietly, "and if the rest try it, I'm going through with you if I have to pass through hell to reach the other end of the trail. But if one wagon sticks to the San Bernardino road I'll stay with that wagon, for I passed my word to take you that way."
It was sometime near midnight when the crowd left the fire, but the sun was barely up the next morning before the wagons were lined out along the side hill. Far ahead of them where the trail forked, John Hunt stood waiting alone.
The white-topped prairie-schooners came on slowly toward him from the northward through the sage; the heads of the long-horned oxen swinging low from side to side before their heavy wooden yokes. The first span reached the solitary figure of the captain and went straight on south; the wagon rumbled by and Hunt knew by its passing that he must keep to the San Bernardino trail.
But the second driver halted his team and leaned out from his seat to take the hand which Hunt extended him. "We'll try the short route," he said.
"Good-by," the captain bade him; "good luck." The man called to his lead span; the great yokes creaked and the front wheels whined against the wagon-box as the animals swung the prairie-schooner to the west.
And now wagon after wagon halted briefly while its occupants exchanged a brief farewell with the bearded man beside the road; then the outfit struck out straight westward up the long steep slope; until, when Hunt turned to rejoin his remnant of a following, three quarters of its members had forsaken the Sand Walking Company.
The prairie-schooners of the seceders made a slender white line in the wilderness of sage which reached on before them, up and up. Beyond the crest which rose gray-brown against the cloudless Indian summer sky, the desert waited silent as Death itself.
They traveled for three days up that long steep slope and when they reached the summit to look down upon the other side they discovered that the Williams map was worthless as a guide. Here, where it promised easy going, a steep-walled canyon led down from the north blocking their road. Beyond, a wilderness of sandstone pinnacles and naked cliffs dropped away and away to depths invisible.
Then most of the drivers turned back their oxen to follow Captain Hunt and overtake him on the San Bernardino trail by which he led his company in safety to Los Angeles. But twenty-seven wagons remained parked among the twisted junipers, their occupants biding the return of scouts whom they had sent ahead to seek a pass. Although the map had proved of no value when it came to showing a road, they still believed in the snow-clad peak which it had promised, somewhere before them in the hidden west. They were determined to find that landmark and strike out for it.
The scouts came back on the fourth day and reported a pass far to the northward around the canyon head. But before the prairie-schooners lined out on the ridge to make the long detour, the unmarried owners of outfits banded together in a company, advising those with families to return to Captain Hunt. They did not care, they said, to be responsible for the lives of women and children in this unmapped wilderness. The advice was not taken and the train set forth in two sections, twenty wagons belonging to the Jayhawkers and their bachelor companions and seven owned by men who traveled with their wives and little ones.
The scouts had picked an easy route through rolling hills where bunch-grass stood in thick clusters among the tall gray sage; the oxen cropped the rich feed as they went along. Clear streams ran noisily in most of the ravines. The train passed the canyon head, and one day, after considerable aimless wandering, it turned westward to cross a succession of wide tablelands where feed was good and water still plentiful.
The Indian summer season was at its height now, clear balmy days and cloudless nights. Their progress was steady for some time, uninterrupted by ill luck of any kind. When they halted for the midday meal it was like a great picnic in the soft warm sunshine, and when evening came the Jayhawkers rollicked around their fires or gathered where one of their number had tuned up his fiddle. William Isham was his name, a great bearded fellow who hailed originally from Rochester, New York; he would sit by the hour on the tongue of his wagon playing "Oh Susannah" and other lively airs, or strike up a jig tune while Negro Joe, who had fled from slavery in Mississippi, did a double shuffle in the firelight. The children slipped away from their mothers to set peeps at the fun from the edges of the crowd or play hide and seek in the shadows of the sage-brush; there were ten of these youngsters in all.
Many of these evenings would find a number of the older men clustered around the wagon of Asahel Bennett, an Iowa pioneer whose outfit included a young hunter by the name of William Manley. For Manley went ahead nearly every day to spy out the country and these men were eager for tidings of the snow-clad peak which lay before them hidden in the west.
Now gradually as they went onward the country began to change; the sage-brush became more stunted, the grass tufts sparser; the streams ran smaller and smaller. Until there came a day when they traveled from dawn until long after sunset before they encountered any water; and this lay lukewarm in hollows of the sandstone, accumulations from rains of long ago. The earth was hard and dry and there were stretches where there was no earth at all, only a rubble of sharp rock fragments radiating heat-waves under the glaring sun.
There was no rollicking about the camp-fires any more. When evening came the men were weary from hurrying their wagons over rugged ground or climbing lofty buttes to look ahead for signs of water. Isham the fiddler left his violin in its case; he never took it from that case again. The oxen had grown gaunt from lack of feed and drink; they wandered about the night camps nibbling disdainfully at what growth there was, low bitter sapless weeds.
The change in the country had come so imperceptibly that they did not realize the presence of the desert until they were confronted by an-appalling revelation one afternoon.
All that day and all the day before the drivers had been goading the failing oxen while they peered with reddened eyes out on the glaring plain, from which arose a series of isolated cone-shaped buttes. For the water in the barrels was running very low and they were always seeking some sign of stream or pool.
Then one of them uttered a loud cry and at that shout the others saw, two miles or so off to the right where the plain opened out between the cone-shaped hills, a lake whose waters were bluer than any they had ever looked upon. A little breeze was stirring its surface, and on the further bank there were some trees whose branches were moving as if perhaps the wind were stronger over there.
Now every driver lashed his oxen to a lumbering run, and the women lifted the canvas tops of the prairie-schooners to show their children the pretty lake. The whole train turned away from its course and went rumbling across the plain, one mile, then a second; and another followed before they found themselves in the midst of a glaring expanse of snow-white alkali, baked by the sun to rock-like hardness. The vision of blue waters had vanished with the suddenness of a dream which ceases on the instant of awakening.
The mothers lowered the canvas wagon-covers and soothed their crying children, and the drivers turned the oxen back toward the trail which they had forsaken for the lure of the mirage. There was no word of grief among the men, no outcry of despair; but the shoulders of some were sagging when they made their dry camp that night, and there was a new hardness in the eyes of all of them. For they had looked upon the desert and they knew it for what it was.
As they were sitting about their little fires a man came staggering among them out of the darkness. It was Manley, the young hunter of the Bennett outfit, who had been away for two days on one of his reconnoitering expeditions. They gathered around him in silence but he read the question in their eyes and shook his head.
"No water," he answered, "nor sign, of it, but I have seen a snow mountain straight west of us."
He told them how he had lain out on the summit of a high butte the night before until dawn came revealing a dead world. Dark ragged mountains of volcanic rock lay to the north, and to the south a tangle of naked ridges whose sides were discolored as though by fire. Between these scorched ranges a plain stretched for a good one hundred miles into the west, as level as a floor and gleaming white. Beyond that plain a low chain of mountains rose, as black as ink, and behind this gloomy range he saw a snow-clad peak that glistened in the morning sun.
They talked the situation over; all of them were convinced that Manley had found the peak described by the Williams map, and now they argued for different routes. Of the four points of the compass there was only one which lacked an advocate. For, while some urged a northward circuit and others believed there would be greater safety to the south and many were determined to push straight on west across the gleaming plain of alkali, there was not one word said of turning back into the east.
Survivors tell how some of the women wept under the covers of the prairie-schooners that night, but none of those mothers raised her voice in favor of retreat. They were pioneers, these people, and it seemed as if they did not know how to turn back.
None can ever set the fulness of their story down in words; for the Amargossa Desert has a wicked beauty which is beyond the telling, and one must journey out beyond the black escarpments of the Funeral Mountains and fight for his life in the silent reaches of that broken wilderness if he would begin to realize what they went through.
They made their last camp together at a brackish water-hole near the edge of the plain which Manley had described. Beyond it they could see the snow-clad peak. They repeated to one another the legends on the Williams map, its promise of a pass close by that summit and of a fertile valley leading to the gold-fields in the north. If they could only reach the mountain, they agreed their hardships would be over, their journey as good as ended.
They separated here to set forth by two different routes. The Jayhawkers struck straight out across the flat, while the little company of families kept to a more roundabout course in the south, hoping to find water in the mountains there. From this time on, although their trails converged and crossed, the wagons never united in one train again.
In that silent land where the skeletons of dead mountain ranges lie strewn among the graves of seas that died in ages past, they held their eyes on the one sign of life that rose into the clear sky beyond, the peak whose promise kept them moving on into the west.
Days passed and the smaller party found no water in any of the canyons which came down to them from the south. They used the last drops from their casks; and now they could not eat for thirst, they could not sleep. The children wailed for drink until their voices died away to dry whisperings, and when the mothers strove to comfort them they found their arid tongues had lost the power of shaping any words.
At last Mauley, the young hunter with the Bennett wagons, discovered a warm spring near a canyon head, but the oxen lay down in their traces on their way up the gorge and the men were obliged to bring water down to them in buckets before they could get the unhappy brutes to rise. They filled the barrels with the tepid fluid and goaded the teams on, seeking some sign of a pass in the low black range which lay between them and the snow peak. If there were only an opening, it seemed as if they might win through.
Meantime the Jayhawkers were pressing hard across the gleaming plain. The surface of that plain was white as snow, as level as a floor. It was so hard that the wheels left no track on it; no shrub grew from it, only a low bitter weed that crumbled to a gray powder at the slightest touch. The oxen plodded along with their heads hung so low that their muzzles almost swept the ground; they stood about the camp at night, emaciated beyond belief, swaying from weakness, grating their teeth as they moved their jaws with a pathetic instinct of rumination. Five days passed and on the night of the fifth, when these young fellows knew they could not live another twenty-four hours without water, a light cloud came between them and the stars. They felt the cool touch of snowflakes on their faces and they spread their blankets to gather what they could while the oxen licked the moisture from the earth. The next morning the sun shone hot again upon the plain against whose vast expanse the wagons showed, a little line of dots creeping slowly toward the white-topped mountain in the west.
At Ash Meadows where the bitter waters of the Amargossa River rise from their hidden depths to flow for a few hundred yards between gray hills of shifting sand, the trails of the two parties converged. By the time they reached this dismal oasis they were killing their oxen for such shreds of meat as they could strip from the bones; but as every wagon left the place, climbing the divide beyond, the occupants forgot their sufferings and talked of the desert as something which they had left behind. For Furnace Creek canyon lay ahead of them, a rift in the black range which rose between them and the snow-clad peak.
The Jayhawkers were now in the lead. They went down the gorge whose black walls seemed to shut out the sky in places, and on Christmas morning, 1849, they emerged from its mouth to see the great peak just ahead of them.
But, as they looked up at the mountain toward which they had been striving for so many weary days, they discovered that its sides were verdureless, bare of any earth, so steep no man could climb them. And there was no pass.
They had descended into the pitfall at its lowest depths. Here where they first saw the place, more than two hundred feet below the level of the sea, great beds of rock salt covered its floor worn by the wind into a myriad of pinnacles, as high as a man's waist, sharp as knives and coated with brown dust. In the center of this weird forest a level sheet of white salt lay glistening in the sun. Northward the deposit stretched away to dunes of shifting sand, and in the south long mud flats lay, covered with traceries of sun cracks as far as the eye could reach. The eastern mountains came straight down in cliffs as black as ink. Eight miles away the western mountains rose in a sheer wall surmounted by Telescope Peak, whose snow-clad crest towered eleven thousand feet above the heads of the men whom it had lured here. There was no sound of any life, no track of any animal. No bird—not even a buzzard—flew overhead. The very air was a desert like the burning earth.
Now, even as they came down out of Furnace Creek canyon into this trap, they began their efforts to escape from it.
The Bennett party crossed the sink through the forest of rock-salt pinnacles and headed southward along a strip of loose sand which lay between the mud flat and the mountains. They believed the range might yet show a rift at this end which their wagons could traverse. But the Jayhawkers turned to the north, seeking some outlet through the Panamints at that end of the range. One family followed them. J. W Brier, a minister from a little frontier community in the Middle West, left the other section with his wife and three children in the hope that the young men might find a route to safety.
Sometimes to this day the winds, moving the dunes of white sand in the valley's northern arm—a task which they are always at from year's end to year's end—uncover the fragments of wagons, and prospectors come upon a tire or spoke or portion of a sun-dried axle. Then they know that they are at the place where the Jayhawkers abandoned their prairie-schooners.
They killed some of their oxen at this point and divided the meat—there was so little of it that although the men were now very weak two of them were able to carry the beef from an animal. Then they started out on foot across the sand dunes toward the Panamints. Most of them still believed that feed and water lay just beyond those heights.
And now, while they were straggling along through the loose sand in single file, one of their number, a man named Fish, was seen to throw his hands above his head and pitch forward on his face. Those who were behind came upon him lying with arms outspread, dead.
The next afternoon as they were climbing toward the head of a steep canyon in the range, several of the foremost ones found a little spring among the rocks. While they were resting here they saw a man far below them. He was crawling toward them on his hands and knees. One of the party filled his canteen and hurried down to meet him; but when he arrived, the other was gasping his last in the bottom of the sun-baked gorge. It was Captain Culverwell, a skipper who had forsaken the deep sea and its ships to make this journey with them in the hope of finding gold.
That evening the strongest of their number reached the summit of the Panamints and looked down the western side where they had thought to find that fertile valley which the Williams map had promised leading to the north. They saw dead mountain ranges and dried lake floors like those through which they had been traveling for months. The Mohave Desert lay in front of them.
When they were crossing those arid reaches William Isham, who had fiddled so blithely for them every evening in the Utah hills, sank down beside the trail; and the others passed him with empty canteens, unable to give him any help. Some of the stragglers buried his body a few days later on.
During the next day or two a Frenchman, whose name none of the survivors remember, went insane from thirst and wandered off into the sand-hills. No one ever saw him afterward.
So one after another of their number lay down and died or went mad and ran off toward some of the mirages which were perpetually torturing all of them with visions of cool lakes, until thirteen had perished. The others struggled on and on into the southwest; for they knew that Los Angeles lay somewhere in that direction and it offered them their only hope.
Meantime the Bennett party went southward along the western edge of the sink where the sands lie as loose and fine as ashes between the mud flats and the mountains, until they found a little spring with a few patches of coarse grass among the mesquite thickets which surrounded it. From this point they tried escape by one route and then another, only to reach a blind wall in each case and retrace their steps to the water-hole.
In later years the mule-drivers of the borax company enlarged the well which Asahel Bennett and J. B. Arcane dug here in the sand. Otherwise the place remains unchanged, a patch of mesquite in a burning plain where heat devils dance all day long from year's end to year's end. The plain reaches on and on between black mountain walls, and even the mirage which springs from its surface under that hot sun throws off the guise of a cool lake almost on the moment of its assumption to become a repellant specter that leaps and twists like a flame. The Paiute Indians called the spot Tomesha, which means "Ground Afire."
The party held a council when they had retreated here after the last unsuccessful attempt to escape. It was clear that they could not take the women and children out of the sink unless some one got food for the journey and found a route between water-holes. They appointed Manley, the young hunter, and an ox-driver named John Rogers for the venture, and the pair set out across the Panamints just north of Telescope Peak with the beef from an ox in their knapsacks, while the others sat down to await their return—or death.
There were two wagon outfits of unmarried men among them; they had forsaken the Jayhawkers at about the time the Brier family joined that section. When several days had passed these bachelors departed to seek the trail of their former companions in the valley's north arm. They said that the chances were ten to one that Manley and Rogers would never get through alive, and if they did they would be fools to attempt coming back. The others watched the two prairie-schooners crawling off into the gray plain until a mirage engulfed them and lifted them distorted into the blazing sky.
And now the families faced the question which these men had left with them. Would Manley and Rogers get through? They did not know what hazards lay beyond those mountains to the west, but none of them had the Jayhawkers' faith in a fertile valley leading to the north. As it turned out Mount Whitney was the snow-clad peak to which the faulty Williams map referred and the valley was the Owens Lake country, many a weary mile from this sink.
If the pair did survive the desert, would they be men enough to face it for the second time? The marooned ones could only hope. That hope had become an abiding faith in Bennett's wife. She had given the two young fellows a double handful of rice—half her store of grain—on the morning of their departure, and pointed mutely to her children as she placed the little bag in Manley's hand. "They will come back," she told the others many times.
The food was running low; the few remaining oxen could not last them long. There was a dog with the Bennett wagons; he had followed them all the way from Iowa; and in this time of dire extremity some talked of killing him. But even in his starved condition he was able to wag his tail when the children came near him; sometimes he comforted them by his presence when their mothers could not. The men had not the heart to do away with him.
Hope lingered within those people like the breath in an old man who is dying hard. Rogers and Manley had gone northward on the burning plain to reach a ridge which mounted toward the Panamints. Now as the days dragged by to weary weeks, the men and women always gazed into the north where nothing lived except the hatred for the sun. But no man came, and when the weeks had grown beyond a month, they knew the time was here when they must make one last attempt to save themselves. They yoked up the oxen and set out into the south toward a spot where Bennett had discovered what looked like a gap in the mountains. Three days later they returned, half dead from thirst, and unhitched the staggering animals by the well.
There remained one shadow of a chance, as ephemeral as the mirage which came before them with the mounting of each morning's sun. They stripped the tops from the prairie-schooners and began to make pack-saddles from them with the idea of abandoning the vehicles and following the trail of the Jayhawkers.
At midday they were sitting under the wagons for what shade they gave, working at this task. They knew it was a futile proceeding; the time had long since gone when they had enough provisions to last them through that long northern route. But they were not the sort of people who can sit down and die. If they must perish it would be while they were still fighting. No one spoke. The silence of the dead land had crept over them.
That silence was broken by a shot. Unbelieving, they crept forth and saw three figures moving toward them from the north. Manley and Rogers were hurring across the flat leading a laden mule.
While the others ate from the store in the pack-sacks, the two young fellows told of their journey two hundred and fifty miles across the Mohave Desert; of the dead of the Jayhawker party whom they had found beside the trail; of the survivors whom they passed shortly before reaching a ranch near the head of the San Fernando valley where the little town of Newhall stands to-day; of great arid mountain ranges and shimmering floors of dried lakes; and of the long torture between water-holes. At the Newhall ranch a man named French had given them the mule and the provisions. With this food supply they believed the women and children stood a chance of getting through.
They slung the sacks of canvas on the gaunt oxen and placed the children in them; then they set out on their long climb up the Panamints.
Before they left the summit of the divide to go downhill into the west, they halted for one last look back. And as they stood there among the rocks gazing down into the sink which lay thousands of feet below them walled in by the mountains on both sides, one of the mothers lifted her arm in a gesture of farewell.
"Good-bye, Death Valley!" she cried.
That is the way the place was named.
They turned their backs on it and descended the long western slope. The dog, which they had taken with them all this distance, limped along behind the little train. The mule went on before. And in Los Angeles, where they joined the other survivors of the company weeks later and told the people of the pueblo of their sufferings, they called the sink Death Valley when they spoke of it.
Later, when they had gone into the north—for all of them pressed on as soon as they were able to travel again—they separated, seeking their fortunes in the mines. Years passed and occasionally some of them met again. At such times, or when they told others of the pitfall into which they descended striving toward the snow peak, they always used the name Death Valley. And so it has come down to us to-day.
In the days of '49 when Murphy's Diggings was as lively a little placer camp as one could find in a long ride through the red foot-hills of the Sierras, a young Mexican monte-dealer disappeared. He was a handsome fellow, lighter of complexion than most of his countrymen, owned a sunny smile and spoke English fluently, all of which things made him a favorite among the American customers and consequently an asset to the house. So when dusk came and the booted miners began drifting into the long canvas-roofed hall, the proprietor scanned the crowd for him with some anxiety.
But the proprietor might as well have saved himself the trouble of that search; the monte-dealer had forsaken his table for a different sort of job.
Just at this time he was on the hill beyond the upper end of the camp kneeling beside an open grave; and in his clasped hands, uplifted high above his head, he held a naked bowie-knife. Some light still lingered here among the stiff-branched digger-pines, a faint reflection of the sunset far beyond the flat lands of the San Joaquin valley. It shone upon his face revealing a multitude of lines, so deeply scored, so terrible in their proclamation of deadly hate, that the sight of them would have startled the most case-hardened member of the crowds down there where the candles were twinkling in the humming camp.
The waning light which sifted through the long plumed tassels of the digger-pines showed a little group of Mexicans standing at some distance listening in frightened silence to what he was saying. He spoke to the dead man in the open grave; and when events that followed brought the words back to their minds some of these auditors repeated the vow he made: to color that knife-blade and his hands bright red with the blood of twenty men of Murphy's Diggings; and after that to devote his life to killing Americans.
This was the monte-dealer's new job, and in order to understand how he came to undertake such a piece of work it is necessary to go back a little.
He was only nineteen, but life had been moving so swiftly with him that the beginning of these events finds him in that year overseer of his father's great rancho down in Sonora, a Mexican of the better class, well educated as education went in those days, a good dancer as every girl in the section could bear witness, pleasure-loving, easy-going, and able to play the guitar very prettily. Sometimes—and more often as the weeks went by—he played and sang at the home of Reyes Feliz, a packer in his father's employ; and Rosita, the packer's daughter, liked his music well enough to encourage his visits.
Class counted then, as it does to this day in Mexico, and parents liked to have a hand in marriages. But Reyes Feliz was away from home a great deal with his train of mules, the landholder was busy at his own affairs; the girl was a beauty and the landholder's son had a winsome way with him. So one night Rosita took the horse which he brought for her and rode off with him to California.
They made their journey with their mounts and a single pack animal across the hot plains and arid mountains of the south, then up the long King's Highway which the padres had beaten down nearly one hundred years before their time. It was winter and California winter means Eastern spring; green grass rippling in the soft breezes, poppy-fields and a rioting of meadow-larks to make their honeymoon ideal. They rode on northward into the Santa Clara valley where a gleaming mist of mustard blossoms hung under the great live oaks as far as the eye could reach; then they struck off eastward across the Coast Range and the flat lands of the San Joaquin, to climb into the red foot-hills where the Stanislaus comes out from the Sierras. Here they settled down and took a mining claim.
The feeling engendered by the Mexican War still rankled in many neighborhoods; and every mining camp had its lawless element whose members took full advantage of that prejudice against the conquered race. The claim proved rich enough to tempt some ne'er-do-wells. They gathered a crowd of their own breed and the mob came to the young pair's cabin one evening with the purpose of jumping the property. When the owner made a show of resistance they bound him hand and foot, after which they subjected the girl to such abuses as will not bear the telling. She pleaded with her lover when the crowd had gone and managed to induce him to leave the place without attempting vengeance. They went to Columbia and within the month were driven out by another anti-Mexican mob. Their next move took them to Murphy's Diggings, where the boy got his job at dealing monte and was doing very well—until this evening came, and with it, tragedy.
He had been visiting his brother, who had come to California and settled near Murphy's; and the latter had lent him a horse to ride home. As he was nearing the upper end of the camp a group of miners stepped out into the road before him and halted him. The horse had been stolen from one of their number and they were searching for it at the time.
They listened to his explanations and went with him to his brother who told them how he had bought the animal in good faith from a stranger. Whereat they seized the narrator, bound him, and hanged him to the nearest live-oak tree; then stripped the monte-dealer to the waist, tied him to the same tree, and flogged him until the blood ran down his bare back. After which they departed, satisfied that they had done their share to bring about law and order in a neighborhood where thefts were becoming altogether too frequent. But some of them mentioned in Murphy's Diggings—during the brief space of time while they had the opportunity—the strange expression which came over their victim's face while the lash was being applied. Each of these men spoke of the look as having been directed at himself. Had they been members of one of the dark-skinned races, to whom the vendetta is peculiarly an institution, they would have understood the purport of that look.
But none of them understood and the monte-dealer was left to keep his promise to his dead brother. He turned his back upon the grave and went about the fulfilment of that vow as ambitious men go about the making of careers; and in the days that followed, while his swarthy company was sweeping through California like fire on a chaparral hillside when the wind is high, he gained a dark fame, so lasting that there is hardly an old settled community from Mount Shasta to the Mexican line which has not some tale of the bandit, Joaquin Murieta.
Sometimes during the weeks after the lynching a miner on his way to the gambling-houses after supper got a glimpse of Joaquin Murieta in the outskirts of Murphy's Diggings, as he glided among the tents cloaked to his eyes in his serape. Occasionally a late reveler, returning to his cabin in the darkness, was startled by the sight of his figure beside the road, as black and silent as the night itself; or was chilled to dead sobriety by the vision of that drawn face confronting him on a narrow trail. And in the chilly mornings men going to their work came on the bodies of his victims in the soft red dust of path or wagon-track, or stumbled over them in the chaparral.
And now fear began to seize the survivors of that lynching party. By the time its twenty members had dwindled to something like a dozen, the succession of spectacles afforded by the companions whom they had been summoned to identify was getting on the stoutest nerves; the dullest imaginations were working feverishly. Some found friends to act as body-guards; others moved away to try their fortunes in new camps; but the body-guards could not be on duty all the time and the departing ones in most instances made the mistake of confiding their intentions to acquaintances. All authorities agree that Joaquin Murieta managed to kill at least fifteen—and possibly two or three more—of the score whose faces he had so carefully imprinted on his memory while the lash was biting into his bare back.
When he had finished with the work which the first part of his vow demanded, he rode away from Murphy's with Rosita and set about the task of gathering a band that he might be able to carry out the second half.
There were plenty of cutthroats in California during that spring of 1850, and no lack of Mexicans among them. Several swarthy leaders of banditti were then operating throughout the State. One of these was Manuel Garcia, better known as Three-Fingered Jack, who had been ranging over the Sonoma valley for several years, occasionally varying the monotony of murder by tying a victim to a tree and flaying him alive. Joaquin Valenzuela was another, a middle-aged outlaw who had learned the finer arts of bushwhacking down in Mexico under Padre Jurata, the famous guerrilla chief. There were also Claudio, a lean and seasoned robber from the mountains of Sonora, adept in disguises, skilful as a spy, able to mingle with the crowd in any plaza unrecognized by men who had known him for years; and Pedro Gonzales, a specialist at horse-stealing, who had driven off whole bands under the very noses of armed herders.
Every one of these leaders had his own ugly gang of riders and his own ill fame long before young Joaquin Murieta ceased dealing monte; and every one was getting rich pickings from pack trains, stage-coaches, valley ranches, and miners' cabins. Yet within six months they all turned over their bands and became lieutenants of the nineteen-year-old boy. That list of victims at Murphy's Diggings, his superior breeding, and his finer intelligence gave him high standing from the beginning, but his greatest asset was the purpose which had driven him forth among them. They had robbed and killed and fled with the aimlessness of common murderers, but here was one with a definite plan, to leave the whole State a smoking shambles. They submitted their lives and fortunes to the possessor of this appealing idea.
During the first year, while organization was being perfected, Joaquin Murieta traveled through northern California with Rosita gathering recruits, establishing alliances among disaffected Mexicans, and spying out new fields for plunder. Gradually, as he accomplished these things, the bands under his different lieutenants began to rob and plunder more systematically, and the scene of their operations shifted with bewildering rapidity. To-day a number of travelers were dragged from their horses by the reatas of swarthy ambuscaders in the Tuolomne County foot-hills and to-morrow a rancher down in the valley found the bodies of his murdered herders to mark the beginning of the trail left by his stolen cattle. As the months went by suspicion that these different bands were working under one leader grew to certainty among the longer-headed officers. Then the name of Joaquin Murieta began to be spoken as that of the mysterious chief. He was quick to confirm the rumors of his leadership, and before the spring of 1851 was over he managed by grimly spectacular methods to let more than one community know that he was responsible for some outrage which had startled its inhabitants.
That was the case in San Jose. A number of the robbers had swooped down into the Santa Clara valley and their chief was living with Rosita in the outskirts of the town, directing their raids, giving them such information regarding travelers and plunder as he was able to pick up by mixing with the crowds in the gambling-houses. A deputy sheriff by the name of Clark captured two of the marauders red-handed, and Murieta determined to make such an example of him as would put fear into the hearts of other officers.
In those days the fandango was a popular function in San Jose, which still retained all the characteristics of a Mexican pueblo, and there was not a night without the strumming of guitars and the lively stepping of the dancers in some public hall. Murieta went to one of these fandangos and, by arrangement with confederates, brought it about that Clark came to the place searching for a criminal.
The dancing was in full swing when the deputy entered; scores of lithe dark men and their black-eyed partners were whirling in the fervid Spanish waltz; but as he crossed the threshold a discordant note arose: disturbance broke out in a corner of the hall; a woman screamed; a knife-blade flashed. Clark shoved his way through the crowd and reached the fight in time to disarm a good-looking young Mexican who was flourishing the weapon; placed him under arrest and took him away to the nearest justice of the peace, who passed sentence of twelve dollars' fine.
"I have not the money on me," the prisoner said, "but if this officer will go with me to my house I can get it there." It was an easy-going period and such small matters as pulling a knife were of frequent occurrence. The deputy consented to the request and the pair went forth together from the lighted streets to the fringes of the town. They were talking pleasantly enough when they came to a dark place where willow thickets lined the road on either side.
Here the prisoner halted abruptly. "I am Joaquin Murieta," he announced, "and I brought you here to kill you." Upon which he stabbed Clark to the heart.
All this was told the next day in the streets of San Jose, but where the information came from no one knew. Murieta's custom of sending out such tidings through confederates was not so well understood then as it came to be later.
From San Jose Murieta went northward into the Sacramento valley and took quarters with Rosita in Sonorian Camp, a Mexican settlement near Marysville. About twenty cutthroats under Valenzuela and Three-Fingered Jack began working in the neighborhood. The ambush was their favorite method—three or four in a party and one of the number ready with his reata. When this one had cast the noose of rawhide rope over the neck of some passing traveler and dragged him from the saddle into the brush the others killed the victim at their leisure. The number of the murders grew so appalling that Sheriff R. B. Buchanan devoted all his time to hunting down the criminals. Finally he got word of the rendezvous in Sonorian Camp and took a small posse to capture the leaders.
But the news of the sheriff's expedition had preceded him, and when they had crept upon the tent houses in the dark, as silent as Indians, the members of the posse found themselves encircled by unseen enemies whose pistols streaked the gloom with thin bright orange flashes. While the others were fighting their way out of the ambush Sheriff Buchanan emptied his own weapon in a duel with one of the robbers, and collapsed badly wounded in several places. Weeks later, during his recovery, Joaquin Murieta sent the sheriff word that he was the man who had shot him down.
Northward the band rode now from Marysville until they reached the forest wilderness near Mount Shasta, where they spent the most of the winter stealing horses. Before spring they went south again, traveling for the most part by night, and drove their stolen stock into the State of Sonora. Their loot disposed of and a permanent market established down across the line, Murieta led them back into California to begin operations on a more ambitious scale. He planned to steal two thousand horses and plunder the mining camps of enough gold-dust to equip at least two thousand riders who should sweep the State in such a raid as the world had not known since the Middle Ages.
In April—almost two years to a day after the monte-dealer had left his job at Murphy's Diggings—six Mexicans came riding into the town of Mokelumne Hill, which lies on a bench-land above the river. A somewhat dandified sextet in scrapes of the finest broadcloth and with a wealth of silver on the trappings of their dancing horses, they passed up the main street into the outskirts where their countrymen had a neighborhood to themselves.
Here they took quarters in those tent-roofed cottages which were so common in the old mining camps, and now three of them appeared in their proper garb, well-gowned young housewives and discreet to a degree which must have exasperated those of their neighbors inclined to gossip. For these ladies had nothing to say concerning whence they had come or the business of their husbands. Two of those husbands were now spending much of their time in other camps and came home but seldom to pay brief visits to their wives. The third stayed here in Mokelumne Hill.
The days went by; the pack-trains jingled down out of the hills; the processions of heavy wagons lumbered up from the San Joaquin valley enwrapped in clouds of red dust; an endless stream of men flowed into the town on its bench-land above the canyon where the river brawled. Men from all the world, they came and went, and the milling crowds absorbed those who lingered, nor heeded who they were. Gold was plentiful, and while the yellow dust was passing from hand to hand life moved so swiftly that no one had time to think of his neighbor's business. The good-looking young Mexican was as a drop of water in a rapid stream.
When dusk crept up out of the canyon and the candles filled the gambling-houses with floods of mellow radiance he mingled with the crowds. He drank with those who asked him and talked with those who cared to pass a word with him; talked about the output of the near-by gulches, the necessity of armed guards for the wagons and pack-trains, or the chances of capturing Joaquin Murieta. In spite of his good looks and expensive clothes he was about as unobtrusive as a Mexican could be, which is saying a good deal at the period.
One April evening he was sitting at a monte-game. The gambling-hall was filled with raw-boned packers from the hills, dust-stained teamsters from the valley towns, miners from the diggings, and a riffraff of adventurers from no one knew—or cared—where. It was a booted crowd with a goodly sprinkling of red shirts to give it color, and weapons in evidence on every side. Here walked one with a brace of long-barreled muzzle-loading pistols in his belt, and there another with the handle of a bowie-knife protruding from his boot-top; and every one of those frock-coated dealers at the tables had a Derringer or two stowed away on that portion of his person which he deemed most accessible. The bartender kept a double-barreled shotgun under the counter across which the drinks were being served.
In the midst of this animated arsenal the dark-eyed young Mexican dandy sat placing his bets while the dealer turned the cards and luck came, after luck's fashion, where it pleased. As he played, a group of miners just behind him began arguing about the bandit whose name was now famous all the way from Mount Shasta to the Mexican line. One of them, a strapping fellow with a brace of pistols at his waist, became impatient at something which another had said concerning the robber's apparent invulnerability and raised his voice in the heat of his rejoinder.
"Joaquin Murieta!" he cried. "Say! I'd just like to see that fellow once and I'd shoot him down as if he was a rattlesnake."
A noise behind him made him turn his head, and now, like all the others in that room, he stared at the dandified young Mexican-who had leaped to the top of the monte-table and was standing there among the litter of cards and gold. His broadcloth serape was thrown back; his two hands moved swiftly to his belt and came away gripping a pair of pistols.
"I am Joaquin Murieta," he shouted so loudly that his voice carried the length of the hall. "Now shoot!"
A moment passed; he stood there with his head thrown back, his dark eyes sweeping the crowd, but no man on the floor so much as moved a hand. Then laughing he sprang down and walked slowly among them to the front door. They fell away before him as he came and he vanished in the shadows of the narrow street before one of them sought to follow him.
The others of the sextet were waiting for him when he reached the Mexican quarter; their horses were saddled; and at a word from him they mounted. For he and his two lieutenants had finished their work; they knew all they cared to know about the gold trains and the caches of the miners, and this was to have been their last evening in camp. With their gathered information they rode southward to Arroyo Cantoova, in the foot-hills of the Coast Range at the western edge of the upper San Joaquin valley. This was the band's new headquarters.
They remained here for some days resting before the next raid. Gold was plentiful among them; the leaders dressed with the splendor of noblemen; not one of those leaders—save Three-Fingered Jack—but had his mistress beside him decked out like a Spanish lady; nor one but rode a clean-limbed thoroughbred. When the hills were turning brown with summer's beginning young Murieta led them out across the range and southward to the country around Los Angeles.
Success had made him so serene that during the journey he sometimes forgot his grim vow of shedding blood and showed mercy to a victim who had no great store of gold. More than once Rosita induced him to spare the lives of prisoners; and if his career had ended at this time his name would have come down surrounded by legends of magnanimity. But as he went on now that large plan of bloodshed became more of a power in his life. And as it grew to master him he saw Rosita less; he sought more frequently the companionship of Three-Fingered Jack, who killed for killing's sake alone. During the last two years he had often slipped away from his followers and stolen into the church of some near-by town, to recite the dark catalogue of his sins in the curtained confessional; but no priest heard him tell his misdeeds from this time on.
In the north end of Los Angeles, where the old plaza church fronts the little square of green turf and cabbage-palms, you can still find a few of the one-story adobe buildings which lined the streets on the July afternoon when Joaquin Murieta whispered into Deputy Sheriff Wilson's ear.
He was a young man, this deputy, and bold, and he had come all the way from Santa Barbara to help hunt down the famous bandit whose followers were burning ranch buildings and murdering travelers from the summits of the southland's mountains to the yellow beaches by the summer sea. Unlike many of the pueblo's citizens, who had formed the habit of talking of such matters in undertones and looking over their shoulders as they did so, for fear some lurking Mexican might be one of Murieta's spies, he voiced his opinions loudly enough for all to hear. "Get good men together," he said, "and smoke these robbers out. I'm ready to go with a posse any time." He preached that gospel of action in the drinking-places, in the gambling-halls, and on the street, until the very vigor of his voice put new heart into the listeners. It was beginning to look as if young Deputy Sheriff Wilson had really started things moving.
On a hot July afternoon he was standing on the narrow sidewalk surrounded by a group whose members his enthusiasm had drawn out of doors. Few others were abroad; an occasional Mexican woman in her black skirt and tight-drawn reboso, a peon or two slouching gracefully by with the inevitable brown cigarette, and a solitary horseman who was coming down the street.
The men in the group were so intent on what the deputy was saying that none of them observed the approach of this horseman until he reined in his animal close to the sidewalk's edge. Then they saw him lean from the saddle and whisper into Wilson's ear.
What words passed from his lips these others never knew. There was not time for him to utter more than one or two; perhaps to tell his name. They saw his white teeth flashing in an unpleasant smile; and Wilson's hand moved toward his gun. But in the middle of that movement the young officer pitched forward on his face. The sharp report of a pistol, the scrape of hoofs, the smell of black powder smoke, and the vision of the rider through the tenuous wreaths as he whirled his horse about—these things came to the dazed witnesses in a sort of blur.
The sound of the shot awakened the drowsing street and many who ran to their doorways saw the murderer riding away at a swinging gallop. Some of these claimed to recognize him as Joaquin Murieta, and in the days that followed their statements were confirmed by captured members of the band.
Deputy Sheriff Wilson's death aroused more men than his words had, and when General Joshua Bean began organizing two companies of militia during the weeks after the murder he found plenty of recruits. The officers were just getting the new companies into shape for an expedition against the bandits who were now ravaging most of the country south of the Tehachapi, when Murieta and Three-Fingered Jack waylaid General Bean one night near San Gabriel Mission, dropped the noose of a reata over his head, dragged him from his horse, and stabbed him through the heart. And the two companies of militia did nothing more.
Now, while posses were foundering their lathered horses on every southland road and the flames of blazing ranch buildings were throwing their red light on the faces of dead men almost every night, a lean and wind-browned Texan by the name of Captain Harry Love took a hand in the grim game of man-hunting.
He had gained his title during the Mexican War. As an express-rider for different American generals he had dodged the reatas of guerrilla parties who were lurking by water-holes and had outjockeyed swarthy horsemen in wild races across the flaming deserts of Sonora until he had come to know the science of their fighting as well as old Padre Jurata himself. And when he started after Murieta's men he did his hunting all alone.
One day he ran across the trail of Pedro Gonzales, the horse-thief, and another lieutenant named Juan, and followed it until he overtook the pair at the Buena Ventura rancho. Like most of his Southwestern breed he was a better man at action than at words, and so the story of the gun-fight which took place when he came upon them has never been told; but when the smoke of the three pistols cleared away Gonzales was in custody and Juan was riding hard toward the hills with the blood running over his face from a bullet's furrow along his scalp. The fugitive found five others of the band in a sun-baked arroyo that night, told them the news of the catastrophe, and got a fresh horse to ride back with them and rescue their companion.
Captain Love was well on his way to Los Angeles with his prisoner when the sound of drumming hoofs came down the wind. He glanced over his shoulder and, on a hilltop half a mile behind, saw six horsemen coming after him at a dead run. If he had any doubt of the nature of that party he lost it when he turned his head in time to catch Gonzales waving a handkerchief to them.
The elements of the situation were simple enough,—the Texan's jaded mount, the fresh horses of the pursuers, the desperation of the prisoner for whom the gallows was waiting in Los Angeles,—but most men would have wasted some time in determining on a solution. Love, who had learned in a hard school the value of seconds in such races as this, did not choose to part with any more of his handicap than he had to. So he whipped out his pistol, shot Gonzales through the heart, and spurred his horse down the dusty road with enough start to distance the bandits into town.
That was the first noteworthy casualty the band had suffered. It was followed by the capture of young Reyes Feliz, Rosita's brother, who was hanged in Los Angeles; and shortly afterward Murieta led his whole company northward into the oak-dotted hills back of San Luis Obispo where they lost twenty men—among them Claudio the expert spy—in a day-long battle with a posse of ranchers whom they had sought to ambush.
Then Joaquin Murieta rode back with the survivors to Arroyo Cantoova; and if Rosita, who had been sent with the other women to the rendezvous early in the summer, felt her heart leap when she saw her lover coming, she soon felt it sink again, for he spent but few moments in her company. Horses and gold and his large plan to sweep like fire through California—these were the only thoughts he had. Within a week he had divided the band into several parties, two of which under himself and Three-Fingered Jack went north to plunder the placer camps.
There is hardly an old town in the whole Bret Harte country that has not its stories of the raiding during the winter of 1852-53. With the knowledge which he and his lieutenants had gained at Mokelumne Hill the chief directed operations, but as the weeks went by the influence of Three-Fingered Jack grew until his methods were employed in every robbery. By December the list of wanton murders had grown so great that the State of California offered a reward of five thousand dollars for Joaquin Murieta, alive or dead.
The notices announcing this reward were posted in Stockton one Sunday. The town was then the point of departure for the southern placer district, a lively place with craft of all kinds coming from San Francisco to tie up at its levee and an endless procession of wagons traveling out cross the flat lands of the San Joaquin valley to the foot-hills. Everything was running wide open and the sidewalks were crowded with men, most of whom were ready to take a rather long chance for five thousand dollars.
One of the bills, tacked to the flag-pole in the public square, attracted more readers than the others, and many a group gathered about it to discuss what show a bold man might have of earning the reward. The sidewalk loungers watched these debaters come and go until the thing was beginning to be an old story; and they were almost ready to turn their jaded attention elsewhere when a well-dressed Mexican came riding down the street, turned his fine horse into the square, and reined up before the flag-pole. The audience watched him leap from the saddle and write something at the bottom of the bill.
When he had touched his horse with the spurs and ridden away at a slow Spanish trot, one of the onlookers, more curious—or perhaps he was less lazy—than his fellows, sauntered over to read what had been written; and when he read it waved his hand in so wild a gesture that every one who saw him came running to the flag-pole. At the bottom of the placard with its offer of five thousand dollars' reward for Joaquin Murieta, alive or dead, they found this subscription set down in a good bold hand:
"And I will pay ten thousand dollars more. JOAQUIN MURIETA."
Faith in the State's promise rather than that of the robber sent many riders out of Stockton that day to scour the willow thickets by the river and the winding tulle sloughs. The posses were speeding back and forth all night long and the excitement attending their comings and goings lasted into Monday. So there were few on hand to watch the departure of a schooner for San Francisco that morning.
She left the levee with her crew of three and with two passengers, miners from San Andreas who were taking out about twenty thousand dollars in gold-dust. The crew let out the sails, the canvas bellied before the easy breeze, the schooner glided down the reed-lined slough whose smooth waters held her reflection like a mirror. Flocks of wild fowl rose before her as she came along.
A rowboat shot out of the tulles just ahead of her. The helmsman took one look at the five men in the little craft and dropped his tiller to pick up a double-barreled shotgun. He shouted to the sailors; they sprang for weapons, and the two miners in the cabin leaped up the companion stairs, their pistols in their hands. Before the foremost was half-way up the flight the shooting had begun; he gained the deck in time to see the body of the helmsman drooping over the swinging tiller, overhung by a thin white cloud of powder-smoke. The small boat lay alongside with a dead man huddled between the thwarts. The other four bandits were swarming over the rail, firing at the sailors on the forward deck as they came.
It was a short fight and sharp. When it ended every man in the ship's company was lying dead or mortally wounded and two of the robbers were killed. Murieta and Three-Fingered Jack lingered aboard long enough to lower the gold-dust overside into the small boat and set fire to the schooner; and the pillar of black smoke drew horsemen from Stockton in time to hear the story which the dying men gasped out.
Up in Sacramento where the State legislature was considering the extermination of Joaquin Murieta some weeks later the Stockton incident was used by a lean and wind-browned lobbyist as an argument for a company of rangers, and this argument by Captain Harry Love had much to do with the passage of the bill authorizing such a body under his leadership.
From Stockton the two companies of bandits fled southward up the San Joaquin valley and brought more than fifty thousand dollars in gold-dust to Arroyo Cantoova. Then Murieta took seventy men and rode back to make his final raid on the placer camps. Three-Fingered Jack went by his side: the only human being whose companionship he shared. What talks those two men had together one can only guess from the nature of the deeds that followed. No miner was too small game for the chief now, he slit the throats of Chinamen for their garnerings from worked-over tailings, he tortured teamsters to learn where they kept their wages hidden, and where he passed during the night men found corpses in the morning, until those of his own countrymen who had befriended him in other days turned against him and betrayed his hiding-places to the officers, and the whole foot-hill country from the Tuolomme to the Feather River was patrolled by riders hunting him.
In Hornitas he sought out a Mexican who had notified a posse of his presence in the neighborhood, shot him down at broad noonday on the main street, and galloped away with the pistol-bullets of his pursuers raising little spurts of dust about his horse's flying hoofs. A few weeks later he revisited the town; killed a deputy sheriff who sought to capture him; and then hanged another of his countrymen, who had informed the officer of his hiding-place.
One spring day he was riding alone in the foot-hills of Calaveras County when he came on a party of twenty-five miners at the head of a box canyon. They were encamped in a sort of amphitheater among the rocks with steep walls on three sides and only one outlet, a narrow Digger trail along the cliff a hundred feet above the brawling stream.
Murieta had ridden up the ravine by that dangerous pathway and now he was sitting with one leg thrown over his saddle-horn, talking to the members of the party. They were on their way out from some winter diggings, they told him, and they had plenty of dust with them. He spoke of Joaquin Murieta and they pointed to their belts; they were heavily armed, every man of them. Why should they fear the bandit? He let his eyes go around the place taking quick appraisal of their numerous pack and saddle animals, their camp equipment, their plump buckskin sacks—rich booty if only he had a party of cutthroats at his heels. But he was alone; the best he could do was to put a good face on the matter and, in his role of honest traveler, learn what he could, to store it up for future reference.
He was doing this and getting on very nicely at it, when one of the party, who had gone down to the stream for water before his arrival, came climbing up among the rocks with two filled buckets. The man looked up at hearing a stranger's voice and Murieta glanced down at the same instant. The eyes of each proclaimed recognition. For the water-carrier was James Boyce, who had played monte over the table of the good-looking young dealer many a night in Murphy's Diggings.
Boyce dropped the buckets of water and, drawing his pistol, "Boys!" he shouted, "That's Murieta. Shoot him!" Then he fired.
But Murieta had wheeled his horse and was already spurring it on a dead run down the gulch. The miners were lining their sights on him; and now the canyon walls echoed to the volley they sent after him.
He gained the trail along the cliff. A bullet knocked off his hat and his long hair streamed behind him as the horse leaped out on the narrow path. The rocks spurned by its flying hoofs dropped over the brink into the roaring stream one hundred feet below. The leaden slugs that sang about the rider's head chipped bits from the sheer wall beside him. He drew his bowie-knife and brandished it as high as his arm could reach.
"I am Murieta," he shouted, turning in the saddle to look back at them. "Kill me if you can."
The cliff on one side was so close that he scraped it with his stirrup and on the other side the horse's upflung hoofs hung in mid-air beyond the brink. The weapons flamed behind him at the canyon-head. Their bullets rained on the rocks about him as he flourished his knife in a final gesture of defiance and passed round a turn of the trail beyond sight of his enemies.
But Boyce and his companions were a hardy crowd, and instead of letting the incident end here they broke camp the next morning to follow Murieta's trail. They traced him without much trouble down the canyon, over a ridge and into another steep-walled gulch, where they came on tracks of fourteen others of the band. From this point the robbers had struck off toward the high country.
All that day the miners climbed the tall ridges where the sugar-pines stood like enormous pillars in the vast cathedral of the out of doors, until night found them in the midst of the forest right under the bare granite peaks. Here they made camp, and when the cold breath of the snow-fields came down upon them they kindled a great fire. They lounged about the flaming logs smoking their pipes and warming their wearied limbs. Beyond the circle of firelight the enshadowed woods gave forth no sound to tell them that fifteen men were crawling through those black aisles among the trees like fifteen swarthy snakes.
The click of a pistol-hammer coming to full cock brought one of the lounging miners to his feet. He fell forward in the instant of his rising, and the woods gave back a hundred crashing echoes to the volley which the bandits fired. Their aim was so true—for they had stolen close in and taken good time to settle themselves before cocking their weapons—that when the echoes died away fifteen men were lying dead and dying in the red light of that fire.
The others were springing for their pistols, for nearly every one of the miners had laid aside his belt to ease himself, but before one of them had pulled a trigger there came the crackling of a second fusillade and seven fell. Then Boyce and two of his companions leaped outside that fatal circle of radiance in time to save themselves. As they were creeping away in the darkness they saw Joaquin Murieta and Three-Fingered Jack rush into the camp waving their bowie-knives exultantly above their heads, and for a long time afterward they heard the band whooping like Apaches while they killed the wounded.
Murieta and his company rode away from this massacre with thirty thousand dollars in gold-dust and about forty horses as their loot. But the story which Boyce and the other two survivors told turned the mining towns into armed camps; and now Sheriff Charles Ellis of Calaveras County started so fierce a warfare against the bandits that they had to flee the country.
When Murieta rode back to Arroyo Cantoova that spring, a closely hunted fugitive, he found that Rosita had deserted him for an American settler by the name of Baker. Even at this critical period when he was beginning actual preparations for his enormous raid he took the time to track her to a cabin among the hills nearly a hundred miles from the rendezvous. He shot her down and set fire to the place, but perhaps the very frenzy of his anger blinded him or perhaps he rushed away in horror of his own deed, for she survived her wounds, the only one of his victims who lived when he had the time to kill, and showed the scars to officers years afterward.
The boy who had taken her northward so short a time ago—for his years were barely a man's years yet—rode back to Arroyo Cantoova and the one thing he had in life—his plan.
* * * * *
Captain Harry Love and his company of twenty rangers rode down the King's Highway into the little town of San Juan. In the plaza, where the California poppies bloom to-day before the cloistered arches of the mission as they bloomed on that July afternoon in 1853, the dusty horsemen drew rein outside the old adobe inn. Their captain dismounted and went inside and while he stayed the others lounged in their deep stock saddles smoking cigarettes or eased the cinches to rest their sweaty horses; a sunburned troop and silent as men who know they have large work ahead of them.
An hour passed and Captain Love came out, to swing into his saddle and ride off without a word with the twenty behind him. They followed the King's Highway where it looped upward along the flanks of San Juan Hill, came down the other side into the Salinas valley—the Salinas plains, men called it then—and made camp near the river.
That night Captain Love told them what he had learned in the Plaza Inn at San Juan where Joaquin Murieta had often come to confer with friendly Spanish Californians in other days. One of these former friends had betrayed to him the rendezvous at Arroyo Cantoova and told him how to reach the place by a pass across the Coast Range near Paso Robles.
The ranger company rode on southward day after day until the wind-swept plain grew narrower between oak-dotted hills; then turned eastward to climb among a tangle of grassy mountains scorched by the sun to the color of a lion's coat. They crossed the divide and descended into the upper valley of the San Joaquin. And one morning, when they were following the trail of several horsemen, they saw the thin smoke of a little camp-fire rising from the ravine-bed ahead of them. Captain Love deployed his company to close in on the place from three sides, and sent one man to the rear with orders to hang back until the others had all ridden in. The man was William Byrnes who had known Joaquin Murieta well in the days before that lynching at Murphy's Diggings.
* * * * *
Murieta was washing his thoroughbred mare in the bed of the ravine. She stood, without halter or tie-rope, as docile as a dog while he laved her fine limbs with a dampened cloth. His saddle lay about ten or fifteen yards away with his pistols in the holsters beside the horn. Four or five bandits were cooking their breakfast over the fire; and Three-Fingered Jack lay at a little distance, sprawled full-length in the morning sunshine like a basking rattlesnake. The mare raised her head; her ears went forward, and Murieta glanced up in time to see the rangers riding in across the pale saffron ridges from three sides.
They came at a dead run. Before he could reach his saddle one of the company had pulled up between him and the weapons. Captain Love was leaning from his horse questioning Three-Fingered Jack. Murieta took another step toward his weapons; the ranger stopped him with a gesture; he halted, glanced at Captain Love, and scowled.
"If you have any questions to ask," he cried, "I am leader of this party. Talk to me."
"I'll talk to whom I please," Love answered, and just then William Byrnes came riding into sight.
Murieta took one look at the man whom he had known in the days when he walked unfeared among his fellows and let his eyes go around the circle of riders; he saw Three-Fingered Jack watching him narrowly. His hand stole up along the mare's glossy neck. Her ears moved back and forth as she stood there biding some word from him.
Then, "Vamos, amigos!" he shouted, and sprang on the mare's back. He leaned far forward as she leaped down the bed of the ravine.
Three-Fingered Jack took advantage of the moment of confusion that followed to mount his own horse, and half the rangers followed him across the grass ridge firing as they went. He fought a running battle with them for five miles before they shot him down.
Murieta lay along the mare's back like an Indian. The hoofs of the pursuing company thundered behind him in the ravine-bed; their bullets spattered on the rocks about him. Before him the land broke in a twenty-foot precipice. He called into the mare's ear and she headed bravely for the cliff, leaped out into space, and turned a complete somersault at the bottom. He rolled among the rocks beside her, lay for a moment stunned, then rose and found her waiting for him where she had gained her feet. He sprang to her back again and urged her on.
Several of the rangers were pressing their horses along the hillside to gain the bed of the ravine by that roundabout route; one who had ridden full-tilt over the cliff lay stunned beside his injured animal; and three or four others had dismounted. These lined their sights on the fleeing mare, and now her legs went from under her; she crashed down with the blood gushing from her nostrils.
The rangers rested their rifles for more careful aim as the rider started to flee on foot. The volley raised rattling echoes in the hills. He took four or five strides and then, halting, faced about. He raised one hand.
"No more," he called. "Your work is done."
And as they slowly came toward him, their rifles ready to fly to their shoulders at the first suspicious movement, Joaquin Murieta swayed slightly and sank slowly into a heap near the dead mare. The breath was gone from his body when they reached it.
More than forty years ago a raw young mining camp down in southeastern Arizona was preparing to assume the functions of a duly organized municipality, and its population—at that period nearly every one in the place was a male of voting age—was considering the important question of a name.
The camp stood out against the sky-line at the crest of a ridge in the foot-hills of the Mule Mountains, not far from the Mexican boundary. For the most part it consisted of tents; but there were a few adobe buildings and some marvelous creations from goods-boxes and tin cans. Facing one end of its single brief street you looked out upon a dump of high-grade silver ore, and if you turned the other way you surveyed a sprouting little graveyard hard by a large corral. From almost any point you had a good view of the Dragoon mountains across a wide stretch of mesquite-covered lowlands, and at almost any hour of the day you were likely to see the smoke of at least one Apache signal-fire rising from those frowning granite ramparts.
The men in the camp were, nearly all of them, old-timers in the West: miners from the Comstock lode whose boom was then on the wane, teamsters who had been freighting all over the blazing deserts of the Southwest, investors and merchants from Tucson, buffalo-hunters from western Kansas, Texas, and Colorado, gamblers from Dodge City, El Paso, and Santa Fe, Indian-fighters, cattle-rustlers, professional claim-jumpers, and some gentle-voiced desperadoes of the real breed, equally willing to slay from behind or take a long chance in front, according to the way the play came up. Few of these men wore coats; a great many of them carried single-action revolvers in holsters beside the thigh; the old-fashioned cattleman's boot was the predominant footgear; and, excepting among the faro-dealers, there was a rather general carelessness in sartorial matters. Nicknames were even more common than surnames, and it was bad form—sometimes dangerously so—to ask a man about his antecedents until he had volunteered some information on that point.
In such a crowd it is easy to see there would be many ideas on any given subject, and the question of the new town's name had evoked a multitude of suggestions. Amusements were still few; the purveyors of hectic pleasure had thus far succeeded in bringing only one piano and a half-dozen dance-hall girls—all decidedly the worse for wear—into the camp; and either faro or whisky has its limitations as a steady means of relaxation. So it came about that any advocate could usually find an audience to harken to his arguments for his pet selection.
At intervals when they were not toiling at assessment work in the shafts which pocked the hillside or dodging Apaches in the outlying country, the citizens found diversion in discussing the ideas thus submitted. And the merits of these propositions were debated by groups in the brief street, by players seated before the tables in the gambling-halls, by members of the never-absent lines before the bars, and by dust-mantled travelers within the Concord stages which came tossing over the weary road from Tucson.
Gradually public opinion began to crystallize. One name was spoken more often as the days went by. Until it became evident that the great majority favored it, and it was chosen.
They called the town Tombstone and placed one more tradition on the Western map.
The old-timers always showed a very fine sense of the fitness of things when they christened a river, mountain range, or town. If one were to devote his time to studying the map of our country west of the Mississippi River and resuscitating the tales whose titles are printed thereupon, he could produce a large volume of marvelous stories. But the entire compilation would contain nothing more characteristic of the days when men carried rifles to protect their lives than the story of that name—Tombstone.
It deals with a period when southeastern Arizona was Apache-land. Geronimo, Victorio, and Nachez were constantly leading their naked warriors into the mountain ranges which rise from those mesquite-covered plains, to lurk among the rocks watching the lower country for travelers and when these came to descend upon them for the sake of loot and the love of murder. A few bold cattlemen, like John Slaughter and Peter Kitchen, had established ranches in this region; these held their homes by constant vigilance and force of arms. Escorts of soldiers frequently guarded the stages on their way to and from Tucson; and there was hardly a month in the year when driver, guard, and passengers did not make a running fight of it somewhere along this portion of the route.
Such were conditions during the summer of 1877 when the tale begins in the dry wash which comes down from the Tombstone hills into the valley of the San Pedro, near where the hamlet of Fairbank stands to-day.
Fragments of horn silver lay scattered among the cactus and dagger-plants in the bed of the dry wash. There was a point where the stony slope above the bank was strewn with them. A little farther up, an outcropping of high-grade ore showed plainly in the hard white sunshine. The flank of the hill was leaking precious metal like a rotting treasure-chest.
A solitary Apache stood on a mesa ten miles away. He had cut a fresh trail down in the valley at dawn, and had dogged it reading every minute sign—a displaced rock, a broken twig, a smudge of disturbed earth—until he had the fulness of its meaning: two prospectors leading a pack-mule, both men armed and keeping sharp lookout against attack. Then he had climbed to this remote vantage-point and caught sight of them as they turned from the river-bottom up the wash. They were traveling straight toward that outcropping.
The Apache stood at the edge of the mesa facing the newly risen sun, a savage vision in a savage land. His narrow turban, shred of loin-cloth, and knee-high moccasins merely accentuated his nakedness; they held no more suggestion of clothing than his mass of rusty black hair and the ugly smears of paint across his cheeks. A tiny fire beside him sent a tenuous smoke column into the glaring sky.
He kept his malignant little eyes on a notch in the Dragoon Mountains twenty miles away, scowling against the sun's bright flood. Across the far-flung interval of glowing mesas and dark mesquite flats the stark granite ramparts frowned back at him. And now a hair-line of pallid smoke twined upward from the point he watched.
He sank down, crouching beside his fire. He swept his hand over it sprinkling bits of powdered resin into the wisp of flame. The smoke turned black.
He waited for some moments, scanning the rising fumes, then swerved his lean brown torso toward a mesquite bush. He stripped the leaves from a twig and scattered them upon the blaze. A white puff climbed into the sky.
From time to time he moved, now dropping on his belly to blow the coals, now feeding them with resin, now with leaves. The slender column crawled on upward taking alternate complexion, white and black.
Where the bare summits of the Dragoon range broke into a multitude of ragged pinnacles against the eastern horizon, another swarthy warrior stood, remote as a roosting eagle on the heights. Beneath his feet—the drop was so sheer that he could have kicked a pebble to the bottom without its touching the face of the cliff in its fall—the shadows of the mountain lay black on the mesquite flat. He gazed across that wide plain and the mesas climbing heavenward beyond it in a series of glowing steps. His face assumed a peculiar intentness as he watched the distant smoke column; it was the intentness of a man who is reading under difficulties. In dot and dash he spelled it as it rose—the tidings of those two prospectors who traveled up the wash.
While the last puff was fading away he glided down from pinnacle to narrow shelf, from shelf to cliff, and made his way toward the rocks below to tell the news to the rest of his band.
Their camp lay at the head of a steep gorge. Several low wickiups had been fashioned by binding the tops of bushes together and throwing skins or tattered blankets over the arched stems. Offal and carrion were strewn all about the place; it swarmed with flies. Nesting vultures would have built more carefully and been fully as fastidious. When the warrior reached the spot the rocks became alive with naked forms; they appeared from all sides as suddenly and silently as quail.
He told the tidings to the men. An unclean, vermin-ridden group, they squatted around him while he repeated the smoke message, word for word. There was no particular show of enthusiasm among them, no sign of haste. They began to prepare for this business as other men begin getting ready for a day's work, when they see good wages ahead of them and the task is very much to their taste. Prospectors were becoming an old story in that summer of 1877; two of them meant good pickings—bacon, coffee, sugar, and firearms; and there was the fun of killing with the chance for torture thrown in.
Some of the band departed leisurely to catch the ponies. The victims would be busy for a long time in the wash. They would not travel far to make their camp. And wherever they went they must leave tracks. The day was far advanced when the party rode forth upon the flat, their dirty turbans bobbing up and down above the mesquite bushes as they came along.
Several of them carried lances; there was a sprinkling of bows and arrows; a number bore rifles across their saddles, wearing the cartridge-belts athwart their naked bodies. All of them moved their thin brown legs ceaselessly; their moccasined shanks kept up a constant drumming against the ponies' sides.
The afternoon was old when they reached the dry wash. They left two or three of their number behind in charge of the ponies. The others came on afoot. Two leaders went well in advance, one of them on each bank, creeping from rock to tufted yucca and from yucca to mesquite clump, watching the sun-flayed land before them for some sign of their game. A squad of trackers slipped in and out among the dagger-plants and boulders in the bottom of the gulch.
One of the trackers held up his hand and moved it swiftly. To the signal the others gathered about him. He pointed to the outcropping of high-grade ore. They saw the traces left by a prospector's pick. For some minutes their voices mingled in low gutturals. Then they scattered to pick up the trail, found it, and resumed their progress down the arroyo.
Evening came on them when they reached the river-bottom; and with the deepening shadows, fear. Night with the Apache was the time of the dead. They made their camp. But when the sun was coloring the eastern sky the next morning they were crawling through the bear-grass on the first low mesa above the stream, silent as snakes about to strike.
The prospectors awoke with the growing light. They crept forth from their blankets. Two or three rifles cracked. And then the stillness came again.
The Apaches stripped the clothing from the dead men and left them to the Arizona sun. They took away with them what loot they found. They never noticed the little heap of specimens from the outcropping. Or if they noticed it they thought it of no importance. A few handfuls of rock fragments meant nothing to them. And so the ore remained there near the bodies of the prospectors.
The old-timers go on to tell how Jim Shea came riding down the dry wash one day late in the summer with his rifle across his saddle-horn and a little troop of grim horsemen about him. Of that incident few details remain in the verbal chronicle which has come down through four decades. It is like a picture whose background has been blurred by age.
Somewhere ahead of these dusty, sunburned riders a band of Apaches were urging their wearied ponies onward under the hot sun. They herded a bunch of stolen horses before them as they fled.
The chase had begun with the beginning of the day, at Dragoon Pass. What bloodshed had preceded it is not known. But Shea and his companions were following a hot trail, eager for reprisals, cautious against ambush. As they came on down the wash the leader scanned the stony bed reading the freshening signs left by the fugitives; while two who rode on either side of him watched every rock and shrub and gully which might give cover to lurking enemies.
Now, as they clattered along the arroyo's bed, Shea suddenly drew rein. Leaning far to one side and low, after the lithe fashion of the cow-boy, he swept his hand earthward, picked up a little fragment of dark rock, straightened his body in the saddle once more, and, glancing sharply at the bit of ore, dropped it into his pocket. He repeated the movement two or three times in the next hundred yards.
Chasing Apaches—or being chased by them—was almost as much a part of life's routine in those days as sleeping without sheets. And no one remembers how this particular affair ended. But Jim Shea kept those bits of silver ore.
Later he showed them to an assayer somewhere up on the Gila and learned their richness. Then he determined to go back and locate the ledge from which the elements had carried them away. But that project demanded a substantial grubstake, and other matters of moment were taking his attention at the time. He postponed the expedition until it was too late.
In Tucson they tell of a prospector by the name of Lewis who wandered into those foot-hills during that year, found some high-grade float, and traced it to a larger outcropping than the one down by the dry wash. But he had hardly made the marvelous discovery when he caught sight of a turbaned head above a rocky ridge about fifty yards away. He abandoned his search to seek the nearest cover. By the time he had gained the shelter a dozen Apaches were firing at him.
He made a good fight of it with his rifle, and the luck which had caused him to look up before the savages had their sights trained on him had put a wide space of open ground about his natural fort. No Apache ever relished taking chances, and Lewis was able to hold the band off until darkness came. Then he crept forth and wormed his way through the gullies to the San Pedro Valley. Dawn found him miles from the spot.
He came back to Tucson with his specimens. Marcus Katz and A. M. Franklin, who were working for the wholesale firm of L. M. Jacobs & Co., heard his story, saw the ore, and grubstaked him for another trip.
But when he reached the foot-hills of the Mule Mountains Lewis found that the long afternoon of battle and the ensuing night of flight had left him utterly at sea as to the location of that large ledge. He had to begin his hunt all over again. He used up his grubstake, got a second from his backers, and subsequently a third.