•  A Butterfield Overland Mail station was built in 1858 near the mouth of Cooke's Canyon...

...so stage coaches traveling from El Paso, Texas, via Mesilla and Picacho Village, New Mexico, could join Cooke's Trail wending westward. The route heading west was: Cooke's Trail through New Mexico was pioneered by Colonel Cooke leading the Mormon Battalion in 1846. Cooke's Battalion also discovered Cooke's Spring, Cooke's Peak and Cooke's Canyon. But by 1862, an estimated 400 emigrants, soldiers, and civilians had been killed by Apaches while travelling through the four-mile "gauntlet of death" that Cook's Canyon had become.

On July 23, 1861, after the outbreak of the Civil War, Mangas Colorados and a large band of Chiricahua Apaches attacked seven men who were on a stagecoach in Cooke's Canyon. All seven were killed but one managed to leave a blood-stained note under a rock telling of a two-day fight during which the Indians lost forty warriors. This was one of many Indian attacks in Cooke's Canyon which led to pressure for military action--and to the establishment of Fort Cummings, New Mexico, near Cooke's Canyon in 1863.

An account of the attitude of a white pioneer whose father was one of those killed in the Canyon follows. An interviewer working for a WPA Project handwrote this account which is now archived at the Library of Congress.

Attitude toward maurauding Apaches--written in 1938

as told by Louie Taren to Frances E. Totty, an oral history interviewer and author working for the WPA Writers' Project, on August 12, 1938

"When I was 8 years old I ran away from home with some cattle thieves and came to Silver City where I have lived off and on for the last sixty years. When I came here my father had me brought back home which was down below El Paso.

"In the summer of 1884 my father with eleven other farmers of the valley decided to bring to Silver City fruit and vegatables as they sold very high Grapes were 25 a lb., apples two lbs. for 25, and other things in according. When they were nearing the Cookes Peak country, they were warned that the Indians were out and as this was one of the most dangerous parts of the country they were warned to be as careful as possible.

"When they were nearing Cooks Peak the Indians attacked the ox-drawn carts. The way of traveling at the time was in two-wheeled carts with a fairly large bed to carry merchandise. The caravan was soon massacred and the complete load of merchandise was destroyed. Among those murdered was my father.

"When the news was brought back to the valley that the men had all been killed we were a heartbroken group of people. In my anger I swore that I would get revenge as well as kill the Apache that killed my father, and bought a gun and started on the trail the very next day.

"I came back to Silver City, and believe it or not I have never killed an Indian in all of my travels over the frontier.

"I had been in Silver City but a short time when I secured a a job herding sheep out at the present Gowas peak, some six miles from Silver City. One day while herding the sheep I saw the Indians coming, some were afoot, other horse back, and the women were pulling drags made by tying logs together. These drags were used to place the spoils of the trip on, and the women pulled them as well as doing all of the care of the warriors. Their methods were very cruel. The Indians that I saw passed me as I hid behind some rocks and went on down the road where they massacred the Gomas family. I stood and watched them butcher small children unable to give them any aid whatever.

"I soon saw while the Indians were so interested in their spoils and mutilating the families that I could escape to town and let the people of Silver City come to the scene. I rode to town as fast as possible, where the people formed a rescue party, but all too late we arrived back at the scene, as all of the people were dead, some were scalped others were badly burned over the fire while some of the children were hung on meat hooks. This part of the work was always left up to the squaws to do, which it seemed they took great delight, and tried to see who could be the most cruel.

"We followed the Indians over into the country, but were unable to ever overtake them but as long as we followed them we found a trail of blood. Over on the river we found where they had gone into a small hut, and killed an entire family, and placed one member of the family that wasn't dead from the attack, on the stove to burn. They had held him by some means on the stove until he died, and then left him there to roast. This one illustration of their cruelty wasn't unusual.

"I was never able to be in conflict with the Indians no matter how badly I wanted to kill some of them and I still hate them for I feel that some of their parents were the one that killed my father. I have had to hide several times from as many as twenty-five to a hundred Indians for I always knew that I would get killed if any of them were to see me as I was always alone on the range when I saw them. I can speak a number of Indian dialects, but I learned them for commercial purposes rather than for my desire to associate with the Indians."
CLICK to TRANSLATE this page or NEXT for next page....  translate  next