I know the last thought that flirted through the brain of Apache chief Irigoyen, just before 7:00a.m., the day after Easter - Monday, 5 March, 1858 - just outside the little desert village of Janos, Chihuahua. He was asking Ussen, the giver of life, to protect the women and children of his band and praying the Governor of Chihuahua would uphold the treaty he had signed with Irigoyen, guarantying the Apache safety to trade in the town. Indeed, at that moment the merchants of Janos were secreting desperate Apache women and children in their shops and homes. But the treaty made no difference to the 400 Mexican Lancers galloping down on the unarmed old man confronting them. I hope Irigoyen had hope as the iron lance blade pierced his chest and the shaft drove his thin red body backward, pinning him to the ground. He deserved at lest that last hope, because the Apache called what followed the Kas-Ki-Yeh massacre.
Captain Juan de Sosaya, the officer commanding in Janos (above), protested the atrocity, but the attackers' commander, Colonel Jose Carrasco, from the neighboring state of Sonora, outranked him. Colonel Medina, the military commander in Chihuahua, later protested the "intrusion" into his state, but did not condemn the breaking of the treaty.
The Chihuahua government protested the Lancers lack of "military discipline" as they left bleeding corpses on doorsteps and in store rooms, but that was as far as they went to defend their own treaty.
By noon Colonel Carrasco boasted of killing at least 16 Apache men and 5 women. And he drove 52 Apache children back to Sonora, to be sold into slavery.
The never ending war with the Apaches killed 4,000 Sonorans during the 1860's. But it was the response to this violence that twisted Sonoran society. The state paid 200 peso for either the scalp of an adult Apache or the capture of Apache children. This created an industry of raiders who randomly murdered, and claimed all scalps and all Indian children as Apache. Any doubts could usually be relived by a quick bribe. And the scalping parties insured there were always more Apache raids in response. One warrior, He Who Yawns, lost his mother, his wife and three children in the Kas-Ki-Yeh massacre. Over the next 30 years his revenge alone killed so many Sonorans the Mexicans called him by a new name - Geronimo.
To defend against the Apache, all Sonorian males were required to either serve 2 years in the Rurales - the Rural National Guard or police - or pay a 3 or 4 pesos a month exemption tax. Effectively only the poor served. The Rurales uniforms, weapons and food were supposed to be paid for by heavy Sonoran import/export duties. But these merely fueled smuggling, made easier by the Basin and Range topography. Burros were plentiful and could carry everything from flour to perfume to liquor to silver ore over the narrow mountain tracks. Canyon's, like Guadalupe Canyon across the Mexican-American border, hid the smugglers. . Houses along both sides of the border usually had back gates to facilitate smuggling. And the success of the smugglers meant the Rurales salary remained so low 1 in 4 recruits deserted every year. One platoon of Ruales, assigned to protect the village of Ures, northeast of the state capital of Hermosillo, grew so desperate they opened the jail cells and together, the Ruales and their prisoners, looted the town.
Every 15 days escorted convoys of burros and wagons carried goods between the Gulf of California port of Guaymas (above) to the state capital of Hermosillo, in the interior. One fairly honest government official noted that although no sombreros had paid import duties through Guaymas in 2 years, the shops in Hermosillo had no shortage of hats. The local price of wheat or corn was kept high because of the profits Sonoran farmers made smuggling their produce north of the border. And although Sonora had some of Mexico's most profitable mines, silver and gold leaked from the state to purchase these smuggled goods. This created a liquidity crises in Sonora, reducing the entire state to a credit economy, supplied by the top 1% of land rich Sonoran blancos - white Sonorans - who comprised a few dozen of the richest families in the state.
Beyond these lucky winners of the gene pool, the majority of the population were forced into "debt peonage", to work when, where and at what their debt holder directed. The peons who murdered Frederick Brunckow in 1860 were debt peons. During the following decade desperation and lack of opportunity drove 8,000 Sonoran men to migrate to California and another 7,500 to cross the border into Arizona. By 1871 the population of the second largest state in Mexico was declining. In 1875 the population grew so frustrated with the hemorrhaging of Mexico's population and money, they supported a revolt by General Porfiro Diaz against President Lerdo de Tejada.
One of President Diaz's first actions was to send General José Guillermo Carbó (above) north to the First military Zone, headquartered in Torin, southern Sonora, Mexico. Besides dealing with the rebellious Yaqui Indians, he was to handle the prickly Americans, and the incompetent local authorities. He began by removing Governor Pesqueira (the son of the original) and replaced him with three men...
...Romon Corral (above), who served as Secretary of State for Sonora, under new Governor Rafael Izabal.
The third man, was Louis Torres (above), who smoothed things over with the Federal bureaucracy. As Miguel Salas Tinker explains in his invaluable book "In the Shadow of the Eagles", "...the triumvirate established a network of patronage which included merchants, hacendados (large houses), and government functionaries...Marriage into notable families and extended family relations cemented ties within this broader alliance." But for the debt peons, nothing changed. If they stayed in Sonora they were held hostage to the never ending war with the Apaches.
Still, by the middle of the 1870's the Sonoran blancos (above) remained the only "job creators", in Sonora. And increasingly the state became the supplier to the Americans - usually through smuggling - for which they were paid in manufactured goods - usually smuggled south. The third largest town in Sonora was Magdalena, near the border and half way between Hermosillo and Tuscon, Arizona. Magdalena reaped the profits as a way station in the smuggling trade. But that was not unmitigated good news for Magdalena. When the largest land owner in the district, Manuel Mascarenas, was arrested and charged with stealing his neighbors' cattle and selling them in Arizona, his patrone, Louis Torres, made the charges disappear.
The lack of liquidity and of order also drove many Sonoran businesses to take on silent American partners, a practice called "petate del muerto" - the repose of the dead. These relationships were used for legal as well as illegal businesses. American butchers, supplying beef to Nevada miners, showed no hesitation when they could increase profits by stealing, or rustling cattle from Sonoran ranchers, rather than buying them. And every once in awhile Mexican frustrations boiled to the surface, as was exemplified by the experience of Galeyville, Arizona butcher Miller McCallister.
The story goes that Miller had gone south with enough silver to buy 80 head of cattle. But opportunity presented itself on the moon lit un-fenced scrub land 10 miles south of the Sonoran village of Fronteras. McCallister and 4 of his partners - George Turner, John Oliver, H.A. Garcia and William "Curly Bill" Brocius - stumbled upon 500 head of cattle. And without bothering to notify their owner, the Americans drove the herd north. After slipping through the twisting Guadalupe Canyon and safely across the border, the Yankees were drove the cows across the San Simon Valley, to the west face of the Peloncillo Mountains. Their next goal was to pass through the confines of Skeleton Canyon (above) on the border between New Mexico and Arizona.. But as they approached the watering hole of the San Simon Cienega or marsh, just at dawn on Thursday, 13 May, 1880, the weary rustlers were confronted by a determined wiry dark man with a double barreled shotgun resting in his arms.
Standing in the half light, the man challenged the startled Americans in accented English, "I am Senior Jose Juan Vasquez," he declared, "and these are my cattle. You are free to go home, to your own side of the border. But my cattle stay here." Instead of simply riding away, one the Americans rashly opened fire. Instantly 40 vaqueros began blasting away from rocks. When the gunfire finally slowed and stilled, not only was McCallister dead, but so were Turner, Olvier and Garciea. There were reports some of the cowboys had not been killed by the fulsade, but tortured to death by the Mexican ranch hands after they realized their boss, Senior Vasquez, had also been killed.
Shortly thereafter a report in the newspaper "The Southwest", published in Silver City, New Mexico, claimed that local physician Dr. Henry Woodville had treated the sole American survivor of what came to be called the Skeleton Canyon Massacre - William "Curly Bill" Brocius (above). And the life of Brocius was emblematic of the anarchy on the American and the Mexican side of the border.
The story was that Curly Bill and another man had robbed a stagecoach in Texas, killing the driver and a passenger. During their trial both bandits had escaped, and in 1878 Curley Bill reappeared in Southern New Mexico and Arizona, where he fell in with an older desperado, Robert E. "Dutch" Martin, who made his living stealing silver and cattle in Sonora and selling them in the United States. Curly Bill became Dutch Martin's second in command over the outlaw Cow Boys. Martin mostly stayed in New Mexico, while Brocius spent considerable time in Arizona. When he was sober, Curly Bill was maybe the best shot on either side of the border. But when he was drunk, which was often, he was dangerous.
In late October of 1880, 5 months after the Skeleton Canyon Massacre, a recovered Curly Bill was in the mining town of Tombstone, Arizona to do a little drinking. Having picked up his horse and gun at a stable, he was headed out of town when he spotted a few friends in a vacant lot on Toughnut Street, "shooting at the moon". Knowing it was illegal to wear a gun in Tombstone, Brocius got down to try and calm his friends. But before he could, town Marshal Fred White appeared and demanded that the cow boys hand over their guns. Curly Bill volunteered to give his up first. But while doing so, the gun went off, wounding Marshal White in the groin. Deputy Marshal Wyatt Earp (above) then pistol whipped the drunken Brocius into submission. While being led off to jail Curly Bill had whined, "I didn't do nothing you can arrest me for."
Geologist Raphael Pumpelly, who was familiar with mining regions from Michigan to Japan, said that in the San Pedro River towns surrounding Tombstone, Arizona (above) - Fairbank, Charleston and Milltown, where, "Murder was the order of the day...everyone goes around armed to the teeth." In Charlestown it was not unusual to find another dead body on the street every morning, These deaths were not investigated as a murder if "the wound was in the front or a gun was found nearby", And if the victim were a 'nigger' African American, a "greaser" Hispanic American, or a "Chink" Asian American, not even then.
It seemed to justify Pumpelly's description of the Tombstone district as having little "pretense of civilization". There was anarchy north and south of the border.
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