Saturday, June 22, 2019


I doubt James Reavis-Peralta (above), the self styled Baron of Aridzona, could have imagined a worse person to review his new filing for the Peralta grant than Royal A. Johnson. He was a lawyer, the son of a New York lawyer, and had never expressed an interest in politics. He had come west out of curiosity, and stayed because he found a good job as a clerk in the Arizona Territory Surveyor General's office. He'd been one of the clerks who had received the original voluminous Perlata Grant filing in 1883. And from that morning he'd been suspicious of Reevis. Royal had risen to second in command of the office when his boss, Joseph W. Robbins, had died, and was universally approved as Robbins's replacement.
Then in 1884 Democrat Grover Cleveland won the White House, and in the wholesale shifting of political favors, Royal was replaced as Surveyor General by the Democrat John Hise. Thus, when Reavis-Peralta filed his new claim, it was John Hise who was to pass judgment on the it. However, Hise was also suspicious of Reavis, and delayed making his decision. Reavis appealed to Hises' boss, looking to shake things up, but that failed. And then 1888 the Republican Benjamin Harrison was elected President, and in July of 1889 Royal Johnson, the one man who knew almost as much about the Peralta Grant as James Reavis-Peralta,  was back in as Surveyor General.
Even during the four years he was out of office, Royal had continued to investigate the grant. So in September, when the acting United States Commissioner of Land sent Royal a letter asking, “"please report to me the exact condition of said grant...and all the information you can obtain in regard to it.", Royal was loaded and ready to fire. His broadside was fired on October 12th (Columbus day), 1889 and the title said it all; “Adverse Report of the Surveyor General of Arizona, Royal A. Johnson, upon the alleged Peralta Grant”. The word “alleged” must have particularly stung the Baron.
First, Johnson noted that the Royal Cedula, the document which had supposedly started the entire enterprise, was written in a form different than every other Royal Cedula every issued, and in such bad Spanish that Royal suggested it must have been written by an American using “bad California Spanish”. In addition the seal on the Royal Cedula had been printed on the page, and not impressed into it, as it was in every other Credula. Finally, the signatures had been made with a steel pen, not invented until a century after the 1748 date on the page.
Considering the report of the "Mexican Holy Inquisition", Royal observed that the seal was legitimate, but it had been glued on the page and not impressed, and it was cracked and had a brown tinge, suggesting it had been heated and removed from another document. And when discussing the Viceroy's decree directly awarding the grant, Royal wrote, “No certificate of a modern date nor any other reliable certification appears on the copies which would point to the originals being at present in the custody of some custodian of archives where they could be readily located and seen...to enable me to ascertain the whereabouts of originals or to prove their existence, and if they were to be obtained it is the duty of the claimants to produce them or to obtain and submit undoubted proof of their existence in their proper archives ... .”
In fact, at times the Surveyor General seemed to be scolding Reavis. “...it seems in poor taste that the old books of the San Xavier Mission, wherein were recorded the births, marriages and deaths of persons under the cognizance of the Church, should be selected to have inserted, and rudely inserted, among its withered leaves a copy of the grant of Peralta by the viceroy, and a copy of Peralta’s will." Royal went on to point out the obvious signs of a forgery committed under time constraints and in difficult places. "In the first place, the (forgery) is pasted in at right angles to the other sheets and is one-third larger than the regular sheets. The upper end of the pasted-in sheet is inserted in that part of the binding that holds the back of the large book together, instead of being in regular order...”
Royal further noted that under the laws existing during the 16th century, the King would not have communicated to the Viceroy of New Spain, but rather through the bureaucracy, to the Council of the Indies, who would have then contacted the Viceroy. And there was no copy of the Peralta Grant in the Council's archives. And, asked Johnson, why was there no record or even mention of the noble deeds achieved by Maguel Peralta anywhere in any other records? Given that this was the largest individual land grant made in the Americas by the Spanish crown, should not the achievement equal its reward? And, noted Johnson, Spanish law at the time said, “No memorial from any person whatever shall be received for services which shall not be supported by certificates from viceroys, Generals, or other chiefs under whom such services shall have been performed, except those persons who shall have served in the councils.” And, again, the Council of the Indies had no record of the Peralta grant.
Royal also noted that although the Inquisition was extremely powerful in Mexico, no obsessive Spanish bureaucrat – and any good bureaucrat is obsessive - would have asked that body to investigate the Peralta Grant. It should have been reviewed by the Audiencia Guadalajara Nuev Galidia. And in those records there was no mention of the Peralta Grant. Then, Royal Johnson dealt with the conflicts between the 1883 and 1887 claims. Noted the Surveyor General, if the 1864 Willing bill of sale was legitimate, then that superseded Sophia's inheritance. And as to the photograph of Sophia standing next to the “Inicial Monument” (above), Johnson showed that the Peralta family crest carved into the rock was, in reality, Ia native American holography.
The report went on to detail the vagueness of the boundaries of the claim, pointing out that under long established property law in America and in Mexico, you cannot claim what you cannot locate. “Speedy and final action should be had on this base claim in order that the people of this territory may enjoy their homes with peace of mind. And parties guilty of forgery or the fabrication of papers that have caused so much trouble should be vigorously prosecuted by the government and that without delay. I recommend that the alleged grant should not be confirmed as it is prayed for, it being to my mind without the slightest foundation in fact and utterly void.”
The Baron of Arizona, James Reavis-Peralta,  responded as any good con man would respond when he was caught red handed. He sued the United States government for $11 million.
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Friday, June 21, 2019


I think, for all the pain and anxiety caused by James Reavis in the Peralta Grant scam, the most heinous crime he committed was what was he did to the woman known only as Sophia. She was an orphan, a woman and a Mexican living in a sexist, racist culture. She had no family for economic or emotional support, no dowry to secure a supportive husband. She was adrift in the world, forced at a tender age to face what we all must face in our adulthood, that we are largely alone in this world. And then, in 1877, she met a stranger on a train, who told her was from a noble, wealthy  family. And over the years this man continued to tease her with hint after hint that seemed to confirm her personal fairy tale. And then he swept into her life again, and offered to lift her into a world of wealth and privilege. And all he asked in return was that she believe him. And that she marry him.
She was working as a servant girl in a hotel in the Stanislaus River ferry crossing village of Knights Landing, California – about 20 miles north-west of Sacramento. The opening of the transcontinental railroad sent the community into a decline, and the hotels and rooming houses were closing one by one. And this working class girl who had no past, was facing a bleak future when James Reavis arrived on the Southern Pacific to rescue her. They were married on December 31, 1882, after his second scheme to steal from the citizens of Arizona had failed. And in January, she was enrolled in a convent school, to train her in the social skills expected of a well born lady.
While the girl studied, Reavis journeyed to San Francisco. From Collis Huntington and Charles Crocker (above) and other financial supporters he collected letters of introduction to several important Washington power players. He also met with San Francisco banker Maurice Herr, who put up $25,000 to fund "The Arizona Development Corporation". This was a step forward in the plan to fleece the citizens of Arizona. Where Reavis' "Peralta Grant" scam had only sought to blackmail the people of Arizona, this corporation could add investors world wide to its list of victims. Reavis had finally learned the secret lesson of capitalism, from his hidden financiers  – a thief is a man who robs a bank, while a financial wizard is a banker who robs everybody. At the same time James Reavis met with John W. Mackay, whose holdings in the Comestock Lode produced half of all the silver in the United States. Mackay wanted to get an inside track on the Peralta Grant, and offered to finance Reavis' Spanish research, paying him a stipend of $500 (the modern equivalent of $11,500). a month. It seemed James Reavis and wife and party, would be traveling to Spain in style
They stopped off in New York, where Reavis used his letters of introduction to bond with powerful Senator Roscoe Conkling,  former Congressman and lobbyist Dwight Townsend and Bankers Henry Potter and Hector de Castro. A few weeks later the Reavis party boarded ship for Spain; the reprobate ex-lawyer Cyril Baratt, the short, violent thug Pedro Cuervo, the newly minted lady, Baroness Sophia Reavis ne Peralta , and the new version of James Reavis with the new name – James Reavis -Peralta, Baron of Arizona.
Once again, luck was with Reavis. His party arrived in Spain at the perfect moment. The 27 year old Alfonso XII (above - aka “The King without good fortune:) was entering his 10th gilded year on the throne, his monarchy having been restored at the end of December 1874. Valuing noble blood was de regueire  in Spain at this time.  And fortuitously for Spanish society, at this opportune moment, a long lost New World American royal cousin appeared, the lovely, regal Sophia Peralta, and her charming, debonair paramour, the man who had rescued her from commonality, James Reavis-Peralta. The public and the nobility were both primed to see her as she saw herself, as a fairy tale come true.
Reavis made a tour of the great cathedrals of Madrid. The civil government of the Spanish municipios had only begun recording births and deaths in 1831. Records of all  christenings, deaths and weddings before that could be found only in church records, in the cathedrals, like Iglesia de San Andrés or the San Pedro el Viejo for example. It took weeks before James was able to discover the codicil to the will of Don Miguel Perlata's leaving everything he owned, including the Peralta grant, to his only surviving daughter, Sophia. 
When he was not laboring alone over the ancient dusty documents, Reavis-Peralta was wandering through the second hand shops and flea markets of Madrid, buying the occasional painting or daguerreotype of a forgotten nobility, which had lost its fortune during the brief Republic before Alfonso's restoration. James picked those which showed a resemblance to Sophia, in other words those which could be presented as being her ancestors. And in his weaving of her tale to his young bride, they became her ancestors. And the living members of Peralta family were as willing to believe that this rich American had discovered an image of their long lost distant cousins. Wasn't she graceful? Didn't she carry herself like a baroness? You do not learn those things in a California Catholic finishing school. True nobility is born with grace and culture. Sophia Peralta Revis was obviously born with noble blood.
In December of 1885 the King, Alfonso XII, fell ill with tuberculosis. His last words were, “What a struggle. What a struggle!” He was succeeded by his pregnant wife, Queen Maria Christina. Her son, and the new king, would not be born until five months later. By then, the delightful Baroness Sophia Peralta Revis and her gracious American husband were so well accepted by the nobility, they were even presented to the Queen. Then, in a cloud of fond farewells, the noble couple returned to America, arriving in New York City in November of 1886
As they say, everybody loves a winner, and the Peralta brand was clearly winning. On their return to America they received the endorsement the powerful Missouri Republican James Broadhead (above), who endorsed the claim, referring to James Reavis-Peralta as, “a man of remarkable energy and persistence." Republican Senator Roscoe Conkling vouched for the validity of the claim, and said he believed Sophia “to be the person she believes herself to be...the lineal descendant of the original grantee.” Back in California in 1887, James was able to add to his list of supporting documents a testimonial from Alfred Sherwood, of San Diego County, who swore he had known Sophia all her life, and even her parents as well.
In August, the Revis-Peralta's journeyed by Southern Pacific railroad train to Arizona. And fortuitously, while pausing in Phoenix, they took a carriage ride into the mountains, and stumbled across yet even more evidence, the "Inicial Monument”, the very great stone which Don Miguel Peralta had carved his family crest upon when first coming to the grant in 1758. Wasn't that lucky. James even posed Sophia next to the carving (above), and included the photo in his new claim,  filed in Tucson on September 2, 1887. Now his claim was simple and direct, and no longer rested on a single scrap of paper bill of sale . He was the grantee, by benefit of his marriage to the direct ancestor of old Don Miguel Peralta,  Doña Sophia Micaela Maso Reavis y Peralta de la Córdoba, third Baroness of Arizona.
James Reavis-Peralta began calling himself the Baron of Arizona. And he formed the "Casa Grande Improvement Company", to exploit his land. He sold $3 million in stock (above), based on his plans to build a massive damn on the Salt River, which would allow irrigation systems to make the desert bloom. Never mind that most of the year, the Salt River was a bed with no water in it. But for all his plans, James barely paused in his fortress at Arizola. They had built or bought homes where their investors lived – in San Francisco, St. Louis, New York and Chihuahua, Mexico. It was while in New York City that Sophia adopted a two month old orphan and named him Fenton, after James' father.
It looked as if the land commissioners in Arizona had little choice but to approve the grant, and make James Reavis Peralta  a multi-millionaire and Sophia a fairy tale princess. And I have no doubt that would have happened – except for one man – the Surveyor General for Arizona, Royal Johnson.
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Thursday, June 20, 2019


I think Guadalajara is one of the most surprising cities in North America. It's name has Arabic roots, wadi l-ijara, meaning “the valley of the stones”, which hints at the Medieval Moorish occupation of Spain, mother country to Mexico. At the same time Guadalajara's university, founded in 1791, helped make the capital of Jalisco province an economic power house. But when James Reavis, Cryil Baratt and Rufus C. Hopkins arrived in the winter of 1882, the town was struggling to recover from 60 years of racial bloodshed, during which Indian tribes rebelled against enslavement and oppressive government rule 27 separate times. It was only the Catholic church's obsession with order and precedent which saved the region's history. And that is what drew our trio of gringos to this cultural island.
Rufus C. Hopkins was probably not the worst man Surveyor General Robbins could have picked to send on this mission, but about his only qualification was that he could read the Spanish used in old land grants. He was 70 years old, and Reavis and Baratt hovered around the old man, introducing him to the archivists, the priests and clerks, and were ever eager to point out important documents and even discovering a previously unknown copy of the 1748 "cedulare" approving the Peralta grant. This latest discovery was important, since nothing would discourage doubters looking closer into the grant than the threat they would only stumble over more evidence supporting it. The old man was clearly convinced. His report would support Reavis' claim. Unfortunately for James Reavis, back in Tucson Arizona, things had taken a turn for the worse.
Rufus Hopkin's boss, Joseph W. Robbins, had died of tuberculosis while the trio were down in Guadalajara. His replacement was his chief clerk, Royal A. Johnson, and he was healthy and had a healthy skepticism about Rufus Hopkin's report on the Peralta grant. He noted that tucked away in the back of Hopkins' report was the note that the only records in Guadalajara which mentioned the Peralta Grant, were those which specifically dealt with it. In discussing the desire for Spanish troops to deal with the Apache, for instance, there was no mention of the grant, even though it was smack in the middle of their land, and it was claimed Don Miguel Peralta had been driven off “his” grant by the Apache. This was why Rufus Hopkins' report, like all good historical scholarship, could only say that after a cursory examination there was nothing to disprove the legality of the grant.
James Reavis (above), of course, took much more forceful interpretation of the report. He and Cryil Baratt began spreading the rumor that the American government was about to offer him $100 million for the Grant. And given Huntington and Croker's political friends in Washington, that was not impossible. Reavis had already refused to sell another right-away quick claim, similar to the one Huntington's Southern Pacific had bought, to the competing Texas and Pacific Railroad, which was trying to fulfill James Gadsden old dream of connecting the southern states to the Pacific ocean. With all land rights in Arizona now uncertain, and without a quick claim of its own, the banks withdrew their support for the Texas and Pacific, and progress on that railroad ground to a halt. Crocker and Huntington's investment in Reavis was already paying dividends.
Meanwhile Reavis' bodyguard, Pedro Cuervo had recruited a small army of thugs who were shaking down every farmer, rancher, miner, home and business owner in Arizona for anything from $1,000 to a free meal in exchange for an immediate quit claim on their properties. Many paid up. Those who resisted found their businesses vandalized, their employees beaten, crops and barns burned and wells fouled. Typical of Reavis' methods was the treatment for Tom Weedin, editor of the "Florence Enterprise" in Pinal County, about 40 miles southeast of Phoenix.  Reavis offered Weedin the standard bribe, and when Weedin said no, his offices were burned to the ground. But Weedin responded by forming an “Anti-Reavis” committee, to raise money to oppose his thugs in court. Similar committees sprang up in Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe. To Weedin it felt like rowing against the tide. Cuervo's bandits squeezed an estimated $5.3 million out of Arizona in 1884. Organized crime had been turned loose on the libertarian wonderland of the Old West, where almost everybody carried a gun. And contrary to modern theory, the result was that citizens were left screaming for government activism – and immediately!
Reavis was feeling confident enough to build himself La Hacienda de Peralta, a fortress with a nine foot wall enclosing servants quarters, stables, barns, a well, and a ten room redwood mansion (above), with running water inside. He built his outpost just south of the ruins of Casa Granda, about 80 miles south of Phoenix and about 60 miles north of the Mexican border - should a quick escape be required. He called it Arizola, and began referring to himself as the Baron de Arizona.
The only trouble was a lawsuit filed by the Territorial Attorney General, Clark Churchill, claiming that Reavis had no right to property owned by the Territory of Arizona, because he lacked clear title to the grant. It was the weak point in Reavis' claim. There were still people alive who had been in Black Canyon in 1864 and none of them could recall a Miguel Peralta working a mine there. And in May of 1885 the territorial court granted clear title to the Attorney General. The Tucson Citizen newspaper headlined, “Reavis Nailed Up” In a letter dated May 2, 1885, The Arizona Land Commissioner, W.A. Sparks, wrote to Surveyor Royal Johnson, “The essential foundation of a recognizable claim under the laws of Spain and the treaties and laws of the United States does not appear in this case. It is my opinion that the futile work in which you have been engaged for a year...should forthwith be discontinued.” Johnson agreed, writing back that he hoped “...the many schemes concocted by bad men...will now cease....(and) we shall have no further connection with this grant.”
Almost over night, income from the shakedowns for quit claims dried up and Cuervo's thugs returned to whatever they had been doing before Cuervo had hired them. Feeling the ground shifting under his feet, Reavis caught a Southern Pacific train for California. But if James Reavis was looking for more support from his financial backers, Huntington and Crocker, he did not get it. The delay of the Texas and Pacific railroad had been their primary concern, and it had been stopped. But another ally did appear, when George Hearst, new owner of the San Francisco Examiner, and father to William Randolph Hearst, decided to back Reavis with favorable publicity in his paper. Still Mr Crocker warned that the weak point remained the 1864 bill of sale to George Willing. It had been written on a scrap of paper, and, frankly Mr Huntington had doubts as well that it would stand up in any court. Didn't Reavis have anything stronger?
Once again, as had happened so many times before in this story, James Reavis did have something stronger. He had a little lady he had met on a train back in 1871. Reavis had stayed in contact with her, exchanging letters, and even paying for her to attend "finishing" school. And now she was right where and when Reavis needed her to be, and she was even who he needed her to be; Sofia Peralta, sole surviving heir to the Peralta Land Grant. With her appearance, the bill of sale became irrelevant. 
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019


I think it was very clever of James Reavis to choose tiny  Sanford, Arizona, capital of Graham County, to file his first claim related to the Peralita grant. The entire county had less than 5,000 residents in October of 1882 . The collection of bars and stables built around water wells sat in a fertile nook of the barren Sonora-Chihuahuan Desert, at the foot of the isolated Pinaleno Mountains, 165 miles east of Phoenix. But it was only 30 miles west of the New Mexico territorial  border, and just 100 miles north of the border with old Mexico.  In short, it was not near anywhere else, except an exit should anyone react too strongly..
Reavis filed his papers with the probate court, laying claim to George Willing's ownership of the Peralta grant. But other then stamping the date on his paperwork, the probate court lacked authority to judge the validity of the Peralta Grant itself. And Reavis did want them to. The town was now  within the confines of the grant, which ran into New Mexico, but could it be that the master forger was nervous? Or had he been traversing the empty dessert, leaving false clues to the grant's validity, and was now anxious to get started? It did not matter for long, because his next move made a very large and well publicized splash.
It was Tuesday, March 27, 1883, when an odd trio of villains stormed into the Tucson offices of Joseph W. Robbins, Surveyor General for the Arizona territory, and demanded service. First came the bewhiskered well dressed James Reavis (above), followed by Cryil Baratt, a dis-bard California lawyer and alcoholic, serving as James' legal adviser. One story says that Reavis found Cyril in a San Francisco gutter and the kindred spirits had formed an immediate bond. Bringing up the rear was a fire plug named Pedro Cuervo, carrying in three large trunks of documents, one after another. Pedreo was Reavis' new body guard and  enforcer. And once those trunks were opened, Reavis would need all the protection his wealthy California backers could afford.
His filing began boldly; “The petition of James Addison Reavis respectfully sets forth: That he is owner, by purchase from the legal heirs and representatives of the original grantee, of a certain tract of land (12 1/2 million acres - roughly from Phoenix, Arizona to Silver City,  New Mexico),  granted on the third day of January, 1758, by the Viceroy of New Spain to Don Miguel Peralta, Baron of the Coloradoes under royal decree of the King of Spain, directing such grant to be made to the said Peralta in consideration of and as a reward for distinguished military services rendered to the Crown in the war of Spain...”
Now, Joseph Robbins, might be the Surveyor General for the Arizona territory, but he was a political appointee, with no experience with a theodolite, .and he knew almost nothing about Spanish or Mexican history. He'd been a newspaper owner in Wichita, Kansas and a good Republican before receiving his current position. But as he watched his staff notarize the seemingly endless series of documents, many with what looked like the official stamps and seals of Spain and Mexico, a panic began to build in this throat. These men were laying claim to an area larger than the combined states of Maryland and New Jersey, with the District of Columbia thrown in as well..
Second of the documents was the typed translation of Phillip V's royal credula, dated December 20, 1740. This was followed by the report of the Mexican Inquisition favoring the grant, and the 1758 Mexican Viceroy's confirmation, then a statement written by Don Miguel Nemecio Silva de Peralta de la Corboda himself, describing the exact location he chose for the grant. Then from the trunk was drawn the petition from Peralta to Carlos III of Spain, requesting confirmation of the grant, followed by that confirmation, granted January 20, 1776,. in Madrid. Next Reavis produced a letter to Don Meguel's son, signed by Santa Ana, President of Mexico. There were even three photographs of pages from the record book of the Mission of San Xavier del Bac, showing the originals of the previous documents. Then Reavis and Cryil Baratt, produced a copy of Miguel Peralta's will, dated January 1788, and the 1864 quick claim bill of sale signed in Black Canyon, selling the entire grant over to George Willing . Last but not least, came the power of attorney from May Ann Willing to James Reavis. All of that was in the first trunk. And there were two more trunks of documents to go.
Public notice of the claim was now filed in newspapers in Tucson, Phoenix and Prescott. The reaction was strongest in Phoenix, the largest town which fell within the claim. Suddenly every business owner, home owner, mine owner and farmer knew their property rights were in question. The town's two newspapers, the Herald and the Gazette, both declared war on James Reavis. Both papers questioned the validity of the grant, urged their readers not to sign any agreements with Reavis, and condemned the practice of "quit claim" sales. It looked for a time that the territory would present a untied front. But almost immediately there were three serious defections.
The first to cut a deal with Reavis was Col. James M. Barney (above). He had bought the Silver King Mine a few years earlier, paying over half a million dollars. That mine was now digging on an 87 foot wide vein of silver ore, on three levels, the deepest 110 feet down, and was producing over $6 million of silver a year. In June of 1883 the old cavalryman paid Reavis $25,000 for a quit claim on his mine. It was chump- change to Barney, and just good business. But it sent a shiver down the spines of every other property owner in the territory.
This was followed by word that the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was building its way eastward toward Phoenix, had also bought a quitclaim for a right-of-way into the territory for $50,000. What the terrified residents did not know was that the owners of the S.P. -  Huntington, Crocker and their partners, were also the men who were funding Reavis and his vultures. In essence, the S.P. was paying itself for the right of way into Phoenix.
The next major defector was an even harder blow to resisters. Homer H. McNeil was a significant property owner in Phoenix, and the owner and publisher of The Gazette. When notice of the Peralta Grant had first appeared, his paper had joined the Herald, in urging residents to remain united in opposition. But rumors started when the Gazette began to tone down its editorials, and in November word was leaked to the Herald that McNeal had indeed paid a quit claim for all his property, including the Gazette's office. McNeal was threatened on the streets, and even his friends stopped speaking to him. The newspaperman tried to return his quit claim to Mr. Reavis, and get his money back.  But Reavis was no longer in town..
James Reavis and his lawyer Cryil Baratt were down in Guadalajara, looking over the shoulder of the man Surveyor General Robbins had sent down to Mexico to investigate the claim -  Mr. Rufus C. Hopkins. But Rufus would prove to be a terrible choice as an investigator.
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Tuesday, June 18, 2019


I suppose the luckiest moment in the history of Phoenix, Arizona occurred when the first settlers decided to reject the suggestion of its founder,  Jack Swilling,  that they should name the new town “Stonewall”, after the Confederate General "Stonewall Jackson".  Instead they listened to the more educated voice of Phillip Darrell Duppa, an Englishman who had been versed in the classics. Phillip liked to call himself “Lord Duppa”,  a  title delivered with a self depreciating grin. The limey  had the romantic idea that the ugly little adobe town founded between the White Tank Mountains and the Salt River was a place of rebirth, a spot where new life could rise from the ashes of the old, like the Phoenix Bird. And that appealed to the survivors of the Civil War, from both sides. On the other hand it was bad luck when James Reavis stepped off the California stagecoach in Phoenix, to raise the Peralta Land Grant from its ashes.
Phoenix was not legally a town yet when Reavis arrived in April of 1880. That would happen in February of the following year. But already the town had almost 2,500 citizens, a couple of churches, a school on Center Street, 16 saloons, four dance halls, a bank and a telegraph line connection to the outside world. And Huntington and Cooke's  railroad was already reaching out from San Diego, although it had not reach the town yet. But James Reavis showed no interest in any of that. He told people he was a subscription agent for the San Francisco Examiner, but he sold very few subscriptions. He read the local paper, he listened when people talked , and he gauged the spirit of the place. He even traveled the 15 miles out to where the seasonal Salt River and the perennial Gila Rivers met, and clambered about over the hills for an hour or so. On his return to town, he boarded the stagecoach for the terrible one hundred mile journey north, into the mountains, to the territorial capital of Prescott.
Repeated conflagrations had forced the mining town of less than 2,000 to begin building in brick, including a new court house (above).  It was in that building in May of 1880 that James Reavis presented a letter from George’s Willing's widow, granting him authority to act in her name and take possession of the bill of sale for the Peralta land grant. And once he had this bill of sale in his hand, James caught the next coach bound for San Francisco.
Once back in San Franciso, Reavis now oversaw an English translation of  the Royal Credula -  “The King's Debt” - the land grant supposedly made by the Spanish King. This had of course originally been written in English, by Reavis' conspirators back in St. Louis. But now Reavis had actually seen the land, and could make minor changes in the translation to reflect the actual terrain.  
After discussions with Huntington and Crocker, James Reavis decided to expand the size of the grant, placing its very center at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers,.which he had visited on his day trip. Contained within the grant now were the towns of Phoenix, Tempe and Casa Granda. Fifty miles east, and still covered by the grant, was the richest claim in the territory, the Silver King Mine, producing $10,000 out of every ton of ore pried from its tunnels. Reavis added a helpful note from the powerful Inquisition of New Spain, dated 1757, assuring the Viceroy there was no impediment to the grant, and a statement from the lucky recipient, Don Miguel de Peralta, himself, dated 1758, which defined the western boundary so as to reach all the way to Silver City, New Mexico territory, and the silver deposits under Chloride Flats north of there. Preparing this new old paperwork took the entire winter of 1880-81.
In July of 1881 Reavis finally made it to Sacramento, to repay Florin Massaol and get his hands on the mineral rights George Willing had pawned back in 1874.  In the end, however, Massaol was so impressed by the people backing Reavis, the forger got what he wanted for only the cost of a railroad ticket. All he had to do was sign yet another promissory note, agreeing to pay Massol $3,000 if and when the Peralta grant was confirmed by an American court. In exchange Massaol signed over power of attorney on the mineral rights to Reavis  That's all Reavis wanted, anyway. It as not as if he had any intention of ever digging for gold or silver himself.
Reavis then boarded a train for Washington, D.C., seeking the record book of the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located just south of Phoenix, Arizona, and a benchmark used for the grant. The book had been the territories' contribution to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. After the Exhibition had closed, the book along with other exhibits, had been moved to Washington. It was still there, and Reavis was permitted access to the book because of his contacts with wealthy Californians. Had the book still been in Arizona such “friends” might have been a source of suspicion, but in far off Washington the other rule about museum curators came into play - they never miss an opportunity to impress a potential wealthy patron. Reavis was allowed to spend several days in private,  going over the book. In September he continued his odyssey in Mexico City, and then on to Guadalajara..
In both Mexican cities James Reavis bonded with the archivists, the librarians and probate clerks in charge of the documents and records he needed. He told them he was a correspondent for San Francisco newspapers, looking for stories about the roots of California families, and probably paid them for small “favors” he received. And when he returned to California in late November of 1881, he had photographs of the documents, as well as typed translations and certified copies, all paid for by his wealthy investors. Six months later he was in Lexington, Kentucky, agreeing to pay George Willings widow, May Ann, $30,000 for the free and clear ownership of the Peralta grant – 50% more than George had paid for it in 1863 – a transaction which, in reality, had never taken place.
This proves again the central rule of capitalism, which is that everything has a value, defined as what people are willing to pay for what they want. And in most capitalist endeavors, the first step is to create the want. And that is what James Reavis was about to begin doing.
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