A Fight with Indians

In March 1864, Mr. Binkley and myself, with two packhorses, started for the Arizona gold mines, crossing the Colorado Desert and reaching the river, a distance of some 200 miles, in nine days. Hearing of the Indian outbreak in the territory, we decided it best to remain at Bradshaw’s Ferry, near La Paz, for a time, until we thought it safe to venture farther, to work the placer claim located by Bradshaw and Binkley in 1863, some forty miles east of Walnut Grove, and which was then considered, as it afterward proved to be, a very rich mine.

While stopping at Bradshaw’s Ferry, some three weeks, we enjoyed ourselves by hunting deer, fishing and prospecting. Finding three gentlemen who wished to join us, we started for Bradshaw’s Canon, traveling up the Colorado river sixty or seventy miles, then leaving the river we went up William’s Fork to Weaver’s placer mines, and from there to People’s valley and over to Walnut Grove. We remained at White’s and Bradshaw’s ranch for some time, waiting for the Indians to quiet down, and finding our provisions getting short, failing to secure an escort, and being anxious to reach the mines, five of us Fred Henry, Samuel Herron, Mr. Binkley, Scott and myself-with three pack animals, ventured to start. As we had been several times over the same trail we proposed to travel for a distance of twenty miles while out hunting, and had seen no signs of Indians, we thought we could possibly reach the mines without any trouble. We had made a. practice of guarding our animals day and night up to this time, but the first and second nights out we omitted this precaution. Reaching our camp, near Turkey creek, about thirty miles southeast from Prescott, and twenty miles east of Walnut Grove, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the second day, Mr. Herron and myself made a circuit of our camp to ascertain if there were any fresh signs of Indians having passed along the trail, and found none; so we ate our supper and retired. Our animals exhibited some uneasiness about nine o’clock, but we paid little attention to it.

We all slept soundly until about an hour before daylight, when we were suddenly awakened by the Indian war-whoop and a shower of arrows falling on our beds. All our party arose and seized their arms. Mr. Binkley being the first, served as a target for the savages, and was disabled by their first fire, receiving a half-ounce ball through his left breast, an arrow wound in his left eye and another in his tongue. He was able, however, to retreat a short distance to the rear. By this time I had made one shot, and had received an arrow in my breast. A few moments later Mr. Herron and Mr. Scott were each wounded several times, and about sunrise were compelled to retreat on account of their wounds. One arrow cut the main artery of Mr. Herron’s arm, causing severe loss of blood; another penetrated his stomach, which caused his death four days later by tetanus (lock-jaw). Mr. Scott received a rifle ball in his right elbow. Mr. Henry was also severely wounded, but he and I held the camp until about nine o’clock, when the conflict grew so hot that I suggested a retreat. Mr. Henry thought we had better stay with them a while longer, and I remained a short time, receiving one wound after another until I had fourteen wounds in all. I then told Mr. Henry good-bye and made my way up the hill as fast as I could go some fifty yards, where I found Binkley, Scott and Herron in a horrible condition and covered with blood. A few moments later Mr. Henry came running up to where we were, receiving one more wound on the way up. The savages had killed two of our horses, and mine was severely wounded. A hasty consultation was held, and as Mr. Binkley and Mr. Henry were able to travel on foot, the rest of us requested them to leave us and make their way to Walnut Grove, which they, after much urging, consented to do, and started off through the brush, avoiding the trail. The Indians watched the trail hoping to cut them off, but failed. When the Indians found they were foiled in this, they returned to the rest of their party, who were standing guard over us, and who were so close as to throw stones at us. We were at this time about a hundred yards from our camp under a clump of small oak trees Here we were again attacked, the fight lasting about an hour and a half, and I received three wounds and Scott two. Our last two shots did good work, and our assailants left us, and took possession of our camp. They built sixteen different fires, and in plain sight of us butchered two of our horses and had a feast, eating all of our provisions except what they packed away on my horse, Old Joe.

The number of Indians were variously estimated by our party at from 200 to 300, composed of parts of four or five different tribes, including Apaches and Mojaves. After the Indians left the camp, we remained at the last battle-ground until dark, though we suffered greatly for water, but were afraid to go to the spring, which was only twenty-five yards from our camp, and was all the time held by the Indians, and we feared they were waiting in ambush to entrap us at that point. We moved under cover of the darkness a little farther up the hill and camped under a large juniper tree, under which was a great many dry leaves that we utilized as a covering. We covered Mr. Herron up with the leaves and Scott and I guarded till daylight. With much difficulty (on account of the soreness of our wounds) we then reached the spring, and after slaking our thirst crawled down the ravine and hid among some willow brush, where we remained until three o’clock in the afternoon, when to our great surprise and delight we heard the sound of horse’s feet approaching down the trail from the direction of Walnut Grove. It proved to be a party of fifteen men headed by Jack Swilling coming to rescue us. Messrs. Binkley and Henry had reached Walnut Grove in safety and sent us aid.

The kindness shown us by those men is beyond description. Mr. Binkley, my brother-in-law, lost an eye, and he is the only one of our party that has had the satisfaction of retaliating, for he was one of the party who, at Schull Valley, Arizona, were attacked by a band of Indians, of whom they killed over sixty. Mr. Swilling and party examined the battleground and found about seventy-five yards east of our camp some fifty oak clubs, which, no doubt, the savages expected to use on us in case we had retreated in that direction. The bones of some twenty-six Indians were afterward found, covered with brush near the battleground.

Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California: embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California.

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