Curtis Family Had Many Thrilling Escapes from Indians in the Early Days.. by Charles G Curtis
Jen, my wife, two children and myself came to Arizona in the winter of 1877. There were a number of others in the company: George Killian and family, Moses Curtis and family, and John Plum and family. When we got to the Colorado River, we stopped and made a rather permanent camp so as to let the stock rest. We would round up the stock each day driving them back toward camp where the grass was just as plentiful. One morning where we rose, there were no stock to be seen anywhere. And so all the men went out to hunt them. In the course of the hunt, I saw a dust over the foot of Buckskin Mountain. We began to follow the dust at first, and later we struck the trail. When we got near enough, we could see that the stock was being driven rather than straying. We rushed the herd and the rustlers vanished. It took us the rest of the day to get back to camp with the herd. That night we kept a watch out, and in the morning we drove them to the ferry. We tried to ferry the stock across but the river was frozen over. We got busy and made a sand trail to keep the stock from slipping, and crossed on the ice. By doing, we saved some money. We crossed Lee’s Back Bone and came to Bitter Springs. Here we camped. The water was poison, and some of our oxen stock died from drinking it. We put cows in the harness in their place and came on to the Little Colorado. Here we got some of the cattle in the quick sand. We didn’t understand the quicksand. We hitched two yoke of oxen and four mules to one ox. We pulled the ox out but he never got up. We pull his tail off and nearly tore him limb from limb. Our motto was “Beware of the quicksand.” We stopped close to where Winslow Arizona is now, December 31, 1877, and here we camped for the night. Here we got into a snowstorm. The chickens we had brought along for a start were all frozen. We decided it was time to make winter quarters. We hauled logs from cottonwood trees and put up log houses. We covered them with lumber we had hauled from Mormon Lake. We did all our hauling with ox teams. We did not have nails to build with so we bored holes and drove pegs in the ridge poles to hold the lumber on. We built a fort, we called our settlement Brigham City. We tried to get in some crops. We dug ditches, grubbed stumps, plowed and planted wheat, corn and barley. We harvested some wheat and corn. We built a dam to store water. We also made a bridge across the Little Colorado River. So you see, we were busy and had our hands full. After harvest, we threshed the wheat and made graham flour, ground by mule power. The mill was stones fixed together to pass on each other. When the mule went around, the stones went around. Our flour had sun flower seeds in it. This made the flour taste better. The game in the mountains was plentiful. One of the fellows and myself took the team and wagon and got a load of deer and antelope. We had meat to go with our graham flour. Here at Brigham City we lived the United Order. Our next move was Concho, Apache County. Here I left my family and made a trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico to the railroad for supplies, taking with me hides to trade. We heard of the Indian raids and of white people being killed. We started on this long thirty-day trip. We got our supplies. One the way back we stopped at the salt lakes to get salt. Anything free at this time was looked upon as a God-send. I left my loaded wagon at the top, also my gun as I wished to bring back all the salt I could carry. I carefully selected good clean salt and filled my sack and was nearly to the top where the wagon stood when I felt like I was not alone. I looked up and saw a bunch of Indians running over the hill toward me. I’ll tell you, I thought fast. I thought of my gun that I did not have. The Indians were making all kinds of signs, motions and doing all kinds of dances. I knew it would do no good for me to drop my salt and run. There was no way out, only to take what came. I kept right on toward my wagon which they had not seen, lucky for me. I afterwards learned that the Zunis made these signs and dances each time they came in here for salt. I started my trip without anything more happening. When I got back to Concho I decided it was time to build some sort of a protection, so I built a large house in the shape of a fort. The Indians were again on the war path, and it was at this time that Robinson was killed. Also, Plum was shot. I built this fort for self-protection. All of the white settlers stayed at our fort except members who were out on picket guard. This was the time when Victoria’s Apaches were raiding. We were in the fort for about two months. I decided to move again thinking I might find a safer place for my family. So I decided to try the San Pedro country on the San Pedro River. The Indians were killing someone every day. Here at San Pedro I found work. My brother and I took a contract to move lumber from Benson to Tombstone. This job took us all summer. In the fall I loaded my wagon with provisions and moved back to Concho. Our trip was one of excitement and peril. The Indians were again of the war path. At night we could hear the Indians. I had one mule that was very nervous, and we could always tell by his actions whether there were Indians near. One day at noon-time three Indians came to our camp at Turkey Creek. They carried good guns and had big full belts of cartridges. All the other raiment they wore was a rag around their heads and a “gee-string.” They were a curious lot and wanted to investigate. I kept my gun ready as my wife fixed them something to eat. This they would not eat. Each Indian tried to get my gun and seemed rather out of sorts. I kept them back while my wife hitched up a six-mule team. She put things in the wagon, got in and drove off, I keeping guard in the rear. The Indians sat around the fire, not knowing just what to do. When we got to Fort Apache the captain congratulated us on getting there as the Indians were bad. However, we continued on. When about 15 miles from the post, we stopped for dinner. I had the harnesses all strung out and we were preparing the noonday meal when Indians set fire to the grass about 200 yards away from us. There was a good breeze and the fire spread rapidly. We did some tall rustling. Just as we were ready to pull out, the fire burned right up to our wagon wheels. A little further on, we came to forks in the road. My brother, Moses and family, went to Snowflake; and my wife and I traveled on to Concho arriving home in the fall. During the winter I freighted goods from the railroad at Las Vegas, New Mexico, up into the Mormon settlements in Arizona. It was during an awful blizzard that I pulled up in front of Jacob Hamblin’s home. He took me and rubbed my legs and arms in the snow to restore circulation. My team of horses was put in his unfinished front room where they weathered the storm. There were two settlements at Concho: the Mexican part of the town, which was Lower Concho, and the Mormon part. To help protect our cattle and to surround our fort, we built a stockade of Cottonwood and Cedar set in the ground with the end sharpened. There were two gates to this stockade. Each night, the cattle were driven into the stockade and a guard posted. A well-known desperado, Nat Greer, came into Concho to celebrate. The Mexicans had a saloon which sold whiskey, beer and wine. After the desperado had been drinking, he became wild and boastful. The Mexicans were afraid, and all left in fear of their lives. The desperado came up toward the stockade waving his guns and boasting what he would do. The women, children and stock were inside. Knowing what would happen if the gunman was not stopped, I went outside to meet him. His back was toward the setting sun so I had a disadvantage. He drew but I was a little quicker. I shot the gun out of his hand. When I went to visit him in 1937 I told him about it. He cursed me and told me I had ruined his gun hand, and showed the scar what went between his thumb and first finger. After the Indians became more peaceful, I and my family moved to Luna Valley, New Mexico. Here our son, Ray, lays buried. I hired out as a guide to hunters from the east who were hunting big game. We would take wagons along, and the hunters would load them with bear and deer. While in Luna we were plagued with outlaw elements who made living a day-by-day hazard. We invited them to leave but they were more insolent than ever. Finally, we organized a vigilante committee. We captured fourteen of the worst offenders and held a trial. These men were found to be guilty and were duly hanged and buried in a common grave in one of the corners of the Luna Valley Cemetery. While at Luna, we took our eldest daughter by wagon to Las Vegas and put her on a train where she went to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In order to allow our children to go to school, we moved to Thatcher, Arizona in 1900. We were successful cattle ranchers, but when we came to the Gila Valley, our cattle sickened and died. They were not able to find forage, and were not use to the heat. This account was retrieved from the family files of Ray William Ellsworth, son of Julia who is the first daughter of Charles G Curtis.