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"All Hell Broke Loose!" - Ellen Neal Part 2

In Ellen Neal, Part 1, we read that Ellen Jackson was born on the Brazos River in Texas in 1864. She grew up in the wilds of West Texas and survived an attack by the Comanche Indians. She later married Will Neal and together they headed west to Arizona Territory. Ellen wrote how excited she was the day they started for Arizona Territory. “I wasn’t afraid. I was looking forward to a new life, to open range for the cattle, and schools for the children. The work was hard and the days were long, but Will promised me a permanent home and I was willing to drive a wagon to Arizona for it.” Jayne Peace is a great-granddaughter of Ellen Neal.

To read the first part of Ellen's story click here.

While on the trail west to Arizona Territory, everyone was expected to do their share of the work, a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day, the families spent quiet time together. After supper was finished, they sat around the camp fire and discussed the day’s events. Then at Ellen’s prodding, Will fiddled a few old tunes and the family would sing. Ellen said the fiddle music calmed the cattle, as well as the people. The women and children slept in Ellen’s wagon, or if it was too hot, they slept under it. It was not safe to sleep out in the open.

It was a weary trip for all. After working hard all day, the women were up part of each night tending to babies who had colic or were sick. The men worked hard all day then could only sleep a third of each night because they had to keep watch over the cattle and camp. Comanches, who still roamed the area, were very willing to take the cattle off their hands. Indians weren’t the only ones who would steal cattle - this was still wild country. There were more outlaws and desperadoes in West Texas than civilized people.

Playing havoc with the Neals, too, was the weather. They sustained rainstorms, hailstorms, sandstorms, blistering heat in the day, and cold at night. Dry washes sometimes carried flash floods which could be dangerous. Several times they had to wait for the water in creeks to go down before the wagons could cross.

Years later, Ellen told of the night all of the cattle got away. There had been a rain storm late one evening, so they stopped earlier than usual for the night. Heavy clouds covered the sky and it was “so dark you could hardly find you way to sleep.” The men watched the cattle that night, as usual, and no one heard any unusual noises, but the men must have been sleepy because at daylight, they discovered all of the cattle were gone! Soon everything was in a panic. They still had horses because they had been tied to a picket line.

Will, Dan, Robert, Lou, and Jane were badly outnumbered by 400 head of cattle, so Will asked Ellen and Annie if they would help. They were happy to get to the opportunity to ride for a change, but couldn’t leave the babies. Neely solved the problem. He said he and his younger daughters, Laura and Lula, would keep the children - for everyone to go find the cows. The cattle were found in small bunches and driven into camp throughout the next few days. Every time the women came in, they nursed their babies, then went back to hunt for more cattle.

Things finally returned to normal, with Ellen driving the wagon and Annie helping her, while Jane and Lou helped drive the herd. Ellen kept a rifle by her side at all times, as did the other women. They harbored a horrible fear of the Comanches and were aware of other dangers in the wild. Guns were a necessity of survival. Ellen and Annie were good shots, but Jane and Lou were “deadly shots,” just like their brothers.

They arrived in Fort Davis, Texas without an Indian incident. Will, Dan, Jane, and Lou’s mother, Mary Jane Neal Dawson, and their step-father, James Dawson, lived at Fort Davis. The Neals were happy to meet their seven Dawson half-siblings: Jack, Tom, Steve, Robert, Wiley, Kate, and Alice.

They stayed three winter months with the Dawsons, then Will and Dan moved their families to Douglas, Arizona Territory in the spring of 1885. They lived in an adobe house and were looking around for property to buy or trade. One day, Will and Dan, who had been out in the yard, quickly entered the house and told the women to get the kids in and keep them quiet. Ellen went straight to the door and opened it to find several Indians in the yard. The moment she saw the Indians with war paint, she ran back inside in horror, but Will settled things peacefully. The Indians meant no harm, they just wanted to trade horses with them since the Indians horses were spent. The Indians rode off. Later in the day, a posse came by and asked if the Neals had seen any Indians. Will told them what had happened and described the Indians. He was told that Geronimo and his band, who had left the reservation on the warpath, had been his visitors. So, Ellen had come all this way to get away from Comanches and now renegade Apaches had paid them a visit! She was very upset and told Will she wanted to go back to Texas. The two families soon moved back to Fort Davis. Years later, Ellen would tell her grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the day she saw Geronimo.

After another short stay in Fort Davis, the Neals decided to head Arizona Territory again, but this time they would settle in the Globe area. They left half of their cattle in Fort Davis and headed for New Mexico. They planned to return for the cattle when they found a permanent place to settle.

As they were passing through southern New Mexico in the fall of 1885, they became involved in a conflict leftover from the Lincoln County War. They found they couldn’t take their cattle across a certain rancher’s land which lay between them and the Arizona Territory. They didn’t want to leave without their cattle; they had driven them a long way, so they set up camp at a place called Pine Cienaga, which was located near present-day Silver City. They decided to wait and see if things would calm down and they could take their cattle on. It was a cold, miserable winter in the wagons and they had few supplies, but bad times don’t stop babies. Annie had a daughter, Belle Neal, in the spring of 1886, and Lou had a daughter, Georgia Colson, that same year.

In the spring of 1887, Laura, now 17, announced she was going to marry Matt Caveness, an older man who had promised to give her a good home. Ellen, who was again with child, understood her feelings and gave Laura her blessing. Matt and Laura were married and lived in New Mexico a few years before moving on to Arizona.

On January 18, 1889, Ellen had another baby, a daughter she named Mary Bertha “Birdie” Neal. Then on March 12, 1889, she had another daughter, Myrtle Irdena Neal, who was called “Dollie.”

When Dollie was a month old, the Neals decided to move to on Globe, Arizona Territory and take their cattle with them, but it wasn’t to be. A rancher, Mr. Hall, refused to let them cross his property, but they decided to cross it anyway. The exact details of what happened next are best left out of this story, but it is best remembered that these men were Texas Rangers. They didn’t drive cattle half way across Texas and New Mexico to be stopped short of their destination of Globe. All hell broke loose, a man was killed, and the Neals left Pine Cienga under the cover of darkness. Ellen said there was no time to round up cattle or horses- they were most concerned with getting the family out alive. Will drove a wagon with Ellen and Annie and their new babies inside, along with all of the small children. Everyone else rode a horse; this was one way to get a few horses to Arizona.

By the next day, they were in Arizona Territory. In the area along Blue River in the Alpine Mountains, they found a herd of horses that they quickly rounded up and took with them so they would have something to trade when they got to Globe. They drove the horses down the Black River for several miles, then headed for Globe. Ellen drove the wagon and tried to stay in sight of the horses. This was a wild, bumpy ride for the women and babies.

They arrived in Globe in 1889 with about 50 head of horses. They camped five miles outside of town at the foot of the Pinal Mountains. Neely and Jane stayed only a few days, then rode north looking for a place to settle. They traded for a small place in the little Mormon settlement of Gisela. The rest of the family set up camp in what is today Globe’s Six Shooter Canyon and lived there for a year. Will and Dan went to work for the Old Dominion Mine, hauling wood for the smelter.

By 1890, Dan and Annie had saved enough money to buy land for a ranch near Superior, where Dan ranched for forty years. This was the first time in Ellen and Annie’s life that they had been apart. They were sad to leave each other, but life had to go on.

Soon Lou Neal married a man by the name of Ed Burnett and started her new life. Robert Jackson, brother of Neely, homesteaded a place in the lower Tonto Basin and began cattle ranching. His descendants still live there today.

Will, Ellen, their children, and Ellen’s youngest sister, Lula Jackson, moved to Bloody Tanks, located between the present cities of Globe and Miami. One day, Ellen’s dad came to visit and told them about Gisela, the place he and Jane had settled. He told them the Mormons were leaving because of the Pleasant Valley War and new polygamy laws, and that land was cheap. Will and Ellen decided to move their family there.

Part 3 of the Ellen Neal story is coming next week! Stay tuned!

For more Gila County History visit

To read the first part of Ellen's story click here.

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