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THE BATTLE GROUND RIDGE OR DRY WASH FIGHT


The last real Indian raid in Arizona occurred July 17, 1882. This was started by a band of renegade White Mountain Indians ambushing a detachment of troops and scouts, under Captain Honsig and the killing of Captain Honsig in the fight. This occurred on Cibique Creek, on the Apache Indian Reservation, and such an occurrence could only be followed by further trouble.


Eighty-six Indians ran away from the Reservation, came west through Pleasant Valley, where they killed several horses and stole others belonging to the Tewksbury family and Al Rose.


After leaving Pleasant Valley, those Indians went in a North-westerly direction, next attempting to raid the Bar X Ranch, which is nine miles from Pleasant Valley. This ranch was occupied by Bob and will Bigsbee at that time. There was a man with them, a Swiss, named Louie Houdon, who had discovered a rich mineral lead in Spring Creek Canyon, directly under Diamond Butte (This prospect is held at the present time by Fred Haught, an old timer.). Houdon had come up to get the Bigsbees to help do some work on this prospect. Early this morning, Bob Bigsbee and Houdon, were up on the ridge east of the house wrangling their saddle and pack stock, when they were attacked by Indians, both being killed. Will Bigsbee, hearing the shots and suspecting what they meant, grabbed a water bucket, ran to the spring, filled it and ran back to the house, an adobe with thick walls (This house is still in use as the headquarters ranch house). As he ran in the door, an Indian shot at him. He slipped and the Indian no doubt thought he was hit. This made the Indians rather careless and he was fortunate enough to kill one in a very short time as he raised his head up through the forks of a walnut tree a few feet from the house. He was besieged for three days, during which time he killed an Indian who tried to cut a saddle from a dead mule in front of the house and another hiding behind a stump on an elevation several yards east of the house. When the troops came, they buried the two white men on the ridge where they fell and their bodies still rest in those hastily made graves.


After leaving the Bigsbee Ranch, the Indians continued in the same direction, next coming onto the Isadore Christopher Place. Christopher was a Frenchman, had settled this place and swore to stay there and make a stake, or lose his life in the attempt. He did stay in spite of the many hardships and made himself wealthy. At this place, the Indians burned the two log houses, all he had at this time. Fortunately, Christopher was away at the time and no doubt escaped death at their savage hands in that way. The soldiers were on their trail so close that they came upon the still smoldering ruins of the cabins. Christopher had killed a bear and the carcass was hanging in one of the cabins. The soldiers saw this in the fire and were sure Christopher had been killed and burned.


After leaving the Christopher Place, the Indians went in westerly direction, passing north of the Diamond Rim, over an old Indian trail, past what was then known as the Jim Roberts Place ( now owned by Zane Grey, the writer), and on west passing near the present E. F. Pyle Ranch, and camped on the East Verde, on what is now the old Bellussi Ranch.

From here, a part of them went down the East Verde nearly five miles and attacked the Meadows family, at what is now known as Hendershot Place.


John Purshett and John Kerr, had already ridden out from Globe and warned the settlers at Marysville, Payson and surrounding country. The people had been forted up at Payson. Tiring of this inaction, old man Meadows determined to return to their place on the East Verde, saying he didn’t believe there was an Indian outbreak and if there was, the bullet had not yet been cast that could kill him. So the family returned home.


Henry, one of the Meadow boys, was at the army post of Camp Verde, and returned home to warn his people of the Indian outbreak. He arrived home about 11:00 P.M. and as all were in bed asleep, he did not awaken them, thinking the Indians were far away from there. As day was breaking, the father heard the dogs barking out north of the house. No doubt thought it was a bear after their stock, some of which had been left in the corral. Taking his Long Tom, 50 caliber rifle, he went out to learn the trouble. As he walked around the top of a pine tree they had fallen, he was shot by two Indians, a ball piercing each breast and coming out the same hole in the back. The boys heard the shots, grabbed the Long Toms and cartridge belts and ran out. Henry was shot between the bones of the forearm and a bullet hit the cartridge belt of the other, Henry which was in his hand, exploding three cartridges and driving one, brass end foremost, into his groin.


Doc Massey and John Grey, who first settled the Cold Springs Ranch were notified by messenger, from Payson, that the Indians were on the warpath. They rode to the Meadows Ranch and Mrs. Meadows told them her husband had been killed and two boys wounded. They rode to Payson, notified the men, who went to their relief, buried the father and hauled the rest of the family to the Sidella Place, further down the East Verde. The old man was buried under the floor of the cabin, so the Indians would not find and mutilate the body, should they return. His body was removed a few years later to the Payson Public Cemetery where it still rests in the Meadows plot.


Major A. R. Chaffee, at Camp McDowell, near the mouth of the Verde River, who was in command of the White Horse Troop, Troop I, of the Sixth United Stated Cavalry, had received notice by telegraph, from San Carlos, that the Indians were out. He left for Pleasant Valley, arriving behind the Indians and learned of their depredations at and near that place. It is not known whether he brought forty Scouts from Camp McDowell or not. Old-timers say he brought forty soldiers and forty Apache Scouts, together with his pack train. Tom Horn, in his book, “The Life of Tom Horn”, states that he was Chief of Scouts and, that he was after the renegade with Cibique-Apaches belonging to Pedro’s band, they having been voluntarily sent by this Chief against these renegades with whom he and his band had been in trouble before. Al Seiber, Pat Kohoe and Mickey Free, all noted scouts of the time, were also with the troops, having come from San Carlos and caught up with them, according to Horn.

Chaffee took their trail, as described above, and when he found they had climbed Mogollon, or Tonto Rim, at the head of the East Verde, over what is known as the old Tunnel Road, he allowed his men only to eat and feed their horses. They took the trail up over the Rim and jumped the Indians at General Crook’s Springs, where the battle opened up and was fought down what is known as Battle Ground Ridge.


The Indians were putting on a big feed and jerking meat from some of the Meadows cattle when the soldiers jumped them. They had also stolen a little fat mare belonging to this family and before leaving this camp to flee before the soldiers and scouts, stabbed this mare full of wounds from their knives. This from no apparent reason than to show their cruel and savage nature.


Chaffee had been on so many Indian campaigns in Arizona that he was tired of it and gave the order to shoot to kill. Eighty out of eighty-six Indians were accounted for, and only six captured, some of those badly shot up.


A Colonel Evans, was on the trail of the Indians, with soldiers from Camp Verde, but was too late to join in the fight. Had he been in the battle, he would have assumed command, being superior in rank to Chaffee, but Chaffee was commended for his method of attack and advanced for it.


One soldier was killed near the close of the battle, at what is now known as Rock crossing, on East Clear Creek. His body is buried in a local grave on the rim of the canyon, unmarked and forgotten, but that of a soldier, never the less.


There is a story current in this country now, where this battle took place, that a Indian woman was wounded, having one leg shattered, and after a day or two was captured at what is know as Hunter Spring, on Blue Ridge, about two miles northeast of Rock Crossing, and when taken asked the soldiers to cut the other leg off so she could walk again. The leg was not cut off. Tom Horn mentions the Indian woman in his book (page 111), which is probably the same woman, but does not tell about her asking to have her legs amputated, although he says the surgeons amputated one leg when they brought her back to camp. This Indian woman, according to Horn, had a papoose concealed in the rocks and brush and created a big fuss until the soldiers looked and found it, bringing it along with them.


Tom Horn, in his book, “The Life of Tom Horn”, tells of this battle, Chapter XI, Pages 103 to 113, and his long range shooting at these Indians while passing up a narrow place on the opposite side of the canyon.


It is said by reliable parties that for several years after this battle, skeletons of Indians wounded and later dying, could be seen in the shallow limestone caves along East Clear Creek, from the Rock Crossing up to what is known as Jones Crossing.

As stated above, when the people of Payson and vicinity learned of the Indian outbreak, they forted up at the Biddle Place, in an adobe house, on land now owned by August Pieper. The married men and families held the fort while the single men did scout duty. Some of the single men caught up with the troops and were in on the battle down at the Battle Ground Ridge and Creek Crossing.


The scene of this battle has ever since been known as Battle Ground Ridge and the canyon on the west side of this ridge, where the pack trains made camp and the troops camped after the battle, is known as Cracker Box Canyon, because of the cracker boxes left there when camp was broken. A part of one of those old boxes was nailed to a tree and the writer saw it thirty-five years after the battle, old and weather worn.


One of the Indian Scouts who took part in this battle resides in Payson, Henry Irving, but his command of the English Language is so poor that it is impossible to get an account of it from him. He claims to have killed two Indians in the battle.


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Most of the above account was given to the writer by Wm. Craig, who still resides at Payson, Arizona, and helped move the Meadows family after the shooting of the father and sons. Other parts have been gathered from time to time, from old residents and from stories told by the old residents to the younger generation and from Tom Horn’s book, mentioned above. Some may be in error, the greater part is as it happened, but such is the account as remembered by old timers and recited by them over forty-five years after these events occurred.


Payson, Arizona July 25,1929

Fred W Croxen


Note- Mr. Craig says, Shortly after this Battle Ground Ridge fight, six wild Apache Indians came into San Carlos Agency and gave up. These Indians, four men and two women, had been hid out in the head of Deer Creek, on the east side of the Mazatzal Mountains, in Tonto Basin, had never been to an agency before and no record had ever been made of them. They were the last Wild Indians to give up in the Tonto Basin country. And they would not have given up, but they realized after the disastrous fight on Battle Ground Ridge, that their time would come before long and they would be killed or captured‑probably killed.

F.W.C

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