In the April 2017 Issue...

Years of Living Dangerously

Lives on the Line in Arizona Territory’s Early Days

Tombstone Epitaphn early 1864, just days after proclaiming the creation of Arizona Territory, a small party of Easterners arrived at Fort Whipple, near present-day Prescott, intent on getting down to the business of bestowing the blessings of government in a distant annex to a war-torn nation.

Among the arrivals were three men whose paths crossed in ways all too common in the times in which they lived. They entered a violent world, where gunplay and Indian attacks were frequent, and often lethal. Within two years, two of the men were dead. The third man, a young newspaperman from Kansas, managed to return home. Given the challenge he’d faced in a Prescott hotel, it’s a wonder he got out of the territory alive.

The strange sequence of events involving the three men reminds one of falling dominos. In summer 1864, Tisdale A. Hand, the newspaperman with Northern roots, got into an argument with Llewellyn Thrift, a Virginia native, over some aspect of the Civil War. Thrift did his best to goad Hand into a gun duel. However menacing the rhetoric, the angry confrontation ended without anyone getting hurt.

Hand returned to his job as the nominal publisher of the Arizona Miner, Arizona’s second-oldest newspaper. Thrift went back to agricultural pursuits, which lasted until his death in March 1866. According to published reports, Thrift, who had been drinking heavily, was shot and killed during an argument by Leroy Jay, a former Union Army soldier who was part owner of a Prescott-area mine.

“Discharged from custody” after a hearing before a Yavapai County judge, Jay returned to work. But before the year was out, Jay, too, had been buried. Along with two other men, William Trahen and L. M. Linton, Jay was killed during an Indian ambush while freighting for King C. Woolsey, a major Yavapai County rancher and mine owner. Beware, all ye who enter here.


The Backdrop

Tombstone Epitaphhese events were well in the future when a small party of recently appointed territorial officials crossed into newly proclaimed Arizona from New Mexico in late 1863. Led by John N. Goodwin, who had been named territorial governor by President Abraham Lincoln, the group reached Navajo Springs on Dec. 27. Two days later, Richard McCormick, territorial secretary, stirred the passions of the group when he said, “We taken possession of the Territory without resort to military force. The flag, which I now hoist in token of our authority, is no new and untried banner…millions of strong arms are raised in its defense, and above the efforts of all foreign or domestic foes, it is destined to live unvarnished and transcendent.”

The strident nationalist message served its political purposes. In 1857 and 1860, prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, efforts to create Arizona Territory had been defeated due to the sectional fractures in the U. S. Congress. Following Lincoln’s 1860 election and the subsequent secession of the Southern states, the door to creating an Arizona Territory stood wide open. The legislation was adopted by Northern Republicans and signed by a Republican president who, in turn, appointed Northern Republicans as the incoming territory’s officials.

Initially, John A. Gurley, of Ohio, Richard C. McCormick, of New York, and John N. Goodwin, of Maine, were appointed, respectively, as territorial governor, secretary, and chief justice. Gurley, however, died from a sudden illness before the party set off from the East to Arizona. That’s when Lincoln appointed Goodwin to step in.

And so the group set off from New York, heading to Leavenworth, Kansas, via Cincinnati “to learn what preparations Mr. Gurley had made for the overland journey.” The group left Leavenworth on Sept. 26, admittedly a late date to be heading across the Plains to Santa Fe, N. M. Passing through Fort Riley, Fort Larned, and Fort Union, the group arrived in Santa Fe on Nov. 14. It then passed through Albuquerque and Fort Wingate before picking up the so-called “Whipple route” into north-central Arizona.

“The detentions of the road from Leavenworth to Santa Fe, and from that place to this (Fort Whipple), were only those inseparable from a protracted journey, with an (military) escort and heavy train, over the plains and mountains, at a severe season of the year. The autumn and winter proved unusually cold, and numerous snow storms were encountered, from as far east as Fort Lyon,” the Miner reported in its inaugural issue.

Tisdale A. Hand

Tombstone Epitaphhe Arizona Territory-bound party added a member to its ranks during its stop in Leavenworth − Tisdale A. Hand, a typesetter at the Leavenworth Conservative, a pro-Union newspaper. The 25-year-old Albany, N. Y., native was 18 when he landed his first job in “the art preservative” at the Intelligencer, a newspaper in Charles City, Iowa. Six years later, in 1862, Hand began to study law with two Charles City attorneys, G. G. and R. G. Reiniger. But the association didn’t last long, according to a biographical history of Floyd County, Iowa. Hand left central Iowa and headed for Leavenworth. He had been at the Conservative for only three months when the Arizona territorial officials arrived.

It may well be that McCormick, the territorial secretary, saw something in the young typesetter. Prior to becoming the chief clerk at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, McCormick had a solid newspaper career, including editor of the New York Evening Post at the outset of the Civil War.

In any event, Hand joined the group bound for Arizona. Soon, he had the distinction of having his name in the dateline of a new territorial newspaper, the Arizona Miner. He was listed as publisher. In truth, McCormick was the real publisher; Hand’s role probably was part typesetter, part reporter, and part editor.

The Miner’s first issue, published at Fort Whipple, appeared on March 9, 1864. Its front page included a slogan, “The Gold of that Land is good,” and two significant images. One was inclusion of the U. S. flag between the words “Arizona” and “Miner.” The other was Arizona’s territorial seal, which had been drawn by McCormick. Lest there be any question about Arizona’s mission, the seal supplied the answer. It depicted a miner with a pick, shovel, a wheelbarrow, and the words, “Ditat Deus,” meaning “God enriches.”

In words and images, then, the new paper left little question about the territory’s orientation: It was a Republican place where mining – gold mining – would be the principal industry. “The metaliferous region may be summed up as containing nearly nineteen thousand square miles, twelve millions, one hundred and sixty thousand acres,” said a front-page story. “This large area embraces every description of metals known to exist among the (primary) rocks, and in such abundance as to be beyond apprehension.”

Other stories covered the civil government’s overland journey, McCormick’s congratulatory remarks, the government’s organization, the issue of where the territorial capital should be located, stage and mail routes, and a piece entitled “Indian Troubles.” The government officials certainly understood that they had entered Apacheria. Their proposed solution to the troubles: “Extermination of these copper-skilled villains.”

Fort Whipple was selected as the nascent territory’s capital because it was located on the Whipple road, an east-west route that had been established by Amiel W. Whipple, a U. S. Army officer who had been killed in a Civil War battle at Chancellorsville, Va. Actually, there was more to the subject of locating the capital. Tucson, in southern Arizona, might have seemed a logical choice given the size of its population, but too many Tucsonans had shown Confederate sympathies, thus precluding its selection by the Unionist civil officials who had just arrived in Arizona. Another option was La Paz, but that was ruled out as being too far west and too close to neighboring California.

Within a few months, activity along Granite Creek, about 20 miles from Fort Whipple, led to the origin of a new town, Prescott. When the capital moved there, so did the Miner, which, after all, was owned by the territorial secretary.

(The full version of this story appears in our print edition. To subscribe, click here.)

Our other April features…

Ann Bassett, “Queen” of Brown’s Park – Legend, lore, mystery, romance, and murder surround the intriguing and controversial life of Ann Bassett, “Queen Anne,” of isolated Brown’s Park in northwestern California. A scrapping 19th century rancher who hobnobbed with Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch and fought large cattle operators, Bassett made no bones about stepping on others’ toes. Late in life, she said, “I did everything they said I did, and a helluva lot more.”

Execution Eclipsed by Lynching – “The due process of law is a little slow, so this is the road you will have to go. Murderers and thieves, BEWARE! PEOPLE’S VERDICT.” So read a note pinned on the shirt of Charles Francis Woodard, a convicted murderer who was publicly lynched in Casper, Wyo., in 1902. Woodard, a jail escapee, had killed Natrona County Sheriff W. C. Rickard in late 1901. Arrested in early 1902, Woodward was tried and convicted, but a last-minute stay of execution pending an appeal enraged local citizens. That’s when they took matters into their own hands, broke into the Casper jail, and hanged Woodard in the middle of the night.

The “Carlisle Kid’s” Rise and Fall – Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona was the last stop for Nah-deiz-az, a 24-year-old Apache Indian who was convicted of killing U. S. Army Lt. Seward Mott, during an 1887 land allotment dispute on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. In the complicated legal proceedings that followed, the young Apache was tried and convicted twice, a territorial court ultimately sentencing him to death by hanging at Yuma. A difficult case only worsened when an Arizona sheriff, Glenn Reynolds, was killed during a violent escape attempt while transporting Nah-deiz-az and other renegades to the territorial prison in 1889. The Carlisle Kid was apprehended and hanged at Yuma; another young Indian, the so-called “Apache Kid” made good his escape, never to be found.

And Much More ‒ Our regular features, including Frontier Fare, YesterWest, the Adventures of Randy Jones and Booger Red, Twisted Tails, and the antics of the Buffalo Gals.


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