How Tucson's Wealthiest & Most Prominent Civic Leaders
Committed Mass Murder & Got Away With It.
If you have not read the Circumstances Leading up to the Massacre, you can find it here.
Fear, Anger, and Greed In Tucson
Some seventy miles south in the small, dusty, predominantly Mexican town of Tucson, the residents had conflicted feelings toward the soldiers stationed at Camp Grant, and the military commander of the Territory, General Stoneman.
On the one hand, the citizens of Tucson felt surrounded by a vast desert controlled by Apaches who continued to raid and murder despite the growing presence of the Army. They blamed the Army for not keeping American citizens safe. Truth-be-told, most Anglo and Mexican residents of Southern Arizona, and their influential newspapers, were at this time demanding that the Army simply exterminate all Apaches, rather than feed and clothe them. Almost every Tucsonan believed that feeding the Apaches actually enabled, even encouraged more raiding.
Moreover, the San Pedro River overland freight route guarded by the Camp Grant soldiers was taking business from the valuable overland route that went through Tucson.
On the other hand, many Tucson businessmen were profiting handsomely from the experimental Apache “feeding stations” operated by the soldiers. They were also profiting by providing substantial supplies, including a lot of beef, for the maintenance of the soldiers at Camp Grant and other forts around Southern Arizona.
Yet, if the Army was successful in teaching the Apaches to be self-sufficient farmers, as was their goal, the military posts all around Arizona would be disbanded and this lucrative trade would dry up. The most prominent and prosperous Tucson merchants & ranchers were making fortunes supplying the soldiers. These included: Samuel Hughes, Hiram Stevens, Edward Nye Fish, Sidney DeLong, Jesus Maria Elias, William Oury. A.P.K. Safford, William Zeckendorf, and John Wasson.
Should the reservation system become successful, the Apaches become self-sufficient, and most of the soldiers leave, these Mexican and American businessmen would see their lucrative enterprises destroyed. Most galling of all, if the reservation system were to become successful, the Apaches would be able to supply food for the soldiers and hay for their livestock at the remaining forts. In other words, the Apaches would become competition for the Tucson enterprises, a situation that, for these civic leaders, was totally unacceptable.
Thus, they were motivated by their personal economic interests to foment trouble between the Army and the Apaches. War was good for business. Peace not so much. In this regard, not much has changed in the past 140-some years.
In early 1871, as the population of peaceful Pinal and Araviapa Apaches continued to grow near Camp Grant, other Apaches, most notably the Chiricahuas led by Cochise and later Geronimo, continued to raid and slaughter Anglo and Mexican settlers throughout Southern Arizona.
The good citizens of Tucson considered these raids and atrocities related to the Camp Grant experiment, even though there was ample evidence at the time that the Aravaipa and Pina Apaches at Camp Grant were not involved.
At the time, John Wasson, editor of the Tucson Citizen, claimed in repeated editorials that the government uses the Apache reservations and feeding stations to: "... fatten up the savages so they would be in better shape to murder American citizens."
Motivated by fear, anger, and greed, bellicose meetings were held to determine a course of action. Later, no one would accuse the Tucson civic leaders of being indecisive.
Tucson's Public Safety Committee
First, they formed the Public Safety Committee and sent Territorial Governor Safford to Washington to lobby President Grant and General Sherman for more troops and General Stoneman's removal. Then they meticulously planned the annihilation of the Camp Grant Apaches to ensure that the reservation policy would fail and the Apache Wars would continue to enrich the good citizens of Tucson.
However, before they could act, they had to incite unfettered hatred of all Apaches to recruit the necessary manpower and raise sufficient funds for the planned campaign. That duty fell to John Wasson, editor of the Tucson Citizen, at the time the most read newspaper in the Territory, primarily because of Wasson's anti-Apache - anti-Army rants. Wasson was to the Tucson Public Safety Committee what Joseph Goebbles was to Adolph Hitler; Minister of Propaganda.
In editorials and supposedly objective news reports, Wasson repeatedly aroused public passions against all Apaches, exaggerating, sensationalizing, and inventing accounts of their thievery and atrocities.
Moreover, Wasson vilified 37-year-old first lieutenant Royal Emerson Whitman who had taken command of Camp Grant earlier in the year. In part, the antipathy between the newspaper editor and the ranking officer was because Whitman was new to the Territory and did not harbor sufficient bigotry and hatred of all Apaches. In fact, Whitman, a competent officer, exhibited kindness toward those Apaches who surrendered and took up farming.
Wasson invariably pointed to the Aravaipa and Pinal Apaches under the protection of the Army at Camp Grant as the culprits, even though Lt. Whitman, counting the Apache males every second or third day, made it impossible for them to have conducted the distant raids south of Mission San Xavier that Wasson and others accused them of committing without Whitman knowing of their extended absence.
Wasson and the other ringleaders knew this ... and ignored the evidence for their own purposes. In late April 1871, the Public Safety Committee became an avenging mob.
Note: In 1870, John Wasson was appointed Surveyor General at a time when most of Southern Arizona, including Tucson, had not yet been officially surveyed. Which means, real estate property boundaries had not been officially established. If you thought you owned real estate in Tucson or anywhere else in Southern Arizona, it would have been a smart business decision to make John Wasson your dearest friend.
In the afternoon of April 28, 1871, an excited mob of 6 Anglos and 48 Mexicans left Tucson for Camp Grant, along with 94 Papago Indians. The Papago had easily been recruited from their reservation just south of Tucson at San Xavier Mission. They were traditional enemies of the Pinal and Aravaipa Apache with whom they had a long history of war. Like all the settled residents of Southern Arizona, the Papago hated and feared the Apaches.
Note: the Papago Indians are now called what they had always called themselves, Tohono O'odham, meaning Desert People."Papago" in Spanish means "bean eater" and these aborigines thought the term derogatory.
The Ring Leaders
In the months that proceeded the Massacre, Territorial Governor Safford secured the best repeating rifles and ammunition from the U.S. Government and had them delivered to prominent Tucson merchant, Sam Hughes. Although he did not participate in the actual murders, Safford's involvement encouraged the mob because they knew there would be no legal ramifications from the Territorial government.
By 1871, Sam Hughes was a successful Tucson businessman with primary interests in livestock & mining. His biggest customer by far? The U.S. Army. He had already been appointed to the post of Adjutant General of Arizona Territory by Governor Safford.
On the morning of April 28, Hughes provided the modern weapons only to the Americans and Mexicans. It was, after all, illegal for a white man to give or sell a gun to an Indian. The Papagos would have to use their traditional weapons; bows and arrows, knives, and wooden war clubs for bashing heads. Mr. Hughes, along with merchants Hiram Stevens and William Zuckendorf, also provided wagons supplied with sufficient water and food for the two and a half days it was going to take to get his mob to Aravaipa, kill all the Apaches there, then return to Tucson. Like Safford, Hughes did not participate in the actual murders.
As partner & general manager of Tully & Ochoa, the largest mercantile firm and biggest taxpayer in Southern Arizona, by 1971 Sidney DeLong has amassed a personal fortune supplying Army forts throughout Southern Arizona and then taking his earnings and making even more money speculating in mining and real estate. Tully & Ochoa's most lucrative clients by far? The U.S. Army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In 1871, Hiram Stevens was a partner of Sam Hughes in the richly rewarding enterprise of government contracts for grain, beef, and hay. Early on, he did exceptionally well investing in mining. Stevens also owned Tucson's largest butcher shop, an exceedingly profitable business given the Army's insatiable demand for beef. He was wealthy enough to lend money and greedy enough to charge 2% per month. Stevens chaired the Public Safety Committee.
On April 29th, the day before the Massacre, a group of heavily armed members of the Public Safety Committee led by Hiram Stevens blocked all traffic on the road from Tucson to Camp Grant until 7 am on the 30th. Should the mobs movements and plan be discovered, Stevens made certain that no one could get word of their intentions to the 50 or so soldiers at Camp Grant. Surprise was critical to the success of their mission.
That road leading north out of Tucson was called Camp Grant Road and later Old Camp Grant Road. Today we know it as Oracle Road, Tucson's main North-South artery.
On the afternoon of April 29th, the commander at Fort Lowell learned about the planned attack and ordered two soldiers to ride as fast as possible to Camp Grant and warn Lt. Whitman. Stevens and his men "detained" the riders. Had it not been for Hiram Stevens, the Camp Grant soldiers would have been warned about the plot in plenty of time to protect those Apaches farming in Aravaipa Canyon.
Note. For more about Hiram Stevens, view our original video about the Corbett House and today's Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, including the wing that was once Hiram Steven's home in Downtown Tucson. Yes, if you appreciate history, it is worthwhile, if for no other reason, he shot his wife, the sister of Sam Hughes' wife, just before committing suicide.
In 1871, William Oury, a former Texas Ranger, owned substantial farming and cattle-grazing land along the Santa Cruz River south of Tucson. Apaches often raided his crop storehouses and stole his cattle. According to Sam Hughes' wife, Atanacia, "Bill Oury was the leader of them all; he had just lost a fine lot of cattle and was anxious to do something."
Note: at the Adobe Rose Inn B&B, (which we highly recommend) innkeepers Marion & Jim Hook have a bedroom dedicated to Atanacia. Interestingly, their inn is located in the Sam Hughes neighborhood of mid-town Tucson.
By 1871, Jesus Elias was a Tucson councilman (prior to incorporation) who had lost two brothers and a lot of cattle to Apaches raids. His surviving brother, Juan, had been wounded by Apaches several years earlier. With more than 200,000 acres of prime ranch land around Tubac, the brothers were reaping enormous profits from the sale of crops and beef to the Army and Bureau of Indian Affairs. These Mexican brothers were hot to kill Apaches and didn't much care which ones.
By 1871, William Zeckendorf, along with his brother Louis and nephew Albert Steinfeld, had established what became the most successful and long-lasting retail business in Arizona. Apache raiding made it difficult for the brothers to get wholesale goods from back east across the desert and into their Tucson retail store. Like the others, the Zeckendorfs, made a fortune from government contracts and, later, investments in mines, including the Copper Queen in Bisbee.
Just before dawn on April 30, 1871, the Tucson mob mounted a surprise attack on the Pinal and Aravaipa camp. The day before, most of the Apache men had left their women, children, and old men in camp and were up in the mountains hunting or collecting mescal.
The mob knew that the Aravaipa & Pinal warriors had surrendered their rifles to Lt. Whitman as a part of the peace agreement. The mob was well aware, with the advantage of surprise at first light, the Apaches would be asleep and defenseless.
The Papago were in the forefront of the attack, clubbing, stabbing, and slashing their nearly helpless victims to death. They also raped and mutilated the young Apache girls. Most of the Anglos and Mexicans positioned themselves on a bluff above the rancheria and shot any Apaches trying to escape the slaughter. Of those who managed to escape, most were men. According to Lt. Whitman's official report:
"Their (Aravaipa & Pinal) camp was surrounded and attacked at daybreak. So sudden and unexpected was it, that no one was awake to give the alarm, and I found quite a number of women shot while asleep beside their bundles of hay which they had collected to bring in that morning.
The wounded who were unable to get away had their brains beaten out with clubs or stones, while some were shot full of arrows after being mortally wounded by gunshot.
The bodies were all stripped. Of the whole number buried, one was an old man and one was a well-grown boy - all the rest were women and children. Of the whole number killed or missing, about one hundred and twenty-five, eight only were men.
It has been said (the perpetrators claimed that the men had left camp to raid) that the men were not there - they were all there. On the 28th we counted one hundred and twenty-eight men, a small number being absent of mescal, all of whom have since been in."
Chief Eskiminzin was asleep when the attack began. He and most of his able-bodied, but unarmed men were able to escape by running through thick brush to the surrounding hills. The Chief took his young daughter in his arms and ran. Two of his wives and five of his other children were killed by the O'odham warriors.
The Papago captured about 26 young Apache children. Once the fighting was over, the Papago scalped and mutilated their victims. Most of their young captives were eventually sold into slavery in Sonora, Mexico for $100 a piece.
Six or eight were sold as slaves to prominent Mexican families in Tucson. According to Atanacia Santa Cruz Hughes, "... they brought a lot of little ones into Tucson ... These (Apache) children were divided up among a number of us."
As soon as Lt. Whitman heard about the Massacre, he sent a medical team to render assistance, but they found no survivors. He had his soldiers bury the dead Apaches.
From the Camp Grant Massacre, the Apaches learned once again that the Americans could not be trusted.
In the East, where American citizens were no longer threatened by Indians, the reaction was outrage. Eastern newspapers demanded justice. President Grant condemned the event as "purely murder" and threatened to place Arizona Territory under martial law if the participants were not brought to trial.
In October, 1871, a grand jury indicted 100 individuals thought to have participated in the massacre. The very public trial lasted 5 days. The attorneys for the defense focused their arguments exclusively on the history of Apache raids, murders, and depredations. No Apaches were invited to testify. The jury deliberated for 19 minutes and declared all defendants not guilty. What was a massacre in the East was justifiable homicide in Tucson.
That year, the new commanding officer in the Arizona Territory, Lt. Col. George Crook, undertook a survey of military posts and potential reservations sites. Crook had Camp Grant closed and ordered that a new Fort Grant to be built at the western base of Mount Graham.
The new location in present-day Graham County was better located to subdue the remaining hostiles. In March 1873, Camp Grant at the junction of the San Pedro and Aravaipa Rivers was abandoned. Today, it’s the site of Central Arizona College. The new Fort Grant is no longer a military fort, but a location for state prisons.
Immediately following the massacre, a reservation was set aside for the Apaches at Camp Grant. But the following year all Apache reservations were consolidated and moved north to the intersection of the San Carlos and the Gila Rivers.
In the years following the massacre, relatives of the enslaved Apache children repeatedly petitioned the U.S. government to help repatriate their kidnapped children. Only 7 or 8 ever returned to their people.
Chief Eskiminzin later wrote,
”When I made peace with Lt. Whitman, my heart was very big and happy. The people of Tucson and San Xavier must be crazy. They acted as though they had neither heads nor hearts … they must have a thirst for our blood. These Tucson people write for the papers and tell their own story. The Apache have no one to tell their story.”
Today, the massacre site, about five miles upstream from the abandoned site of Camp Grant on Aravaipa Creek, is unmarked. Some of the descendants of those massacred want a monument placed at the site to commemorate what happened there. Others do not want the exact place marked for fear "pot-hunters" will loot what is now a sacred burial ground to the Aravaipa & Pinal Apaches.
The leaders of the Public Safety Committee who participated in or otherwise enabled the Massacre were treated as heroes by everyone in and near Tucson. They all continued to contribute to the good of their community and the City rewarded them by naming streets and places in their honor.
In the years following the Massacre, Bill Oury served as Sheriff of Pima County from 1873 to 1877. The City named a street and a park after him. Hiram Stevens served two terms as Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and then 3 terms in the Arizona Territorial Legislature. In Tucson, Stevens Avenue is named in his honor.
Sam Hughes not only had a street named after him, but an entire Tucson neighborhood. In fact, today the Sam Hughes neighborhood is a National Historic District.
Territorial Governor Safford has a street in Tucson named in his honor, plus an entire city in Southeastern Arizona. The Elias brothers have a Tucson street named for their family. And the tallest peak in the Tucson Mountains is named for John Wasson.
Sidney DeLong was soon elected Mayor of Tucson and later served in the Arizona Territorial Legislature. He has a peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains named in his honor. Interestingly, DeLong was the only leader who, in old age, admitted publicly that he regretted his involvement in the massacre. All the others were defiant and proud to the end.
More Reading about the Apaches
Read our followup to the massacre: A Strange Epilogue
Read the review of Big Sycamore Stands Alone.
For more information on the Apaches and the history surrounding the Apache Wars, see our page on the Local History of the Apaches.