If the Americans had better understood the impact depredations had made on generations of Hispanics on the Santa Cruz, they might have better appreciated how fortunate they had been since their arrival. With only small, ad hoc militias for defense, the scattered settlements of the valley would certainly have made easy targets — especially between the departure of the Mexican dragoons in March 1856 and the arrival of American forces in November. Since Tubac was first garrisoned with fifty dragoons in 1752, the fortune of settlers on the Santa Cruz had risen or fallen with unpredictable waves of Apache aggression against their meager defenses, interrupted by brief, equally unpredictable periods of relative peace. Six years after Tubac’s dragoons were relocated to Tucson in 1776, the entire outpost was nearly wiped out in a single raid.[i]
The Viceroyalty of New Spain had mounted punitive expeditions against the Apache since the 1680s, when Jironza Petriz de Cruzate disciplined Apaches on the Upper Rio Grande for allegedly encouraging the Pueblo Indians to revolt. But vacillations in government policy and corrupt or incompetent administrations over the next fifty years emboldened the raiders. The Viceroyalty established military outposts at Janos and Fronteras in 1691-1692, in an attempt to better defend the frontier provinces, but a punitive 1756 expedition to the Upper Gila Valley from those forts proved to be largely ineffective: many settlers, missionaries, and settled Indians were already abandoning the government’s poorly defended frontier outposts.[ii]
Two years after the 1782 raid that nearly destroyed Tucson’s new garrison, Sonora and Nueva Vizcaya sent five divisions of dragoons into Eastern Arizona Gileño country on an offensive, killing sixty-eight Apaches, capturing thirteen, freeing two Hispanic slaves, and seizing 168 horses and mules, miscellaneous buffalo and antelope skins, and some weapons. While most large campaigns were launched from Sonoran and Nueva Vizcayan outposts with extensive pastures, due to the forage needed for hundreds of animals, at least eleven were launched from Tucson between 1778 and 1788. Some dragoons took to beheading their vanquished enemies, then mounting their heads on lances and holding the grisly prizes aloft as they rode. Tucson’s Captain Pedro de Allande y Saabedra, in particular, liked to taunt the Apache with severed heads, and determinedly displayed Apache skulls on the presidio walls to deter would-be combatants. But the northern frontier continued to suffer depredations until Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez updated and formalized policy on the handling of “indios bárbaros” — pairing a carrot with the army’s increasingly ruthless stick. Under Gálvez’s Instrucción of 1786, hostile Indians were invited to cease marauding and settle in “peace camps” near the presidios, where they would be issued rations under the watchful eye of the army; those who refused this invitation would be subjected to “incessant war . . . without respite.”[iii]
Commander of troops for the frontier provinces, Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola, stepped up campaigns into Apache strongholds in 1786, and by March the following year 251 Chiricahua Apaches had settled at the peace camp near the Sonoran Presidio of Bacoachi. Six years later, ninety-two Aravaipas sued for peace and settled below Sentinel Peak on the west bank of the Santa Cruz — the Tucson ranchería’s first “manso” Apaches. But this success didn’t dissuade dragoons from making a sweep through Aravaipa Canyon in September. The main force assembled at Terrenate Presidio in Sonora, where there was sufficient forage for the hundreds of animals required for such an exercise, and open horizons for security. When they arrived in Tucson, dragoons under Captain Allande joined them, and the combined force skirted the Santa Catalina range, passed present Oracle and Mammoth, and crossed a col in the Galiuros to scout Aravaipa Canyon from the north. There they found footprints around empty jacals and other signs of recent Apache presence, and six men taunted them from a spur several barrancas away. Other parties too distant to pursue mimicked the insults; it wasn’t until the seventeenth that they surprised two Apache men, a woman, and a boy near present Klondyke, baptized them and cut off their heads.[iv]
Explorer priest Eusebio Kino was probably the first European to see the tiny ranchería of Tucson, as he passed it several times between 1694 and 1700. He encouraged the viceroyalty to expand its mission system on Sonora’s northern frontier, and the first in a succession of priests was assigned to the village of San Xavier del Bac in 1701. During the fifty years before Tubac would be garrisoned, eight more priests were sent to proselytize the Tohono O’odham at Bac, and five were assigned to live there, many arriving with little more than a bag of beans, some salt, vestments, and sacred vessels. They came from Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Puebla in New Spain, and Czechoslovakia. But a nativist movement to reject and expel the missionaries took form among the Pima in the middle of the eighteenth century, and in 1751 the O’odham of Bac joined it. Fortunately for Bac’s missionary, a Czech priest named Franz Bauer, a sympathetic O’odham warned him of the trouble brewing, and he was able to flee before protesters destroyed his hut, the jacal church, vestments, and mission livestock. Bauer’s brother missionary in nearby San Miguel de Sonoitac, however, wasn’t so fortunate: Enrique Ruhen was killed by rioters there on November 20 or 21, and Tomás Tello lost his mortal life as well to the revolt in Caborca.[vi]
Bauer was able to peacefully return to Bac within three years, but his successor, an intransigent Spaniard named Alonso Espinosa, had more difficulties. The O’odham had a long-standing tradition, a sacred ceremony and festival to ensure the arrival of rain, which they celebrated every October fourth. This ritual involved dancing and the drinking of nawait, saguaro wine — frequently lots of it. Padre Espinosa regarded the October Fourth Festival and the O’odhams’ dancing and liberal consumption of nawait anathema, and made the mistake of registering his objection rather too vigorously. The O’odhams’ response to Espinosa’s complaint was so strong that a delegation under the Akimel O’odham headman Jabanimó came all the way down from the Pima Villages to join them in destroying Espinosa’s hut.[vii]
By then, though, dragoons had been stationed at Tubac in response to the earlier Pima Revolt, and when Espinosa reported the destruction of his jacal, fifteen soldiers marched to San Xavier and engaged the rioters in battle. When the smoke cleared on this second rebellion, fifteen O’odham or Gila Pimas were dead and many more injured. Sonoran Governor Juan Antonio de Mendoza, however, wasn’t content with that outcome, as clearly decisive as it was. In an overreaction familiar on the Sonoran frontier, Mendoza not only resettled Father Espinosa at San Xavier, but sent a separate platoon all the way to the Pima Villages on the Gila to punish Jabanimó and his followers. Spanish immigrant Francisco Elías González, patriarch of the Sonoran frontier’s Elías González clan, commanded a wing of this force, and Gottfried Bernhardt Middendorff, a German priest, was its chaplain. The assault, launched by fifty soldiers and seventy allied Indians at 4:00 a.m. on December 9 near the confluence of the Gila and Salt Rivers, caught Jabinimó’s rebels sleeping, but they successfully countered, their archers raining arrows down upon Espinosa’s forces, and Jabinimó and most of his men escaped into the tules unharmed.[viii]
On January 5, 1757, thirty-three-year-old Father Middendorff returned to the Santa Cruz Valley on an assignment to proselytize the natives “in the Tucson with two pueblos,” the plain that stretched northwest from Sentinel Peak along the Santa Cruz River to Picacho Peak. His assignment was called the Mission of Saint Augustine of Tucson. Accompanied by ten dragoons and a translator, Middendorff lured O’odham in this province with gifts of jerky, and when the crowds were sufficient made his exhortations and celebrated Mass. A hut of willow branches and brush was constructed for shelter near the villages of Oiaur and Kuitoakbaqum (or Cuitoa) in the Santa Cruz Wash south of the volcanic peak the O’odham called Tacca, and a ramada of rushes and reeds was raised to provide shade for the priest’s rituals. Perhaps seventy families responded to his ministrations, some bringing bird eggs and wild fruits as gifts. But over time, O’odham who had already been baptized in Bac began showing up to also claim the presents of dried meat, and some of the neophytes were angered when Middendorff tried to prohibit their “dancing and carousing” at night. Some began stealing the stores of food sent to the mission. As these challenges were rising, the priest suffered constant nausea and fever from a serious abdominal illness. The discontent of the O’odham finally reached the breaking point on a night in May, barely four months into the mission, when hundreds drove off the German and his Spanish soldiers. They fled throughout the night, assisted by a few loyal families, and reached Bac at daybreak. Unfortunate Father Middendorff’s heroic, if brief, effort to convert the Pima of Oiaur and Cuitoa was given a paltry summary in a history of the missions of New Spain: “The last effort toward conquest was made by the Jesuit, in 1757 and it failed.”[ix]
[i] Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Arizona and New Mexico, 1530-1888 (San Francisco: the History Co., Publishers, 1889), 369. Sidney B. Brinckerhoff, “The Last Years of Spanish Arizona, 1786-1821,” Arizona and the West 9, no. 1 (Spring 1967): 7. Pedro de Allande y Saabedra, commander of the royal presidio of San Agustin del Tucsón, [to Charles III, King of Spain], Chihuahua City, (n.d.; possibly January 28, 1786). In Desert Documentary: The Spanish Years, 1767-1821, Historical Monograph No. 4, ed. Kieran McCarty (Tucson: Arizona Historical Society, 1976), 44. Henry F. Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1976), 71-81. For a description of mission life in the Pimería Alta in the late eighteenth century, see Fray Bartolomé Ximeno’s March 5, 1773 report to Romauldo Cartagena from Mission San José de Tumacácori in John L. Kessell, ed., “San José de Tumacácori — 1773: A Franciscan Reports from Arizona,” Arizona and the West 6, no. 4 (Winter 1964): 303-312. For a narrative of a fairly typical campaign against the Apaches, see Juan Bautista de Anza’s March 17, 1766 report to Juan Claudio de Pineda from the Royal Presidio of Tubac in John L. Kessell, ed., “Anza, Indian Fighter: The Spring Campaign of 1766,” Journal of Arizona History 9, no. 3 (Autumn 1968): 155-163.
[ii] Joseph F. Park, “The Apache in Mexican-American Relations, 1848-1861,” Arizona and the West 3, no. 2 (Summer 1961), 130-32. Park theorized that Petriz de Cruzate’s campaign only succeeded in driving the Apache into the mountains of Eastern and Southeastern Arizona, where they found easier access to the settlements of Sonora and Nueva Vizcaya. And Officer appears to support explorer-priest Eusebio Kino’s view that the Apache didn’t begin harassing the Sobaípuri Pima on the San Pedro until the end of the seventeenth century. But more recent scholarship cites archeological evidence that Chiricahua ancestors lived in the Whitlock and Dragoon ranges, as well as the ranges of northern Mexico, as early as the fifteenth century. James E. Officer, Hispanic Arizona, 1536-1856 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987), 32, 339n.25. Deni J. Seymour, “1762 on the San Pedro: Reevaluating Sobaípuri-O’odham Abandonment and New Apache Raiding Corridors,” Journal of Arizona History 52, no. 2 (Summer 2011): 170, 175.
[iii] Max L. Moorhead, The Apache Frontier: Jacob Ugarte and Spanish-Indian Relations in Northern New Spain, 1769-1791 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968), 123-25 (quotes 124, 125), 174. Allande y Saabedra, to Charles III. In Desert Documentary, ed. Kieran McCarty, 42-46. Brinckerhoff, 8-12.
[iv] Moorhead, 182-83. Manuel de Echeagaray, Military Commander of Sonora, to Pedro de Nava, Commander General, Arizpe, January 21, 1793. In Desert Documentary, ed. Kieran McCarty, 62-63. Carl Sauer, “A Spanish Expedition into the Arizona Apacheria,” Arizona Historical Review 6, no. 1 (January 1935): 3-11. The annual date on this document is missing; the translator and transcriber had to speculate on when it was written, and decided it may have been 1793 (p.5). The map accompanying Sauer’s essay (p.6) appears to place the staging area on the San Pedro River south of present St. David, the presidio’s 1775-1781 site. The garrison, however, was relocated to Las Nutrias, on the western headwaters of the San Pedro in 1780 or 1781, due to ceaseless Apache assaults, and was moved again in 1787 to the abandoned Pima mission village of Soamca. As the dragoons appear to have traveled fifteen to twenty miles on September 2 before coming to Soamca, they may have begun their expedition in Las Nutrias, which would place the annual date sometime between 1781 and 1787, as an alternative. John L. Kessell, “The Puzzling Presidio San Phelipe de Guevavi, Alias Terrenate,” New Mexico Historical Review 41, no. 1 (January 1966): 21-46.
[v] Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 4, 5. Herbert Eugene Bolton, Rim of Christendom (Tucson: University of Arizona press, 1984), 303-306.
[vi] Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 4, 5,6-10, 11. Juan Nentvig, Rudo Ensayo: A Description of Sonora and Arizona in 1764, trans. and ed. Alberto Francisco Pradeau and Robert R. Rasmussen (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1980), 71n12. Pages 72-73 provide a brief summary of the Pima Revolt in Pimería Alta.
[vii] Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 13, 14, 16, 186n7. The Spanish-speaking colonists translated Jabanimó as “Crow’s Head”, although “Cabeza de Cuervo” could have been a comic and derogatory orthography (17). Peter MacMillan Booth, “’If We Gave Up the Making of Nawait, It Would Mean Starvation’: Saguaro Wine Defenders of Tohono O’odham Land and Way-of-Life,” Journal of Arizona History 46, no. 4 (Winter 2005): 375. A decade later, Juan Nentvig would repeat Espinosa’s complaint, and declare the O’odham and Pima Altos converts in general were “more barbarous, and firmly attached to their heathen customs, superstitions, debaucheries, and indecent dances” than other tribes to the south (Rudo Ensayo, 72).
[viii] Gottfried Bernahrdt Middendorff, to Juan Antonio Balthazar, S. J., Rector of the College of San André, the Mission of San Augustine of Tucson, March 3, 1757. In “Letter of Father Middendorff, S.J., Dated 3 March, 1757,” ed. Arthur D. Gardiner, Kiva 22, no. 4 (June 1957): 1, 3, 9n1. Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 17, 189n34.
[ix] Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 1, 3, 18; 188nn23, 25 (quote), and 26. Theodore E. Treutlein, trans. and ed., “Father Gottfried Bernhardt Middendorff, S.J., Pioneer of Tucson,” New Mexico Historical Review 32, no. 4 (October 1957): 311, 316-17, 316n14. Pedro Font, Diary of an Expedition to Monterey by Way of the Colorado River, 1775-1776, trans. and ed. Herbert Eugene Bolton, vol. 4 of Anza’s California Expeditions, ed. Herbert Eugene Bolton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1930), 28, 30-32. Father Middendorff declared the villages he hoped to convert were a day-and-a-half’s journey from the Gila River. Dobyns, Spanish Colonial Tucson, 18. Middendorff to Balthazar, March 3, 1757. In “Letter of Father Middendorff,” ed. Arthur D. Gardiner, 3 (quote). Font would confirm the location of Oiaur or Oytaparts eight years later, when the second Anza expedition passed through. De Anza translated its name as “old town”. (Font, Diary of an Expedition to Monterey, 30n1). The settlement half a league (approximately 1.3 miles) from Oiaur, which Font calls Cuitoa, is likely the second ranchería of Santa Catalina Kuitoakbaqum. Middendorff thought that five hundred O’Odham were involved in the assault on his mission. Middendorff to Balthazar, March 3, 1757. In “Letter of Father Middendorff,” ed. Arthur D. Gardiner, 1.