Valley of the Aravaypa from Bear Springs, 1854, Alfred H. Campbell. John G. Parke, Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, 1853-6, Vol. 7. (Washington: Beverley Tucker, Printer, 1857), “From the Pima Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, Near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude,” Part I, No. 2, 25.

If you’re missing a narrative, you’re not alone. Kevin Starr noticed our lack of explanation in 1975, in a monograph on early voyages he kindly reviewed. Many of its arcane sources — like Hakluyt’s Voyages, once closely circulated in special collections — now float freely in the electronic ether. We scroll the diaries of piratical explorers online in our kitchen. As much as we appreciate Kevin’s remarkable body of work and its informed tradition, we’re glad we kept collating first-person accounts of the Far West. Primary data are a window to events, and can be confirmed or tempered by other sound witnesses and records.

Nicholson Baker describes how historic data are photographed, access to the new microforms or facsimile files is maintained, and sources are conserved in Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (New York: Random House, 2000). Some libraries ‘de-accession’ historic volumes after photographing them, or anytime they have unneeded copies. (‘De-accession’, like its equally inbred cousin ‘deselect’, is library school doublethink, Newspeak for ‘discard’.) Many libraries offer their discards to other libraries, non-profit organizations, and private parties before sending them to pulp mills for recycling. But brokers rescue some volumes and list them in digital stores through portals like We recently found a handsomely rebound surplus set of Bartlett (1854) from the Boston Public Library, through such an independent bookseller. The more source materials in circulation — whether privately-held hard copies or public electronic facsimiles — the easier it is to reconstruct events and test explanations.

Recently, the New York Times published a proudly racist essay on history — one most college professors would have returned to any undergrad for lack of rigor and extreme bias. Sadly, the public perception of history gets routinely hijacked in this way by postmodern ideologues and pop culture. (The newspaper has since moved on to explain cannibalism.) But history gets the last laugh. At its root, it’s simply a sequence of events; there is no ‘right side’ to a sequence of events. People live in the midst of it, acting in their family’s interest and reacting ad hoc to discursive events — mostly in gray hats. Simple cognition debunked McCarthy’s self-abuse seventy years ago, and it works just fine on postmodern exhibitionism. Critical thinking still sorts evidence from agitprop and scholarship from propaganda.

Save data. Our descendants will need it.

Andrew Belcher Gray, The A. B. Gray Report: Survey of a Route on the 32nd Parallel for the Texas Western Railroad, 1854 (Cincinnati: Wrightson & Co., 1856), frontispiece.
J. Ross Browne, Adventures in the Apache Country: A Tour Through Arizona and Sonora 1864 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1869), 170.
Gray, following page 30.
the Grand Canyon of the Chiricahuas, from the hot springs at Willow Marsh — east southeast of El Dado Pass. Gray, f48.
Browne, 242.
Gray, f54b; Sonora Exploring and Mining Co., Report, 1856, f40.

We came across Biodiversity Heritage Library’s great portal to dozens of railroad survey links while looking for a particular essay: (also listed on the ‘electronic links to resources’ page). The site helps readers locate information in the maze of reports and other data in the eclectic series on the American West, which was published between 1855 and 1860, and saves hours to months of tedious work. We found our report in Parke, for example, and as is often the case, the search delivered unexpected rewards.

Parke, John G. Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, 1853-6, Vol. 7. (Washington: Beverley Tucker, Printer, 1857).

Parke posts a translation of a 1777 report and plea from Tubac’s Manuel Barragua to Captain Pedro Allande Savedra in Tucson, as Appendix C in Volume 7. Barragua writes that New Spain’s colonists farther up the Santa Cruz became so desperate after the reassignment of their garrison to Tucson, they burned Calabasas to thwart raiders.

We found the essay we were looking for, “From the Pima Villages on the Gila to the Rio Grande, Near the 32d Parallel of North Latitude,” as Part I, No. 2 of Volume 7. In addition to text, it holds lithographs adapted from field sketches made by Alfred H. Campbell in 1854 as he trekked up the Gila to the San Pedro River with a mule train, then down the San Pedro to rejoin Parke on the wagon road. They are in pages 19-35.

View on the Gila below the Great Bend, 1854, Alfred H. Campbell. Parke, v. 7, Part I, No. 2, 19.
Valley of the Gila & Sierra de las Estrellas from the Maricopa Wells, Campbell. Parke, v. 7, Part I, No. 2, 21.
porphyritic statue Peloncillo Range, Campbell. Parke, v. 7, Part I, No. 2, 29.
Mission church of San Xavier del Bac, Campbell. Parke, v. 7, Part I, No. 2, 35.
ceremonial shirt. John G. Bourke, “The Medicine-Men of the Apache,” in the Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution for the years 1887-1888 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1892), f590.
ceremonial shirt. Bourke, Medicine-Men, f588.
ceremonial shirt. Bourke, Medicine-Men, f592.
Bourke, Medicine-Men, 593.
ceremonial bonnets. Morris Edward Opler, An Apache Life-Way (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941), f310.
Tzi-daltai amulet. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 589.
ceremonial objects for an Apache puberty ritual. Keith H. Basso, The Gift of Changing Woman, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 196, Anthropological Papers, No. 76, f144.
scratch stick and drinking reed. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 494.
Tzi-daltai amulet. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 588.
Opler, Life-Way, f410b.
medicine cord. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 553.
late nineteenth-century ceremonial headdress for the Ghost Dance. Bourke, Medicine-Men, f586.
medicine cord. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 554.
kan, Apache deities. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 586.
medicine cord. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 551.
Round Dance. Opler, Life-Way, f112b.
medicine cord. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 552.
tools and saddlebag. Opler, Life-Way, f390.
ceremonial pouch for cattail pollen. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 500.
spirit-shielding bonnet. Bourke, Medicine-Men, 581.
Opler, Life-Way, f390.
Ruins of Casas Grandes, River Gila. John Russell Bartlett, Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua . . . (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1854), vol. II, f274.
another view of the springs and way station at Willow Marsh, on the seasonal Sauce (San Simon) River. Bartlett I, 370.
Bartlett I, 369.
Fort Yuma, Colorado River. Bartlett I, frontispiece.
Bartlett II, 158.
Bartlett I, 280.
this triangular presidio garrisoned colonial, and later Mexican dragoons, near Santa Rita del Cobre and other mines in the headwaters of the Mimbres and the Gila. Bartlett I, 235.
Bartlett I, 265.
the Gila Trail wound through the Sierra Madre at Guadalupe Pass near the boundary line. Bartlett I, f296.
Bartlett II, 491.
Bartlett II, f188.
the volcanic spire on the jornada from Tucson to the Gila Villages was known as tacca in the Piman language, and simply picacho (peak) in Spanish. Bartlett II, 290.
Bartlett II, 253.
we’d call this species a saguaro, and an organ-pipe cactus a petahaya, but the fruit of several cacti pitahaya or pitaya. Bartlett II, 189.
Tucson, Sonora. Bartlett II, f292.
Bartlett II, 225.
Bartlett II, 422.

Another apparently well-heeled gentleman adventurer who left a graphic record of the Gadsden Purchase frontier was John Ross Browne, in Adventures in the Apache Country: A Tour Through Arizona and Sonora, with Notes on the Silver Regions of Nevada (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1869):

Silver mines in the Santa Rita Mountains, Browne, 18.
Browne, 68.
Browne, 108.
Casas Grandes, Browne, 115.
Tucson, Browne, 132.
San Xavier del Bac, Browne, 143.
Bill Rhodes’s Ranch, Browne, 145.
Tubac, Browne, 148.
Browne, 165.
Browne, 190.
Hacienda of the Mowry Mine, Browne, 204.
The Mowry Mine, Browne, 206.
Hacienda of the Santa Rita Mining Company, Browne, 227.
Browne, 232.

Gray offered more images than those at the top of this page: Andrew Belcher Gray, The A. B. Gray Report: Survey of a Route on the 32nd Parallel for the Texas Western Railroad, 1854 (Cincinnati: Wrightson & Co., 1856):

Gray, following 12.
Gray, f22a.
Gray, f22b.
Gray, f36.
Gray, f40.
Gray, f44.
Gray, f46.
Gray, f54a.
Gray, f56.
Gray, f58.
Gray, f84.

Emory recorded his expedition’s findings and sights as well: Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Made Under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior, William H. Emory, Vol. I (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, Printer, 1857):

Military Plaza — San Antonio Texas, Emory, frontispiece.
Emory, f60.
Emory, 69.
Emory, f72.
Emory, f78.
Emory, f84.
Emory, f92.
Emory, f106.
Emory, f110.
Emory, f116.
Emory, f122b.

The Sonora Exploring and Mining Company’s 1857 promotional brochure clearly overstated its resources and promise. Finding shareholders during a year of economic panic was difficult enough, but effectively mining the area at any time would have required extraordinary improvements in tangible infrastructure, and large, agile regiments of cavalry and attendant livestock for defense. Several field administrators for the mines would no doubt have preferred the usual risks of bankruptcy or prison in failure, over having their lives taken.

We wish we had a response to the pamphlet from the 140 or so migrant barreteros and tenateros, who were paid through credits at the overpriced company stores — when they were paid — and had to fight American filibusters and Pinal, Gileño, and Chiricahua raiders both in Arizona’s mines and at home across the Sonora line. (Ehrenberg’s map of the Gadsden Purchase locates many of their familiar towns.) But the propaganda did provide some work for illustrators:

Tubac & the Santa Rita Mtns. Sonora Exploring & Mining Co., Report, 1857, frontispiece.
Tubac, Head Quarters ‘Sonora Exploring & Mining Co.’, Herman Ehrenberg, 1856. Frederick Brunckow, Sonora Exploring & Mining Co. Report, 1859, f47.
Aribaca. Sonora Exploring & Mining Co., Report, 1857, f6.

Heintzelman Mine (near Aribac), f10.
Sketch of the silver regions around Tubac. Herman Ehrenberg, 1856. Sonora Exploring & Mining Co., Report, 1857, f6.
sharpening mining tools in the mountains, 12.
ordinary Mexican mill for crushing ores, 13.
(porters in a well), 20.
Santa Rita Valley. Raphael Pumpelly, Across America and Asia: Notes of a Five Years’ Journey Around the World and of Residence in Arizona, Japan and China, 5th ed. (New York: Leypoldt & Holt, 1871), f11.

Samuel Woodworth Cozzens, free-range trust fund adventurer, affordable attorney, and pal to fugitives like Ned McGown, is a lively witness in Explorations & Adventures in Arizona & New Mexico . . . (1873; facsimile reprint, Secaucus: Castle, 1988). His homespun anthropology gets a bit ambitious, and his engravings often seem caricatures — yet both provide useful information.

the Apaches’ home. Cozzens, 108.

Cozzens presents this village, for example, as a permanent encampment of Mangas Coloradas.

meeting of Mangus Colorado, Cochise, and the author. Cozzens, 118.
group of Apaches. Cozzens, 513.
group of Apaches. Bartlett I, 326.

We thought this romantic tableau was familiar when we found it in Cozzens, but we could have been recalling Bartlett, where we found the same horseman reaching for his quiver and other similar figures positioned differently. Who borrowed it from whom, or are they both derived from a common source?

San Xavier del Bac. Cozzens, 156.
Captain Ewell’s pursuit of the Apaches. Cozzens, 209.

The acuity of this sketch from Emory’s boundary survey suggests the use of a camera lucida. When a team of researchers looked for the site of the Seth Eastman watercolor ‘Great Canyon Rio Gila’, they also recounted the technology surveyors used to produce accurate field drawings, from which lithographs like ‘Great Canyon’ were later rendered: In transforming cartoons into watercolors, artists applied rich tones like these:

Great Canyon Rio Gila, ca. 1853, Seth Eastman, after a technical field sketch, likely by surveyor Frank Wheaton. Rhode Island School of Design Museum (

Rhode Island School of Design Museum curates an impressive collection of watercolors by military officer Eastman, who brought color, texture, and vibrance to surveyors’ field drawings of the Gadsden Purchase.

Canyon Leading to the Copper Mines, Santa Rita del Cobra, ca. 1853.
Santa Rita del Cobra (Copper Mines), Rocky Mts., N.M., ca. 1853.
Bufa del Cobra, Rocky Mountains, New Mexico, ca. 1853.
Camping in a Storm on the Mexican Plateau, ca. 1853.
Pass at the Pitoncillo, Chiricahui Mountains in the Distance, ca. 1853.
View from Camp Near the Boundary Line, ca. 1853.
Canon to Magdalena, ca. 1853.
Santa Cruz Valley, ca. 1853.

some further reading:

Megan Kate Nelson, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (New York: Scribner Book Co., 2020); Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1994); Keith Windschuttle, The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past (New York: The Free Press, 1997); Jason Steinhauer, History, Disrupted: How Social Media and the World Wide Web Have Changed the Past (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave MacMillan, 2022); Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The Library: a Fragile History (New York: Basic Books, 2021); Marianne Julia Strauss, ed., Temples of Books: Magnificent Libraries Around the World (New York: Gestalten, 2002); Michael Cart, ed., In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians (Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 2002); and Vibeke Lehmann, ed., Library Trends 59, no. 3 (winter 2011). Lehmann shows how libraries in social justice systems provide diverse, equitable, inclusive environments for the at-risk and marginalized — and access to reliably qualified data. Most patrons seem to prefer the fertile worlds of J. K. Rowling, Dan Brown, George R. R. Martin, and Ursula K. Le Guin over television’s vulgar wokery and genderism.

postcard of Willcox, Arizona Territory, 1880s. Courtesy Gretchen Sherman, a descendant of army contractor and Bonita Justice of the Peace Miles Wood.

“We are not a totalitarian state; we continue to be a democracy in more than name — but a capitalist, corporate democracy. Our form of censorship rises from the nature of our institutions. Our censors are the idols of the marketplace. . . It is, of course, a very limited kind of novelty. The skirt up or down two inches; the lapel half an inch wider; the novel’s dead this year but fictionalized journalism is big; in science fiction, Holocaust is out, but Environment is in. . . Genuine newness, genuine originality, is suspect. Unless it is something familiar rewarmed, or something experimental in form but clearly trivial or cynical in content, it is unsafe. It must be safe. . . Shock them, jolt them, titillate them, make them writhe and squeal — but do not make them think. . . They do not want large, durable, real, frightening things.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, from “The Stalin in the Soul” (1977) in Yevgeny Zamyatin, We (1920; Bela Shayevich trans., New York: Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, 2020), 274-75.