Monday, September 25, 2017

Another Picacho Peak

September 18, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

At dawn on May 11, 1866, a contingent of the 14th, 24th and 32nd Infantries lay poised to attack an Apache-Yavapai village near the base of Weaver’s Needle. The unit was under the command of Brevet Lt. John D. Walker. Walker had a total of one hundred and one men under his command.

The command to attack was given. The soldiers and Pima Scouts swept down the hillside, firing their muskets. The inhabitants of the temporary village were in an array of total confusion. The first hail of musket ball fired by the soldiers and scouts struck the warriors, old men, women and children.

Weaver’s Needle near Pinyon Camp in
East Boulder Canyon.
The first men to reach the village were the Pima Scouts. They clubbed as many survivors to death as they could find. The scouts were then followed by soldiers of the infantry; who reloaded and fired yet another volley at the disoriented Apaches and Yavapais. When the acrid smell of gunpowder cleared the air, some fifty-seven men, women and children lay dead. Twenty-two women and children were taken prisoners by the Pimas to be used as slaves.

The contingent of soldiers and Pima Scouts had two casualties. The Pima Scouts had one man shot in the leg accidentally by an Army musket. One soldier severely sprained his ankle as he jumped over a large boulder. The Army confiscated eleven Mexican flintlock smooth bore muskets and a variety of clubs, lances and bows. All of the confiscated weapons were destroyed at the site. The Pima Scouts estimated three hostiles escaped the attack. This scenario came from a military report on the Battle of Picacho Peak, and not the landmark of American Civil War significance between Phoenix and Tucson on I-10 Highway.

The foregoing was a typical scenario of the Rancheria Campaign waged by the United States Army against the hostile Apache in the Superstition Mountains between the years 1864-1866. There were numerous other skirmishes fought throughout the Superstition Mountain region that were led by the Army. The Pima Scouts were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the United States Army against their ancient enemy, the Apache.
This particular skirmish was fought near what we call Pinyon Camp today. The site is located just west of Weaver’s Needle. Army field cartographers made reference to Weaver’s Needle as Picacho Peak on their 1866 field sketch maps.
The Spanish word picacho means peak. It is extremely interesting why the military made reference to Weaver’s Needle as Picacho. This inaccurate reference has confused many mapmakers since the Rancheria Campaign. It is quite apparent the name Picacho was accepted by the military because of the frequency it appears in military reports of the period. Weaver’s Needle appeared on the Ives Survey Map of 1853. Also there is sufficient evidence to suggest the landmark was named after Paulino Weaver, an early mountain man, guide, prospector and scout of the region. Some historian’s believed Weaver trapped Beaver along the Salt River, north of the Superstition Mountains, as early as 1837.

Before the Rancheria Campaign was over more than three hundred Apaches and Yavapais were killed in the Superstition Mountain area. The Army had orders to return all hostiles to reservations or destroy them. The Rancheria Campaign became a modern day search and destroy mission for the Army against Native Americans.
This military action occurred in the Superstition Mountain region long before prospecting was routine in the area. Few prospectors ventured into the Superstition Mountain prior to 1870. Large scale maps with accurate place names and landmarks were none existent in these early days. Superstition Mountain was referred to as the Sierra Supersticiones , Sierra Salinas, or the Salt River Mountains.

Another interesting reference involving Weaver’s Needle is the landmark being called Statue Mountain. As one hikes toward Weaver’s Needle from the First Water Trail Head it looks much like a giant bird with its wings slightly lifted ready for flight. This may have accounted for the name Statue Mountain. Maybe it reminded some soldier of the American Bald Eagle ready to take flight.

Yes, the Superstition Wilderness Area has a wonderful history that we all must try and preserve for future generations to enjoy. We are all part of a unique page in Arizona history being involved with such a land of history, legend, and myth.