A.F. Banta's Story of Sol Barth and Companions
- (Arizona Historic Society, Tucson, Arizona)
In 1867 the writer had again drifted back to the Zuni villages. Some time in June of the same year Sol Barth and a few Mexicans from the frontier village of Cubero passed Zuni for the Apacheria. The party was well supplied with saddle animals; also pack animals loaded with Indian goods. In due time and without mishap the party reached the Rio Carizo, the home country of the Coyotero Apaches.
Here follow a few remarks, parenthetically, which may not be out of place.
In the olden days, before the subjugation of the Apaches, and their confinement upon reservations, the trail from Zuni to Apacheria followed down the valley of the Zuni river until it reached the last black mesa, which bordered the Zuni river on its northern side. At this point the trail left the valley and led across some sandy hills and table lands, striking the Little Colorado river among some sandstone cliffs about twelve miles below the present town of St. Johns. Amongst these rocks was the usual place of meeting, for the purpose of trade, between the Zuni Indians and the White Mountain Apaches. It was the usual custom of these Apaches to make signal fires on the summit of the mountain by which they indicated the day they could be expected at the "Rock Crossing," for the purpose above mentioned. Crossing the river at this point, the trail led down the south side to Concho creek; here the trail forked, the one for the Coyotero country taking a westerly course, and the trail leading to the White Mountain country followed up Concho Creek in a southerly direction.
From time immemorial, or within the writer's knowledge of the past fifty-four years, the Little Colorado river has been the neutral ground for the mutual benefit of the various Indian tribes, and no hostilities ever occurred between them in its immediate vicinity. Nevertheless, it is no bar to scraps, (as the writer knows from experience), going to or from the river itself.
The Barth party remained some days at the rancheria of the Coyoteros, by who they were hospitably treated, when they decided to visit the White Mountain Apaches, whose country lay some distance southeast from the Carizo. Unfortunately, for the Barth party, the notorious Cochise with a large band of his picked warriors had arrived at the rancheria of Pedro, the chief of the Sierra Blanca Apaches, a short while prior to the Barth party; and, to make matters worse, Pedro happened to be temporarily absent from the rancheria. Cochise, being of a dominating disposition and notoriously cruel Lnd savage, he simply overawed the subchief left in charge of the rancheria, and before they realized what was taking place, the members of the Barth party were disarmed, stripped of every stitch of clothing and of all their animals and plunder. Pandemonium was rampant for a time, and the naked bunch of terrified captives expected nothing else but instant death. However, the savage Cochise, to give his captives all the mental distress possible, decided to postpone, after a conference with his warriors, to lash the captives to trees and have another old fashioned human barbeque. In the meantime, the subchief had dispatched a swift messenger to meet his chief The White Mountain chief made all haste to reach his camp. Pedro rushed in, released the captives, and demanded in loud, angry voice: "By whose authority is this done in my camp and in my absence?" The captives stood 'huddled together, hardly daring to breathe, listening to the angry conversation --not understanding a word between Chief Pedro and the bloody minded Cochise. Pedro told Cochise that, "You have violated my hospitality of my camp and my people; have committed outrages enough, and when I want people killed in my camp, I, alone, will give the order. What I have said , I have said." He then turned from Cochise and said to the captives, "Go, go quickly!" His motion and words were understood and they hit the trail without any ceremonious farewells. As they passed by some women, one of them handed Sol a pair of cotton drawers. And without food, clothing, or even a match to start a fire, the fugitives had one hundred and twenty five miles to hoof between the Apache camp and the Zuni villages, the nearest point where assistance could be obtained.
It must be remembered that Chief Pedro labored under a great disadvantage; all his women and children were in that camp, and Cochise had much the best of the situation. Cochise absolutely refused to give up as much as a string of the plunder; but, as a compromise, he allowed Pedro the privilege of disposing of the captives in any manner suitable to him. Cochise suggested that the proper ending of the affair would be an old fashioned "roast and big dance."
Most of the foregoing facts were obtained from two Mexican Cautivos-Miguel, of the Coyotero Apaches, and Concepcion, of the White Mountain Apaches. Miguel gave me his version of the affair in 1869, and Concepcion in 1872.
The second day of their flight a little Apache dog came to them, which was caught and killed. They carried the dead dog until they fortunately came to some flints, and with these the dog was dressed. The next thing was to make a fire. Taking a small piece of the cotton drawers and pounding and rubbing it to a pulp, and with splints a spark caught the cotton and with patient blowing a fire was made. They made a fairly good meal out of the roasted dog meat without salt, and were comparatively happy and laughed at their present predicament. Sol Barth being the only "aristocrat' in the bunch, being sumptuously and gaily dressed in a pair of cotton drawers, was unanimously dubbed "El Rey." Before leaving this campfire they charred a chunk of wood, and by waving it occasionally, kept it afire for the following night. The third day's tramp carried the party well up the Zuni river, and having the fire and the remnants of the dog, they were fairly well, so as to speak. However by this time their bodies were blistered by the sun.
The fourth day the fugitives reached the neighborhood of the Zuni villages, where they concealed themselves in a ravine as the "king" could go to the village for some supplies for his party. Mr. Barth came and filled himself with beans, mutton and shah-kay-way, (an Indian substitute for bread). I let him have sheeting enough to dress his companions, and late that evening the whole party came in and were comfortably housed. The party were exhausted and lay over for a few days to recuperate. In the meantime I let Mr. Barth have more manta and a full piece of gaiyeta, (a species of red flannel highly prized by the Indians, and especially by the Navajo). With this he hired animals to ride ands bought baustimento (grub) to last the party till they could reach Cubero, New Mexico. The distance from Zuni to Cubero, the nearest town, is about one hundred miles.
I doubt if Mr. Barth and the Mexicans ever knew they were to be burned, although they had every reason to expect death at the hands of the bloodthirsty Apaches.
A. F. Banta Prescott, Arizona, Jan 16, 1917
Solomon Barth, a trader with the Western Apaches, recalled that in late 1868 he unexpectedly ran into Cochise, who at the time was visiting the Coyotero Chief Pedro near the future site of Fort Apache. According to Barth, Cochise stripped him and his six companions and confiscated their goods, leaving them only with their shoes. It was only through Pedro, who intervened because he knew Barth, that Cochise spared the American's lives. A.F. Bantas' account which was obtained from the Mexican captives, agreed with Barth's version. Banta was at Zuni when the party arrived.
(Those who accompanied Barth from Cubero, New Mexico were: George Clifton, Magdaleno Calderon, Francisco Tafolla, Jesus and Ramon Sanchez, Teodoro Chavez , Mazon-Apache Chief)
- Arizona Miner
- November 11, 1868
From Messrs. Young and Bryant who recently came through New Mexico, we learn that while they were in camp at Zuni, Sol Barth and George Clinton, formerly of this county, with some Mexicans arrived at the villages from the White Mountains almost naked and in a starving condition. They had left Zuni but a short time previous with a pack train of some 20 head of animals and goods and trinkets specially suited to trade with the Indians. With them was an Indian guide. After crossing the Mogollon Range, the members of the party were seized, one by one, by Indians, deprived of their arms, stripped of their clothing, and threatened with death and would have been murdered but for the interference of an Indian who knew Sol. Sol told Messrs. Bryant and Young that the Indians who robbed him belonged to Ca-Cheis' band, but we doubt Ca-Cheis and his band live over 100 miles east of where he had been robbed. If what we heard of Sol Barth is correct, we do not pity him for his misfortune. It is believed here and in New Mexico that he has been in the habit of trading these Indians, powder, lead and guns.