High in the San Mateo Mountains
of the Cibola National Forest in New Mexico is Apache Kid Peak, and one
mile northwest as the crow flies, at Cyclone Saddle, is the Apache Kid
gravesite. The hiker who comes across the marked site in such a remote
area may wonder who the Kid was, and perhaps will ask himself why, so
far from the usual tourist attractions, such an elaborate memorial has
been assembled. In the story of the Apache Kid, much of it fact and part
of it legend, rests one of the Southwest's many intriguing sagas.
The Kid was born in the 1860s, possibly a White Mountain Apache, and his
family settled at Globe, Arizona Territory, in 1868. His name, Haskay-bay-nay-natyl
("the tall man destined to come to a mysterious end"), was too
much for the citizens of Globe, who called him "Kid." The Kid
learned English, worked at odd jobs in town, and was soon befriended by
the famous scout, Al Sieber. In 1881, the Kid enlisted in the Indian Scouts,
probably at Hackberry, Arizona Territory, and showed such aptitude for
the job he was made sergeant, eventually rising to the rank of first sergeant
within two years.
The Geronimo Campaign of 1885-1886 found Kid in Mexico early in 1885 with
Sieber, and when the Chief of Scouts was recalled in the fall, Kid rode
with him back to San Carlos. He re-enlisted with Lt. Crawford's call for
one hundred scouts for Mexican duty, and went south in late 1885. In the
Mexican town of Huasabas, on the Bavispe River, Kid nearly lost his life
as the result of a drunken riot in which he had been a participant. Rather
than see Kid shot by a Mexican firing squad, the Alcalde fined him twenty
dollars, and the Army sent him back to San Carlos.
It was during Kid's eighth enlistment in the scouts, which began April
11, 1887, that he found himself in a situation that would lead to a court-martial,
imprisonment, a civil trial, a new sentence, escape, and life as a fugitive.
The course of the disastrous events unfolded, as did so many among the
Apaches, with the brewing of tiswin, a beverage made of fermented fruit
or corn. Brewing tiswin was illegal on the reservation, but with the agent,
Captain Pierce, and Al Sieber both gone on business, the time seemed auspicious
for a tiswin soiree. Kid had been left in charge of both the scouts and
the jail, but before he and the scouts could get to the camp where the
tiswin was flowing freely, two men were dead.
One of the dead was Kid's father, Togo-de-Chuz, and the other was the
man who had killed him, Gon-Zizzie. Kid's friends had killed Gon-Zizzie,
but the blood-price did not satisfy Kid; he and his scouts went to Gon-Zizzie's
brother's place, and there Kid killed the brother, Rip. Kid and his scouts
then returned to his father's camp, where they joined the others in drinking
tizwin. The drunk lasted several days, and finally, perhaps filled with
remorse and certainly hung-over, the scouts made their way back to San
Carlos to face both Sieber and Captain Pierce.
Kid and his scouts arrived at San Carlos on June 1, 1887, and found that
neither Sieber nor Pierce was in a mood to deal generously with them.
A crowd of Indians, some armed, had gathered to witness the punishment,
and when Captain Pierce ordered the scouts to disarm themselves, Kid was
the first to comply. The scouts' firearms were laid on a table near Sieber's
tent, and Pierce ordered Kid and the others to the guardhouse to be locked
up until further action could be decided upon. They were about to comply
when a shot was fired from the crowd, and soon the firing became widespread.
In the melee that followed, the disarmed Kid fled, Sieber's tent was shredded
by bullets, and a massive .45-70 bullet smashed Sieber's left ankle, crippling
him for life. It has never been determined who fired the shot that struck
Sieber, but it is known that neither Kid nor the four scouts ordered to
the guardhouse with him did the shooting. They ran for cover, managed
to secure horses, and with perhaps a dozen other Apaches fled for wilderness.
The Army reacted swiftly, and soon two troops of the Fourth Cavalry were
following the fugitives up the banks of the San Carlos River.
Telegrams were sent from San Carlos to San Francisco, Headquarters Division
of the Pacific, and to Washington, D.C., as the Territories braced for
another Apache outbreak. Territorial newspapers in Arizona and New Mexico
were quick to pick up the story, and the Army began to feel the heat of
irate editorials. For two weeks the errant Apaches led the cavalry a good
chase, until, aided by Indian scouts, Kid and his band was located high
in the Rincon Mountains. The troopers surprised the Indians and captured
their mounts, saddles, and equipment. Kid and his followers escaped into
the rocky canyons and ravines, but faced the prospect of survival without
horses while pressure from the Army increased daily.
After some negotiation, Kid got a message to General Miles stating that
if the Army would recall the cavalry he and his band would surrender.
Miles called off further pursuit, and on June 22, eight of Kid's band
gave themselves up. Kid and seven others surrendered on June 25. Miles
decided to try Kid and four others by a general court-martial, despite
the fact that they did not, in all probability, understand the charges
pending against them.
The trial was concluded, and to no one's surprise the men were found guilty
of mutiny and desertion, and each was sentenced to death by firing squad.
General Miles, upset with the verdict, ordered the court to reconsider
its sentence. The court reconvened on August 3 and the convicted men were
resentenced to life in prison. Miles, still not satisfied, reduced the
sentence to ten years. The sentence began with the men in the San Carlos
guardhouse until such time as the Army decided where to send them. The
Army decided, on January 23, 1888, to send the prisoners to Alcatraz Island,
California, rather than Fort Leavenworth Military Prison. Taken to Alcatraz
under heavy guard, the five began what was to be a brief incarceration.
In reviewing the trial, the Judge Advocate General's office had become
convinced that prejudice existed among the officers on the court-martial,
thus precluding a fair trial. On October 13, 1888, Secretary of War William
C. Endicott authorized the remission of the remainder of the sentences
of the five prisoners, and by November they were back at San Carlos. Meanwhile,
the Indian Rights Association, concerned that the incarceration of Apaches
as federal inmates in state prisons was the result of federal usurpation
of territorial jurisdiction, had sued on behalf of two incarcerated Apaches.
The court agreed to the release not only of the two named in the suit,
but to the release of all the Apaches held as federal prisoners in Illinois
and Ohio. Eleven murderers were to be returned to San Carlos as free men,
and the outrage in the Southwest was immeasurable.
By the middle of October 1889, Sheriff Glenn Reynolds of Gila County had
arrest warrants for most of the freed Apaches, and among them was Apache
Kid. The trial of Kid and three others for assault to commit murder in
the wounding of Al Sieber was set for October 25, 1889. The four were
found guilty, and on October 30, each was sentenced to seven years in
the Territorial Prison at Yuma. On November 1, along with five other prisoners,
they began what was to have been a stagecoach journey to incarceration
in a prison notorious for its brutal living conditions, a prison aptly
The journey was to have been a two-day trip by stage from Globe to Casa
Grande and from there by rail to Yuma. Sheriff Reynolds chose a deputy,
W. A. "Hunkeydory" Holmes, as guard, and Gene Middleton, the
stagecoach owner, as driver. All three were armed. Except for Kid and
Hos-cal-te, considered to be the most dangerous and shackled at both wrists
and ankles, the Apaches were shackled by twos, leaving each man with a
free hand. A Mexican horse thief, Jesus Avott, was unshackled.
On the second day, after a night at Riverside, the coach had to make a
steep ascent at Kelvin Grade, and all prisoners but Kid and Hos-cal-te
were put out to walk. As the coach made the grade and disappeared from
view, the prisoners over-powered Reynolds and Holmes. Holmes died of fright,
and Reynolds was killed with Holmes' rifle. Middleton was also shot and
horribly wounded with Holmes' rifle, but survived. The prisoners unlocked
their shackles with keys taken from the dead bodies of Holmes and Reynolds
and disappeared into a developing snowstorm. Jesus Avott cut a horse loose
and rode into nearby Florence with the grim news.
By a strange course of events, Apache Kid was no longer an admired and
honored scout, but a fugitive with a price of five thousand dollars on
his head. It was widely believed that Kid used the San Simon Valley in
Arizona and Skeleton Canyon in New Mexico as his avenue for travel to
and from Old Mexico. Into the 1920s and 1930s, rumors circulated along
the border that Kid had been seen, men had talked to him, he was alive
on a ranch in Sonora, and on and on. Who knows? As our Mexican neighbors
say, "Solo Dios sabe, Señor, solo Dios!"
By James W. Hurst