Survey for Railroads and Other Purposes

As early as 1850, Thomas H. Benton, Missouri’s great Senator began an agitation in Congress for a Pacific railroad. It was due to him, probably, that Bartlett, in his survey of the Boundary line under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was instructed to make notes of the country over which he passed with a view of the possibilities of building a railroad over that route. By the 24th of December, 1851, this survey had been completed to within sixty miles of the Colorado, when it was suspended for want of supplies, and the explorers found their way to San Diego in January, 1852. Here they met Bartlett again, who, in the following May, with Lieut. Whipple and party, started for the Gila to complete the survey. An escort to the Pima Villages was furnished them from the Fort Yuma garrison, and the journey through Arizona up the Gila and Santa Cruz Valleys was made between June 18th and July 24th, which completed the Boundary Survey. Bartlett’s Personal Narrative gives a concise and excellent description of the country visited, with notes on its early history, the aborigines, and views illustrating its physical features, especially the ruins and other relics of an ancient civilization.

In 1851 an expedition under Captain L. Sitgreaves, United States Topographical Engineers, made a reconnaissance down the Zuni and Colorado rivers to Yuma. He was assisted by Lieut. J. G. Parke, Topographical Engineers, Mr. P. H. Kern, as topographer, and Dr. S. W. Woodhouse, surgeon and naturalist. The expedition consisted of about twenty persons, including packers and servants, pack mules being used for transportation of provisions, supplies, etc. The expedition was organized at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the party accompanied an expedition against the Navajos as far as the Zuni, which point they reached by the usual road from Albuquerque, on the 1st of September, 1852.

“From this point, with an escort of thirty men from the Second Artillery, the exploring party travelled down the Zuni River to within ten miles of its mouth, when they left the river, and crossing a basaltic ridge, struck the Colorado Chiquito, down which they travelled until they were opposite the northern end of the San Francisco Mountains. Here they left the river and travelled southwest, around the base of the mountains, to Leroux Spring. Leaving this they passed around the southern base of Bill Williams’ mountain, and thence pursued a course a little north of west, over a broken basaltic and barren country, to the head of Yampai (Yuma) creek. From this point they travelled westward to the Great Colorado, at the head of the Mohave valley; thence down the valley of the Colorado to Fort Yuma; and thence by the usual emigrant road over the Colorado desert, by Warner’s pass, to San Diego, where the party was disbanded.”

The report of this forms Senate Executive Document No. 59, second session of Thirty-second Congress, and is accompanied by a map of the routes pursued, on a scale of ten miles to an inch. The reconnaissance was made with a compass and estimated distances, and checked by astronomical observations made with a sextant.

In 1853, Congress appropriated $150,000 for six surveys for a railroad across the continent, and in the following year, it made an appropriation of $190,000 additional for this purpose. The most of these surveys were made to the north of Arizona, and do not concern us at this time. One, over the 35th parallel, practically the same route now followed by the Santa Fe Railway, demands’ our present attention.

Lieutenant A. W. Whipple made a survey over this route to the Pacific, the final report of which forms Volumes III and IV of the quarto edition of the Pacific Railroad Reports, Senate Executive Document No. 78; House Executive Document No. 91, second session of the Thirty-third Congress. It is accompanied by a topographical map in two sheets, drawn on a scale of fifteen miles to an inch, and a sheet of profiles on a horizontal scale of fifteen miles to an inch, and a vertical fifty times the horizontal. There are besides this a geological map and numerous illustrations, with a preliminary report which forms part of House Document No. 129, first session, Thirty-third Congress. Lieut. Whipple was assisted in this work by Lieut. J. C. Ives, Topographical Engineers; Dr. J. M. Bigelow, surgeon and botanist; Jules Marcou, geologist and mining engineer; Dr. C. B. Kennerley, physician and naturalist; A. H. Campbell, principal assistant railroad engineer; H. B. Molhausen, topographer and artist; Hugh Campbell, assistant astronomer; William White, Jr., assistant meteorological observer; Mr. George G. Gamer, assistant astronomer; Mr. N. H. Hutton, assistant engineer; John P. Sherburne, assistant meteorological observer; and Mr. T. H. Parke, assistant astronomer and computer. They were provided with a portable transit, sextants, and chronometers, for astronomical observations, and with the other instruments needful for reconnaissance’s. They were escorted by a company of the Seventh Infantry, under Capt. J. M. Jones, and began the survey with a train of wagons. Lieut. Ives proceeded, with an astronomical transit and other instruments, from Washington, D. C, to Albuquerque, by way of San Antonio and El Paso, where he joined the party.

Lieutenant Whipple left Fort Smith July 13, 1853, and moved west along the northern base of the San Bois Mountains, to the south fork of the Canadian River. Crossing this, the party followed its main branch, called Coal Creek, to its head; thence crossing Delaware Ridge, they struck the head of Boggy River. Recrossing the Delaware Ridge, they passed along the heads of Walnut and Deer creeks, until, keeping at same distance south of the Canadian, and gradually diverging from it, they crossed a low divide and struck the waters of the False Washita River, at Gypsum Creek. Thence they travelled northwest, up the valley, for about sixty miles, when they passed over again to the Canadian. They then travelled along the valley of the Canadian river, by the emigrant road, to the Pecos, at Anton Chico. Here the party separated. Lieutenant Whipple, with a small number, followed the Pecos nearly to its head, crossed the Galisteo Pass on the west, and following down the creek of the same name, struck the Rio Grande del Norte at the Pueblo of San Domingo. Thence he travelled down the river to Albuquerque. The main party left Anton Chico, followed up the Cañon Blanco to Las Lacunas, thence southwesterly through the San Pedro Pass, at the southern end of the Zandia mountain, and thence down the San Antonio Creek to Albuquerque. Lieutenant Whipple remained encamped at this point a month; leaving there about the middle of November, 1853. While at Albuquerque, a reconnaissance was made of the river crossing at Isleta, about ten miles below. The escort was increased by twenty-five men, under Lieutenant J. C. Tidball, Second Artillery, and a considerable number of pack animals were added.

From Albuquerque, the expedition travelled southwest to the crossing of the Rio Puerco, thence up the San Jose or Santa Rita Valley to Covero. Soon after leaving Covero, a small party under Mr. Campbell explored a route up the North Fork of the Santa Rita to its head, thence through Campbell’s Pass, in the Sierra Madre, to Fort Defiance and back to the main party at Zuni. The main party kept up the South Fork to its head, at the Agua Fria, thence crossing the Sierra Madre by a rugged pass, descended the slopes of that range to the Pueblo of Zuni.

From this point the exploration was continued westward to the Rio Puerco of the west, crossing it near Navajo Springs, and thence southward to the Colorado Chiquito, near the Junction of the Puerco with the former stream. After following the valley of the Colorado Chiquito for about forty miles, they struck west towards the San Francisco Mountain, passing south of it. Continuing the westward course, which carried them north of Mount Bill Williams, and across the sources of some northern branches of the Gila River, they reached the source of Bill Williams’ Fork, and travelled down the valley of this stream to its junction with the Colorado. They now travelled up the Colorado, through the Mohave Valley, and crossed the river in about latitude 34° 50′ north. Leaving the Colorado, they took a northwesterly course to Soda Lake. They then passed up the valley of the Mohave River, and through the Cajon Pass, to the rancho of Coco Mungo, and thence along the foot slopes of the Coast range to Los Angeles, where the survey terminated about the 25th of March, 1854.

In 1854 Lieutenant J. G. Parke, Topographical Engineers, made a reconnaissance for a railroad route between the Pima Villages and El Paso, the report of which forms a part of Volume II, quarto edition of the Pacific Railroad Reports, and is printed in House Executive Document No. 129, First session. Thirty-third Congress, which is accompanied by a map on a scale of five miles to an inch, and profile on the same horizontal scale, the vertical being one thousand feet to an inch.

Lieutenant Parke was assisted by Mr. H. Custer, Topographer, and Dr. A. L. Heerman, physician and naturalist, and provided with barometers, odometers, and compass. On the 24th of January, 1854, the party left San Diego. It consisted of twenty-three men, exclusive of an escort under Lieutenant Stoneman (afterwards General Stoneman) of twenty-eight dragoons.

In 1854-55 Lieutenant J. G. Parke, Topographical Engineers, assisted by Albert H. Campbell, civil engineer; Dr. Thomas Antisell, geologist; and Messrs. Custer and N. H. Hutton, topographers, made an exploration and survey for a railroad route from Benicia, California, to Fort Fillmore, New Mexico. The report of this exploration forms a part of Volume VIII of the quarto edition of the Pacific Railroad Reports, and is accompanied by two topographical maps.
On the 20th of November, 1854, they left Benicia with a party of about thirty persons, crossed the Straits of Carquinez to Martinez, and proceeded up the Arroyo de las Nueces to the head of the San Ramon valley. Turning south, they crossed the Coast range near the San Jose mission, from which they travelled around the end of San Francisco bay to the Puebla de San Jose. They then turned up the San Jose Valley, crossed over the Gavilan range at the source of Pajaro river, and examined the passes in this vicinity.

A thorough examination was then made of all the mountain region between Point Conception and Fort Tejon in the Cañada de las Uvas; upon the termination of which the expedition proceeded to Los Angeles.

Lieutenant Parke ‘s instructions requiring him to examine the sink of the Mohave and Soda Lakes, he proceeded to a favorable point near the Cajon Pass, where he formed a depot camp, whence, with pack mules, he made the examinations required, and then proceeded with all his party to San Diego, reaching it in April, 1854.

The party followed the emigrant road, via Warner’s ranch and pass, and across the Colorado desert, to Fort Yuma; thence they travelled up the left bank of the Gila river to the Pima and Maricopa villages. Leaving this point, on the 16th of February, they turned southeast to the then Mexican towns of Tucson and San Xavier. Continuing southeastward, they passed through the Cienega de las Pimas to the Rio San Pedro, and travelled up that stream thirty or forty miles, thence striking over the hills, on the right bank, they entered the Chiricahui Mountains, at the Puerto del Dado, south of Dos Cabezas peaks; thence they travelled east, crossing the mountains’ on the eastern side of the Valle de Sauz, near the Gavilan Peak. Turning now to the northeast, they crossed the next mountain range near the Pyramid Peak, and travelled east to the Ojo de Inez, near which they struck Cooke’s wagon road, and followed it to Fort Fillmore. Lieutenant Parke returned from Fort Fillmore with a small party and examined a route direct between that place and Cooke’s Spring. From Fort Fillmore, the party proceeded to El Paso’, where the reconnaissance ended. This’ is practically the route of the Southern Pacific at the present day.

During the year 1852, the Boundary Commission having completed their labors and gone to San Diego, Captain Cremony, who had been attached to it as interpreter, was employed by a party of ten men, who had organized for the purpose of exploring a portion of Arizona, their object being to locate and exploit gold and silver mines. Captain Cremony was engaged by this expedition as interpreter and guide, at a salary of $500 per month. After a tedious journey to the Colorado where, at that time, Major Heintzelman was conducting his campaign against the Yumas, the party was crossed by the guard in charge of the launch, and cautioned about the Yumas, who were supposed to be in force on the Gila about thirty miles from its junction with the Colorado, in consequence of which warning, they proceeded by night instead of by day, until they had passed the field occupied by the savages. The rumbling of their two wagons, and the alertness of the party, impressed the savages with the belief that they were an armed party stealing a march upon them, and they passed unmolested in the dark, arriving at Antelope Peak in their march from Fort Yuma.

Considering themselves comparatively safe from the Yumas, although exposed to visits from the Tonto Apaches, who, at that time, inhabited the northern side of the Gila from Antelope Peak to the Pima Villages, they became careless, not proceeding with that caution which, up to that time, they had exercised. The party was well armed, each person having two revolvers, a rifle, and a large knife, and felt themselves equal to four or five times their number in an open fight. Near what was afterwards known as Grinnell’s Station, the road was covered from four to five inches deep with an impalpable dust, containing an abundance of alkali. Everyone who has had experience in Arizona knows that in this particular soil the lightest tread sends up clouds of dust far over the head, and a body of men, riding together in close column, are often so thoroughly enveloped, that they fail to recognize each other at a distance of only a few feet. The road, in places, passed through an extensive plain, entirely denuded of any verdure, so barren, in fact, that it would not afford shelter to a jack rabbit. The party had arrived at one of these wide openings, and were encased in a cloud of dust, so thick as to completely bar the vision of all except those who were in advance. No one expected an attack in so open and exposed and unsheltered a place, yet it was the very one selected by the Indians for such purpose. The savages knew that the whites would he on their guard in passing through a thick wood or a rocky canyon, and also judged that they might be careless while crossing an open plain, in which judgment they were right.

They were acquainted with tile dusty character of the road, and, relying upon it to conceal their presence, had secreted themselves close to its edge, awaiting the approach of the whites, who were first notified of their presence by a sharp rattling volley that they received from their enemies at a distance of less than twenty yards. None of the party were killed or wounded, but they lost two mules and three horses by that fire. The dense dust prevented the Apaches from taking aim, and they fired too low. The order was given to alight and fight on foot. Nothing could be distinguished through the blinding dust. Shots were fired in the direction of the savages; now and then a dark body would be seen and made a target of. Each man threw himself on the ground; scarcely any one could tell where his companions were, so that each man was fighting independently of the others. While they lay prostrated, the dust settled somewhat, and they were about to obtain a good sight of the enemy, when John Wollaston cried out: “Up boys, they are making a rush.” At the word, each man rose, and a hand to hand contest ensued. At this juncture the revolvers of the whites did good service. The dust rose in blinding clouds, stirred up by the tramping feet of the contending men. The white men were in as much danger of being shot by each other as by the savages. The rattle of pistol shots was heard on all sides, but the actors in the struggle were invisible.

Captain Cremony gives a description of his hand to hand fight with one of the Indians which is about as thrilling as any of the stories of the West. He says:

”The last charge of my second pistol had been exhausted; my large knife lost in the thick dust on the road, and the only weapon left me was a small double edged, but sharp and keen, dagger, with a black whalebone hilt, and about four inches long on the blade. I was just reloading a six shooter, when a robust and athletic Apache, much heavier than myself, stood before me, not more than three feet off. He was naked, with the single exception of a breech cloth, and his person was oiled from head to foot. I was clothed in a green hunting frock, edged with black, a pair of green pants, trimmed with black welts, and a green broad brimmed felt hat. The instant we met, he advanced upon me with a long and keen knife, with which he made a plunge at my breast. This attack was met by stopping his right wrist with my left hand, and at the same time I lunged my small dagger full at his abdomen. He caught my right wrist in his left hand, and for a couple of seconds – a long time under such circumstances – we stood regarding each other, my left hand holding his right above my head, and his left retaining my right on a level with his body. Feeling that he was greased, and that I had no certain hold, I tripped him with a sudden and violent pass of the right foot, which brought him’ to the ground, but in falling he seized and carried me down with him. In a moment the desperate savage gained the ascendant and planted himself firmly on my person, with his right knee on my left arm, confining it closely, and his left arm pinioning my right to the ground, while his right arm was free. I was completely at his mercy. His personal strength and weight were greater than mine. His triumph and delight glared from his glittering black eyes, and he resolved to lose nothing of his savage enjoyment. Holding me down with the grasp of a giant, against which all my struggles were wholly vain, he raised aloft his long sharp knife, and said- ‘Pindah lickoyee das – ay-go, dee dah tatsan,’ which means, ‘The white eyed man, you will be soon dead.’ I thought as he did, and in that frightful moment made a hasty commendation of my soul to the Benevolent, but I am afraid that it was mingled with some scheme to get out of my predicament, if possible.

”To express the sensations I underwent at that moment is not within the province of language. My erratic and useless life passed in review before me in less than an instant of time. I lived more in that minute or two of our deadly struggle than I had ever done in years, and, as I was wholly powerless, I gave myself up for lost- another victim to Apache ferocity. His bloodshot eyes gleamed upon me with intense delight, and he seemed to delay the death stroke for the purpose of gladdening his heart upon my fears and inexpressible torture. All this transpired in less than half a minute, but to me it seemed hours. Suddenly he raised his right arm for the final stroke. I saw the descending blow of the deadly weapon, and knew the force with which it was driven.

“The love of life is a strong feeling at any time; but to be killed like a pig, by an Apache, seemed preeminently dreadful and contumelious. Down came the murderous knife aimed full at my throat, for his position on my body made that the most prominent part of attack. Instantly I twisted my head and neck on one side to avoid the blow and prolong life as much as possible. The keen blade passed in dangerous proximity to my throat, and buried itself deeply in the soft soil, penetrating my black silk cravat, while his right thumb came within reach of my mouth, and was as quickly seized between my teeth. His struggles to free himself were fearful, but my life depended on holding fast. Finding his efforts vain, he released his grasp of my right arm, and seized his knife with his left hand, but the change, effected under extreme pain, reversed the whole state of affairs. Before my antogonist could extricate his deeply buried weapon with his left hand, and while his right was held fast between my teeth, I circled his body and plunged my sharp and faithful dagger twice between his ribs, just under his left arm, at the same time making another convulsive effort to throw off his weight. In this I succeeded and in a few moments had the satisfaction of seeing my enemy gasping his last under my repeated thrusts. Language would fail to convey anything like my sensations during that deadly contest, and I will not attempt the task.”

The Indians were defeated, losing ten killed and a number wounded, how many wounded was never ascertained. The whites lost one man, James Kendrick, and three were wounded, towit: John Wollaston, John H. Marble, and Theodore Houston. Houston and Marble died of their wounds soon after reaching Tucson, which resulted in breaking up the party.

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 1, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top