1865 SETTLEMENT: January Exploration of the Rio Verde.
Soon after the Territorial Government was organized and Prescott was settled in 1864, groups of hardy pioneers began to establish settlements in other parts of Arizona Territory.
Ed. and Lois Boblett and her parents, Aretas and Lydia Whitcomb arrived in Prescott in 1864. Lois wrote: "We concluded we did not care to stay in our tent much longer and as there was a saw mill about a mile from the main town and they wanted someone to cook, Mother and I went and cooked for them. Ed made a hand at the mill and Pa was to take care of the stock. ... There was a crowd going down on the Reaverdia River to take up land, so Ed went down and located a piece of land for himself and one for Father." ("Diary of Lois A. (Whitcomb) Boblett;" pages 21-22; manuscript from Camp Verde Historical Society and Museum.)
The group exploring the Rio Verde was led by James Swetnam. According to his account:
"Early in January, 1865, a party consisting of James M. Swetnam, William L. Osborn, Clayton M. Ralston, Henry D. Morse, Jake Ramstein, Thos. Ruff, Ed. A. Boblett, James Parrish and James Robinson, left Prescott for the purpose of locating a colony for farming purposes in the valley of the Verde River, if a suitable place could be found. At the time the only ranch east of the immediate vicinity of Fort Whipple and Prescott, was that of Col. King. S. Woolsey, which was at the upper end of the Agua Fria Canyon, twenty-five miles east of Prescott, it being twenty-five miles further east to the Verde Valley."
"The party understood their liability to come in contact with the Apache Indians, but they were well armed, young and brave, and felt themselves equal to the task they had undertaken."
"The men were all on foot, taking along a single horse on which was packed their blankets, cooking utensils, and provisions for ten days. They followed the road to Woolsey's ranch, then the Chaves trail, to near the head of the Copper Canyon, at which point they left the old trail, following down the canyon by an Indian trail to the Verde River, which they reached on the third day at a point almost due east of Prescott, and fifty miles distant."
"At Prescott the ground was covered with snow, and the contrast presented by the valley, not only devoid of snow, but showing evidences of approaching spring, was very agreeable. But the one thing which was not so agreeable was a quantity of fresh Indian signs, and the sight of a couple of columns of blue smoke, lazily ascending at a distance of four or five miles."
"To reach the east side of the river, which was perhaps fifty feet wide and in the deepest part two feet, the party waded across and camped until toward evening, when they moved down the valley something over two miles to a point half a mile north of Clear Fork, where they camped for the night, placing a guard with relief every two hours."
"When morning came three men were left to guard camp, and the others, dividing into two parties, started out to explore, one the region about Clear Fork, the other going north toward the next tributary called Beaver Creek."
"The party passing up Clear Fork had gone less than a mile when they came suddenly upon moccasin tracks, and shortly afterwards a camp fire, with evidence of recent flight."
"Moving cautiously to an elevation, several savages were seen scurrying away toward a rough canyon on the north, which they soon entered, passing out of sight."
"Three or four days were spent in the valley, the exploration extending from one mile below Clear Fork to ten miles above. But it was finally decided, although the amount of arable land was less than desired, to locate on the 'V'-shaped point between the Verde and Clear Fork on the north side of the latter. The reasons for this decision were:"
"First: The facility and cheapness with which water could be brought from Clear Fork for irrigation."
"Second: Its advantageous position for defense in case of attack from savages, which they had every reason to expect."
"Third: The large amount of stone reduced to the proper shape for building --- remains of an ancient edifice, perhaps a temple whose people had been driven from its use and enjoyment hundreds of years ago by the ancestors of these same savage Apaches."
"The location being determined upon, the party returned to Prescott, and began preparations for making a success of the enterprise. This was no easy task. Some of the best informed and oldest settlers about Fort Whipple and Prescott tried to dissuade the 'Hot-headed boys,' as they styled the principal movers of the scheme, by every possible argument, insisting that the whole thing was impracticable; that it was impossible for a party even of three times the number to go into a region so far from assistance, and surrounded with such Indians as Apaches, and succeed in holding possession of the valley. Others predicted that the whole party would either be killed or driven out inside of sixty days. But still the work of preparation went on."
"Tools for clearing the land and ditching were purchased. Plows, (cast mould boards), a very inferior utensil, but the best that could be got, were bought at exorbitant prices. Barley and wheat for seed cost $20.00 per cwt. This was the price in gold, greenbacks being worth seventy cents on the dollar. Corn for seed cost them $22.00 per cwt., and they had to go eighteen miles to the Hassayampa to get it, then pack it to Prescott on donkeys over an almost impassable trai. Provisions were also high. But all these difficulties were overcome."
(HISTORY OF ARIZONA by Thomas Edwin Farish, Arizona Historian; Volume IV, 1916; The Filmer Brothers Electrotype Company, San Francisco; pages 215-218.)
See: THE VERDE INDEPENDENT: "Verde Valley's First Settlers;" Steve Ayers; December 30, 2008.
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