By Al Bates

(Note: This is another installment from Al Bates’ “Remembered Names and Forgotten Faces of Fort Whipple” presented to the Prescott Corral of Westerners, a local organization which promotes interest in history and culture of Western North America.)

The party of Territorial officers led by Governor Goodwin arrived at the original Fort Whipple site on Jan. 22, 1864.

The first Arizona Miner issue was printed at the Fort in March on a press brought by Richard McCormick, then Territorial Secretary.

This was Arizona’s second newspaper; the first was founded in Tubac in 1859 while Arizona was still part of New Mexico Territory.

Indian theft

Both soldiers and miners were continuously losing animals to Indians who took mules not to ride but to eat.

On Jan. 24, 1864, as a direct result of this thievery, King S. Woolsey, later to be named commander of the Territorial militia, led the first of three civilian expeditions to recover stolen stock and to chastise the Indians.

According to the Arizona Miner, Woolsey’s targets were bands of Pinal Apaches, and his armed force included Maricopa Indians.

Woolsey owned a ranch on the Agua Fria River that was a frequent target of Indian raids, and on his second expedition recovered the hide of a prize animal taken from his ranch.

He has been accused of feeding strychnine-laced corn meal to the Indians in the so-called “Pinole Treaty” Incident, but there is no evidence supporting this allegation.

All later Indian campaigns were under control of regular military officers.

There is a footnote to the Woolsey story. In 1869 a Miss Mary Taylor, along with her fiancé Mr. Nash, was in a wagon train passing through Gila Bend – and there she met Mr. Woolsey.

Three hours later she left the wagon train, and Mr. Nash, for Mr. Woolsey.

Later newspaper accounts ungallantly claimed that Woolsey traded six sacks of flour or, maybe corn meal, for her.

After Woolsey’s death she outlived two additional husbands and acquired extensive property in Arizona and California. When she died in 1928, Gov. Hunt ordered state flags to be flown at half staff, the first time a woman was so recognized in Arizona.

But back to the early years at Fort Whipple.

In February 1864 Major Wills escorted Gov. Goodwin’s party on a tour of central Arizona in search of a suitable location for the Territorial Capital.

The armed escort included a Private Joseph Fisher, who would not survive the trip.

Two old mountain men, Joseph Walker and Pauline Weaver, both by then in their late 60s, served as scouts on the tour.

Captain Walker (an honorary title) was the better known of the two, having served as scout for Fremont years earlier. Walker’s failing eyesight became a survival problem and he soon returned to California.

Pauline Weaver, earlier known as Powell (and then Paulino when he took temporary Mexican citizenship), stayed.

During his subsequent on and off service with the army, Weaver never stayed at the Whipple post overnight.

He preferred to sleep in the open on the ground for health reasons. He also avoided baths for the same reason.

Weaver died (at age 70) at Camp Verde, apparently of malaria which was a common affliction in the Verde Valley at that time.

In life, Weaver seldom stayed in one place for long; in death, his corpse proved nearly as mobile.

Originally interred at Camp Verde, his remains later were transferred to the Presidio National Cemetery in San Francisco.

In 1928, Alpheous Favour led a drive to have his remains brought back to Prescott to be re-interred on the grounds of Sharlot Hall Museum.

It must have been quite an event. Lester Lee Ruffner was the funeral director and Sheriff George Ruffner led the funeral procession; Boy Scouts provided the “military” escort; and Sharlot herself gave the eulogy.

Unfortunately, later investigation indicates that many of her facts regarding Weaver were based on tall tales that Weaver himself had spread.

But back again to 1864.

On Feb. 27, Private Fisher suffered the wounds that earned him the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first local military fatality of an Indian action.

He, of course, was preceded by a number of miners who had fallen to Indian arrows.

Private Fisher’s funeral ceremony was conducted by Baptist Minister Hiram W. Reed, Fort Whipple’s first chaplain.

Rev. Reed also preached Prescott’s first religious sermon and performed Prescott’s first wedding ceremony.

A man of many occupations, Rev. Reed also was Arizona’s first official Postmaster, aided in the first Territorial Census, and was an express company agent – all during a Prescott stay that lasted less than a year.

Provisions were a serious problem for early civilians in the area.

Two factors were involved.

First of all, there were no roads and railroad and thus there was little commerce coming in from outside.

Secondly, livestock often fell prey to Indian raids, leaving nothing available except the rapidly decreasing supply of wild game.

One survival method adopted by many of the newcomers was to go work for the Fort, since Army employees got both wages and rations.

For one example, several members of the Sanders family went to work at the Fort so they all could share the rations issue.

Another pioneer family, the Fains, cut and sold wild grass to the Fort for livestock food when they first arrived.

By late May 1864, Fort Whipple had been relocated to its present setting, one mile east of downtown Prescott.

Because of the ready availability of lumber, it began as one of the very few stockade-style military posts ever built in the Southwest.

Among the many military men assigned to Fort Whipple in its early years, a few used their spare time in non-military scientific pursuits that would bring a degree of lasting fame.

The first of these was Assistant Surgeon Elliott Coues, who arrived in Fort Whipple in 1864 in the wake of a youthful indiscretion that had resulted in a shotgun wedding.

He escaped that entanglement by being granted Arizona Territory’s first-ever divorce.

There were no territorial divorce laws so the divorce had to be granted by legislative action.

It was at Fort Whipple that Coues began a distinguished career as a naturalist. Scientific collecting always held priority with him but the constant presence of hostile Indians interfered with his collecting of birds and animals. In his own words: “Practical ornithology in Arizona was a precarious matter, always liable to sudden interruption, and altogether too spicy for comfort.”

However, he was able to collect 600 specimens in just four months in Arizona.

By the time he returned to Arizona 16 years later, still with the Army, he was reputedly America’s best known ornithologist.

He wrote several bird books and also edited the field journals of early explorers Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, Alexander Henry, and Francisco Garces.

His edit of the Lewis and Clark journals (actually a re-edit of the Biddle edit) is still a source reference for scholars of that expedition.


(Al Bates, an independent researcher and a past sheriff of the Prescott Corral of Westerners, will follow up occasionally with more history of Fort Whipple and the people who have lived there.)