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First Families of Arizona

   First Families of Arizona

Pueblo Dwellers of Ancient Times

In considering the development features of the settlement of central Arizona, the Author feels it might be interesting to note that the immigrants saw in the Salt River Valley many evidences of the truth of the Book of Mormon, covering the passage northward of the Nephites of old. There was found a broad valley that had lain untouched for a thousand years, unoccupied by Indian or Spaniard till Jack Swilling and his miners dug the first canal on the north side of the river a few years before the coming of the Saints to Jonesville. The valley had lain between the red-skinned agriculturists of the Gila and the Apache Ishmaelites of the hills. There had been no intrusion of Spanish or Mexican grants. The ground had been preserved for utilization of the highest sort by American intelligence.

Yet this same intelligence found much to admire in the works of the people who had passed on. From the river had been taken out great canals of good gradient, and it was clear that they had been dug by a people of homely thrift and of skill in the tilling of the soil. There still were to be seen piles of earth that marked where at least seven great communal houses had formed nuclei for a numerous people. These were served by 123 miles of canals.

These people were not Aztec. According to accepted tradition, the Aztecs passed southward along the western coast, reaching Culiacan, in northwestern Mexico, about 700 A.D., and there named themselves the Mextli. The ancient people of the Salt River Valley probably had moved, or were moving, about that same time. They appear to have been of Toltecan stock and undoubtedly came from the southward, from a land where was known the building of houses and wherein had been established religious cults of notable completeness and assuredly of tenacious hold. Just why they left the Salt River Valley is as incomprehensible as why they entered it, and how long they stayed is purely a matter of conjecture. Probably occupation of the valley was not simultaneous. Probably the leaving was by families or clans, extending over a period of many years. Probably they left on the ending of a cycle of peace, on the coming to the Southwest of the first of the Apache, or of similar marauders, who preyed upon the peaceful dwellers of the plains. That they were people of peace cannot be doubted, people who in the end had to defend their towns, yet sought no aggression.

Evidences of Well-Developed Culture

Possibly a great epidemic, of the sort known to have swept Mexico before the coming of the Spaniard, gravely cut down the numbers of the ancient valley settlers. Near every communal castle is to be found a cemetery, filled with burial urns, their tops usually less than a foot below the surface. These urns (ollas) are filled with calcined human bones. By them are to be found the broken pottery, of which the spirits were to accompany the late lamented on their journey to the happy hunting grounds. These dishes once contained food, intended for the spirit travelers' nourishment. When there was a child, ofttimes now is found the clay image of a dog, for a dog always knows the way home. The dog is believed to have been the only domestic animal of the time.

In some cases, in the greater houses, walled into crypts that might have served as family lounging places, have been found the skeletons of those who were of esoteric standing, considered able, by the force of will, to separate spirit from body. In other cases the cleansing and disintegrating effects of fire secured the necessary separation of the spirit from the body.

With these mortuary evidences also are found domestic implements, stone clubs, arrow points and, particularly valuable, prayer sticks and religious implements that clearly show the archaeologist a connection with the pueblo-dwelling peoples who still live, under similar communal conditions, to the northward.

Northward Trend of the Ancient People

That these ancient peoples went north there can be no doubt. North of the valley, nearly fifty miles, on the Verde, is a great stone ruin and beyond it are cavate dwellings of remarkable sort. In Tonto Creek Valley, a dozen miles north of the Roosevelt dam, is an immense ruin built of gypsum blocks. To the eastward, Casa Grande, most famed of all Arizona prehistoric remains, still stands, iron-roofed by a careful government, probably of a later time of abandonment, but still a ruin when first seen by Father Eusebio Kino in 1694. All the way up the Gila, and with a notable southern stem through the Mimbres Valley, are found these same evidences of ancient occupation. Chichilticalli, "the Red House," mentioned by Marco de Niza and by Coronado's historians in 1539-40, lay somewhere near where another group of Mormons again reclaimed the desert soil by irrigation in the upper Gila Valley. Ruins extended from Pueblo Viejo ("Old Town"), above Solomonville, down to San Carlos.

Into the valleys of the Salt and of the Gila, from the north come many waterways. In none of these tributary valleys can there be failure to find evidences of the northward march of the Indians who lived in houses. In this intermediate region, the houses usually, for protection, were placed in the cliffs. Particularly notable are the cave dwellings of the upper Verde and in Tonto Basin, near Roosevelt, and in the Sierra Anchas and near Flagstaff.

Again there was debouchment upon a river valley, that of the Little Colorado. Possibly some of the tribes worked eastward into the valley of the Rio Grande. Another section, and for this there is no less evidence than that of Frank Hamilton Cushing, formed at least a part of the forefathers of the Zuni. Swinging to the northwest, the Water House and other clans formed the southern branch of the three from which the Moqui, or Hopi, people are descended. This last is history. The early Mormons remarked upon the pueblo ruins that lay near their first Little Colorado towns, above St. Joseph. These ruins are known to the Hopi as "Homolobi," and much is the information concerning them to be had from the historians of the present hilltop tribes.

Reports of similarity have been so many, there can be no surprise that the earlier settlers from Utah wrote home joyously, telling that proofs had been found of the northern migration so definitely outlined in their ecclesiastical writings, according to the Book of Mormon.

The Great Reavis Land Grant Fraud

For about ten years from 1885 all the lands of the Salt and Gila valleys of Arizona lay under a serious cloud of title. There had been elimination of the Texas-Pacific landgrant, which unsuccessfully had been claimed by the Southern Pacific. Then came the Reavis grant, one of the most monumental of attempted swindles ever known. James Addison Reavis, a newspaper solicitor, claimed a tract 78 miles wide from a point at the junction of the Gila and Salt Rivers, eastward to beyond Silver City, N.M., on the basis of an alleged grant, of date December 20, 1748, by Fernando VI, King of Spain, to Senor Don Miguel de Peralta y Cordoba, who then was made Baron of the Colorados and granted 300 square leagues in the northern portion of the viceroyalty of New Spain. The grant was said to have been appropriated in 1757. Reavis had first claimed by virtue of a deed from one Willing, of date 1867, but there was switching later, Reavis thereafter claiming as agent for his wife, said to have been the last of the Peralta line, but in reality a half-breed Indian woman, found on an Indian reservation in northern California, and one who had no Mexican history whatever. Reavis renamed himself "Peralta-Reavis," and for a while had headquarters for his "barony" at Arizola, a short distance east of Casa Grande, where he maintained his family in state, with his children in royal purple velvet, with monogrammed coronets upon their Russian caps. He arrogated to himself ownership of all the water and the mines and sold quit-claim deeds to the land's owners. It is said that the Southern Pacific bought its right of way from him and that the Silver King and other mines similarly contributed to his exchequer. He claimed Phoenix, Mesa, Florence, Globe, Silver King, Safford and Silver City.

He planned a storage basin on Salt River and another above Florence on the Gila, and advertised that he intended to reclaim 6,000,000 acres on the Casa Grande and Maricopa plains, "thereafter returning to the Gila any surplus water." Just how accurate his figures were may be judged by the fact that government engineers have found that the waters of the Gila, above Florence, are sufficient for the irrigation of not more than 90,000 acres. He viewed things on a big scale, however. At Tonto Basin he was to build a dam 450 feet high and the water was to be taken from the river channel by means of a 44,000-foot tunnel.

Whenever one of his prospective customers failed to contribute, he often deeded the land to a third party. Some of these deeds are to be seen on the records of Maricopa County. His case had been so well prepared that many were deceived, even the lawyers who served him as counsel, including Robert G. Ingersoll. Naturally something approximating a panic for a while was known by the farmers of the valleys affected.

Meanwhile, very largely from moneys obtained as above noted, Reavis was spending royally at many points. At Madrid, Spain, he had a gorgeous establishment, whereat he even entertained the American Legation. At many points in Mexico, he scattered coin lavishly and accumulated cords of alleged original records and he even found paintings of his wife's alleged ancestors. The grant was taken into politics and was an issue in the congressional campaign of 1887.

About 1898 there was establishment of the United States Court of Private Land Claims, especially for adjudication of many such claims in the Southwest. Reavis' elaborately prepared case tumbled almost from the day it was brought into court. Government agents found bribery, corruption and fraud all along his trail. He had interpolated pages in old record books and had even changed and rewritten royal documents, including one on which the grant was based. Some of his "ancient" documents were found to have been executed on very modern milled paper. On one of them appeared the water mark of a Wisconsin paper mill. Others had type that had been invented only a few years before. The claim was unanimously rejected by the land court and on the same day Reavis was arrested on five indictments for conspiracy. He was convicted in January, 1895, and sentenced to six years in the penitentiary. After serving his sentence, he made a brief confession, telling that he had been "playing a game which to win meant greater wealth than that of Gould or Vanderbilt." The district covered by his claim today has property valued at at least one billion dollars.

When Mesa first was settled, every alternate section was called "railroad land." claimed by the Southern Pacific, under virtue of the old Tom Scott-Texas & Pacific land grant. Early in the eighties, this claim vanished, it being decided that the Southern Pacific had no right to the grant.

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The Planting of Mesa    Near the Mexican Border

Adapted from James H. McClintock
Mormon Settlement In Arizona: A Record Of Peaceful Conquest Of The Desert

   First Families of Arizona
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First Families of Arizona